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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Taro

Taro tubers in the kitchen

Taro–also called Dasheen–is a perennial tropical or subtropical plant commonly grown for its starchy but sweet flavored tuber. Taro is always served cooked, not raw. The taro tuber is cooked like a potato, has a doughy texture, and can be used to make flour. Young taro leaves and stems can be eaten after boiling twice to remove the acrid flavor. Cook taro leaves like spinach. A paste called poi is made from the taro root.

Taro is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows from 3 to 6 feet tall. Its leaves are light green, elongated, and heart-shaped similar to an elephant’s ear. Tubers are spherical and about the size of a tennis ball often covered with brownish skin and hairs; the flesh is pinkish purple, beige, or white. Each plant grows one large tuber often surrounded by several smaller tubers. Taro requires seven months of hot weather to mature.

Here is your complete guide to growing taro.

Taro plants in the garden
Taro plants in the garden

Taro Quick Growing Tips

  • Taro is a tropical or subtropical plant that requires very warm temperatures–77° to 95°F (25-35°C)–and consistent moisture to thrive.
  • Taro grows best in USDA zones 9-11.
  • Taro can be grown for its tubers only where summers are long–at least 200 frost-free, warm days.
  • Taro can be grown for its leaves in a greenhouse.

Where to Plant Taro

  • Taro corms can be planted in dry or wet settings.
  • Taro requires rich, moist, well-drained soil to moisture-retentive soil.
  • In Asia, taro is often planted in wet paddies.
  • In a dry setting, taro corms are planted in furrows or trenches about 6 inches (15cm) deep and covered by 2 to 3 inches (5-8cm) of soil.
  • Taro grown for its leaves can be grown in temperatures as low as 59°F, outdoors or in a greenhouse.
  • Taro grows best in a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
Taro roots
Taro roots

When to Plant Taro

  • Plant taro when the weather and soil warm in spring and all danger of frost has passed.
  • Taro requires at least 200 frost-free days to reach maturity.

How to Plant Taro

  • Taro is grown from small sections of tuber, small tubers, or suckers.
  • Plant taro in furrows 6 inches (15cm) deep and cover corms with 2 to 3 inches of soil; space plants 15 to 24 inches apart in rows about 40 inches apart (or space plants equidistant 2 to 3 feet apart).
  • Plants grow to about 36 inches tall and about 20 inches across.
  • Yield: grow 10 to 15 taro plants for each person in the household depending upon usage.

Succession Planting Taro

  • A second crop of taro can be planted between taro rows about 12 weeks before the main crop is harvested.

Container Growing Taro

  • Taro can be grown in a container in a greenhouse or warm cellar to force shoots or stems for winter use. Force tubers in a warm bed of sand.
  • Cut and use shoots when they reach about 6 inches tall; shoots can be blanched by placing a heavy burlap tent over the shoots.

Water and Feeding Taro

  • Keep taro plants well watered; the soil should be consistently moist. Water taro often in dry weather.
  • Feed taro with rich organic fertilizer, compost, or compost tea.
  • Taro prefers a high-potassium fertilizer.

Taro Care and Maintenance

  • Keep taro planting beds weed-free.
  • Keep the planting bed moist.
  • In early spring, plant pre-sprouted tubers with protection using a plastic tunnel or cloche.
  • Plants grown in a greenhouse should be misted often.

Taro Pests and Diseases

  • Aphids and Red spider mites may attack taro grown indoors.
  • Taro leaf blight will cause circular water-soaked spots on leaves.
  • Downy mildew may attack taro.
Taro roots sliced
Fresh taro root sliced and cubed. Taro is always served cooked, not raw.

How to Harvest Taro

  • Taro tubers are harvested about 200 days after planting when leaves turn yellow and start to die.
  • Lift taro roots like sweet potatoes before the first frost in autumn.
  • Taro leaves can be picked as soon as the first leaf has opened; harvest taro leaves cut and come again, never stripping the plant of all its leaves.
  • Taro tubers can be boiled or fried like potatoes; taro leaves can be boiled like spinach.

Storing and Preserving Taro

  • Taro tubers can be left in the ground after maturing as long as the ground does not freeze.
  • Lifted taro tubers should be stored in a cool, dry place.
  • Clean and store taro tubers like sweet potatoes.
  • Use the largest corms first as they do not keep as well as smaller tubers.

Taro Varieties to Grow

  • There are various cultivars and forms of taro; some with purple leaves or purple veins in the leaves, some for growing in wet conditions, and some for growing in dry conditions.
  • Taro cultivars are often grouped by the color of their flesh–ranging from pink to yellow to white.
  • Trinidad dasheen grows well in the United States.

About Tarro

  • Common name. Taro; cocoyam; dasheen; edo; elephant ear plant; yu, yu tou (Chinese); woo, wu choi (Cantonese); sato-imo, kimo (Japanese).
  • Botanical name. Colocasia esculenta
    Origin. India and Southeast Asia

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

Comments

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  1. Hi, I live in Malaysia. I planted taro plants given by a neighbour, 1 each in a 7 gallon container. I noticed there were many seedlings sprouting from the big plant. After 7 months, today I tried to harvest the bigger plant but there were no tuber, only some roots. However a smaller plant had a smallish thin tuber, about 3 Inches longx1inch diameter . What could be the problem.

    • Your taro is pushing green growth which is an indication the soil may be too rich in nitrogen. Avoid fertilizers rich in nitrogen and use a phosphorus-rich fertilizer such as 0-5-5. Make sure the potting soil you use does not have nutrients added, or that there is little nitrogen.

  2. I live in coastal South Carolina. I came across a large wetland filled with taro plants. When I dug them up to plant in my yard, they didn’t have any corms, just roots. Will a corn develop eventually?

    • Can anyone here know the buyer/importer of dried chopped taro leaves from Australia?

      They usually use it for compost.

      I’m a taro farmer from Indonesia and would like to export my taro leaves.

      Much appreciate if you guys can pass me the information, thank you.

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