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Plant of the Month: Colocasia gigantea

Diamond Head

Colocasia esculenta ‘Diamond Head’

Latin name: Colocasia ‘Diamond Head’
Common name: Elephant ear
Flowers: Not showy
Foliage: 12-18” shiny, purple-black, ruffled leaves
Mature height: 48”-60”
Hardiness: Perennial Zone 7b south; summer annual further north.
Soil: Not choosy
Exposure: Full sun 
Water usage: High
Sources: Local nurseries

It’s no secret that I love big, bold, textural and architectural foliage plants, especially the tropical-looking ones, which do well in Texas. My new favorite is a hybrid elephant ear from the breeding of Dr. John Cho of the University of Hawaii. A series of five cultivars of his Colocasia breeding were introduced as the Royal Hawaiian series, but one variety of the series really stood out in my trials. ‘Diamond Head’ is truly different from any other elephant ear on the market. 

‘Diamond Head’ combines the deep plum-purple to chocolate-black color of the familiar ‘Black Magic’ elephant ear with a glossy sheen and ruffled edges. The shine is what is first noticeable. Deep purple leaves and stems reflect light and shimmer in the summer sun. This variety grows in a nice, mannerly clump up to 4 or 5 ft. tall. Leaves will reach 12 to 18 inches across, and they don’t fall over in mid-summer like so many other varieties. 

Like all elephant ears, ‘Diamond Head’ is very easy to grow, preferring rich soil, regular watering and full sun. Though it will live in shade, this plant is native to wet areas with full sun. It is hardy to USDA Zone 7b, but farther north this plant makes an easy-to-grow annual. For best growth, water and fertilize regularly. 

‘Diamond Head’ looks spectacular backlit by the early morning or late afternoon sun, making the foliage shimmer. Plant them en masse as bedding plants or as perennials. Try them in containers for a tropical look around your pool.  

‘Diamond Head’ Colocasia should be available at most retail nurseries in one-gallon containers or larger. Don’t worry, though; in a few months they will grow to full size and amaze you with their deep color and shiny foliage.