The Q&A Archives: elephant ears

Question: I have an elephant ear plant in my back yard that was there when I moved in years ago. It is taking over my back yard, it has sprouted more plants, I want to give some of the babies away to a friend. I don't know which part of the plant is the tubuals, I know there is a stock, and thick root like tenticals coming off that. What do I need to do to transplant them? Thank you.

Answer: Taro, sometimes called the "potato of the tropics," and often called "elephant ears" is a wetland herbaceous perennial with huge elephant ear leaves. It produces heart shaped leaves 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) long and 1-2 ft ((0.6-0.9 m) across on 3 ft (0.9 m) long petioles that all emanate from an upright tuberous rootstock, technically a corm. The petioles are thick and succulent and often purplish. The leaf attachment is referred to as "peltate", which means that the petiole attaches near the center of the leaf. The corm (also called a "mammy") is shaped like a top with rough ridges, lumps and spindly roots, and usually weighs around 1-2 pounds (0.5-0.9 kg), but occasionally as much as eight pounds (3.6 kg). The skin is brown and the flesh is white or pink. Certain kinds of taros produce smaller tubers or "cormels" (also called "eddos") which grow off the sides of the main corm. The eddos are usually around 2-4 ounces (57-113 g) in weight. Under ideal growing conditions, a single taro plant can get 8 ft (2.4 m) tall with a similar spread. The inflorescence, which is rarely produced in cultivated plants, is a pale green spathe and spadix, typical of the arum family. Var. aquatilis spreads by slender stolons, does not produce side cormels, and has become established as a weed in much of Florida.

Taro is propagated from whole tubers (the side-growing cormels or eddos), divided off in winter or early spring. Plant tubers 2-3 in (5-7.6 cm) deep and 2 ft (0.6 m) apart.

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