Pet Products that May Make Life Easier

I am a declared pet lover and if I encounter an issue with one of mine, I strive to find the best method to solve the problem for both me and my pet. I’d like to share a few products with you that in my opinion can make life a lot easier for a household with animals. The use of a couple of these fine products may sound a tad questionable – but they’re safe and I have found they work. Actually, I find it is far better to discover ways to quickly deter or prevent pets from unwanted behavior than to have them suffer through constant scolding and owner frustration. Not everything that you do for your pet should necessarily be all about their behavior; sometimes it’s good to focus on making them comfortable and giving them what they need to enjoy life in your home. If you have a bird, for example, something as simple as a java wood perch in their enclosure can help to give them a natural element so that they feel more at home – it can also bring a sense of security to your pet.

I must provide a disclaimer here. You know your pet better than I. This post is written based on experiences with my pets. If you have an elderly, sick or extra sensitive pet, or have any reservations about the below products, do not participate in the recommendations.

First of all, probably the very best thing I’ve done for my pets is install doggie doors.

Yes, there are a few negatives to doggie doors – such as the fact undomesticated creatures may venture inside your house (this rarely happens since most non-pet creatures are deterred by your pets’ odors) or your pets may willingly bring these creatures in (I must admit I have found mice, moles and mockingbirds inside my house, see .) Another thing to keep in mind regarding doggie doors is that if you are at work and a downpour occurs, you can count on muddy tracks in your house when you arrive home (may be better than urine puddles, though!) And, lastly, if you have small pets such as cats, or dogs under 15 pounds, and bobcats and coyotes are prevalent in your area, I recommend you forego installing a doggie door or, if you do, at least keep it closed off when you are not at home.

On to the positives – The very obvious positive to installing doggie doors is your animals can take care of bathroom business outdoors at any time the need arises. No more crossing your fingers that your poor puppy dog can hold it for 12 hours as you work overtime or get caught in traffic! You may have noticed I said I have doggie doors – as in more than one. At one time I lived in a household with three cats and three dogs. Yes, I was in violation of my suburban pet limit. I can admit this now because I am down to one of each. Well, in a multiple pet household, dogs do not respect the difference between their food and that of the cats’ – plus some dogs tend to take a liking to the cat box (yes, I know, this is gross, but true.) Thus, I had to develop a system where I could easily feed both species and provide bathroom privacy for the cats. The solution came by installing two doggie doors. The larger one is installed in my back door which goes from my home directly into the backyard and is for the convenience of the dogs. (Note: Some indoor cats may see this door as a means to escape. Fortunately, mine did not. Yes, they would occasionally sun themselves on the patio, but they always returned indoors when their nap was done.) The other doggie door in my home is tiny – and actually is a “cat door.” It is installed in the door that leads from the garage into my house. The cat’s food and litter box reside in the garage in an area safe from car traffic. Use your judgement on this, but most cats will skidaddle back into your house when a car starts up or the garage door is activated. Now, a caveat – this system will only work if your dog is too large to squeeze through the tiny cat door. My dogs were large, but if you’ve read my blog posts of the past, you are aware my current dog, Buzz, is a contortionist and at times succeeds at (or gets stuck) going through the cat door. See . Still, the system works 99% of the time and a couple of very big bonuses – no cat food or litter box odors in the house!

For those of you with dogs and cats that prefer to drink running water, there are various drinking fountain water bowls available. Most are electric, so you need to place them near an outlet where your pet cannot trip over the cord. These devices include a filter system to ensure your pet’s water stays clear and fresh. Other benefits of a constant flow of water is that it is oxygenated and stays cool for your pet. Although most have a reservoir for water, you must refill the device regularly. The one I purchased is placed up against the wall in the garage for my cat, as my dog is A-OK with regular water bowls. My cat, Biscuit, on the other hand, was literally driving me crazy as every time I turned on a faucet in the house, for example, to brush my teeth or cook, she’d jump in front of me and attempt to lap the water! Since I made this small purchase, we are both much happier – and so are my dinner guests, by the way!

Hmmmm . . . has your dog or cat found an area in your home that they enjoy marking? Do you prefer your cats stay off counters? Would you like your pets to keep off the furniture?

