Alocasia macrorrhizos is a species of flowering plant that pertains to the Araceae family which is native to rainforests of Maritime Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and Queensland. It is also cultivated in South Asia, the Philippines, and many Pacific islands. Alocasia macrorrhizos is also known as giant taro, giant alocasia, upright elephant ears, biga and pia. In Australia, this fascinating plant is known as “cunjevoi”, a term that is used to refer to Pyura stolonifera, which is a sea squirt.
Before you bring Alocasia macrorrhizos into your home, it is important to know that although it is a beautiful houseplant, it can be harmful to pets if chewed on or swallowed. This plant contains oxalate crystals that are also toxic to humans, so handle it with care!
Want to learn more about growing and caring for Alocasia macrorrhizos a.k.a Giant Taro? Keep reading our article!
|Botanical Name||Alocasia macrorrhizos|
|Common Name||Giant Taro, Giant Elephant Ears, Upright Elephant Ears, Biga, Pia|
|Plant Type||Rhizomatous tropical perennial|
|Mature Size||up to 1 – 2 meters (3-6 feet) tall, 0.5 – 1.5 meters (1.5 – 5 feet) wide|
|Sun Exposure||Light shade, bright indirect light|
|Soil Type||Rich in organic matter, moist, loose, well-draining|
|Bloom Time||Throughout the year|
|Flower Color||Yellowish-green, insignificant|
|Hardiness Zones||9-11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Australia, South East Asia|
About Giant Elephant Ears
- Alocasia macrorrhizos, commonly known as giant taro or giant elephant ears, is a rhizomatous tropical perennial from the arum family. This plant is also considered a tropical subshrub or shrub.
- Alocasia macrorrhizos was first cultivated in the Philippines, but there are traces of wild specimens from early Austronesians in Taiwan. From the Philippines, they spread to the rest of Maritime Southeast Asia and eastward to Oceania where it became one of the staple crops of Pacific Islanders.
- This tropical plant is treasured for its giant ornamentally decorative leaves that resemble the ears of an elephant and its edible rhizomes that have been cultivated for many years in tropical regions as edible vegetables.
- Giant Elephant Ears is edible if cooked for a long time, but its sap contains calcium oxalate crystals or raphides which are needle-like and irritates the skin.
- Giant Elephant ears is a forest understory plant that is closely related to Colocasia, the main difference between the two plants being the position of the leaves – the leaves of Alocasia macrorrhizos point skyward and grow on rigid stems whereas the leaves of Colocasia have a tendency to droop toward the ground,
- The giant heart-shaped leaves can be used to make improvised umbrellas in tropical rainstorms.
- Due to its resemblance with the ears of an elephant, the Alocasia macrorrhizos, some refer to it as “elephant ears”.
Giant Elephant Ears Features: An Overview
- Alocasia macrorrhizos draws attention due to its gigantic size. Compared with other Alocasia types of plants, you will easily recognize the giant taro due to its huge leaves. Although it is mainly a foliage plant, it also has seasonal flowers.
- When planted directly in soil outdoors it can grow up to 15 feet (4.5 meters) in height and spread up to 10 feet (3 meters) wide. The plant has also a fast growth rate too, it reaches full maturity in only about two years. Its stem adds 3 to 4 feet (1-1.2 meters) to its size if the growing needs are accomplished.
- Alocasia macrorrhizos’ foliage is the one that captivates your attention when you first look at it. The leaves may seem plain, but they will surely give any corner of your home a tropical touch.
- The shape of Alocasia macrorrhizos’ leaves resembles the form of an elephant ear and grows about 3 to 4 feet each (1-1.2 meters). So, if you consider growing giant taro, make sure you have enough space for it. The leaves also have a glossy shine. The colour is bright green and its foliage remains evergreen regardless of the season.
- The flowers of alocasia macrorrhizos appear seasonally. They may bloom either in late spring or early summer. The flowers last for only five days. Generally, growers say that the flowers look like the flowers of a Calla lily or Peace lily. Their colour is a greenish-white colour and mainly consists of a spathe and spadix. Not all giant alocasia show their flowers. The ones that are grown indoors will rarely bloom.
