Alocasia macrorrhiza

Alocasia macrorrhiza in the garden of Linda Macaulay in Sydney

Alocasia macrorrhiza (ht 1-2m), hailing from India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, is sometimes referred to as 'elephant's ears'. The resemblance is rather remarkable and these imposing foliage plants can really make a statement in a garden. These plants belong to the broad plant family known as the Araceae, the members of which are sometimes known as aroids. Many of these plants come from tropical climates and were traditionally used as houseplants. However, in Sydney we can grow many of them outdoors as permanent plantings, or in pots. On the whole, they are best suited to shadier parts of the garden, with sufficient moisture: many can actually grow well in ponds.

Alocasia macrorrhiza in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

They can introduce an element of bold contrast with their distinctive leaves and flowers, and mix in well with other warm-climate plants that grow well in our climate, creating the ambience of a tropical rain forest. Alocasia macrorrhiza has enormous, mid to dark green arrowhead-shaped leaves, which provide a very satisfying contrast to ferny, strappy or grass-like foliage in the garden. Their flowers are not very showy. There are some other stunning species and hybrids with silver- or dark-veined leaves and other variegations, but they seem to be more cold sensitive and don't survive Sydney winters as easily as the common species. However, the cultivar 'Lime Zinger' (perhaps more correctly called Xanthosoma 'Lime Ginger' but often sold as an Alocasia), with stunning lime-coloured leaves, seems to survive Sydney winters. The cultivars in general may do better in pots, moved under shelter in winter. Propagation of Alocasia is by division of the tubers.