Well, whether you have a doggie door or a litter box, sometimes pets just hone in on a corner of the house or a piece of furniture to mark. I once had one of those cheap vinyl bean bag chairs. It was THE PLACE for my cat to urinate. I finally had to toss it. Here’s a tip – in my experience, for some strange reason, cats are particularly attracted to vinyl – this includes the vinyl backing of some throw rugs, unfortunately. Just be sure and check twice in those areas and wash them (in cold water) often if you can. In addition to marking, sometimes our pets hone in on a piece of furniture or a spot on the counter where they simply like to lie. Not always the best of spots, especially if you are entertaining. Thankfully, there are a few products that can help keep pets away from undesired areas.

The first suggestion for these issues are expandable pet gates. For those of you that have toddlers, you probably recognize these devices as “baby gates.” They are merely temporary expandable barricades that you securely place between doorways or hallways to keep your pet confined to a designated area of your home. You can find these gates in just about any type of material and size and they even have one that has a mini-cat door at the bottom so your cat can pass through when your dog needs to remain temporarily confined!

However, sometimes it isn’t convenient to confine your animal to a back room, especially if your doggie door is located in another part of the house. For animals that need more aggressive deterrents to keep them off furniture and counters, you may wish to consider Ssscat Cat repellant and/orthe Scat Mat.

Ssscat Cat repellant is simply an air-filled aerosol spray can with a battery-operated motion detector device attached. Some versions allow a setting where the motion detector will emit a shrill audible warning prior to the spray of air. You simply place the can (about the size of a shaving cream can) in the area of the house you wish to keep the cat or dog away from. Of course, your cat will totally freak out the first couple of times the can spits air (this is the point) but it will not hurt him or her. Your dog may be more puzzled than scared, quite frankly, but he or she will not spend enough time in the area to mark it! Mission accomplished! I have also found that when the air is depleted of the Ssscat Cat, the audible alarm continues to deter your pet until the battery goes dead. And a bonus is, after your first purchase, you can simply order refills of canned air at a very reasonable price. This harmless behavior modification technique usually works fairly quickly.

As a side note, I have a greenhouse in my backyard and last spring some unknown critter was entering through a crack in the structure and eating my seedlings. I had no idea what type of creature was doing this, but it could certainly climb as it was able to devour plants on the top shelves as well as on the bottom. At any rate, I didn’t wish to hurt the poor thing but I did want it to stop eating my produce. I finally placed a couple of the Ssscat Cat aerosol cans inside the greenhouse and ta-da – no more half-eaten seedlings!

OK, right up front, I wish to tell you this next product will indeed emit a small, benign shock to your pet – similar to that which is produced by static electricity. Faced with a dog that, on a daily basis, decided to tinkle on my pool table’s legs several years ago, I had to resort to something a little more serious. The Scat Mat is a battery-operated or electric, plastic mat that you spread out over the area you’d like to deter your pet from, such as your couch, a specific area of your carpet, kitchen counters, etc. When your pet steps or jumps on the Scat Mat, it will provide them just enough of a shock to make them uncomfortable and they will retreat. This product works very well with stubborn pets, covers relatively large areas, and can be adjusted in strength to accommodate cats and small dogs.

Lastly – an extremely simple, but very kind gesture you can do for your pet that also benefits you is to comb their hair with a brush that has massaging bristles. Not only will this largely alleviate shedding issues in your home, it will bond and establish trust between you and your pet. Some of these brushes are formed to fit like a glove, allowing you to mimic the petting motion. Believe me, there is nothing sweeter than hearing your cat purr or your dog moaning in pleasure of having their hair combed and body massaged. Try this and I promise you, they’ll be your friends for life!

Well, the above pet items have certainly made my life easier over the years and I must say, they have also greatly benefited my adorable pets as well. If you have an interest in learning more about these items, click on any Amazon product in the right sidebar and perform a search where you’ll surely find more detailed information. Good Luck!

Until next time,

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The Great White Buffalo

Originally posted 2011.

