Can a plant possess alluring powers, so insatiable, the yearning for more overwhelms your ability to resist?
“I want some more,” says Claudia, the fictional character in the movie, “Interview with the Vampire.” She is completely seduced from her first taste of blood offered by the devious vampire, Lestat. And although his immortal companion, Louis, witnesses the transition with regret, he does nothing to stop Claudia’s unthinkable awakening.
Yes, a plant can also possess similar powers that lure you into its plan of seduction. And…, “Of course, you want some more.” After you have experienced its offerings, your senses awaken, the desire to achieve the same feeling or response is sought out, and you ultimately thirst for more of the same, as much as a vampire thirsts for blood.
This is how I felt about Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’ last season as I witnessed this plant grow long stems and big leaves as rapidly as Claudia’s hair grew right before she opened her eyes.
Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’
This tropical plant, commonly referred to as an elephant ear or elephant’s ears, drew me into its clutches deceptively, then captured my desire to always want more as it grew into an impressive size while maintaining its beautiful attributes from the beginning of spring to early autumn. If I didn’t decide to order it last minute, I may have missed out on its powers to grow quickly, create a climactic effect in a container garden, and arouse with its dark-sided hues. It started with admiring its abundant ornamental leaves, followed by adoring its long stems. Each held their ears up like a trophy on their tips, making it stand out in the container garden.
Dressed in a cloak
The heart-shaped leaves of ‘Maui Magic’ snuck-up out of the soil like a vampire appearing from the dark alleys of the streets. Before I knew it, the leaves grew to two feet long and about half as wide in the center. The leaves wavy-edged margins are soft and subtle, and provide an elusive cloaking effect as it gently moves by the wind. The leaf stems, or more appropriately stated, the petioles, grew to three feet tall, lending to an upright exotic thriller bobbing above the container garden’s companion plants. The mid-ribs were very visible on the backside of the leaves. By the time August arrived, this plant, started from a small plant in mid-May, was substantial enough to draw me into a complete trance, and kept me there. I couldn’t keep my eyes or hands off it.
An unnatural pale complexion
The plant’s foliage coloring starts off as a dark plum-purple, and then fades into an olive green with purple tones. Having less color is not a sign of ill health as with a vampire, but a transition to maturity. This did not create a lack of appreciation; the color was still stunning. The leaf stems carried a deep purple tone all the way down to the base of the plant throughout the season. The look was visually stimulating, but you also wanted to touch the stems. It sounds weird, but there is a soft texture to the plant, making it smooth to the touch. I found this irresistible, charming, and as I said, “alluring.” Taking it down for the fall was as difficult as chopping the head off a vampire in rest, but it had to be done and with good timing.
Not harmed by the sun
Unlike vampires, the exposure to sun does not harm this cultivar, so long as you keep it well-watered. Water to this plant is like blood to vampires; it thrives as it receives more. But for my container garden, I decided to place it in a shady location, on the north side of my house, where it received more shade than sun. However, this did not deter it from growing large and showy. The plant can take either exposure. The leaf stems extended as if reaching towards the edges of the steps in search for the afternoon sun, adding more drama to its presence. This shady exposure also helped to keep the soil moist, appreciated by many types of elephant ears. Birds perched on it occassionally, and it never failed to produce new leaves. When the wind caused some movement, it startled me from time to time because it was as tall as a person and could be seen from inside the house.
Its mysterious origin
As many ponder the true origin of vampires, you may ponder the growth habit of this plant. Whatever you choose to call the base of this plant, a corm, cormel, bulb, tuber, rhizome, or root, the leaf stems arise from the base of a root-like structure. Even its circumference amazed me, as it reached a good size and produced potential divisions or cormels from the mother plant. This plant is treated like a tropical in Connecticut; it is not hardy to our zone and requires storage in a cool, dark place, like the coffin of a vampire. So get out your tools of destruction, chop of its heads, clean of the base, and create its resting place for a return next season when you certainly will “vant some more.” If handled appropriately and according to specific procedures, this plant will have immortal life in your container gardens.
Container Crazy Cathy T
Pronounced: Koal-oh-KAY-see-uh ess-kyou-LENT-uh; sounds like some weird vampire language.
Zones: 9-11, tropical and subtropical tuberous perennial. Used as a tropical plant and stored for winter in CT Zones. Can be used as an aquatic plant in containers.
Size: 3-4′ tall, rounded form up to 6′ size all together under warm growing conditions. Big, tall, showy, and overpowering.
Exposure: Full Sun, part sun, part shade – flexible. Easy to grow, and grows quickly.
Introduction: 2008 by John Cho and the University of Hawaii breeding program. Propagation is prohibited.
Color combinations: Try this plant with contrasting vibrant colors since the plant’s tones are on the darkside. Use different leaf textures, from fine to medium against this coarse and bold statement in your container or garden. (Shown in this post are a Coleus, Astilbe, and Rodgersia for a shade combination.) For a sun combination, try Canna with bright, golden yellow, or chartreuse leaf colors, add a blooming annual, like Zinnia or Verbena, for some pops of color. Select a bright colored spiller, like Lysimachia nummelaria ‘Aurea’ (Creeping Jenny) or Ipomoea batatas (Sweet Potato Vine) annuals.
Container/pot size: Be sure to use a very large container or pot for this elephant ear due to its size, and to provide adequate soil volume, helping to retain moisture, and nutrients. And don’t overlook – this plant can make a wonderful statement in the garden too.
After Care: To learn how to overwinter tropicals, sign up for Cathy T’s fall class, which is hands-on, and held on a dark, gloomy evening with a full moon – just kidding.