- Unless the plant blooms, you cannot feel any scent, as its foliage does not emit any remarkable odour.
Growing Giant Elephant Ears
When it comes to growing and caring for Alocasia macrorrhizos, the needs of your plant depend on whether you grow it indoors or outdoors. There are three main aspects you have to take into consideration. Alocasia macrorrhizos requires a warm temperature, plenty of water, and bright light. Also, remember that Giant Elephant Ears’ care is effortless and matches the caring needs of other members of the Arum family. Hence, if you already have other Alocasia species, the caring methods and needs of Alocasia macrorrhizos will sound familiar to you.
In order to obtain the perfect light requirements of Alocasia macrorrhiza, you have to think about the natural environment in which this species lives. The giant taro is a rainforest-specific plant. So, it’s used to growing under the canopies of trees. This means that your plant needs to be placed in bright, but indirect light. You can expose it to full sun for a maximum of 2 hours a day. The morning sun is the best since the sunlight is not that intense. Place the Alocasia macrorrhizos near a window facing east, south and north if you grow it indoors. Also, before choosing where to place it, consider the fact that the low light conditions are not favourable either.
The perfect temperature for giant taro is between 55° and 85°F (13 to 29°C). Being a tropical species, it loves a warm environment and it does not tolerate temperatures below 50°F (10°C). If you decide to plant it outdoors, you will have to bring it indoors during the night or as soon as temperatures start to drop. Indoors, avoid locations like drafty windows, heaters, and air conditioners.
If you want to control the size and spread of your Alocasia macrorrhizos, you will have to prune it constantly. Keep in mind that it is a fast grower and can spread really quickly. If you want to keep it in a certain shape and size you will have to trim the unwanted leaves and stems frequently. If you need to cut the giant Taro, make sure to use a sterile cutter. Try to create a cut as clean as possible on the fleshy stem of the leaf that you intend to remove. Don’t worry if all leaves are damaged and you will have to cut back down to its base, the crown will regenerate new stems and leaves.
Planting Giant Elephant Ears
When planting Alocasia macrorrhizos be sure to create the ideal conditions for its development. To create the perfect environment, ensure that the soil simulates the one that Alocasia is used to naturally grow in as much as possible. You can combine equal parts of regular potting soil, peat moss and perlite. This type of soil makes a great combination which meets all your plant’s needs: a porous, well-aerated soil mix with proper drainage. The giant taro is a water-loving plant. For this reason, the soil must have the right combination in order to drain excess water and retain only enough amount.
If you decide to grow your plant in a pot, you will surely need to use fertilizer. Alocasia macrorrhizos needs periodic fertilization because it’s a heavy feeder. The vital months to use fertilizer would be the spring and summer months. Add diluted houseplant fertilizer every two weeks. You can also use a slow-release fertilizer. Both, the diluted fertilizer and the slow-release one will boost the nutritious development of your plant. The only thing that you will have to avoid is overfertilizing the soil because it can burn the root. To prevent root burn, use only the allowed fertilizer ratio.
- You will get live starter plants of Alocasia macrorrhizos, Borneo Giant Elephant Ear. The photos show the mature plant in the future, not the actual plant you will receive.
- Plants for sale are currently growing at between 5-16" tall.
- Alocasia soil requirements and planting instructions, Mix together the following: 50 percent potting soil; 20 percent peat moss; 20 percent orchid bark with charcoal; 10 percent shredded sphagnum moss and a handful of perlite. Place this mixture in a pots, beds or garden and plant your alocasia.
- When making a site selection keep your plant in an area that has bright indirect light, but not direct sunlight. Plants will produce large fragrant flowers. Alocasia plant care, If using drip irrigation allow soil to dry slightly between waterings. Do not over water any members of the alocasia family.
- When planting to avoid crown rot, stem rot and other fungal diseases keep your alocasia fairly dry.
- You are buying 1 bulb of giant Elephant Ear Taro. Alocasia macrorrhizos
- (I am not ship to California)
- Tropical humid forest. Commonly found growing around human settlements.
