How To Propagate Elephant Ear Plant | Colocasia Esculenta

The spectacular elephant ear plant Alocasia odora is a tubulous perennial that originates from South East Asia and is a member of the Aroid family. The large, attractive, arrow-shaped leaves hang just like elephant ears which makes them a fantastic (and very on-trend) houseplant or a great centrepiece in a garden border.

Once you have one established elephant ear plant it is remarkably easy to use this to cultivate more. Let’s look at how to propagate elephant ears so you too can create a tropical paradise of this unusual plant in your home and keep a plentiful supply of potted plants to give as a stylish gift too. 

elephant ear leaves

How To Propagate Elephant Ear Plant

Elephant Ear plants are relatively easy to propagate and can be done in a number of different ways, including germinating the seed, root division or taking stem cuttings.

Stem cuttings can be dismissed due to being the least practical method, due to the leaf size and it takes months to root a stem.

Germinating seeds is also a slow process that can take up to two months, with the right conditions. The seeds need to be kept moist and between 68-85°F. Once the seedlings have developed two sets of leaves, they can be transplanted into individual pots.

Root division. This involves dividing an adult Elephant’s Ear tuberous roots into multiple sections and replanting each piece individually. This is by far the easiest method and the one I will cover in my step-by-step guide below. It’s reliable, fast and effective.

Dividing Elephant Ear Tubers: Step-by-Step Guide

I love plants that offer root division, as a fast and simple way to expand my plant collections, and as you will see it is so easy, you just can’t fail.

Equipment Required

  • Large clean pots with drainage holes, one pot for each tuber division
  • Rich potting mix, ideally coco coir and peat moss 50:50
  • A strong sharp clean knife with an 8″ blade or longer (for extra large plants you can use a clean garden spade)

1. Remove Plant Crown From Soil

The first stage is to loosen the plant within the pot and tip it out fully holding on to the plant very near the roots being sure not to snap a tube. 

If it is in the garden you will need to dig up the plant. It is important not to dig into the root network and cause damage so start by digging a 6-inch trench all the way around the furthest reaches of the plant. 

Use this trench to guide the shovel into the ground and dig as deep as you can go. You need to ensure you are completely under the root network. 

You may want to use the shovel as a lever to loosen it. Once you are content that you have captured the entire plant you can pull the crown from the soil as one large mass of roots and tubes.

2. Deciding Where To Divide

Upon inspecting your root ball, you should be able to see a clear division of stems (tubes) and their connecting roots and may spot a separate smaller plant that has formed. This is often called a pup and can be pulled away gently by removing the soil from around it. You can then take this pup and report it.

If no obvious pups present themselves, inspect the root mass and identify the original tube that was planted and therefore the main centre bulb. You should then be able to spot smaller root systems and work up from those to separate. 

My top tip at this stage is to gently wash the root mass to remove clumps of soil to help you identify the separate root networks and make it easier to pull them apart

3. Separating New Tubers From Parent Plant

Start by pulling away at these smaller root systems.  I generally find a few will come away easily by hand but if not, you can use the edge of a sharp spade or a knife to cut them away. It is important to ensure that each tuber or section of tubers has a solid root system attached and in place.

4. Repotting

You can plant the main crown into a new larger pot or back in the ground then take the separated tubers and pot them up using your moist potting compost mix and continue with the general care process for an elephant plant. 

Best Time To Divide Elephant Ears

The division method is the most favoured and successful technique for propagating larger elephant ear plants. It is key to get the timing right if you are opting for this technique as it can require you to dig up the entire plant. It, therefore, lends itself to be done when you are ready to move plants around in your garden or if your specimen has outgrown its current pot. 

Even for a houseplant, I find it is best to wait until the outdoor temperature has reached above 45 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit, to avoid the cooler winter months. However, it is also advisable not to dig up and divide when the plant is actively growing in the height of summer as you will be disturbing the roots. For maximum success and minimum damage, the Spring is perfect and be sure to only try and divide a plant that has healthy green leaves and is thriving.

Storing Elephant Ear Tubers Over Winter

As elephant ears originate from the tropical climate of South East Asia they are not cold hardy so if you are growing them outdoors it is unlikely they would survive the harsh winters of some of the more Northern States. 

A potted Elephant Ear plant can simply be moved into a warm greenhouse, conservatory or warm window space indoors. 

But if you have grown them in the ground and have a flourishing plant you would like to preserve for next summer, fear not, it is possible to store your plant over winter by following these few steps.

  1. Once temperatures drop and frosts start to arrive cut your plant down to 6 inches in height.
  2. Dig up the roots following the same technique as described in the division method section.
  3. Single out each tuber and gently clean and rinse away the mud and other detritus.
  4. Lay the tubers in a warm room to fully dry out.
  5. Put the dry tubers into a wooden box and cover it with a mix of moss and peat.
  6. Store this box in a dark and dry environment to ensure they stay dormant over winter.
  7. Once Spring arrives you can re-pot each tuber. 

FAQ How To Propagate Elephant Ears

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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.