These plants and their big leaves come from the streamsides and marshes of tropical Asia and bring a lush look to gardens. Many fancy-leafed selections have been introduced recently, and more are sure to follow. They can be grown indoors in bright light or outdoors in filtered sunlight. Give them moist, well-drained soil containing lots of organic matter. Provide shelter from wind so leaves don't get tattered. The flowers are like those of calla (Zantedeschia)a spikelike structure (spadix) surrounded by a fleshy, hoodlike bract (spathe). Flowers are followed by reddish fruit, giving spike the look of corn on the cob. Although useful in garden beds and containers, most are sensitive to frost.
A. amazonica. AFRICAN MASK. Zone TS; USDA 10-11. Leathery, deep bronzy green leaves to 16 in. long have wavy edges, heavy white main veins. Plants may grow as tall as 4 ft. and about half as wide. This species is the one most commonly available as a houseplant.
A. cucullata. CHINESE TARO, CHINESE APE. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Slow-growing, clumping evergreen plant to 3 ft. high. Grown for shiny, deep green, pointed leaves to 15 in. long, 1 ft. wide. Usually massed as a ground cover; plant 1 2 ft. apart. Requires moist, rich, well-drained soil and protection from wind. Excellent container plant.
A. macrorrhiza. GIANT ALOCASIA, GIANT TARO. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. Evergreen at 29F; loses leaves at lower temperatures but comes back in spring if frosts are not too severe. Medium to dark green, arrow-shaped leaves grow to 2 ft. or longer on stalks to 5 ft. tall, form a dome-shaped plant 4 ft. across; may grow as large as 12 ft. tall, 10 ft. wide in Tropical South. The foliage of 'Variegata' is blotched with creamy white, gray-green, or darker green. 'Yellow Tail' features thick, twisted, green leaves with irregular yellow blotches.
A. 'Mayan Mask'. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Hybrid with oversized, arrow-shaped, green leaves with white veins and purple undersides.
A. micholitziana 'Frydek'. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. Velvety, dark green leaves with prominent white veins.
A. 'Morocco'. Zone TS; USDA 10-11. Green leaves have white veins like A. amazonica, but the petioles are striking coral-pink.
A. odora. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Similar to A. macrorrhiza but hardier. Fragrant flowers.
A. plumbea. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. This Indonesian species resembles A. macrorrhiza but it is not quite as hardy and bears fragrant flowers. Selections with colorful leaves include 'Metallica', with a purple luster; dark green to black 'Nigra'; and red-tinted 'Rubra'.
A. 'Portodora'. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. This hybrid elephant's ear looks much like A. macrorrhiza but reaches 8 ft. tall, with giant (4-ft.), wavy, scalloped leaves on purple stems.
A. sanderiana. Zone TS; USDA 10-11. Grows to 6 ft. tall and wide. Arrow-shaped, deeply lobed leaves about 1216 in. long, metallic dark purplish green with silver veining on surface.
A. 'Sarian'. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. Big, arrow-shaped leaves with prominent white veins reaching 1536 in. across and 48 ft. tall.
A. wentii. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. This is a hardy species, surviving 10F. Grows in a tight clump. Can reach 4 ft. high and wide, but may not get bigger than 1 ft. if grown outdoors in colder part of range. Arrow-shaped leaves to 1 ft. long are bronzy green on top, purplish underneath.