For the past month or so I have been seeing an unusual, brownish-rust colored bird at my feeder. I’d only been able to view it from a distance or through my window screen, but determined its size and shape was that of an immature grackle and it also appeared to have yellow eyes. In fact, it hangs out with the grackles and is just as aggressive. I emailed an expert at the National Audubon Society about this bird and was told it may indeed be a grackle, but one with leucism – a condition in which a bird’s normal coloring is quite faded or splotchy. A black grackle with leucism would possibly appear rust and could also have splotches on its breast. For more information about these interesting conditions see

Well, upon closer look this weekend, I determined my mystery bird is not a leucistic grackle, after all. I saw it in flight and noticed it had distinct white bars on its wings and was able to ascertain its splotchy breast was in fact, naturally spotted. In fact, it looked more like a rusty mockingbird upon closer inspection. After searching through my bird book page by page, I finally identified my mystery bird as a Brown Thrasher. I’ve never seen a Brown Thrasher in my area, although North Texas is within its range according to my reference book. Incidentally, it is the state bird of Georgia.

Mystery solved, the topics of leucism and albinism got me to thinking about the birth earlier this year of a white buffalo calf, not far from me, in Greenville, Texas. As you know, some animals are light in color by nature and it isn’t at all unusual they are born white. However, other animal species are very rarely born white. Not all of these rare white animals are considered albinos, however. The little calf born in Greenville is deemed a “non-albino”, as it has brown eyes, a brown nose and a spot on its tail. It is possible its coat may eventually turn brown as it ages. Nonetheless, the birth of a white buffalo is indeed a rare sight, estimated at one in a million or so, and a very sacred one to Native Americans, especially the Lakota Sioux.

To the Lakota, the birth of a white buffalo brings messages of hope, re-birth, harmony, unity and peace. It is a spiritual sign of the eventual return of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, a prophet of supernatural origin that is of great importance to Lakota religion; a prophet who is sometimes compared to the Virgin Mary.

Lightning Medicine Cloud was born on May 12, 2011 on a ranch in Greenville, Texas during a thunderstorm. On June 29th, an official Native American Naming Ceremony was held on the ranch. The ceremony attracted over a thousand attendees and was complete with Native American prayers, songs, dances and pipe smoking in honor of the sacred white calf.

The herd circles around to protect Lightning Medicine Cloud as strangers approach.

An interesting side note: You may think, as did I, that the white buffalo calf may have to receive extra human attention and protection from other bison and predators since it is indeed quite different in appearance – you know, as in extra protection according to the laws of evolution and the survival of the fittest theories. Not so . . . the others in the herd also sense Lightning Medicine Cloud is special and surround him when there are perceived predators or strangers in the area.

Wow! The herd protects and helps him because he is different!

Couldn’t we all benefit from the valuable messages brought by this Great White Buffalo?

Until next time,

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Collecting Seed

Gerbera Daisy Seeds

Several years ago, when I first begun taking horticulture classes, I was assigned a research project that included the task of collecting about 70 different seeds. I recall I was asked to collect around 20 seeds from ornamentals, 15 – 20 from trees and shrubs, 15 – 20 from vegetables and herbs, and 15 – 20 from grasses. Although I was a mature student in my mid-40’s, I’m sure I acted like a pampered 18-year-old freshman when I whined to my professor that I thought it was impossible to collect that many varieties of seed, let alone that many from grasses! I went on to tell her that I lived in the suburbs and I doubted there were that many types of grasses even available to me. I asked for a reduction in number of seeds required on the assignment.

Thankfully, my professor didn’t coddle me. She matter-of -factly stated that indeed there were more than enough varieties of plants in my part of the world in which to collect seed and I was well expected to do so. However, prior to my going out into the field to perform the assignment, she offered me one very valuable bit of advice – always look for seed at the exact locations where the flowers of a plant were previously blooming. And yes, folks, grass blooms too! It is just that the blooms are usually so very tiny or inconspicuous that we don’t pay attention to them.

Needless to say, I learned a lot from this one particular course and its professor. In the end, I was ever so grateful that my professor held firm and didn’t cut me any slack on the amount of seeds required for the assignment – after all, that wouldn’t have been fair anyway. (I had a period of adjustment to endure when I went back to school in my 40’s. I learned it really wasn’t a factor that I was working full time AND going to school – the assignments still held all the same. And rightly so!)

Well on to the topic at hand – seed collecting. Now (late fall) is the time to collect seed from your spent summertime plants. This includes annuals, perennials, vines, trees, shrubs, vegetables and, don’t forget, grasses. Most seeds are enclosed in some sort of pod and in the case of fruits and vegetables, the seeds are in the fruit. Again, to look for seed of any type of plant, you should look closely in the area of the plant where the flowers had been blooming.

