Advice Needed: Elephant Ears

Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)July 9, 2012

Hi everyone, I have a couple of elephant ears coming to me this week and could use some advice.

3 plants (they're already started, not bulbs):

-Jack's Giant Colocasia

-Alocasia Portora

-Black Magic Colocasia

My property has shade, sun, part sun, etc. but I don't have any boggy conditions here in Pinellas County Fl.

Due to potential droughts, even during the summer, I'm wary of planting in the ground, though I know it would serve the plants best. Though I'm doing a lot of work in the garden right now, I don't want to be married to 3 plants that require near-daily care.

Soil Conditions: The soil isn't very rich. It's mostly a sand/dirt combination with some leaf litter scattered about. Everything I plant gets soil treatment, amended both above and below, fertilized as necessary (and often, with EE's).

My original intent was to purchase a few 24" pots (no drainage) from a BBS, mix Milorganite, manure and potting soil, and nearly drown the plants (once I know they're established)with a bog-like soil consistency.

Potting in the soil would require plenty of amending (about the same as my potted variation), but with no real way to retain water in the soil, outside of mulching.

The Alocasia Portora (aka portadora) is likely going into the ground a little ways from the kitchen. That one can be ground-bound without issue, and with not quite-so boggy conditions

My questions are three:

  1. Would a non-draining plastic pot in part shade maintain moisture better than a rather barren partly-shaded area of the yard?

  2. What is the ideal container size for the larger varieties of Colocasias that you want to grow to their full potential? Under ideal conditions, I'd replant yearly, but I'm just not sure ANY container will be big enough under ideal conditions.

  3. I read a lot of conflicting information on sun requirements. If they're started as young plants and watered extremely well, should the Black Magic and Jack's Giant be okay with full sun in zone 9B/10?

Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. If I'm not very clear or you need more info, please don't hesitate to ask. Thanks!

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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Hi & welcome to Gardenweb.

Although this is the "bulb forum" and EE's do indeed come from bulbs, discussions about them are more plentiful on the tropical and/or Tropicalesque gardening forums. Not that there's anything wrong with posting this question here, or that you won't get some valid advice. Just wanted to let you know about the discussions already there so you could check them out if interested. Lots of pics. There's also a Florida forum, where they discuss any/all plants and other gardening issues in regard to growing in FL. You might solicit some good, more local anecdotes there.

Having not had the particular ones you named, I'm hesitant to say much. For the ones I have, full sun seems to be overwhelming for them, the bigger leaves are produced in more shady spots. It's dry here, not as bad as last year, but certainly not the conditions these plants prefer. So for one of them, I'm trying an experiment. I put a small hole in the bottom of a plastic 5-gallon bucket, a slit really that I made with limb pruners. I set that right next to one of the bulbs and fill it up daily. It takes a few hours to drip out and the growth in the past few weeks since I've put it there has been amazing! Maybe some similar quasi-irrigation system would work for you.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 9:55AM
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Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)

Thanks purpleinopp. I did consider posting in the Tropical forum, Aroid forum, and Florida forum, but based on some particular nuance (which I've since forgotten) I decided to post to bulbs lol.

I've done some renovating in the back yard, and I think I'm going to attempt total soil immersion, as opposed to pots for the three aforementioned plants.

Just for giggles, I picked up an Elephant Ear from Lowes on my way home from work today, and I'm going to try planting that one in a pot with a bit more sunlight, and use that as a generic test to determine how taxing maintenance may be.

I do appreciate the advice and suggestions..

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 11:51AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

You're welcome.

And just in case I wasn't clear, all of mine are in the ground. They are all the family members of a bulb I bought - you guessed it - at L's many years ago in OH. It grew for about 5 years in a pot (in a lot of sun most years, but not all) until I realized it was hardy here and put in the ground a few years ago. This spring I dug up that whole original clump, which was in mostly sun, because our dog was peeing on it every day and it was not getting any bigger.

Since dividing up the little bulbs and spreading them into shadier spots, they're already bigger but I relate this whole tale since I don't know if it's the decrease in direct sun or that they're not getting peed on anymore, at least not that I can tell. A great dane can really aim high!. I think it's both reasons, FWIW.

Was the EE you just got at L's already growing in a pot or a dormant bulb?

Have fun with your experiments!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 3:28PM
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Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)

Totally got the gist of your initial post, though no story is complete without a good dose of doggie juice!

