Elephant ear (newbie)

105elevenAugust 25, 2013

Hi all, I got this plant (which I was told is an elephant ear) about a month ago.

I was just wondering if it is looking healthy, and if the splitting of the leaves is normal. Some of the leaves are almost/completely dead (looking dry and dark orange or brown) - I imagine that this is simply the leaves cycling, but do I have to remove these stalks as they die or just let them be?

There has been one new leaf unfurl (about 2 weeks ago) since I got the plant, and it certainly looks the healthiest.

I have been trying to give it indirect sunlight throughout the day, and have been watering it when the dirt begins to look/feel dry (I have it in some direct sunlight in the picture, but it is usually not exposed to this). I have also been misting the leaves somewhat often - usually about once a day, sometimes more, sometimes less.

As stated in the title, I am a complete newbie to plant care, and when I looked up this plant I saw that there were many different variations. I just want to know how exactly I should water/mist the plant, and what type of sun exposure is best for this plant to thrive. I'm glad it hasn't died or anything yet, but I really want to found out it's optimal conditions so that I can try my best to provide them.

Lastly, I assume that some sort of fertilizer is necessary for optimal growth? The store I bought the plant from potted it for me, and put some sort of fertilizer in the soil, but now that it has been a month or so, I imagine I have to put some more in. What type of fertilizer is good for my situation?

I apologize for the long post, but thank you in advance for any help!

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I noticed that I can only post one pic at a time. I took 6 or 7, but I won't post all of them unless necessary/requested so as not to clutter this thread.

Here is one more for now though - it is one of the poorer looking leaves on the plant.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 7:23PM
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Believe that's a strelitzia of some kind...also known as bird of paradise. :)

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 7:33PM
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Double post,..sorry.

This post was edited by asleep_in_the_garden on Sun, Aug 25, 13 at 19:38

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 7:37PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I think so too. Those get HUGE! The leaves look a little beat-up, from being moved around the store, riding in a truck. As the plant ages, it will shed the smaller, older leaves as it makes new, bigger ones from the top.

The fertilizer is likely time-release. If you could find out, that would be good to know before starting your own plan.

Is that pot the type with the drain saucer attached to the pot?

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 11:11AM
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Thanks for the replies! I called the garden store where I bought this plant, and they told me that they use fertilizer pellets that are good for 4 months, so I guess I should be set for a few more months!

The drain saucer is not attached to the pot - they are two separate pieces.

And thanks for identifying the plant - I looked up pictures of strelitzia and it certainly looks the same as this. Does this mean that it will have a beautiful flower come late winter/early spring? Or do some types not flower?

I live in Boston, so it gets quite cold in the winter. My apartment has nice warm heating, however, so it should be fine temperature wise, but humidity may be lacking during those months. Any advice on how I can sustain the plant through winter? Or should it be fine to just continue what I've been doing? Thanks again, all help is much appreciated.

Another pic, because why not. It's the newest leaf

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 4:09PM
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Also, I hope these pictures are not showing up sideways for you all.

The files themselves are right side up, and when I view this page on my phone they are right side up as well. But when I view the page on my computer, the vertically taken photos are rotated on their side.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 4:13PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Take your phone picture landscaped, (with the phone sideways) and they'll always be right side up. Phones will self correct this issue, most computers won't.

The petiole looks too short in relation to the width of the leaves to be a strelitzia. Also the leaves are somewhat ovate and a strelitzia would have a longish oval leaf. Do a couple of google image searches to compare photos of the stem as it grows out of the ground to see the difference.

One sure way to know is if you can get it to flower. EE's of any type are aroids and all grow a inflorescence like a peace lily. A Bird of Paradise is obviously much different.

Also, at least when I've seen them for sale, They are more expensive then all but very large elephant ears so a BOP would be unlikely to be sold as one.

At this time of year, don't be too concerned about fertilizing it too soon. If your home gets chilly and as the days get shorter during the winter the growth rate will slow down and you will fertilize less if at all. In a pot that big, stick your finger into the soil and feel if its damp two or three inches down, not at the surface, you invite root rot if you water it too much. I would bet that the soil from the store is peaty and heavy so you should be able to go a week or more between waterings. You'll get differing opinions about this but I wouldn't bother misting it at all.

