14 Types of Big Leaf Plants for a Green Oasis

Indoors or out, it’s possible to create a very specific aesthetic with big leaf plants that’s simply not possible from your run-of-the-mill African violets or rose bushes. Many of these plants — ranging from palm trees to tropical epiphytes — look like they came from the time of the dinosaurs (with leaves big enough to provide a meal for a brontosaurus!).

In this article, I’ll introduce you to my favorite plants with big leaves and how to grow them.

Types of Plants With Big Leaves

For the purpose of this article, we can break up large-leaved plants into two broad categories. These categories denote whether a particular plant is ideal for growing outdoors in the landscape or indoors as a houseplant. 

Note that some plants can be grown in either setting. The right location often depends on the local climate and the available space.

Shrubs and Herbaceous Perennials

Shrubs and herbaceous perennials with big leaves are perfect for use in the home landscape. These plants add texture and fill empty space without competing with showy, flowering specimens that might be growing nearby.

While shrubs are hardy and can survive above ground all year, herbaceous perennials die back to the ground each winter. Shrubs may be evergreen or deciduous (i.e. drop their leaves in the fall).

Houseplants

Many of the plants featured below make excellent houseplants. These species tend to be sourced from tropical regions, so they won’t survive longer than a single growing season if kept outdoors in most climates.

Gardeners in warm areas may be able to grow plants in this category outdoors as well. Pay close attention to the provided hardiness range of each plant to determine whether it will survive your local winters.

14 Big Leaf Plants You Can Grow

Why go through the trouble of growing these plants yourself? Well, big leaf plants have a definite ‘wow’ factor you won’t find anywhere else. A mature fiddle leaf fig or Monstera can easily carry an entire room design independently.

As for the outdoor landscape, you can only have so many flowers before everything starts to blur together. Adding some standout foliar plants will add contrast and balance to your garden design.

1. Giant Rhubarb

Giant Rhubarb

Gunnera manicata

  • Hardiness: 7 to 10
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 10 ft
  • Light Needs: Partial shade

I first encountered this humble giant near Muckross House in Killarney, Ireland. While not native to the British Isles, giant rhubarb is a behemoth of the plant world that towers over most other perennials. By the way, it isn’t related to the edible type of rhubarb.

Native to parts of South America, giant rhubarb isn’t uncommon as an ornamental. Most gardeners don’t have the space for it! It likes partial shade and consistently moist soil like that found along bogs and other wetlands.

Giant rhubarb is a definite conversation starter with its leaves alone. Flower spikes also emerge in the summer months, though tend to be overshadowed by the huge foliage.

2. Taro

Taro

Colocasia esculenta

  • Hardiness: 8 to 12
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 3.5 ft
  • Light Needs: Partial shade

Taro is just one of several large-leaved plants commonly known as elephant ears. This name obviously comes from the impressive foliage. You may also know taro as an edible root crop, popular in much of Asia and the Pacific region. It is used to make poi, a traditional Polynesian dish.

Though I have seen taro grown indoors, it’s much more popular as a tropical landscape plant. It prefers damp areas, so consider planting it near a water feature or a low point of your property.

Taro loves warm, humid weather but isn’t a huge fan of the sun. The leaves need partial shade (especially during the afternoon) to prevent scalding.

3. Giant Taro

Giant Taro

Alocasia macrorrhiza

  • Hardiness: 9 to 11
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 4 ft
  • Light Needs: Partial shade

Not to be confused with our previous guest, the giant taro is a distant relative of C. esculenta. To add to the confusion, it’s also commonly called elephant ear. 

Giant taro is similarly used as a root crop in tropical regions, though not quite to the extent of ‘normal’ taro. Use of giant taro as a food staple originated in the Philippines. From there, this hulking plant spread to nearby areas like Australia and various other Pacific Islands. 

The easiest way to tell giant taro apart from other types of elephant ears is by its sheer size. Mature plants can easily reach 12 to 15 feet in height. Also note that giant taro has a very upright growth habit (in contrast, the leaves of C. esculenta tend to droop toward the ground).

4. Hosta

Hosta

Hosta spp.