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A slightly challenging procedure regarding Alocasia macrorrhizos is repotting, particularly if the plant is already mature. You will have to repot your plant every 2 to 3 years. This operation is usually done during spring so the plant could recover faster. The first step is to remove the plant from its original container. Be sure to prepare a new, bigger one than the previous one. Place the plant deeply and fill the pot with fresh potting mix. The last step is to water the plant after potting.
Watering Giant Elephant Ears
In some specific cases, the Alocasia macrorrhizos tolerates standing water in its natural environment. Because it is a water-lover, it requires 0.8 cups of water every 9 days if potted in 5 inches (13cm) container. Take care to keep the soil moist, but avoid watering it too much as the plant does not like soggy soil. Likewise, avoid underwatering. Make sure that during the spring and summer months, to meet the watering needs of giant taro. The watering depends on the environment that you ensured your plant and the season. Regarding these aspects, you can adapt the watering frequency from once to twice a week.
If you want to provide the best conditions for your plant, supply it with the right humidity level. Alocasia macrorrhizos develops well in high humidity conditions, the level can range between 50 to 60%. If in the area you live in or where you place your plant the air is rather dry you can mist some water around the leaves from time to time or turn a room humidifier on. Another thing that helps it is to grow the giant taro with other tropical species.
Propagating Giant Elephant Ears
There are many ways to propagate your Alocasia macrorrhizos. But the most common ways are water propagation and basal division. The one that is most effective for Alocasia macrorrhiza is the propagation through basal division.
Water propagation is generally used for cuttings that do not have their own root system already developed. This method is a very decorative one. It also looks great and it helps the stem to develop its own roots. With the right care, it can thrive in the water pretty much indefinitely.
To grow your new baby Alocasia macrorrhizos in the water you just have to clean the soil off the roots and find a container to place it in. Fill the container with water and leave it for about 24 hours if the tap water contains chlorine. Then, just make sure the roots are submerged. Place the pot in an area that receives bright indirect sunlight. For long-term care, replace the evaporated water when needed. Also, you can change the water every few months and add some liquid houseplant fertilizer to stimulate development.
If you decide to propagate giant Taro through basal division, you have to uproot the whole plant and shake the excess soil off its roots. If the soil seems to be entirely clumped, you can bathe it in water or use a gardening hose to free up the roots. Check if you can find tubers available. Divide and separate those tubers from the main plant. These are all more or less related through their roots, but you’ll find it’s very easy to very gently separate a few of them.
The good part about dividing clumping plants is that all of them have developed their own root system. This means that you do not have to wait until the plant roots again. For the next step, you have to plant tubers individually. You can plant them directly on the ground or in the pot. After planting, water the new baby thoroughly. Shortly, the tubers will grow on their own and develop as an independent new plant. This is how you can have fresh babies of Alocasia.
Giant Elephant Ears Pests and Diseases
Even if this species is an easy-caring plant, it may have problems at some point in its growing period. Regarding pests, spider mites, aphids, and bugs can attack your Alocasia macrorrhizos. These organisms enjoy the juices found in your alocasia leaves and as a result, they can leave your plant with lesions.
When dealing with these kinds of pests, one solution is to wipe them off with a cotton ball dipped in alcohol. Or you can use neem oil spray or diluted soapy water. You will have to repeat this procedure until the pests are completely gone. In addition, the most common diseases of giant taro are rot, leaf spot, powdery mildew, rust, southern blight, and Xanthomonas. These problems generally appear when the environment is always damp. This means that you need to rethink the watering routine and also be sure to leave the leaves dry after watering. To prevent soil-borne diseases, use sterilized soil when potting.
Alocasia macrorrhizos is a unique beauty with dramatic, gigantic leaves that can give a tropical touch to any room or garden. The plant is versatile and is perfect as a green houseplant, for a container or in the shade of your garden. It will easily become the centre of attention, so it makes a perfect staple plant.
The giant taro is a low-maintenance plant when it comes to its care. It may have some problems when it comes to pests and diseases, but these are problems that can be very easily dealt with. The good thing about Alocasia macrorrhizos is that it continually produces new leaves throughout the growing season. If you are already a fan of tropical plants, you will surely enjoy growing Giant Elephant Ears and you will be surprised by its large and attractive leaves.
Are you growing Giant Elephant Ears? Let us know in the comments!