Learn how to grow Taro (Colocasia esculenta) in your garden. Growing taro is easy, you can also grow it in containers too.
Its corms and leaves are treated as a vegetable and are used to prepare delicious tropical cuisines, it is also grown as an ornamental plant.
USDA Zones — 9 – 11, *can be grown in cool temperate zones as an annual
Difficulty — Easy
Other Names — Colocasia esculenta (scientific name), Elephant ears, Dalo, Kalo, Talles, Dasheen, Eddo, Arvi, Arbi, Poi, Eddo, Ghuiyan.
How to Grow Taro
Propagation of taro is usually done by planting corms, suckers or by division.
Planting taro is done at the beginning of the spring, when weather conditions are more favorable for this herbaceous plant. Whereas, in tropics it can be planted any time. Corms are planted 6 to 10 cm deep with a spacing of about 1 m between other plants and 1 m between the rows.
Taro (Colocasia esculenta), which is also called “Arbi” in South Asia grows best in hot and humid weather and the ideal temperature for growing taro falls between 68 F – 95 F (20 C to 35 C). The plant does not support low temperatures and won’t thrive below 50 F (10 C).
Requirements for Growing Taro (Colocasia)
Grow taro in partial shade or filtered sunlight is ideal.
Grow it in a well-drained and fertile soil, which is rich in organic matter. Soil should be slightly acidic to neutral with a pH level between 5.5 to 6.5. Avoid compacted and clay-rich soil.
Water frequently and deeply to always keep the soil moist. Adult plants are drought-resistant but don’t grow long in the lack of water.
Some taro cultivars are grown in flooded places with running water or on the banks of waterways. Stagnant water sites are not suitable for them because the corms may rot more easily in these conditions.
Taro Plant Care
Remove invasive plants and weeds that are competing for nutrients and resources, especially in the first three months of planting.
The fertilizer you use should be high in nitrogen and potassium. Fertilize the plant with 24-8-16 fertilizer every month or according to the product’s instructions is enough for the healthy growth.
Pests and diseases
Taro plant pests are taro beetle (papuana uninodis), which recently became a problem and had been blamed for the loss of 40% of the harvested taro in Fiji. Cluster caterpillars and grasshoppers are other pests you should look for. In diseases nematodes and taro leaf blight can also be a problem.
Taro corms (thickened underground stems, also called roots) are ready for harvest in 7 to 12 months (depending on the growing conditions and varieties) after planting. When leaves begin to turn yellow and corms starts to push out of the soil. Corms should be dug up carefully without any damage.
Taro leaves and their petioles are also edible but only after being cooked and can be harvested anytime, although they are less consumed than the corms.
*Sap of the plant can cause mild irritation to skin, eyes and mucous membranes, so the harvesting should be done carefully and with the use of gloves.
Other Species called Taro
Some other plant species that are also called taro or elephant-ear:
Colocasia Gigantea – Sometimes called Giant elephant ear or Indian taro, its corms are inedible and only stems and leaves are consumed mostly in Japan and Indian subcontinent.
Alocasia Macrorrhizos – It belongs to Araceae family, native to Malaysia and called Elephant ear taro, its leaves are pointed upwards or remain almost horizontal. Edible only after a long cooking time.
Cyrtosperma Merkusii – Practically grown only in Oceania and South Asia, it is planted in flooded areas, thus called Giant swamp taro. This plant grows 4 to 5 meters in tall and having up to 80 kg corms, which are also edible but only after a long cooking time.
Xanthosoma Sagittifolium – Also known as taro, it has leaves similar to leaves of Alocasia and Cyrtosperma genres but can be distinguished by the position of their leaves, pointing down.