Sunday, August 5, 2012

Growing Colocasia in the Garden

Two years ago, I wrote a post titled "Elephants in the Garden" about my new found love for growing Colocasia in the garden. My affinity at the time was based on the large C. esculenta, whose leaves can grow over three feet in length and a smaller, dark-leaved variety called 'Illustris'.

Colocasia esculenta with Caladium 'Kathleen'

I still grow C. esculenta because nothing can match its size and vigor. It grows equally well in containers or in landscape beds, as long as it's provided enough water through the summer. Colocasia are water lovers by nature, and are more often planted submerged in water gardens. I grow mine in soil, so keeping them watered is even more important.

Colocasia esculenta
I've planted several clumps of C. esculenta near our back patio. They provide continual movement and interesting lighting effects, especially in the late afternoon and evening sun.

Colocasia 'Coffee Cups'
My interest in Colocasia has coincided well with the explosion of new varieties on the market. One of my favorites in 'Coffee Cups', whose leaves fold upward at the stem attachment forming "cups" that collect rainwater. Its burgundy stems and veins make beautiful accents in the garden. I've combined it with Pennisetum rubrum, a red fountain grass, in several locations.

Colocasia 'Bikini-tini'
Last year at the Garden Writers Association meeting in Indianapolis, Plants Nouveau provided samples of their new Colocasia 'Bikini-tini', a Zone 6 hardy variety with red stems and flat, dark green leaves. I planted it in our back border, and forgot to dig it up at the end of the season. To my surprise, it came back up this year. Perhaps it's Zone 5b hardy during mild winters.

Colocasia 'Diamond Head', 'Blue Hawaii' and 'Hilo Bay'
Just this weekend, I've added three new varieties to the garden, thanks to a local gardener who offered them to trial. 'Diamond Head' (dark copper, arrow-head shape), 'Blue Hawaii' (light green with burgundy veins) and 'Hilo Bay' (dark green with burgundy veins) are now planted in a container at the edge of our driveway. If they're good performers, they might be candidates for next year's garden.

Now that our temperatures look to be moderating for the next ten days, I'll probably give the Colocasia a shot of fertilizer. I've been meaning to try the fertilizer samples sent to me by Winchester Gardens, specifically formulated for the needs of elephant ears. With the summer we've had, I'm sure they'd appreciate an extra dose of nutrition.


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