  • Hardiness: 3 to 9
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 2 ft
  • Light Needs: Partial to full shade

If you have a shady spot in your garden, you’re probably already familiar with this big-leaved beauty. Hostas have some of the largest leaves of any cold-hardy perennial, though some varieties are decidedly wider than others.

Some of the most popular so-called giant hostas include the varieties ‘T Rex’, ‘Gentle Giant’, and ‘Empress Wu’. 

Hostas are incredibly easy to grow in the right environment. All they need is cool, moderately damp soil and a bit of shade to really thrive. Some gardeners report issues with deer or rabbits grazing on the leaves, but I haven’t encountered such problems.

5. Split Leaf Philodendron

Split Leaf Philodendron

Monstera deliciosa

  • Hardiness: 10 to 12
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 2 ft
  • Light Needs: Partial to full shade

First and foremost, this tropical evergreen is not actually a member of the Philodendron genus. Instead, it’s a type of Monstera (a genus that includes dozens of common houseplant species). Another common name for this species is the Swiss cheese plant.

Split-leaf philodendrons are native to Central America, though they’ve spread to many other tropical climates around the world. In the wild, these plants are climbing epiphytes — vines that rely on larger plants (usually trees) for support and, in some cases, water and nutrients.

While wild specimens can exceed 70 feet in height, such extremes aren’t possible in the average household environment. I do, however, recommend giving your split-leaf philodendron something like a coconut coir post to climb.

6. Giant Philodendron

Giant Philodendron
Credit Image: Daderot  by cc 1.0

Philodendron giganteum

  • Hardiness: 9 to 11
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 3 ft
  • Light Needs: Partial to full shade

The giant philodendron is far less common in cultivation than Monstera deliciosa. However, it does belong to the Philodendron genus. 

Like M. deliciosa, the giant philodendron is a climbing epiphyte that scrambles up large trees in tropical rainforests throughout Central America, South America, and the West Indies. 

Giant philodendrons can grow almost indefinitely in their native habitats. As houseplants, they typically only reach about 6 to 10 feet tall. The leaves themselves can grow to be 3 to 5 feet across.

7. Banana

Banana

Musa spp.

  • Hardiness: 9 to 11
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 2 ft
  • Light Needs: Full sun

Getting a banana tree to bear fruit isn’t always easy. If you’re more interested in the lush foliage, however, I highly recommend growing a banana plant either in a container or (if you live in USDA Zone 9 to 11) outdoors.

A banana tree is a great candidate for a small greenhouse or bright sunroom. There are several dwarf cultivars sold specifically for such spaces that will happily grow in a large container. If you’re lucky, the tree may even produce flowers and some fruit!

Banana trees are popular in part because they grow very fast. Keep this in mind when planning your space. Some homeowners even use banana trees to create tropical privacy hedges.

8. Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise

Strelitzia spp.

  • Hardiness: 9 to 11
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 2 ft
  • Light Needs: Full sun

Often associated with Hawai’i and similar tropical paradises, the bird of paradise plant is native to South Africa. These plants are named after their distinctive flowers, which resemble colourful birds, but also have lush, oversized foliage.

Bird of paradise thrives in warm, humid growing conditions. It is a low-maintenance landscape plant for tropical regions, even spreading via underground rhizomes when the conditions are just right. 

You can also grow this large-leaved stunner indoors, though I wouldn’t classify bird of paradise as ‘beginner-friendly’. It needs constant care and attention to flourish, and getting indoor plants to flower is sometimes a challenge.

9. Colewort

Colewort
Credit image: Krysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz by cc 4.0

Crambe cordifolia

  • Hardiness: 5 to 8
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 1.5 ft
  • Light Needs: Full to partial sun

Also known as flowering sea kale, colewort is a sizable perennial with cabbage-like leaves and flower clusters reminiscent of a baby’s breath. Unlike these diminutive look-alikes, however, colewort can grow anywhere from 4 to 7 feet tall and has leaves that are about 12 inches wide.

Colewort is lesser-known than similar perennials like hostas and lady’s mantle. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, it likes deep, moist soil and full to partial sunlight. Intense heat may damage the leaves, as well as extended periods of drought.

The flowers last for several weeks in early summer, attracting a host of butterflies and other hungry pollinators. Due to this plant’s sheer size, you’ll want to place it at the back of the landscape for maximum impact.

