by Connie Oswald Stofko
If you are aching to garden, check out exciting tropical plants called elephant ears and red banana plants, which can grow to impressive heights by the end of summer. The best part is that you don’t have to wait to get started — you can grow them inside now!
Those are are some of the plants you’ll be able to buy next week at Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses’ booth at Plantasia.
Plantasia, Western New York’s premier garden and landscape show, will kick off with Preview Night from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 20. Plantasia will continue from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, March 21 to 23 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 24. It will be held at the Fairgrounds Event Center and Artisan Hall, 5820 South Park Ave., Hamburg.
The theme this year is “Plantasia in Paradise,” and Mischler’s chose tropical plants to fit with the theme.
Mischler’s will have three kinds of plants that are often referred to as elephant ears.
The plant shown in the first photo is Alocasia ‘Regal Shields’. You can buy a small plant now. By the end of the summer the plant can have 16-inch leaves, said Mark Yadon, vice president at Mischler’s.
‘Regal Shields’ can get three feet tall or taller. The foliage is nearly black with burgandy on the underside.
In your home, it likes bright, indirect light and warm temperatures between 62 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant it outside at the end of May in a location with sun to part sun, Yadon said. You can grow it in a container or in a garden bed.
Alocasia ‘Regal Shields’ is technically not an elephant ear, he noted, but because it looks so similar to true elephant ears, people often refer to it that way.
True elephant ears are are in the genus Colocasia, and Mischler’s has two varieties: Colocasia ‘Bikini Tini’ and Colocasia ‘Imperial Gigante’. You can care for the Colocasia following the instructions for the Alocasia above.
Colocasia ‘Bikini Tini’ can grow five to seven feet tall. It has up-facing bluish-gray leaves that form cups.
Colocasia ‘Imperial Gigante’ gets five to eight feet tall. It has fan-shaped leaves that are black with light green veins and margins.
What people refer to as red banana plants, Ensete ‘Maurelii’, aren’t really banana plants, Yadon said. These plants give you height, not fruit.
Banana plants are in the genus Musa, while the plants referred to as red banana are in the genus Ensete. They’re related; both are in the family Musaceae. (If you’ve ever wondered why plants have Latin names, now you know. We have so many nicknames for plants, it would be hard to keep them straight without the Latin names.)
The red banana plant likes full sun.
It can reach seven feet in height, but how tall it actually grows depends on how you plant them. They will grow taller if you plant them in the ground than if you plant them in a container, Yadon said.
The bigger the pot is, the bigger your plant will grow. You probably need a pot with a diameter of at least 24 inches, he said.
Red bananas take a lot of water. Since smaller pots dry out faster than larger pots, if you plant your red banana in a smaller pot, you may have to water twice a day in dry weather.
These plants won’t take a frost, but unlike the elephant ears, red bananas don’t mind cool air temperatures.
Overwintering elephant ears & red banana
There are three things you can do with your elephant ears and red banana plants over the winter, Yadon said.
The first thing is to simply treat them like an annual. At the end of the season, bid the plants farewell.
If you’d like to overwinter these plants, the best way to do that is to bring the plant inside to a sun room and keep it growing, Yadon said. Of course, you have to have a sunny, warm room with tall ceilings and enough space to try this.
The other way to overwinter these plants is to give them a period of dormancy. Keep the plant in its container. Remove most of the leaves and place the container in a cool spot. Some people use the basement for this. It shouldn’t be completely dark; a little light is good. Give it minimal water over the winter. In April, when new leaves start to appear, water it more.