If you are concerned about humidity, get a humidifier, you'll feel better with it as well.

Use a general purpose fertilizer at half strength until spring. EE's sometimes go dormant during the winter that far north so don't get panicky if you loose some or all of the leaves, just let if rest and when the days get longer it should come back to life.

Bright light, partial sun to a few hours of full sun is fine.

This post was edited by dellis326 on Sat, Aug 31, 13 at 7:09

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 10:23PM
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This is a picture of my elephant ears!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 10:32PM
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There ya go. :)

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 10:39PM
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It's definitely not an EE. Looks like a Strelitzia, but also a bit like a Heliconia. So I'd say it'll be a Strelitzia. They're not a tropical plant, they're mediterranean climate, from South Africa. The white one, S. nicolai, is the tall growing one up to 5 or 6 metres and has warmer requirements than the orangey flowering one, S reginae, which only get to about 1.5 metres tall. The most common in cultivation is S. reginae.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 7:09PM
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I'm using an iPad and my elephant ear pictures shows up vertically. Looks fine. The one purple posted does also. Does everyone else see it differently? When people say sorry for sideways picture I NEVER SEE IT SIDEWAYS. This is aggravating! Sorry!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 6:10AM
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Teisa, your photo comes out side ways on my computer. Asleep's photo is right way up.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 11:07AM
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Thanks a lot guys, I think I'll be treating this as a Strelitzia for now. According to your recommendations, it looks like I've been watering it too much, so I have just let it be for the last few days, as well as elevated the pot off the saucer with some hockey pucks to hopefully let the soil aerate better - hopefully root rot doesn't set in. I suppose I'll try watering it closer to once/wk for now, and adjust if necessary based on how moist the soil stays.

teisa, it looks like the pictures show up rightside up on our devices, but not on computers (your pic looks fine when viewed on my phone, but is sideways on my cpu). I realize that phones will auto rotate the pics, and computers will often do so with the files as well, but I'm not sure how the pictures on this page are being rotated seeing as how they are embedded. Oh well, I'll try to take landcape pics in the future.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 1:13PM
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Speaking of pics...that one is just such a beauty. The light and shadow play so nicely!

Thanks for posting it! :)

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 2:12PM
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No problem! I agree, the shadowing really brings out the texture of the leaf :)

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 7:31PM
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Some sort of a banana palm tree?

You bought it recently - why not ask the nursery/store?

It's important to get ID in order to know how to care for it.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 9:46PM
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Does kinda look that way,doesn't it,Greentoe?

It's a strelitzia which is the latin name for a bird of paradise plant.

After looking at the leaves in your pics I keep getting a hunch that what you have there is the "white bird" variety...other's may pop in to agree/disagree with my hunch.

It would be neat to narrow it down,wouldn't it? :)

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 9:57PM
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Thank you asleep for moving the photo. At first I was like, huh? It shows up correct both ways on my iPad. Thanks everyone for explaining. I'll take landscape photos now 2.

Pretty plant, Bird of Paradise, I guess is the final decision!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 10:54PM
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I had actually asked them what it was at the garden store when I bought the plant, as it wasn't labeled. One employee guessed it was elephant ear, then asked another employee, who looked at it for a few seconds and agreed.

The only thing I could think of doing would be to bring in pictures to the store and try to get a definitive answer from them based on their previous inventory (seeing as how it's most likely not an elephant ear). However, my friend drove me to pick up the plant, and I don't have a car, so this probably won't happen. Unless I can email them the pictures or something.

I'll be sure to let you guys know if I somehow do get a definitive answer, though!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 2:28PM
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Problem is that a whole bunch of different plants are called "elephant ear" (just one of the problems with common plant names). Google it, and you'll see all sorts of obviously very different plants. You need a true Latin name that describes the plant uniquely in order to really identify it - OR NOT if you do not care. :-)

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 3:26PM
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