Purple Coneflower Seeds

Sometimes, the spent flower heads dry out on the plant in pretty much the same form as the flower. The dried, shriveled petals become a part of the seed, or its “wind sail”, if you will. These types of seeds are easy to find, are usually very numerous, and are effortless to collect (that is, before they go wind sailing!) Think of the Dandelion, for example. Gerbera Daisy and Clematis are other examples. Maple tree seeds actually twirl through the air similar to helicopters! Another way seed is dispersed by wind, although indirectly you might say, is through tumbleweeds! I must admit I never thought of a tumbleweed being a form of wind hitchhiking for seeds!

Fuzzy Clematis Seeds

Instead of seeds embedded in dried flower heads, other plants form pods in which one or more seeds are encapsulated. Again, you will find these pods at the point where the former flower dropped off the plant. Most times, seeds drop straight down from these types of plants (once the pod becomes dry and brittle) and they germinate nearby the mother plant. Think of Morning Glory, Moonflower, and Cardinal Climber. These seeds are relatively easy to collect by simply gathering the pods just prior to them dropping from the plant. You can also look directly below the mother plant and gather seed from the ground as well.

Morning Glory Pods/Seeds

With other plants, the seed pods eventually become so brittle they shrink, separate with force and actually pop interior seeds in the air, dispersing them outward from the mother plant. Think about Dwarf Mexican Petunia. These types of seeds can be somewhat challenging to collect unless you happen across a dried pod just prior to it popping!

Dwarf Mexican Petunia Seed Pods
(Center of Plant)

As we know, seeds of vegetables reside inside the mature fruit of the plants. And where on the plant are vegetables harvested? For the fourth time – at the point of a former flower! Think of Tomato, Pepper, Squash, Cucumber, and Pomegranate plants, for example. In nature, the pulp (or fruit) around the seeds serves as the ultimate fertilizer should the fruit drop or be left to rot on the ground. I can attest to this as one lazy winter I left pumpkins out to rot behind my greenhouse in my backyard after using them for Thanksgiving decorations. Come spring, I literally had hundreds of little pumpkin plants sprouting alongside my greenhouse! As you can imagine I got such a surprise! I had mainly been using my greenhouse to store all of my heat shrink plastic wrappings so at first, I could not understand where the pumpkin plants had come from. As you can imagine, after my discovery, I decided to put my greenhouse plastic to good use and got to work replanting the pumpkin seedlings. Leaving the fruit pulp among the seed greatly enhanced the success of germination. However, I do not recommend this method for many reasons – you’d probably prefer to eat the fruit if possible; it is too smelly and messy to plant an entire pumpkin, cantaloupe, etc.; and, of course, there are superb soil and fertilizer alternatives!

Well, if you had a prized plant or two or three in your garden this summer and would like the opportunity to grow additional ones from seed next year, take the time in the next week or so to look closely at the former flowering areas of your plants. You will most likely find seeds or seed pods in abundance at this time of year. However, let me provide you a few tips regarding harvesting the seeds:

  • Keep in mind the size of a seed can vary greatly and may not correspond with the size of the plant necessarily. Some seed are so tiny you can barely see them with the naked eye and others are hard to miss. Moss Rose, Alyssum and some grasses have minute seeds. Among those plants with large seeds are the Avocado and Peach trees.
  • Unless it is a fruit or vegetable plant, wait until the seed or seed pod is dried (brown and crunchy) before harvesting. I have never had success harvesting immature or green seeds. This means you will need to allow your prized plants to dry up and “go to seed” versus tidying up for fall. Think of Dill for example.
  • If your seeds are inside a fruit/vegetable – after de-seeding the fruit, wash the seed and spread it in a single layer on a cookie sheet or paper towel and let dry on the counter for several days.
  • Remove as much chaff as possible and store seed in a cool, dry area or container until planting time comes next spring. I usually store seed in sealed plastic ware or used coffee cans and place in my garage or pantry.
  • Lastly, after all this talk about collecting seed I must let you know not all plants produce seed that is “true.” What this means is, if you purchased an amazingly beautiful, unusually-colored Moss Rose hanging basket this year and wanted to duplicate it via seed next year, unfortunately its seed may not produce the exact colored flowers or it might not even produce flowers at all. This is because the genetics and cross breeding involved with creating the unusual “hybrid” plant may have rendered it unable to reproduce “true.” If you are aware a plant is a hybrid, just keep in mind its seed may not produce an exact replica of the mother plant.