10. Fiddle Leaf Fig

Fiddle Leaf Fig

Ficus lyrata

  • Hardiness: 10 to 12
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 1.5 ft
  • Light Needs: Partial sun

Despite notoriety for being incredibly fickle about its growing conditions, the fiddle leaf fig recently has had a huge surge in popularity. Plenty of indoor gardeners have tried their hand at growing this evergreen in the past few years. Only a few have been successful.

Don’t let that scare you away from growing your own fiddle leaf fig. A dedicated gardener can definitely provide the care and attention this broad-leaved houseplant craves. I just wouldn’t recommend this particular plant to beginners or hands-off growers!

Container-grown fiddle leaf figs generally grow to heights of 6 to 10 feet indoors. The leaves are vaguely shaped like violins — inspiring the common name — and have a glossy finish. Fiddle leaf figs can flower but the blooms are insignificant.

11. Dumb Cane

Dumb Cane
Credit image: Mokkie by cc 3.0

Dieffenbachia spp.

  • Hardiness: 10 to 12
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 1.5 ft
  • Light Needs: Partial sun

Dumb cane is a colloquial name given to several houseplant species within the Dieffenbachia genus. The name is a reference to the organic toxin — contained in all parts of the plant — that can cause numbness and disrupt speech if ingested. Keep these plants away from pets and young children.

Dumb canes have an upright, palm-like growth habit. The oblong leaves often have subtle markings (or variegation) that add texture to the plant as a whole.

These plants are relatively simple to grow indoors and can reach up to 10 feet tall at maturity. In addition to high-quality potting soil and consistent watering, be sure to provide plenty of humidity to keep your dumb cane healthy and happy.

12. Ruffled Fan Palm

Ruffled Fan Palm

Licuala grandis

  • Hardiness: 10 to 11
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 2 ft
  • Light Needs: Partial sun

Though I’ve only seen this species in large Victorian-style greenhouses, the ruffled fan palm is sometimes kept as a houseplant. It is a unique specimen with large pleated leaves.

Ruffled fan palms are native to a cluster of islands off of Australia. These trees are naturally slow-growing and rarely grow larger than 6 feet tall in cultivation. However, this also means that your ruffled fan palm won’t rapidly outgrow the available space!

Ruffled fan palms may also be grown outdoors in USDA Zones 10 and 11 (or comparable climates). Just keep in mind that these are understory trees, meaning that the leaves can’t handle intense, direct sunlight.

13. Japanese Aralia

Japanese Aralia

Fatsia japonica

  • Hardiness: 8 to 11
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 1 ft
  • Light Needs: Partial to full shade

Japanese aralia, also known as the paper plant or by the genus name Fatsia, is a somewhat delicate evergreen shrub with very unique foliage. It comes in a range of colours, including a stunning variegated variety known as the Camouflage Fatsia.

In warm climates, Japanese aralia is a wonderful choice for any shady garden bed. It also fares well in containers and can be grown as a houseplant in more frigid regions.

While foliage is the main attraction, don’t be surprised if your Japanese aralia sends out interesting flowerheads in fall or winter. The pom-pom-like blooms will eventually turn into dark berries.

14. Peace Lily

Peace Lily

Spathiphyllum spp.

  • Hardiness: 11 to 12
  • Leaf Diameter: Up to 2 ft
  • Light Needs: Partial to full shade

The peace lily is an incredibly popular houseplant. Most people I know who have a peace lily in their collections received the potted plant as a gift. Over many years, however, a single peace lily can grow to be several feet tall and wide.

Like other tropical houseplants, most cultivated varieties are usually much smaller than their wild counterparts. Some types of peace lilies, such as ‘Sensation’, have been bred to be as large and imposing as possible, even when kept in a pot.

Peace lilies are low-maintenance and one of my top recommendations for new gardeners interested in growing something indoors. 

FAQs Large-Leaved Plants

What is the big leaf houseplant called?

Elephant ear is a name given to several popular houseplants with big leaves. Most of these plants belong to the genus Alocasia, Colocasia, or Caladium. While all of these plants look similar, it’s important to use proper names whenever possible to avoid confusion!

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.