The Biggest Elephant Ear in the World – Colocasia Gigantea Thailand Giant Strain

When was Thailand Giant Strain discovered?

Colocasia gigantea Thailand Giant Strain was discovered in 2003 by former Plant Delights research manager Dr. Petra Schmidt. Petra is an aroid expert who PDN owner Tony Avent sent over to southeast Asia on a plant collecting expedition (See a list of PDNs plant expeditions here).

Petra toured Laos, and Thailand and kept her eyes peeled for anything new and awesome… and boy did she ever hit pay dirt! While in Kanchanaburi Province, a local guide took her to an absolutely huge Colocasia gigantea specimen growing in a national park. As you can see from the picture, the plant was larger than the minivan that Petra was traveling in!

Petra collected seed off of the plant and the seedlings became the basis for the plant we have on the market today. The seedlings are all slightly different, but they are all much larger than average. That is why we call it ThailandGiant Strain instead of giving it some cultivar name… the plants are not clones.

How big will it grow?

Colocasia gigantea Thailand Giant Strain is marginally hardy in our Raleigh, NC garden. It goes dormant at the first sign of cold weather in the fall and it stays dormant until the following summer. The plant does not wake up until it is very very hot… which is usually July for us. It grows quite quickly and by late September is approaching its maximum size in our garden. Ours tops out at about 6′ tall, but the leaves are each gigantic and can easily be 3′ wide and 4.5′ long. Our short warm season greatly limits its ultimate size. This plant will grow much larger in the semi-tropical states of the US where it feels more like its homeland of Thailand.

In its natural home, the parent of our seed strain grew well over 9′ tall… truly monstrous!

How do we care for Thailand Giant

Colocasia gigantea Thailand Giant Strain is a solid zone 8 plant. Raleigh is in zone 7b and therefore we have to take steps to protect our plant during the winter. The following list is a highlight of our efforts:

  1. We plant our Thailand Giant in a spot that stays dry in the winter. A moist spot will promote winter rot
  2. In the late summer or fall we dig up the plant and re-plant it deeper. We have recently learned that Colocasias tend to move up in the soil profile over time. We need to counter this so that the crown does not freeze.
  3. In the fall, we remove the dead foliage and pile a mound of shredded leaves on top of the bulb for insulation.
  4. In the late spring, we remove the shredded leaves so that the ground does not stay too moist.
  5. During the summer we keep the soil evenly moist but not soaking wet. Unlike C. esculenta which likes wet feet, C. gigantea does not.