Elephant Ear Flower: All Questions Answered!

Elephant Ears Bloom
Elephant Ears Bloom (Source: Reddit)

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Elephant Ear?” A real elephant’s ear, right? Plant enthusiasts think otherwise.

The name “Elephant Ear” is given to the plants with huge leaves hailing from the genus Araceae (usually Colocasia, Alocasia, and Xanthosoma).

Compared to the foliage’s beauty, their blooms are not as eye-pleasing.

Generally, the Elephant ear flowers in late spring to early fall when they are outdoors. They produce a white, yellow, or light-green colored spathe that surrounds a spadix.

Elephant Ear Flower
Elephant Ear Flower (Source: Wikimedia)

The blooms of the Elephant ear are hidden behind the vast, elegant foliage. People find the flowers hideous, but I think they are pretty cool.

Read below to find out more about Elephant ear’s blooms.

How Often does the Elephant Ear Flower?

The Elephant ear is a plant that is said to “grow up to the heavens” because it can grow in any condition, negating the risks.

Although the leaves are pretty well-developed, you cannot expect this plant to flower very often.

Elephant ears bloom when they are mature enough. They usually take 4 to 5 months to mature and bloom, from late spring to early fall.

In addition, Elephant ears rarely bloom indoors.

Elephant Ear Fruit
Elephant Ear Fruit (Source: Wikimedia)

The plant is perennial, but we cannot say the same about the flower. If they bloom in the current year, they may not bloom again next year.

Blooms of Elephant ears have a varied lifespan. They may live from a few days to 2-3 months.

As the Elephant ears are not monocarpic, you may let them bloom. There are downsides to them blooming, but we will discuss them later.

Also, remember that the Elephant’s ears only bloom when they are happy. So, if they flower, pat yourself on the back; you did great!

If you want them to bloom, you need to move them outdoors. On top of that, you may not need to give extra care to the blooms.

Watch this video for more information,

Elephant Ear Flower Overview

You may have had the general idea about how rare it is to witness Elephant ear blooms. Get your gardening boots ready!

But first, let us know what flower we are talking about. Let’s look at the general overview of the Elephant ear flower.

StructureInflorescence with a rod-like spadix and a colorful spathe that surrounds the spadix
Spadix contains cluster of small flowers
SizeSpadix: Up to 10 inches tall
Spathe: Proportional to the size of spadix
ColorWhite, yellow or light-green colored spadix with creamy white, yellow colored spathe
FragranceFragrant enough to attract bees and other pollinators
ToxicityToxic to humans and pets
LifespanFrom few days to 2-3 months
FruitsGlobular green or yellow berries containing several seeds.
Blooming SeasonLate spring to early fall

Elephant ears produce several tiny seeds that are enclosed inside hard seed pods. 

The seeds take months to mature, and the pods hang to the plant throughout that time.

To collect the seeds, you need the pod to dry up completely. After that, the seeds are pretty easy to retrieve.

Elephant ear flower seeds are only viable for a short time, so harvest and plant the seeds as soon as possible.

Pollination of Elephant Ear Flower

Elephant ears flower is not typically a ‘flower’ but an inflorescence with a spadix and a spathe surrounding the spadix.

Most blooms on aroids are females as soon as they open and release pollens the following day.

You would want to know how the released pollen is used for reproduction. Look below to get your query solved.

1. Natural Pollination

The elephant ear is an amazing plant with huge leaves resembling literal elephant ears.

Intrigued by the plant, I decided to research deep about them and was shocked to discover their unique method of pollination.

After the flower opens up, the spadix of the Elephant ear heats up, releasing an odor that attracts small bugs and insects.

Bees and other insects in spadix of a flower
Insects help in the Pollination Process (Source: Aroid)

The insects gather around the flower and bathe themselves in the pollen. They then move to another spadix of another Elephant ear and do the same.

But here is a catch, after the Elephant ear’s flower anthesis process, the plant follows deceptive pollination by sending false signals to the insects.

The poor attracted insects then reach the spadix with high hopes only to get trapped by the flower’s spathe.

The flower releases the insects after it releases the pollens.

When the pollen is transferred to another plant, the spadix is enclosed, and fruits form on the plant.

Some varieties of Elephant ears have orange fruits that are pivotal in attracting birds.

Orange fruit of Elephant Ear
Orange fruit of Elephant Ear (Source: Flickr)

The colorful fruits in this plant are pivotal in attracting different birds and bats to carry on the pollination process.

Other than that, there is no evidence to support that the wind plays a role in the plant’s pollination.

2. Hand Pollination

While letting the plant perform things naturally is better, people sometimes like to force pollination.

Parts of Aroid
Flower Structure of Aroids (Source: Exotic Rainforest)

You may have to be very careful while performing hand pollination as one wrong step can lead to failure.

If you do not want to fail, follow the steps below carefully.

