Royal Hawaiian Aloha Elephant Ear: A Stunning Tropical Foliage Plant

The bold, dramatic leaves of elephant ear plants provide serious tropical flair in gardens and containers. While most varieties sport all green leaves, a few special cultivars showcase eye-catching multicolored foliage. One of the most popular is the Royal Hawaiian Aloha elephant ear, prized for its vibrant purplish-black leaves marked with electric green veins.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at this exotic elephant ear and how to use it in your own landscape Read on to learn why the Royal Hawaiian Aloha should be on your must-grow plant list!

Origins of the Royal Hawaiian Aloha Elephant Ear

First things first – what exactly is an elephant ear plant? The common name refers to plants in the genera Alocasia, Colocasia, and Xanthosoma. They earned the moniker “elephant ear” thanks to their very large heart-shaped or arrowhead-shaped leaves that resemble an elephant’s ear.

There are around 70 species in these tropical plant genera, most native to southeast Asia. They grow as perennials in warm tropical climates but are often grown as annuals or houseplants in colder zones.

The Royal Hawaiian Aloha elephant ear specifically was developed by hybridizing two existing species:

  • Colocasia illustris – Known for its bold purple-black foliage
  • Colocasia esculenta – Valued for its vigorous, hardy growth habit

By crossing these two plants, Hawaiian plant breeder Dr. John Cho created an exciting new elephant ear that combines the best traits of both parents. The Royal Hawaiian Aloha has the deep blackish-purple leaves and prominent green veining of C. illustris plus the vigorous growth, hardiness, and clumping habit of C. esculenta.

Growing Characteristics

Now let’s look at some key characteristics of the Royal Hawaiian Aloha elephant ear and how to grow it successfully

  • Plant type – Tender herbaceous perennial, often grown as an annual in colder climates
  • Mature size – Reaches 4 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide
  • Leaves – Prominently veined, deep blackish-purple leaves with electric green veining. Heart-shaped and can reach over 2 feet long when mature.
  • Flowers – White calla lily-like flowers may appear but the plant is grown for its foliage
  • Light – Does best in full sun to part shade
  • Soil – Rich, moist soil is ideal; avoid letting it dry out completely
  • Hardiness – USDA Zones 7-10; can be overwintered indoors in colder climates
  • Water – Keep soil consistently moist, watering 2-3 times a week in hot weather
  • Fertilizer – Use a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-4 weeks during growth

How to Use Royal Hawaiian Aloha Elephant Ears in the Garden

Thanks to its spectacular foliage, the Royal Hawaiian Aloha elephant ear is easy to incorporate into gardens, containers, and pools:

  • Focal point – The bold purple and green leaves demand attention, making this a perfect plant to build beds and designs around. Site it as a central focal point.

  • Borders and beds – Mass several plants together in garden beds and borders for a high visual impact. They also make excellent thriller plants in containers.

  • Containers – Plant one Royal Hawaiian Aloha in a container by itself or pair it with cordylines, crotons, caladiums, or other plants with colored foliage.

  • Water gardens – The lush leaves are well-suited to planting along ponds and pools. Site in shallow water or at the edge.

  • Tropical gardens – This elephant ear is ideal for evoking a Hawaiian or other tropical look. Combine with bananas, cannas, gingers, etc.

Growing Royal Hawaiian Aloha from a Bulb vs. a Started Plant

Elephant ears like the Royal Hawaiian Aloha can be purchased and grown either from bulbs or from young started plants. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of each approach:


  • Pros – Less expensive option; fun to watch growth from bulb
  • Cons – Slower to establish; no guarantee plant will thrive

Started plant

  • Pros – Established plants take off quickly; higher success rate
  • Cons – Starts are more expensive than bulbs

For fastest results and to skip the tricky bulb sprouting process, purchasing started young plants is usually best. Just make sure you buy from a reputable source. Well-established starter plants have the built-in energy stores to support speedy growth.

Caring for Your Royal Hawaiian Aloha Elephant Ear

Royal Hawaiian Aloha is one of the easier elephant ears to care for, especially when planted in appropriate conditions. Here are some general care tips:

  • Give plenty of water – these are tropical plants that demand consistent moisture. Allow the soil to partially dry out between waterings but don’t let them completely dry out.

  • Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-4 weeks during active growth.

  • Prune back unsightly or damaged foliage at any time to keep plants looking fresh.