Well, after the last point I must redeem the virtues of seed collecting! Even if you don’t wish to capture seed for planting next spring, it is still an incredible experience to get up close and personal with plants and educate yourself, your kids or others about their amazing life cycle. To this day, I remain ever so grateful for the horticulture professor that one fall semester who made me stick out the search for 70 seeds!

Happy Hunting!

Until next time,

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When we see Poinsettias most of us naturally think of the Christmas holidays. A single potted Poinsettia has the ability to make any room festive – from a messy college dorm to an austere auto body reception area. Multiple pots of red, pink and/or white Poinsettias create instant holiday decor for bank lobbies, government offices, museums and other public buildings. I usually purchase one or two every winter to admire and enjoy in my home. (A common myth is Poinsettias are poisonous. While their milky sap may cause skin irritation in some allergic persons and accidental consumption of the plant may cause an upset stomach in kids and pets, exposure is typically not serious.)

I personally prefer the traditional deep red Poinsettias, but I believe the white, pink and new marbled varieties look amazing in certain settings. White poinsettias look classy in a neutral room or a room filled with predominately gold Christmas decorations. The pink and marbled varieties compliment rooms adorned in pastel hues or blue and silver toned decor. And, most recently the stores have offered Poinsettias sprayed with glitter – adding a little extra bling to the season.

Of course, I normally wouldn’t recommend spraying glitter or anything toxic onto a beautiful plant, but Poinsettias are plentiful, relatively inexpensive and have been hybridized to the point they may or may not return in following years with the same vibrant color. Thus, I treat them as “annuals” or “seasonal” interior plants.

As such, below are a few tips to keep your seasonal plants happy:

·  Place your potted Poinsettias in bright or sunny areas if possible.

·  Indoor temperature around 70°F is ideal for long plant life.

·  Avoid severe temperature fluctuations and warm or cold drafts.

·  Water only when the soil is dry.

·  Do not fertilize when the Poinsettia is in bloom.

If you are up to retaining your Poinsettias after the holiday season, you should certainly give it a try! First of all, remember that due to hybridization, your subsequent plants may not “bloom” quite as vibrantly as before. Also of importance is the fact that what we consider as the blooms of Poinsettias are actually their modified leaves, also known as bracts. The true flowers of the Poinsettia are the small yellow centers of the red (or otherwise colored) bracts. As such, Poinsettias make attractive, GREEN, potted plants that can be placed outdoors in temperate zones after the last frost of spring. They enjoy sun, but should be placed where they will receive afternoon shade during the summer months. As fall approaches, the plants should be moved back inside. Secondly regarding blooms, Poinsettias are perennial tropical natives to Mexico and, like the Christmas Cactus, are photoperiodic. This means their blooming (or leaf-turning) is dependent upon them receiving just the right amount, or lack, of light. Eight weeks prior to blooming season, Poinsettias require 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness per night. You can accomplish this by moving the plant to a dark room or closet to mimic their light requirements, however be careful to treat with “kid gloves” for again, like the Christmas Cactus, Poinsettias can be finicky when it comes to their environment.

I have to admit when you enter my home, you are met with at least 25 -30 live plants throughout my abode. Off the top of my head, I have a Ficus Tree, numerous Philodendrons, English Ivy, Coleus, Sansevieria, Dieffenbachia, several varieties of Dracaenas, and a Gerbera Daisy In addition, I have one deep red Poinsettia as the centerpiece on my dining room table.

I admit, I simply am not a fake flower or fake plant person . . . until it comes to Poinsettias, that is. I love to decorate my Christmas Tree with them!

In years’ past, I would place Poinsettia stems strategically on my Christmas Tree after having adorned it with ornaments. I focused not only on balancing the decor of the tree, but on filling in the bare spots that allowed a person to look through to the trunk. Red is my favorite color, so I fell in love with this practice. This year, having tired of my usual tree topper, I decided to go easy on placing Poinsettias in the body of the tree and instead, I created a bouquet of Poinsettias as my topper. Needless to say, I am very pleased and next year, I may spring for a few more Poinsettia stems to make it even more full!

