Elephant’s ears stand tall in borders or containers. Colocasia esculenta ‘Illustris’ sets off the red flowers of golden hops.
Photo/Illustration: Lee Anne White
It’s not that I don’t like flowers. I just prefer leaves. When I look at a plant, foliage is what first catches my eye. I’m intrigued by rich textures and bold forms, so I guess that’s why so many plants I grow have big, blowsy, patterned leaves. When it comes to foliage, bigger is definitely better in my book.
Searching for large-leaved plants, I’ve found that many tropical and subtropical plants perform nicely as annuals here in the Delaware Valley (USDA Hardiness Zone 6). And for fantastic foliar effects, one group really stands out—elephant’s ears, named for their giant leaves.
I first discovered these fast-growing, leafy mammoths when I was given a softball-sized bulb of the commonly available elephant’s ear, Colocasia esculenta, also known as C. antiquorum. The only advice I got was to plant the bulb at the back of the border. After about two months, several long, green fingers poked up from the back of the bed and soon unfurled into huge, wrinkled leaves the size of a parasol. When I saw how much impact the immense foliage made, I was hooked on these monsters.