The Lowe's purchase was an alocasia labeled as Alocasia New Guinea (I'm going to assume it's New Guinea Gold, as it has many of the telltale signs, though not quite as deeply green as some photos have shown)and was a good 3' tall or so, so it's going to have a nice headstart over my Plant Delights to-be-delivered.

Though Alocasias and Colocasias vary some in needs (let it dry vs toss it in a swimming pool) I should be able to use a weeks' worth of observation to determine how much light it can safely take and how quickly a 20" or 24" pot dries out in dappled shade.

I just need to let it adjust to brighter light conditions before I move it to a semi-permanent location. Lowes keeps all of their EEs in the houseplant overly-shaded area of their GC.

I'll post some photos of my new acquisitions and their placement in the yard after they've arrived and been grounded, and I'll provide some updates as to how everything is faring.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 3:51PM
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I am growing them here in the garden without anything special and also in pots from 15 to 18 inches. All are on the drip system with those in pots using spitters instead if emitters. Full sun is too much but they do well in partial shade. I have never considered them in the bog plant category. Al

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 9:20PM
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Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)

Thanks Al.

This entire summer I've been working on the yard. With all the renovations I have in mind, it's closer to teraforming than landscaping lol.

One of the projects I'm considering taking up is installing drip irrigation throughout the back yard, especially with the number of tropicals I'm planning on installing (4 types of banana, a few more varieties of EEs, etc).

The backyard has no irrigation, save for 2 hose bibs and the hoses I run from them. I started doing some research on drip irrigation earlier today. There's a lot to consider, between pressure, flow and such, but it's likely going to be a valuable addition and ultimately, a big time saver.

I've read some people keep their Colos in their ponds in full sun, but I'm going to err on the side of caution and rely on part/dappled shade for everything. If things look rough, I'll replant elsewhere as necessary.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 9:50PM
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So how did your EEs do? I planted some for the first time this year. I have 2 on the deck in containers. They are planted along with annuals; sweet potato vine in one and a bloomer in the other. I have black magic; totally does not like full sun. The other a more standard green is ok with full sun. Both are nice size but I suspect that they are not as large as they would be in ground. I did plant a couple of bulbs out by where my sump pump empties. You guessed it, its doing great. I saw a variety yesterday with chocolate swirls on the leaf. Really want it and hope it is there later in month or early Sept as there would be no point in planting and I would be buying for the bulb only.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 10:03PM
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Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)

Sorry! Haven't been around much lately!

Things aren't going all that well. I planted the Portora in a shady area with a lot of light, and it's doing well. Both the Jack's Giant and Black Magic have been doing horribly.

Before they arrived, I decided to play it safe and pot the two up and leave them in part-shade for a few weeks.
When I received JG and BM, one leaf (of a pair) of each was dying, which needn't be unusual, but neither one of them were acclimatizing to pots in part shade. More sun for a few days? No improvement.

For soil, I went with a half and half blend of leafy-soil and compost manure, figuring it'd provide a chance to adapt to native soil conditions, as well as providing something rich and retentive to work off of. Watered daily, insured there was good drainage.

Neither of the two potted plants did anything. New leaf starts forming, old leaf dies.

I decided to plant them out into part or full sun with a full bag of manure in the hole to grow in, and they've been bouncing back and forth, without any real improvements, despite full daily water and a small bit of Milorganite to start.

The New Guinea Gold I'd picked up from Lowes is doing wonderfully, It was already a good 2ft in height when I purchased it, and it's added an additional 3 leaves since. It's planted in a semi-shady area, and I'm only watering it maybe once a week.

Still have a lot of work to do. Haven't mulched anything yet, still adapting sections of the garden, etc. but I'll try to provide some pics soon.

Oh, my original purchase of the 3 plants was from Plant Delights. I have nothing against the company, but I'm definitely not impressed with what I'd paid and received for the price. Since then, I've purchased Mojitos, Black Ruffles, and Illustris from Wellspring Gardens for a fraction of the price, and they're mostly doing well in the soil in shade.

It's a learning process, what can I say? lol

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 7:52PM
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billums_ms_7b(Delta MS 8A)

I've grown Black Magic for years and have it in the ground in areas with only partial sun where it really doesn't turn black, to areas with a half day of sun where it is full on black.

The thing that seems to help it do well for me is amending with a ton of compost and a second ton of water absorbing polymer crystals. I really do go nuts with those crystals, since the last few summers have been horribly dry.

I've also planted them in full sun in large clay pots with coleus as companions and they have done quite well there provided that I'm willing to baby them with water containing a mild dose of water soluble fertilizer every day. Under those conditions, they multiply like crazy.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 7:52PM
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