How long for Upright Elephant Ears to Come Up?

love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)April 8, 2013

I planted some huge Upright Elephant Ear bulbs (Alocasia odora). Some went in containers and others are directly in the ground. I planted them with lots of water and highly-amended organic soil. They are all in 1/2 day sun. With the temp forecast to be in the 80s every day for the next two weeks, about how long will it take for these to come up? Will it be weeks? Months? I'm eager for my tropical garden to look finished! :)

Carol in Jacksonville

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Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)

Carol, bulbs can take awhile to get started. I've heard anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months.

Be careful with the water. While Colocasia and Alocasia love water, bulbs are highly susceptible to rot when there's no actual growth yet.

I haven't done the research, but I considered picking up a couple of bulbs lately, and started thinking about different ways to kick-start the bulb. One of these involved immersing a bulb in hot water for a few minutes, then transplanting to damp soil (Hot water in this instance means comfortably warm, like bath water.)

While some plants spring back to life as soon as the soil is warm, larger bulbs might require more time to get started... kind of like an 18 wheeler vs a compact car.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 10:10PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

Boy, that is really good information. You're right - I pretty much planted them in a lake. I may have to figure a way to relieve them of all that muck. These bulbs were really, really big - probably 8-10 inches long and 2-3 pounds (or more) each.

I was thinking along the same lines as you about kick-starting them. I soaked the root ends of the bulbs for about 45 minutes before planting.

Thanks again for the good food for thought. Yum!


    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 10:33PM
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Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)

Yeah, when you get into those massive bulbs, there's a lot of stored energy, but even more real estate that needs to wake up. It could probably take a good long time before you see outward signs of life.

The good news is, even if the Alocasias don't spring forth for another month or three, they'll absolutely explode in growth once it breaks the soil.

I've probably handled 40 or more tissue cultured colo/alocasia and banana over the last year, and they've got nothing but some thin strands of root to start. With no stored energy, there's a lot of hard work involved in growing, but even then, I had 4 foot plants within 3 or 4 months.

You could easily see 5 or 6 feet on some of them this first year.

This post was edited by Foreverlad on Mon, Apr 8, 13 at 23:33

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 11:32PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

Interesting! It is hard to find good, solid info on alocasias and colocasias. There are several forums around blogs the net, including the Aroid Forum on gardenweb, but I couldn't find much on how long to break out of dormancy.

I have to laugh at myself. I spent a good while going through the bulbs at Lowes, looking for the biggest and heaviest bulbs. I may not see these until July! But I like your term "real estate" and it makes a lot of sense. So in the long run, I know these were probably the best choice and next year, they won't have to be disturbed or woken up. They will probably be "up" by now. My caladiums have already popped up but yeah.... they also have less real estate. :)

While I've got you, I have another question. I have seen in photos that over time, these form a long trunk. Is there anything I can do to keep them short? I will have to find something to fill the space once they leaves no longer emanate from the ground level.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 9:26AM
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Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)

I agree with you, finding reliable info on some elephant ears can be a pain in the neck. There's A LOT of misinformation, be it ignorance, trusting in generalities, or zone bias.

In my little collection, I've got 4 Alo Portora, 2 Alo Macrorrhizo, and 1 Alo Calidora (plus tons of other stuff, but not specifically Alocasia).

As best I understand it, the woody, almost philodendron or palm-like trunks (depending on species) are simply a matter of maturity, and there's little to be done to prevent it. You could try underpotting, but I've seen some ridiculously large elephant ears of many varieties that managed their size while maintaining a small (12-16") pot.

All my Alos were purchased between July and October of this year. They're no more than 3-3.5' tall, and still quite immature.

While the woody, long trunk might not match your ideal plant, it does open up a number of possibilities in the garden. In tropical sun bed I've been re-doing, I've alternated between Portoras and Ensete Ventricosum var. Maurelii. Don't know if the Maurelli will survive our humidity, but that's another story.

My plan is to let these stand sentinel along the front border of my Canna/Banana/tropicals. Between the big leaves and the eventual "aged" look to their trunks, they're perfect for drawing attention without ruining the scenery behind them.

Healthy Alocasias are great for providing light shade for the surrounding plants. You can treat them like a palm tree or let them get lost in a dense thicket of jungle like forest.

Oh, I don't know if she still posts to Gardenweb, but LariAnn Garner (LariAnn here on GW) is actually the 'mother' of some Alocasias, having helped hybridize a number of them, including my Portoras. Keep an eye out for ANYTHING she has to say on the subject, and check around the web, I'm sure there are a few methods for contacting her.

Edit: Just got a spam warning for trying to refer you to her page on a particular site. Just do a Google search for Lariann + D.G. (try and guess what garden site D.G. represents)

Otherwise, feel free to keep asking questions. I learn twice as much as I end up getting to share lol.

