Do elephant ear bulbs come back every year?

Answered by Phillip Nicastro

Elephant ear bulbs, also known as Colocasia or Alocasia, are indeed perennials and have the ability to come back year after year. However, their ability to return each summer is dependent on the specific region in which they are grown.

In the Lower South, Coastal South, and Tropical South, elephant ears are typically reliable perennials. These regions provide the warm temperatures and humid conditions that these plants thrive in. In these areas, elephant ears will often die back during the winter months but will regrow from their bulbs once the weather warms up in the spring.

In the lower part of the Middle South, elephant ears can also be grown as perennials, although they may require some extra protection during the winter months. Since the temperatures in this region can occasionally dip below freezing, it is important to provide some insulation for the bulbs. This can be done by applying a layer of mulch or covering the plants with a protective fabric during the colder months.

It is worth noting that while most elephant ears are perennials, there are some varieties that are not as hardy and may not reliably come back each year. These less hardy varieties are often grown as annuals in regions where the winters are too cold for them to survive. If you are unsure about the specific variety of elephant ear you have, it is always a good idea to check its hardiness zone to determine whether it is likely to return year after year.

When it comes to caring for elephant ears, they prefer well-drained soil and ample moisture. However, it is important to allow the soil to dry out slightly during the winter months, as overly wet conditions can cause the bulbs to rot. Providing a layer of organic mulch around the plants can help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.

In my personal experience, I have successfully grown elephant ears as perennials in the Coastal South. Each year, I would see the plants die back in the winter, but they would reliably return with new growth in the spring. However, I have also encountered some less hardy varieties that did not survive the colder winters in the Middle South, even with the added protection of mulch and fabric coverings.

To summarize, most elephant ear bulbs are perennials and have the potential to come back each year. They are reliable perennials in the Lower, Coastal, and Tropical South, and can also be grown as perennials in the lower part of the Middle South with some additional winter protection. However, there are some less hardy varieties that may not reliably return each year and are often grown as annuals in colder regions.