  • In colder climates, dig up bulbs before frost and store dormant over winter. Replant the following spring after danger of frost has passed.

  • Remove spent flowers to encourage more energy directed to leaf growth.

  • Site in full sun to part shade for optimal growth and coloration.

  • Stake tall plants if needed to provide support in windy conditions.

Common Problems with Elephant Ears

Elephant ears are generally vigorous, trouble-free plants when provided with suitable growing conditions. However, here are a few potential problems to watch for:

  • Leaf scorch – Insufficient water plus hot, dry, windy weather can cause leaf edges or tips to brown. Make sure to provide ample irrigation.

  • Sunburn – In intense afternoon sun, elephant ear leaves can develop brown bleached spots. Site plants or use shade cloth to filter sunlight.

  • Failure to thrive – Poor growth can be due to improper siting, insufficient watering, or very heavy or poorly draining soil.

  • Pests – Aphids, spider mites, and scales may appear but are easily controlled by horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps.

Overwintering Elephant Ears

In zones 7 and colder, the Royal Hawaiian Aloha and most other elephant ears won’t survive winter outdoors. You have two options for overwintering them:

  • Treat as an annual – This is the easiest option. Simply allow the plant to die back after frost. Mulch the roots or dig them up and discard the plant. Replant with a new one the following spring.

  • Dig and store the bulbs – Once the plant dies back in late fall, carefully dig up the bulbs and roots. Allow them to dry in a frost-free place for 1-2 weeks. Store in damp peat or vermiculite at 45-60°F over winter. Replant outdoors in spring after the danger of frost has passed.

If you choose to overwinter the bulbs, inspect them periodically for rotting or shriveling, which indicates they are too wet or dry. Mist or water lightly if needed.

Where to Buy Royal Hawaiian Aloha Elephant Ears

When purchasing Royal Hawaiian Aloha elephant ears, look for reputable sources selling vigorous, established young plants. Avoid purchasing bulbs or tiny starts, as they are less likely to thrive.

Quality plant sellers will ship starter plants that are several inches tall rather than bare root bulbs. The small starter plants will establish quickly and soon grow into beautiful, mature specimens under your care.

Adding Exotic Flair with Royal Hawaiian Aloha Elephant Ears

If you’re looking to add bold tropical flair to your garden or containers, the Royal Hawaiian Aloha elephant ear is sure to impress. The vibrant dark leaves with electric green veining are exotic and eye-catching. Plus, this variety combines great looks with excellent performance and easier care compared to some tropicals.

For optimal results, provide plenty of moisture, fertilizer, and appropriate sun exposure for your climate. With a little attention, the Royal Hawaiian Aloha elephant ear will reward you with graceful, elegant foliage unlike any other plant. It serves as a living piece of Hawaiian paradise!

Develop an even greener thumb

Basic plant care instructions are included with every single plant.

Follow the QR code to find plant care information relevant to your specific type of plant.

Plant care information on our website is organized by category. Care information specific to bananas, carnivorous plants, dragon fruit, pomegranates, etc. , can be found there.

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Colocasia Royal Hawaiian series

Where can I buy elephant ears?

Visit your local nursery for a selection of elephant ears to transplant into your garden. You can also check out Tony Avent’s Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a big assortment of elephant ears. Or visit Just Fruits and Exotics, Florida Hill Nursery, and Logee’s Plants for Home and Garden.

How do you know if an elephant ear is a flower?

Elephant ears are prized for their foliage, not flowers, with varieties wielding huge leaves, deep red stems, ruffled “ears,” or splashes of contrasting color. You can usually discern which species you are getting by whether the leaves point down ( Colocasia spp.) or up ( Alocasia spp. are sometimes called upright elephant ears for this reason).

What is Royal Hawaiian Aloha?

Genus name comes from the Greek word kolokasia used for the root of Nelumbo nucifera. Specific epithet means edible or good to eat. ‘Royal Hawaiian Aloha’ is a robust, vigorous, colorful leaved selection of taro. This cultivar resulted from a controlled cross made between the hybrid Colocasia varieties ‘Maui Gold’ and ‘Coal Miner’.

Can elephant ears grow in a pond?

Mix in plenty of organic matter such as chopped leaves, peat, or composted manure. They prefer loamy soil but can tolerate other types. Colocasia do well in wet soils during the growing season and can grow on the margin of ponds. Elephant ears do best when their soil is kept moist. Generally, the more you water and feed them, the more they grow.

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