This post was edited by Foreverlad on Tue, Apr 9, 13 at 12:32

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 12:15PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

Wow, I love your photo! Your plants look great! Too funny, we think alike. I have a similar layout with a Ensete Ventricosum var. Maurelii grouped with the new EE bulbs. I love that banana. I now have four of them. I've read about the humidity "problem" but I think so often, in the gardening world, what one person writes gets perpetuated over and over and over, even if it is not really true. (Example: dollarweed is caused by overwatering.) People rewrite what they read and so it becomes "fact". My bananas didn't show any signs of stress last year. I have two in part shade and one in full sun and they all did well. They were all knocked back by the freeze, but they are coming back strong.

You are right about the shade these will provide - a nice benefit! It will be fun to watch how this new garden area matures.

I have read all of the other forums and known about Lariann for awhile. I have read her blogs, been to her forum and traded posts with her in the past. She is fantastic and a wealth of knowledge!

You gave me lots to think about and I sure am enjoying looking at your photo. I hope your garden does GREAT this year!


    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 11:20AM
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Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU Carol. I'd seen one or two dissenting opinions on the Maurelii, yours probably having been one of them, and it really adds hope. If things go south, I'll pot them up and bring them into the AC, but that'll be my absolute last resort after altering water patterns and such, should it prove necessary at all.

Relatedly, our discussion on poor information or lack of data was definitely fed by my troubles finding reliable stuff on that banana plant and our summers here.

I'd say you're good to go. Keep the bulb dryish, soak the plant when it's up, then profit all summer long. =)

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 1:47PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

Forever, I think a lot of the growers figured that out, too. I am convinced - and this is not an Einstein thought - that plant retailers watch these forums to determine the latest, hottest trend in plants. Right now, there is lots of interest in aroids, bananas, adenium, plumerias and euphorbia. So what shows up in Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart? All of those do! Last year, the Maurelii was running $25-$50. This year, ACE Hardware has them for $12.99 (and thus, my fourth Maurelii). Lowes and Home Depot in Jacksonville also got them for the first time ever this spring. They are a hot ticket and the growers are watching what we are writing! :)

UPDATE: I expect to see Black Magic and Mojito in the big box stores by next year, too. :)


This post was edited by love_the_yard on Wed, Apr 10, 13 at 14:45

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 2:42PM
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sultry_jasmine_nights (Florida 9a)

I got Mojito 3 gal at home depot or lowes last year (can't remember which lol).
There are some huge 'wild' type of green elephant ears all over the place here. I am always digging them out of my flower beds and either moving them or throwing them out lol. I tried composting but they will just grow all over the place back there too.

There are some neat starter colocasias and alocasias on ebay from wellspringgardens pretty cheap. This year I bought one called 'Puckered up" that is supposed to have dark purplish black rugated leaves. It looks really interesting.
I already have the Elepaio, Royal Hilo, Midouri Sour, Maui Magic, Black Magic, Hilo Beauty, Stingray, a couple of unknown large alocasias.

I got Maui Magic at one of the big box stores several years ago and it made a flower and had viable seeds.

Here is another pic of Maui Magic on the left when it was smaller. I think that is Hilo Beauty in the center.

I also have this one but lost the tag so forgot the name LOL!

This is actually a tuber from the grocery store called Malanga (Xanthosoma) that makes a pretty marbled green on green leaf that is thick and a bit waxy textured. I grow some in pots they and get about 6 ft tall. They might get bigger in the ground. Seems pretty hardy in 9a.

Here is another Xanthosoma 'Mickey Mouse Taro'

I like to grow the colocasia underneath the brugmansia to create a full lush look. They both can take a lot of water and fertilizer.

I know I have some others but a lot of them died back a little in the gh this winter so not sure which all I have right now lol.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 3:16PM
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sultry_jasmine_nights (Florida 9a)

I have found that the colocasia like much more water than the alocasia and xanthosoma.
The alocasia and xanthosoma like very good drainage and can even rot in standing water.

I had some of my colocasia in the koi pond planted in clay kitty litter in pots. The koi kept the roots trimmed and fertilized the colocasias lol. They do fine that way.

Both can take full sun but I keep my dark colored ones in a tiny bit of afternoon shade and it seems to bring out the color. Same for some of the ones with white variegation.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 3:27PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

I planted a total of seven. The average length of time to see the first signs of growth was around 11-12 days, so it was just short of two weeks.

The very last one, I planned to plant in an area that had been taken over by the largest ant hill you ever saw. Not to have that plant get left behind by the others, I started it in a very small pot while I treated the ant hill. I planted it kind-of-like a kid starts a potato with toothpicks in water. I only covered the lower two-thirds of the bulb with soil. When I pulled it out of that tiny pot to plant it in its permanent location today, the lower half was loaded with roots!

The only one that hasn't shown any sign of growth is the first, and largest, one I planted. I wonder if that has something to do with the "real estate"? :) Here is a photo of tuber:

This post was edited by love_the_yard on Thu, Apr 25, 13 at 14:51

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 1:13AM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

All but one of the tubers look like this now. This photo was taken last Friday, April 19.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 1:14AM
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Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)

Looking good!

Yeah, these bulbs/corms can be really difficult to predict. I don't know if it's specifically the heat that wakes a bulb, moisture, or a combination of the two. Once we have an answer to that, we gotta wonder how much water, how much heat, and then how much the water lowers the temp of the soil hahaha. Some of these monsters are just begging to wake up, it's tough for a general noob like me to understand the exact elements that guide these plants.

