Flowers on elephant ears — colocasia

I’ve been growing Elephant ears — Colocasia esculenta — for many years. Over that period of time I’ve rarely had them bloom. They just don’t set flowers very often.

Normally when plants blossom, it means they are all set to produce seeds. Colocasia, however has been cultivated for so long, that it no longer is able to produce seeds and relies on people to reproduce. In tropical regions, people plant the underground corms like we would plant a flower bulb here in Michigan.

Colocasia is a dramatic addition to the landscape with it’s huge leaves that easily grow to three feet long in Michigan. In it’s native area in the tropics the leaves can measure six feet in length.

People in the tropics don’t grow them for their landscape, instead they eat them. There, colocasia is called taro and is a major food crop where it is used like we use potatoes here. Millions of tons of taro are harvested each year.

One winter, many years ago, I had a recent immigrant from the south Pacific visit the greenhouse where I was growing dozens of colocasia in pots getting them ready for planting out into the landscape. She recognized them immediately and asked me if I was growing them for harvest. I told her they were for planing out in the landscape as a decorative plant. She laughed and thought that was quite funny!

 

The flower bud on my colocasia is ready to open.
The flower bud on my colocasia is ready to open.

My blooming colocasia was one that I stored in my semi-heated garage over winter. I kept it in its pot and let the soil dry out. I watered it once in a while.

The plant went dormant and was exposed to some cool temperatures for extended periods of time but it never got much colder than the lower 40’s. The only light it got was low, indirect sunlight from a small garage window.

I have a theory that stressing the plant somehow triggered a flowering mechanism. The other colocasia I had bloom was about 12 years ago and that plant was stored over winter much the same way.

I’d be interested to hear if any readers have had similar experiences with their colocasia.

Bob

12 thoughts on “Flowers on elephant ears — colocasia”

  1. Hi – I just came across your post because my colocasia suddenly grew a bud and will soon flower, so I was looking for information and pictures online. I am in Virginia and this is the first colocasia I have ever grown, and it is in a large pot that I planted around May. The leaves have been as large as three feet earlier in the season, and I have sporadically fed it fish emulsion. I have not had it for a winter yet, so it has not experienced the stress you describe, unless the nursery where I bought the “bulb” did something, though I doubt it as they don’t grow them. Maybe mine is just beginner’s luck!

  2. Hi Paul, You are the first person to respond to this post saying their colocasia is blooming. My wife Judy was a Plant Collections Specialist at University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens for many, many years and rarely had one bloom. I’ve had one or two flower in the past.
    Plants are full of surprises! Thanks for sharing your experience. Best of luck to you. Bob

  3. Not sure if this is the plant I have. I have 4 separate potted plants all but one are continously blooming beautiful white flowers but the flowers grow under the big leaves and if I pull the flower out from under itsome growth is stunted and the pristine white flower will turn brown on the outside edge. I would love to know if this is the same plant or if not exactly what it is. I lost the tag after purchasing

  4. Hi Lori,
    Check under the soil to see if your plants are growing from a bulb or tuber. If they plants have large, dark-colored leaves, it is most likely the same plant or one very closely related to it.
    Thanks for checking in, Bob

  5. This is my first year growing a colocasia. I have several different sizes growing. My largest plant is about 6-7 feet tall. All the plants are on the east side of my house next to the house. I have had 2 plants bloom last week. I was surprised because I didn’t realize they would bloom. The blooms only lasted 2 days before turning dark. Very interesting plant. Have a couple of the black colocasia plants but they are only about 1-2 ft tall.

  6. Hi is my first time growing colocasia, and both of them are blooming I love it I never new that it blooms. My question is do I remove it or leave it alone? If i have to remove it how do I do it with out harming the colocasia.

  7. I bought a mismarked ‘Mojito’ in June & planted it in a large pot with some coleus; the pot was in semi-shade but a tree had to be removed which exposed it to mid-afternoon sun. I haven’t fertilized it but made sure it had ample amounts of water during the hottest part of the summer. It’s grown like a beautiful weed (4′), is putting out new growth at the bottom, & now has a flower bud! What a pleasant surprise – I’ve never seen a bloom before; I hope I can get it to winter over.

  8. Okay, now I’m just bragging – my colocasia ‘Mojito’ is putting out a 2nd flower bud next to the first yellow bloom (now in decline). Even though it’s planted on a semi-shaded-but-southern-exposure, small, city lot in central VA where high heat can be more of a problem than sun, there’s never been any indication of stress. The only ‘special’ treatment it’s had is heavy watering to compensate for the heat & being planted in a pot of old soil. It was bought as a smallish, cheapish plant at Lowe’s about 3 months ago so no knowledge of where it was grown or how it was over wintered but FL is the usual suspect.

  9. I bought my elephant ear last spring and it was already pretty big. I am in Phoenix and it did fine this very hot summer and is producing a small version at its side. Now it is flowering and third flower is just appearing. At the same time that it has been flowering, the new leaves have been smaller and rounder. Do you know if this is a bad sign or just an indication that its energy is going into producing flowers?

  10. Hi all

    Here in New South Wales, Australia my wife has been growing these plants for the past 6 years.
    This year is the first time we’ve had flowers on them.
    She is very excited. She comes from Thailand where the grow in abundance but no one has every seen them bloom.
    It’s been a very dry winter and spring and last week it was 47 degrees C so maybe they’re stressed and that’s caused it. Anyway, just thought I’d chip in 🙂

  11. Hi everyone!!! My colocasia just bloomed not one, not two, but THREE new flowers in my apartment in Chicago in the middle of January!!!! I’m really interested in trying to cultivate the seeds but haven’t been able to find much information online. Alternatively, should I remove them??? If so, how? Thanks in advance if anyone has some advice!!

  12. For 21 years I have had a large patch of Elephants Ears growing on the west side of my garden under the shade of a large orange tree. I lived there for many years and never noticed them flowering, but one day the most divine perfume wafted through the garden. I followed my nose and found that it came from a pale green rather arum lily-like flower hidden under the huge leaves. I cut it and brought it inside where it scented my house for a few days. From then on I had a regular flower spike through summer for the next few years until I moved house. I never did anything to this patch apart from fertilizing the orange tree. I lived in North East Victoria in Australia where we get very long hot summers and cold frosty winters but the patch was reasonably protected by the veranda and the orange tree. Perhaps it was too protected to flower because I only noticed the flower once the orange tree started to die back and lose most of its leaves.

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