Well, I hope that no matter your religious persuasion, you choose to brighten your home and/or workplace during this gray winter season by adorning it with a colorful Poinsettia or two. After all, December 12th is National Poinsettia Day! -And if you are up for the challenge, I wish you much success in keeping them around for many more National Poinsettia Days to come.

In my research for this post, I came across a wonderful and very comprehensive site from the University of Illinois. For more detailed information about the beautiful Poinsettia and its history, see

Until next time –

Originally published 2012

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Ranunculus – Persian Buttercup


A very good friend of mine, Stella, surprised me with a gift of a brilliant yellow potted Ranunculus at work one day recently. She knows I very much enjoy flowers and had seen this plant at the local home improvement store and was spellbound by its gorgeous springtime-reminiscent blooms. She thought I might know all about the plant, but alas, I only knew its name! I had often seen the paperflower blooms in catalogs and gardening books but for some reason I did not think Ranunculus grew very well here in Zones 7/8.

I believe I’ve been wrong.

From what I’ve read, being on the cusp of Zones 7 & 8 can offer two choices when planting Ranunculus and the good news is, since it is early March, it isn’t too late to take part in one of the choices. If you live in Zone 8-11, you could have planted the bulbs/tubers last October/November for a display of flowers right about now. This is good advice for next year for those of you whose winters never reach below 10 degrees. For those of us that live further north and overlap a bit with the above zones – say Zones 8 and northward, you can plant Ranunculus bulbs this month and enjoy their vibrant colors come late May or June.

Ranunculus, sometimes commonly called Persian Buttercup, produce full, rose-shaped blooms in a variety of bright colors. They are indeed cool weather plants. As mentioned above, they grow from tiny bulbs or tubers and hence, they prefer dry soil. They do not take to the heat very well, and perhaps, knowing how hot our summers (and sometimes springs, falls and even winters) are here in North Texas, this is why I pretty much wrote them off early on. However, after having witnessed their beauty and resiliency (my stunning lemon-colored gift has resided in a pot on my patio all week and still looks great) I have indeed had a change of heart. I can now attest that Ranunculus are very worthy of planting along with other cool season ornamentals such as pansies, dianthus, and snapdragons. Of course, you may wish to simply plant a few bulbs/tubers in pots and enjoy them on your patio or front porch. In my opinion, their greenery is just about as pretty as their blooms, reminding me of full, healthy chrysanthemum leaves.

While it is possible to dig up the bulbs/tubers after the greenery dies down and store them in a cool/dry area until the next fall or spring, most folks treat Ranunculus as an annual. The tubers are indeed quite small and inconspicuous and usually when the earth becomes warm and wet with early summer rains, they are prone to having rotted anyway. Considering on my lunch hour today I purchased 15 tubers for $4.98, it certainly isn’t expensive to grow new plants from year to year.

Ranunculus Tubers

Well, when I arrive home from work today I plan to locate a few high-ground, mostly-sunny spots in my backyard to plant my Ranunculus tubers. After researching the best way to sow these tubers, I learned it may be a good idea to soak them for about 30 minutes to plump them up before planting. (The claw-like tubers actually look like dried up mini-tarantulas if you ask me!) Once plumped, you should plant them right away at about 2 inches under the soil, with the claws pointed downward.

So . . . within a couple of months, I hope to enjoy a rainbow of Ranunculus in my backyard. I hope you find time to plant your rainbow this spring too!

Until next time,

P.S. Ranunculus are touted to be among the best of cut flowers as not only are they beautiful, they stay fresh for 7 days in a vase.

Originally published March 2012

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Elephant Ears

If you wish to create a bold and beautiful tropical background to your landscape this summer, now (March/April) is a great time to plant Elephant Ear bulbs.

For about the past 15 years, I have been fortunate to enjoy Elephant Ears in my back yard with very, very little garden work involved. There was only one really very cold winter that I recall when I had to plant a few extra bulbs the following spring, otherwise my Elephant Ears have reliably sprouted and multiplied throughout the years. (That really cold winter I’m speaking of was the very unusual February in 2011 when we had freezing temps and ice on the ground for 3 -4 days straight – during Super Bowl weekend of all inconvenient times!) At any rate, the reason I mention this is because Elephant Ears are tropical plants and thus, are considered annuals in Zones 7b and northward. You will most likely have to dig up the bulbs and overwinter them from year to year if you reside in the less than tropical zones of the U.S. The good news about this practice is it will give you the opportunity to split the corms (or eyes of the bulbs) and produce more plants the following year. I personally live in Zone 8a and as I stated earlier, although my Elephant Ears are 95% of the time perennial, there is always a little wiggle room with the annual/perennial designation depending upon the location in your yard that you plant your bulbs and if you have a particularly cold or warm winter. (For a detailed garden zone map, including lookup by ZIP code, see

