People in the mainland U.S. usually call it taro, but in Hawaii, the edible tuber with distinctive, elephant ear-like leaves goes by the name kalo (Colocasia esculenta). The starchy roots and broad leaves of this plant, which grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11, lend themselves to boiled side dishes, chips and traditional island cuisine such as callaloo and corm. At home, kalo serves as a garden vegetable or a striking ornamental.
1 Choose a location that receives partial shade. Although kalo flourishes in dappled shade, it does tolerate full sun as well. Select moist, slightly acidic soil that is rich in organic matter. This plant prefers loamy soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5.
2 Plant kalo at the start of your region's rainy season. Turn the soil with a garden spade a few days before planting and break up any hard clumps on the day of planting. Bury kalo “seed” tubers, tubers harvested from mature plants in winter or spring, to depths of about 2 to 3 inches. Leave about 2 to 4 feet between each plant.
3 Keep the soil of the kalo plant continually moist. If your kalo is planted in a sunny location, you'll have to water it a bit more. As a wetland plant, kalo -- especially the upland varieties known as dasheens -- even tolerates waterlogged soil.
4 Hand-pull any weeds that appear around your kalo, as this tuber is especially susceptible to weed competition during its first three or four months of life.
Items you will need
- Garden spade
- Kalo “seed” tubers
- Avoid planting kalo in rocky soil, as it may lead to deformed plants.
- In some environments, kalo may be invasive. If your garden kalo spreads, remove unwanted plants by their roots.
- Hawai'i Seed: Taro
- United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plant Guide: Taro
- Floridata: Colocasia Esculenta
- University of Hawai'i at Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources: Farmer's Bookshelf: Taro
- FAO Corporate Document Repository: Taro: General Cultivation Practices
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images