IFELL IN LOVE AGAIN, AND I WANTED IT TO LAST. The object of my affection a few years ago: a variegated elephant ear called Colocasia esculenta ‘Mojito’ that I adopted that spring at a local garden center, despite the fact that he was no cheap date. I feared the coming winter may be the end of us, though—he’s Zone 7B, and I’m a mere 5B. How could we keep our love—and this spectacular plant—alive? I sought counsel from the most experienced person I could think of, in the hopes of doing just that.
Colocasia ‘Mojito’ (Zone 7b-10), like all its cousins that we call elephant ears or taro, is a heat-loving plant that’s also hungry and thirsty. I grew it in a bright spot in a potting soil with lots of compost, and stood a big, deep saucer underneath—something I wouldn’t do with most other plants outdoors for fear of rotting them off. I don’t use chemical fertilizers, but I mixed in some all-natural organic formulation at planting time and occasionally added fish and seaweed emulsion to the water I gave it.
In food production, prevalent in Asia, the Pacific and the Caribbean, it’s the starchy tubers that are the thing—bigger is better. In ornamental horticulture, the above-ground portion is where it’s at, and here’s where the tricky part comes in about overwintering some of the most spectacular new taros—including ‘Mojito,’ and the better known ‘Black Magic.’ They don’t produce big tubers that can be lifted, like you might a canna or some of the elephant ears, and stashed dry in the cellar.
I appealed to Tony Avent of Plant Delight Nursery, who has an unrivaled selection of Aroids (including Colocasia and their close cousins Alocasia and more) to tell me how to work around this no-big-tuber overwintering obstacle.
“This entire group of new elephant ears tend in that direction,” he said, “hence they will never be sold as dormant tubers by most bulb firms. These are best if kept potted through the winter under one of two regimes…actively growing at over 60 degrees F and in good light, or semi-dormant at 45-50 degrees and kept fairly dry and as such, light is not as critical.”
Tony agreed that ‘Mojito’ is one handsome plant—“one of my favorites,” he said—and tipped me off to another that forecast would be the next year’s mad, indulgent fling:
“Have you tried C. ‘Black Coral’ yet? Simply unreal.”
- My overall overwintering regimen for tender things here
- Elephant Ears: a great article from Plant Delights’ website
- The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization quantifies the global importance of taro.
Just found this beautiful plant at the nursery. Can it be strictly a household plant?
Hi, Heather. I have not had success keeping it going year-round, but I suspect someone somewhere has figured it out. It just limped along–didn’t die, but wasn’t as vivid or robust. I can’t find any authoritative reference on how to keep it as a houseplant, sorry to say, so I think it will be trial and error.
Hi Margaret, thank you for the quick response !!!
Booooooo !!!! I was hoping I wouldn’t hear that… I will give it lotsa love and lotsa miracle grow and see what happens :-)
I have failed repeatedly with Mojito, which always rotted for me and never grew. This summer I tried it as a water plant and it is doing great and has grown huge (though not as big as some elephant ears). They told me at Peconic Herb Farm that it is more susceptible while small and takes a while to get going. The secret is that it needs a lot of warmth for a good start and we have had a succession of really cold springs. I am hoping to overwinter my specimen successfully (dormant or semi) in a cool basement now that it is a big, strapping plant and presumably a bit tougher.
I love that plant, Harold! I failed with the cool/dormant thing and did somewhat better with the sorry-looking houseplant that Tony Avent recommended trying as an alternative. But you almost think it’s too far gone, it looks so tired by winter’s end…just don’t give up! IT may very well (in its own good time) resprout. I had another new-fangled fancy elephant ear I overwintered as a houseplant, which defoliated by spring, wait another two months to send up fresh leaves. Surprise! :)
Help! Just received about 15 Colocasia ‘Black Magic’ from the town containers when they were changed over for the Winter.
So many were impressed with this cultivar and the exquisite pots here in Swarthmore this year that we have decide to offer them to anyone who would like to give overwintering a try.
There is so much confusion on the web. Do you have any particular comments for this cultivar?
Judy Penney – co-chair, Swarthmore Horticultural Society
Today is the Scott Perennial Conference. If you are here give me a call 610-544-6627 cell 610-220-7081