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How to Grow 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.

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. Thank you for the information on Growing Taro I live in far north Queensland Australia so hopefully I will have success growing this plant.

    • Well I think the warm and near tropical summers in far north Queensland may be suited for taro growing. Please let us know how it goes.

      • Good information. Thank you. I am in Cat Island, Bahamas and just planted some slips my neighbors gave me. Looking forward to successful experience.

  2. Great post! We are in Napier, North Island, New Zealand and do grow Taro very well… I am proud of my 22 plants. I have to say my partner is Fijian-Indian and our family is happy that we are Taro growers 🙂

    • Kia ora/bula vinaka,

      I live in Taranaki and have started growing some taro. Do you just harvest half of them and then leave the rest to grow for the next season. Or do you pull them all out and replant the best one for the next season?

      Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide.

      Ngā mihi,

      Tristan

  3. I have plenty of taro plants at home, it is always available when I cooked it into desserts mixed with sweet potatoes, ripe bananas, a little jackfruit, sago in five colors, buri starch, the mixtures are endless, to suit your tastes. It will be boiled with rich coconut milk and is a delicacy in the Philippines.

  4. I love taro! I also love gardening & trying to grow new things & this is one I’d love to try. I love in East TN(Knoxville) & would like to know is it able to be grown here outdoors? I have access to my son-n-laws greenhouse & know he could grow it there, but I want to try myself.

    • Taro requires warming growing conditions–tropical to semi-tropical. If you can maintain a growing temperature of 70F to 90F, you will have success. Grow taro from cuttings called hulis in Hawaii. The huli is a part of the stem about 12-18 inches long attached to a 2-3 inch section of the corm. The cuttings are planted vertically with soil covering about one-third to half of the standing huli. Since hulis are difficult to obtain, you will need to establish your own. Initial hulis can be obtained from fellow growers, and also from the Cooperative Extension Service in Hawaii. Start with disease-free hulis; closely inspect each cutting, washing with potable water, soaking hulis in a 10% bleach solution for 30 seconds, and then store the hulis in a dry, cool, and well-ventilated area for 3 to 5 days before planting to allow for old wounds to heal. Plant your cuttings in a commercial potting soil; space plants 18 inches apart.

      • Do not dip the huli in bleach!!! tie them up loosely in bundles and leave them in dry shade for 10 days. for proper huli, all you need is about .5 – and inch of corm left on the stem itself to grow from. This is called the “Kohina”. Cut the old leaves an inch above the ending of the ridge line. But do not touch the new leaf.

    • Hi Debra, I live in North Carolina near border of Virginia. May this year 2018, i planted 25 eddo corms i bought from Asian market they are growing happy with lots of side shoots. i planted them in partial shady area with constant moist well drain soil i never had to water them. Few years ago i tried planting eddo in a pot with potting soil they did good but i have to keep on watering them from drying out. Hope this help you.

    • Taro grows best in tropical or subtropical regions where the temperature stays between 77° to 95°F. If you can maintain these temperatures through the winter then you can start the seed now and grow it indoors through the winter. Taro will need bright light to thrive so germinate seed and grow the plant under fluorescent light.

    • Cocoyams require consistently moist, but not wet, soil. Keep the soil evenly moist during the growing season. To slow soil moisture evaporation spread mulch around the plants.
      For more specific information, consult with a university or government agronomist in your area.

    • If the seed has been cut in half, it may rot if the soil is wet. Plant it in just moist soil and you will soon know for sure.

  5. Am Bruce Joe lived in Papua New Guinea. Taro Is my stable food.

    We grow taro in PNG all year around because the environmental condition is suitable for the crop
    Am happy to share the information regarding taro.

    Thank you

    Bruce Joe

  6. Is it possible to harvest the taro too soon? We have taro growing wild in our yard and it has been for years. We tried eating the leaves and even after cooking for hours they are too potent (they cause major itchy throat). So just recently I decided to try eating the root. How do I know if the root is ripe enough to eat? It looks very different from the taro root that we buy at the market.

    • Taro tubers are harvested about 200 days after planting when leaves turn yellow and start to die. Treat the plant like an annual; you may want to plant again since your plant is now two or more years old. 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; harvest taro leaves young; if you wait they will grow strong-flavored.

  7. We live in the middle of the north island in NZ
    Been given Taro plants and looking to plant them soon.
    Thinking of building mounds in a damp area
    To ensure a consistent water supply as we are Likly to get a dry summer.
    After growing leafs . What variety is best for damp areas?
    Thanks

  8. Any tips for growing in Zone 4b (Minnesota). Was thinking of starting indoors or in a greenhouse. Thanks for your extremely helpful information.

    • Taro requires about 200 days of very warm weather to mature. Look closely at your growing calendar to find 200 consecutive days at 77F or warmer. That may mean starting plants indoors in early spring for transplanting out in early summer in zone 4b.

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  10. Looking to grow Taro for the first time. All your information & above comments have been a good start thanks. We are looking to grow Taro near the coast in Central Queensland – frost free area. The soil is moist. What variety or varities would you recommend trying and would you know where to purchase the bulbs ? Thanks

    • This link from Agri-Futures Australia should help you; it includes a section on the best varieties to grow in Australia. Contact a nearby garden center, nursery, or agriculture supply house to inquire about purchasing taro roots. Here’s the link: Taro

  11. “Planting and spacing. Taro is grown from small sections of tuber, small tubers, or suckers.“ please give a more detail description than this or give some pictures or video to elaborate the procedure to obtain “small sections of tuber“. For example, “section” may mean cutting a whole piece into separate parts. If so, what is the whole piece? What size is it? Where to cut? What size are the parts?

    What are “suckers“?

    • If dividing tubers to replant, be sure each small section has one or preferably two or three growth buds; sprouts will emerge from the buds. A sucker is a section of tuber that has already sprouted.

  12. Hi, I’m in Ontario, Canada I have taro going in containers, I don’t think the summer is long enough can I bring them inside until they are ready for harvest?

    • You can grow taro indoors–a greenhouse of solarium would be best; the plant needs plenty of bright light.

    • 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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.

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