The Giant Taro, also known as the Elephant Ear, is an evergreen perennial known for its dramatic foliage with giant leaves – hence the name. It is used for adding a dense tropical look to your indoor garden. In the summer months, the Giant Taro produces arrow-shaped leaves with prominent leaves nearly every week.
The only catch is that this plant can be slightly challenging for new gardeners. You have to carefully mimic its native habitat for properly growing the alocasia macrorrhiza giant. This guide will take an extensive look at the steps you need to take for looking after the Giant Taro.
An Overview of the Giant Alocasia Macrorrhiza
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The Alocasia Macrorrhiza is native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia, Queensland, and New Guinea. It has been grown in parts of the Philippines, South Asia, and various Pacific islands. Moreover, the plant is a delicacy in Hawaii, where it’s delicious roots are cooked to make poi. It comes as no surprise that the plant is a major food staple in many islands.
More recently, houseplant enthusiasts have taken a liking to the Giant Taro on account of its vividly colored leaves that bring a luxurious look to any home and shade garden. Despite its challenging care requirements, the Giant Taro is fairly resilient once its root system flourishes.
Soil Conditions for Giant Taro
For the most part, the Giant Taro isn’t finicky about the kind of soil used. Like most tropical plants, the Giant Taro grows best in moist, well draining soil. However, it is vulnerable to overwatering. For best results, choose a humus rich soil that is rich in nutrients. The soil quality should be loose and permeable. It should be able to retain moisture while allowing excess water to drain.
You can choose regular potting and improve drainage by adding some pumice or perlite. Improve moisture retention by adding coco coir or peat. These materials make it easy to achieve a porous and well-aerated soil. In any case, standing water is not ideal for your plant.
As long as you provide drainage for excess water to flow out, the plant should be safe from root rot and various soil-borne diseases.
Temperature for Giant Taro
Like most tropical plants, the Giant Taro prefers a temperature range between 55° and 80°F. It does not tolerate temperatures under 50°F and will start to wilt under these conditions. Giant Taro does not like extreme fluctuations in temperatures. This means you should keep the plant away from draft windows and doors, as well as any heat sources.
Prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures will result in stunted growth and even death. Frost damage is particularly devastating to the plant and causes irreparable cellular damage. The vast majority of frost damage cannot be treated. We recommend bringing your Giant Taro indoors when you anticipate frost in the colder months.
If possible, relocate your Giant Taro indoors to shield them from the cold, if you haven’t already done so.
Humidity Levels for Giant Taro
Giant Taro thrives in relatively high humidity conditions ranging from 50% to 60%. This isn’t difficult to achieve in most households. However, it is possible for the environment to have low humidity. You can raise the humidity levels by gently misting the plant. If you’re not in the mood of spraying the leaves every day, consider placing it near a humidifier.
This will ensure that the plant is kept at the target humidity levels and allow the Elephant Ears to grow elegant foliage. Failing to provide the recommended humidity level could cause the plant’s death. But before it ever reaches that state, your plant will warn you by changing its leaves to a shade of yellow.
Never raise the humidity of the environment past 70% because it will result in condensation on the leaves. This could encourage mold on your plants.
Soil Acidity for Giant Taro
Giant Taro prefers a slightly acidic soil with a pH value from 5.7 to 6.3. You can check this with the help of a pH meter or a pH testing kit.
Try not to exceed the recommended pH range of the soil because it will prevent the plant from absorbing nutrients and minerals from the soil. A pH imbalance and nutrition deficiency share similar symptoms, such as yellowing of the leaves and stunted growth.
It is important to tell the difference between the two. Some gardeners add more fertilizer when they see yellow leaves. Instead, you should bring out your pH meter to test the soil.
You can add compost and manure to increase the soil’s acidity. And to make it less acidic, apply some agricultural limestone. The exact amount of compost or limestone you need depends on the soil’s pH value.
Light for Giant Taro
The Giant Taro does not grow well in full sunlight and may experience stunted growth. Instead, choose a spot that receives partial sun or indirect light to encourage new growth. The Giant Taro grows best when you provide it with a light intensity of 4300 lux (or 400 foot candles).
Most households in North America should meet these requirements without having to supplement with light bulbs. Try to plant the Giant Taro near a North or East facing window. This will provide the plant with plenty of filtered sunlight. To minimize the harshness of sunlight, you may also use a light curtain to prevent the leaves from getting scorched.
The Giant Taro may be resilient, but direct sunlight will burn the leaves and cause irreparable damage.
Never place the plant in a dark environment because the lack of light will disrupt photosynthesis. Your plant will tell you that it is not receiving enough light when the leaves turn yellow. Give it long enough, and you may increase the risk of root rot. This is because lack of sunlight almost always creates soggy conditions for the plant.
The sun’s warmth evaporates some of the moisture collecting around the leaves. Use a lux meter (light intensity measuring device) to see if your plant is getting enough sunlight. A more budget-friendly solution is to get a magazine and try reading it.