  • Get a scalpel, gloves, mask, and other equipment and sterilize them properly.
  • The best time to collect the pollens is early morning, when the flower is fresh and full of moisture.
  • Take a small cotton ball or an artist’s paintbrush and dab on the spadix to collect the pollen.
  • Gather the pollen on a plate or white sheet of paper. Shield it from even a tiny whiff of air.
  • Cut a portion of the spathe that is covering the female flower.

Make sure not to cut the female flower while cutting the spathe.

  • Dab the pollen on the spathe until there is no collected pollen left.

How to Make an Elephant Ear Plant Flower?

Grown usually for foliage; people do not expect their Elephant ear to produce inflorescence.

Their flowers are not particularly charming, so if you want to make it flower, you must have some more significant motive behind it, or you may want the seeds.

If you live in the USDA zones 9-11, you will have a higher chance of seeing your Elephant ear bloom.

But, the decision is yours to take, and we are here to help you.

Follow the steps below to ensure your Elephant ear produces flowers.

  • Elephant ears prefer bright, full sun. You can place them outside, keeping in mind the sun’s intensity. Avoid mid-day sun (127000 lumens).
  • Keep the plant in moist soil that has a rich amount of humus. Do not let the soil dry out completely.
  • Being a tropical plant, Elephant ears prefer good moisture. Maintain the humidity to above 50% almost all the time.
Blooms of Elephant Ears (Colocasia, Alocasia and Xanthosoma)
Blooms of Elephant Ears (Colocasia, Alocasia, and Xanthosoma) (Source: hort.extension.wisc.edu)
  • In the plant’s native area, they enjoy high temperatures (65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit). Make sure you make them feel at home.
  • Water the plant almost daily during the summer and cut back on watering during the winter.
  • Fertilize your Elephant ears every 2-3 weeks with liquid fertilizer rich in phosphorus to promote flower blooming.
  • Remember, your Elephant ear hates frost conditions. So, protect them from extreme cold conditions in the winter season to ensure blooms.

You may provide too much care to the blooming and forget the plant. 

What Should you do with Elephant Ear Plant Flowers?

Elephant ear flowers are not something you would use to decorate your home.

They are not exactly hideous, but they are not pleasing to the eyes as well.

The spadix and spathe do not have anything particularly charming about them. So, cutting them won’t be hard for you.

Spathe and Spadix of Aroid
Spathe and Spadix of Aroids are not Attractive (Source: Moore Farms)

If you have high hopes of germinating the obtained seeds, you can keep the flowers and let them dry.

Otherwise, I do not see any reason to keep them alive.

I can give you a few reasons to cut the flowers off. Look below for two of them.

  • The flowers, or inflorescences, are not something you would want to brag about to your friends.
  • Blooms of Elephant ears suck up the nutrients directed towards the plant’s foliage.

If you leave the flowers as they are, they will develop into beautiful red/orange berries. In this form, the flower gets charming.

How to Trim Your Elephant Ear Flowers?

Follow the steps below to trim your flower perfectly while keeping the plant safe.

  • It would be best if you cut the flowers early in the morning when the plant is fresh and won’t take any damage from the trimming.
  • Get pruning shears and gloves ready for the procedure.
  • Grab the inflorescence gently, revealing its base.
Elephant Ear Flower
Elephant Ear Flower (Source: Plant Delights)
  • Cut the flower at its base, which is connected to the plant. You can completely deadhead the flower as there is less chance of it flowering again.
  • Pulling the flower with your hand may be challenging as they are sturdy.
  • Do all the above processes with great caution, or you may damage the beautiful huge leaves of your plant.

You must have guessed by looking at them; Elephant ear flowers do not have any use other than producing seeds and berries.

Health Considerations to Keep in Mind

The Elephant ear plant looks terrifying enough with a huge set of leaves and gigantic foliage.

On top of that, they can be dangerous to your pets and kids too.

According to ASPCA, Elephant ears are toxic to your cats, dogs, and horses as they contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals.

cat next to plants
Curious Cat and Plants (Source: Unsplash)

If any of your pets consume the leaves of Elephant ear, they will show symptoms like,

  • Vomiting (not in horses)
  • Hypersalivation
  • Oral irritation
  • Swelling in the lips, tongue, mouth
  • Pain in the oral area
  • Problem in swallowing

The bloodstream of humans and pets cannot absorb insoluble calcium oxalates and thus scar whatever path they move on.

In humans, insoluble calcium oxalate crystals can cause pain in the abdomen, reduce our blood pressure, vomiting, etc.

Call the following numbers if you, your kids, and your pets ever consume the Elephant ear leaves.

Conclusion

You may not want your Elephant ear ever to bloom as they may blemish the intriguing look of the plant, but don’t be so harsh on them.

They are pivotal if you want to propagate the plant using seeds, as insects and birds are ready to do that.

Happy Gardening!

Want to read more about aroids? Read about Alocasia Flowers and other Alocasia Varieties

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