Elephant Ears are fast-growing, huge foliage plants very similar to, but much, much larger than their close relatives, caladiums. Depending upon where you live, Elephant Ears will grow 3 – 6 feet tall and their leaves can become as large as . . . ummm . . . Elephant Ears! Because of their bold appearance and need for ample space both in width and height, it is best to plant Elephant Ears in corners of your home or landscape – or on the back row of your beds. They will give a tropical, summertime feel to any landscape and thus, are especially attractive planted in yards with pools or ponds. You may find bulbs that produce green, variegated or dark purple leaves. So – depending on the color of your home’s brick, rock, wood, etc. you are sure to find striking specimens perfect for your surroundings. Various leaf margins can also be found among the exotic species, such as smooth, ruffled or scalloped.

Black Magic Elephant Ears in a bed of Coleus
Black Magic Elephant Ears in a bed of Coleus

Unlike most bulbs & tubers, Elephant Ears enjoy warm, humid and oftentimes wet conditions. In very hot areas of the U.S., such as south Texas and Florida, Elephant Ears do best if planted in full to almost full shade. Areas north of these states can plant the bulbs in mostly sunny to partly sunny locations. My Elephant Ears are planted in a corner of my backyard that is mostly shaded and stays a bit damp. They thrive in this (relatively) cool, damp locale, although they do get a burst of sunlight for a couple of hours in the late afternoon – amazingly from the reflections of a couple of my neighbors western facing windows! Sometimes the sun is so intense bouncing off the windows in the Texas heat, I will find the leaves of my plants will have temporarily wilted and dipped to the ground. However, after a quick spray of the water hose they usually perk up by the next morning.

Once you have found the perfect location in your landscape for your Elephant Ears, you will need to plant the bulbs, pointed end up (or sideways if you have a bulb that is hard to differentiate), at about 2 inches under the soil. Typically, the bigger the bulb, the bigger the plant, thus, depending on the size of your bulbs you may wish to leave about 1.5 to 2 feet between each one accordingly.

As I mentioned earlier, in the ornamental sense, Elephant Ears are grown specifically for their large and beautiful leaves. However they do flower on rare occasions. The flowers remind me of those of peace lilies (although about 10 times larger!).

Tree Frog in Elephant Ear Bloom
Tree Frog in Elephant Ear Flower

Another interesting fact about Elephant Ears (also called Taro) is their bulbs have been cultivated for many centuries in the tropical areas of Oceanic, Asian and African countries, and still are today an important part of the Hawaiian diet. In fact, Taro is considered a “tropical potato”. Different cultures utilize the bulb (and sometimes the stalk and leaves) in different ways, but it is always cooked thoroughly. If not, the plant can cause quite an upset stomach, among other problems, as it contains calcium oxalate crystals which can produce gout and kidney stones in humans. Since pests are hardly a problem with Elephant Ears, it is thought the spiny calcium oxalate crystals within the raw plant actually deter insects from eating the plant as well.

Elephant Ear (Taro) Bulbs

Incidentally, as I was researching Elephant Ear, or Taro, I came across many photos of people eating Elephant Ear pastries at county fairs. At first I thought they were actually deep fried Elephant Ear leaves! Well, come to find out, it is just another name for a huge pastry – one that does not include chlorophyll, by the way. Elephant Ear pastries, no matter how authentic they look to deep fried leaves, are simply another tasty carnival tidbit similar to funnel cakes and Belgian waffles. Either they don’t routinely bake them in Texas or I simply have overlooked this treat all of my life (which is hard to believe since I love funnel cakes!)

Well, at the close of this post, I’d like to point you to a couple of websites that provided me a wealth of information – but the main reason I’d like you to visit them is to gaze upon the photos to see just how huge an Elephant Ear leaf can get. Truly amazing.

I hope you find the perfect place to create your tropical paradise this year!

Until next time,

Originally posted 2011


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