If you can read the magazine, the plant is receiving enough sunlight. If not, the conditions may be too dark for Giant Taro. You can improve light absorption by cleaning the leaves regularly using a damp cloth.
Pro tip: The direction of the light may affect the plant’s growth. Reports indicate that the Giant Taro produces the best foliage when it receives overhead light.
Fertilizer for Giant Taro
Giant Taro plants grow at a fast pace with regular fertilization. The extra dose of nutrients sustains continued growth while sustaining the stunning foliage. For the most part, you can use a general purpose fertilizer that is commonly used on most houseplants. An NPK ratio of 20-20-20 is also acceptable for Giant Taros. Dilute the fertilizer before applying to prevent plant burn.
Feed the Giant Taro once every two weeks in the growing season, which is usually the spring and summer months when the plant needs all the nutrients it can get. The plant enters a dormant stage in the winter months and will require fertilization once every month.
Remember to always water the soil when fertilizing the Giant Taro. This is because the strong chemicals in fertilizers may be too harsh for your plants, causing yellow leaves and even root rot. Dilute the fertilizer with water to make absorption easier.
You can also add a slow-release fertilizer if you don’t want to constantly remember having to feed your Giant Taro. Just make sure not to over fertilize the plant to prevent burn damage, including root burn.
Repotting Giant Taro
To keep your Giant Taro in a healthy state, you need to increase its container size by about two inches every year or when it doubles in size (whichever comes first). Make sure to use fresh potting soil because it contains all the nutrients your Giant Taro needs.
Repotting the Giant Taro may seem overwhelming, especially if the plant has reached double its size. We recommend asking a friend or family member to give you a helping hand.
If repotting sounds like too much work for you, consider planting bulbs in a 30 inch container. This will provide lots of room for the plants to growl.
Pro tip: Soak the bulbs in water for about 10 minutes before planting. Plant them at a depth of 4 inches. It will take about 3 weeks of root growth before you notice any new sprouts emerging.
Pruning Giant Taro
The Giant Taro is a fast grower and can quickly reach a size of 15 feet in height and 6 feet in width. This means you may have to prune the plant every now and then to manage its size and shape. Make sure to use sterilized cutting tools to prevent the spread of diseases. Always make precision cuts to minimize the shock that your plant experiences.
Make clean cuts on the fleshy stem of the leaf that you want to remove. Avoid damaging all the leaves because you’ll have to cut them down to their base. You’ll then have to wait for the crown to regenerate new stems and foliage. Make sure to responsibly discard the dead plant debris to prevent a pest infestation.
Pruning is never easy on any houseplant, and the Giant Taro is no exception. Reduce the shock by making sure the soil conditions are perfect.
Propagating Giant Taro
It is relatively easy to propagate Giant Taro through stem cuttings, basal division, and using seeds. For successful growth, consider dividing the tubers individually for optimal growth. This process is achieved by separating the thick rhizomes. The steps outline exactly what you need to separate the rhizomes:
- Carefully dig up the Giant Taro
- Inspect the network of tubers
- Use sterile shears to divide the tubers (the number of tubers you remove depends on the new plants you want)
- Replant the mother plant back in its original place
- Plant all tubers individually (you may place them in containers or in the ground)
- Each tuber should grow beautiful foliage – just like its parent plant
Giant Taro Bloom (rare occurrence)
The Giant Taro rarely, if ever, blooms. But when it does, it’s a sight to behold. The Giant Taro bloom is a creamy white with colorful leaves. Similar in appearance to calla lily flowers, they produce a yellow green spathe surrounding a spadix. These blooms are mostly hidden behind its elegant foliage. The blooms have a limited lifespan and may live anywhere from a few days to 3 months.
Growing the plant indoors will prevent it from reaching full height and blooming. Bear that in mind if your goal is to get your Giant Taro to bloom.
Pests Infestation (including Spider Mites)
The Giant Taro is susceptible to various pests, including spider mites, fungus gnats, and mealybugs. The best defense against pests is to keep the plant in a healthy state, so it is less vulnerable to an attack.
Rapid fluctuations in temperature, overwatering, and exposure to sunlight can lead to elevated levels of stress. You can minimize the plant’s risk of disease and pests by providing it with good care.
Here are a few signs that your plant may be harboring pests:
- Yellow leaves
- Honey dew formation
- Webbing draped along the undersides of leaves (a clear sign of spider mites)
- Holes in the leaves
- Leaves look pinched, cupped, and distorted
If you’ve observed that your plant is under attack by pests, you should inspect the leaves to study the scale of the infestation. Try using a microscope to carefully study the leaves and identify the type of pests.
The next step is to prepare an organic insecticide. We recommend using an insecticidal soap to kill the pests. Neem oil (and similar essential oils) should also get the job done. These insecticides neutralize the pests and also kill their eggs before they hatch.
Pro tip: Make sure to remove any dying leaves and dead foliage to prevent a pest infestation.
A breathtaking beauty, the Giant Taro is a stunning fast growing plant that brings a tropical look to most homes and gardens. As long as you can mimic its natural habitat, or get close to it, the plant will grow huge leaves.