Few weeks ago I was in a Walmart, looking over some of their little bags of Canna. One of the bags was ripped and the Canna was sprouting right there on the shelf. That's what really made me question the exact requirements to shut off dormancy.

Gotta do some work in the yard. Maybe later today I can post some photos of my various Alocasias and Colocasias and show you what I'm working with.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 12:08PM
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Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)

Btw Carol,

When I have young or untested bulbs/corms, I'll often start them in pots.

Pots tend to warm up quicker, waste less water (since you know where it's going) and provide a slightly safer environment to get started in. They're always a good option if things aren't moving at the pace you're hoping for.

Amendments to soil aren't really necessary to start with, since bulbs are self-reliant when dormancy breaks, so some generic potting soil will give you the drainage and lack of holding power needed to ensure no rot.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 12:20PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

The ones in pots are ahead of those in the ground. The photo is deceptive; this pot is huge.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 11:28AM
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Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)

Thanks for the update, I'd been getting ready to ask. That's a great looking plant in a great looking pot. Can't wait to see what happens to them.

Next day or two I'm gonna update my tropical bed photos. My Portoras have easily tripled in size with healthy doses of miracle gro all purpose. These guys'll get by on almost anything, but don't hesitate to feed 'em if you want dinosaurs roaming beneath them by season's end (Dinosaurs not included, void where prohibited, shipping limited to the contiguous lower 48 states).

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 1:16PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

Ok, more fertilizer it is. This was potted in a mix of garden soil, aged manure and Milorganite. I had no fear of heavy soil, as I had read they love all that. By the way, that is only one tuber... one of those just-slightly-smaller-than-a-football tubers. On the far side of the pot, I have started some pink portulaca. Will continue to poke in cuttings 'til I have them all the way around. I will keep my fingers crossed on the dinosaurs. :)

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 1:29PM
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Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)

Your instincts are good Carol. When you've got a healthy, aged corm, heavy soil is great. For tender tissue culture plants or young transplants, it can kill them.

How much sun is that pot getting? I've found 'plain' Esculenta have thick enough leaves they can handle the brunt of our midday sun and shrug it off, even if only watered once or twice a week.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 2:11PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

I have seven of them. All were planted within two days.

1 - Above - Full midday sun. Full shade in morning and heavily filtered sun after 2 pm.
2 and 3 - Planted in ground in the center of a trio of crape myrtles so filtered sun all the time. About the same size as the one above.
4, 5 and 6 - planted in ground in full sun after 10 am. Seem to be struggling so far. Each has only one to two small leaves so far.
7 - planted in pot similar to photo above. Full sun from noon on. Has about half the leaves as the one above.

So in summary, the ones in full sun are quite a bit behind the ones in part sun/part shade. I noticed that the ones at Lowes and Home Depot are kept in the shady section. But to your point, I am hoping that once the root system is established, the ones in full sun can make it. Gee whiz, I'm hoping, as that is where three of them are planted. I've seen plenty of photos on the internet where they appear to be in full sun. But this may be another learning experience. I've had plenty of those. :)

This post was edited by love_the_yard on Thu, May 23, 13 at 15:33

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 3:16PM
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Foreverlad(9b - Tampa Bay)

Interesting. Back in September or so, my brother stopped by and dropped off a couple of taro he found growing alongside his AC unit. He'd never planted them and didn't know where they came from. I took them and planted them in shade. They were tiny things, little more than newborn (plant) pups. When Spring came, I moved them to the side of my garage where they get sun from dawn to 1-2pm (east facing) along with all the radiant heat from the garage wall

Those are probably the closest I have to yours. They can definitely handle the heat and the sun, but yeah, it's probably a matter of time and maturity. Pots beget the best growth (to start) but can also slow down progress due to limited space, drying out more quickly, and the soil reaching a tipping point in terms of temps. These guys love heat, but there's diminishing returns after a time.

You're absolutely right that most of these are kept in the shade in Lowes & HD, but when you consider how little the average person knows about their plants, I think it's more the stores covering their butts than providing an ideal environment for the plant. Couple weeks ago I listened in to a customer asking about an Alocasia gageana (aka California) asking if they could grow it to provide shade for other plants. The actual manager of the garden dept. pretty much told her 'yes'. I had to pull the woman aside and show her on my phone's browser what gageana looks like when all grown up, then pulled up some of my garden photos to show her a comparison, and why that plant was a bad idea. In essence, stores don't take risks. They don't want the plants to outgrow their pots and don't want to see the plants returned dead, so they take the fewest chances possible.

Btw Carol, thanks so much for this topic. I spew so much useless information, but I never get a chance to talk about this stuff!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 4:47PM
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sultry, that's the first time I saw variegated xanthozoma. it's a beauty! how hard is it to get?
I have successfully woken up my al. amazonica polly indoors based on the info in
"hardytropicals british forum "
they have cold summers so they start tubers indoors, usually on a heat mat or on top of boiler/radiator,etc.
they don't have a great many varieties like in us, so it's more exotic there. have a look at "aroids forum", this is the best info I found anywhere.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 11:46AM
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