Taro Plant: Grow Your Own Backyard Poi

Ed Wike
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Quick Care Guide

The actual taro plant will differ depending on the variety or cultivar. Some cultivars of taro are grown larger and used to make the root of poi. Others are grown smaller and are used to make chips or flakes. The smaller varieties are used to create sticks for Polynesian poi.

Each plant should be planted during the rainy season, which provides the taro with necessary nutrients. It is important to make sure the soil is fertilized during the rainy season because nutrients are more readily available.

Taro can be grown both inside and outside, as long as there is ample sunlight. However, the outside areas must receive plenty of water and are easily affected by the weather. The plant will tend to do better inside of a greenhouse because the temperature will be more regulated.

Taro also does well in humid conditions, as it is a tropical plant. Grooming of the plant should be done when the leaves are young and tender.

All About Taro Plant

The taro plant is a member of the Arace family and is better known for its starchy, edible corm, called “corms” or “cormlets.” In some parts of the world, especially in Africa, taro root is thought to be an aphrodisiac that enhances sexual virility. Due to this belief, most varieties have been cultivated to be sterile, making them unsuitable for propagation. Taro is used to make poi, a staple food of the Hawaiians.

Taro is often found growing in sunny, streamside areas and swamps. It grows best in light, loamy soil with moderate amounts of organic material. It is an excellent grower with high yields and can be found growing in zones 10-11. It will also tolerate shade if planted in rich soil.

If you plan to grow your taro plants, be sure to keep them well away from wet areas, however, as they are susceptible to root rot.

Varieties contain white, light yellow, or reddish-purple flesh. Purple tolerates cooler weather and is the best choice for cooler areas.

For optimal growth, focus on providing your taro plant with warm, moist soil and plenty of sunlight. It also needs plenty of water.

Planting Taro Root

Taro root (Colocasia esculenta) is an interesting plant for several reasons. First, it is native to Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and the tropical regions of Oceania. History indicates it was originally cultivated in New Guinea and Easter Island. Second, it is a staple food for the residents of these tropical regions. Third, it has been planted recently in the American South. Since the turn of the twentieth century, Hawaiians and Filipinos such as Mike Osbun have introduced taro to the southeastern United States. As a result, many consider its origin to be the Pacific Islands. Finally, it has an interesting appearance. Its leaves resemble elephant ears and are large and heart shaped. The appearance of the plant’s roots is even more interesting. Taro root has a purple trunk and tapered purple-white leaf groups in the shape of a hand. Each leaf group, or “corm,” is about the size of a golfball and resembles a potato. Farmers in Africa, Australia, and Asia use the corms to make dumplings, fritters, chips, and french fries. Hawaiians and Filipinos used to eat the corms boiled or roasted, and they used the plant’s leaves to make a nutritious beverage called poi.

Taro Care

Taro, (also called kalo in Hawai'i) is a staple crop that is a common ingredient in island cooking and poi. For generations, Hawaiians have developed taro varieties that grow well in the hot and humid tropical climate of their islands.

Because these taro varieties have been well-selected to grow well in this environment, Hawaiians have traditionally grown taro on kitchen or backyard groves that are irrigated with water from streams and ponds.

While the bulk of taro farming has moved indoors, outdoor taro growing is still a popular and useful practice for the modern Hawaiian gardener. This practice is also a common practice in other regions of the world like the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Taro is easy to grow from seed, and it can be grown successfully outdoors in the Hawai'i and tropical climates. It takes a little extra care to grow a large taro plant, but it's not difficult. Taro cooked into poi is a common element on the plate at Hawaiian lu'aus.

If you have a pond or stream in your yard, it's the perfect place to grow your own taro for a tasty treat that you grew yourself.

Sun and Temperature

The taro plant is a member of the arum family and is closely related to other tropical vegetables and fruits like the eddo, or elephant ear, which are used to make popular Nigerian food items such as fufu, a starchy staple from West Africa. Taro is native to Africa, Asia, and Polynesia and has been cultivated worldwide for more than 3,000 years. The taro plant is also called “poi,” and the corm is referred to as “ckili.” The plant is grown in many countries, including the Philippines, where it is a major food source, India, and Indonesia. The growing number of people choosing to be “locavores,” who eat mostly locally-grown foods, may cause the continued popularity of taro, which is easy to grow in a person’s own backyard.

Water and Humidity

Taro is very much a tropical root, but it will still grow well if you keep it in cool conditions and water it regularly. You should let the plant dry out a little between waterings, but don’t let it wilt because this will kill the plant.

The air must be humid as well. Taro has roots that grows at least knee-deep in water, so its roots must be surrounded by moisture.

Use a humidity tent to surround it with moisture.


You need to coat your taro plant's roots with rich soil. This will keep the plant healthy and help it grow. To prepare your potting soil for the plant's use, you want to add a 1-2" layer of volcanic loam. This will add the necessary nutrients and minerals, without damaging the plant.

Volcanic loam is a gritty, nutrient-rich soil. It can be mixed with a majority of soil types. Composed of rubber, volcanic loam is rich with nutrients. It comes from the volcanic rock of the Hawaiian island chain.

Volcanic loam can be a less expensive alternative for your food crops. It is a good alternative to the volcanic ash that is produced for agricultural use. Since volcanic ash is so famous for its ability to enrich soil, it is often used for plant foods. Agricultural use is higher-priced and often sold in bulk.

Your food crops will be more likely to prosper with volcanic loam. Its origins in volcanic rock make it rich in nutrients. Additionally, it provides a source of minerals that are very important for plant growth. It is able to boost the levels of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur in your soil. These minerals help strengthen your plants' cells and leaves.


When growing a taro patch, you should always add compost to the planting bed before planting. Compost provides valuable nutrients to help the taro plants establish healthy roots and withstand the elements. You will also need to provide a water source, particularly if you live in a dry climate. The addition of an automatic watering system will keep your taro thriving, even in drought conditions.

After the taro is planted, you will need to wait a few months before you see signs of new growth. After the plants start growing, you will need to use either natural or chemical pesticides to ward off harmful pests and insects. You can achieve this with a combination of physical and chemical means. Physical methods include the use of biological pest solutions, such as the introduction of predator insects to the growing area, or using eggshells or naturally occurring chemicals, such as rubbing tobacco, to control pest populations. Chemical pesticides must be used with care, but they are the most effective method of protecting taro plants from infestation.

Taro is a hardy crop and easy to grow. Once the plants are established, you will need to maintain a regular watering schedule for at least 90 days. Taro needs a constant supply of water to grow quickly and provide a rich harvest. If you emulate nature and maintain an almost constant stream of water, you will be rewarded with a bountiful harvest of taro root.


The first, and perhaps best, way to get taro roots is to propagate taro from the roots of another taro plant. The following steps will allow you to create your own taro plant from another taro plant.

{1}. Plant the taro plant in rich, well drained soil (such as healthy, composted compost or perlite). Pot the taro directly into the ground and water gently.
{2}. Place a few taro roots in pots filled with rich soil and water.

You can also propagate taro from fresh taro tubers. The following steps will allow you to create your own taro from fresh taro tubers.

{1}. Plant the taro in rich, well drained soil (such as healthy, composted compost or perlite). Pot the taro directly into the ground and water gently.
{2}. Place the steamer on the stove with the carefully prepared taro on the steaming rack.
{3}. Peel and slice the taro tubers. Add potato, onion, and other desired ingredients.
{4}. Place boiling water, with a touch of salt, into the steamer. Place the whole taro on the bottom.
{5}. Allow the taro to ripen on the vine, about 2 months.
{6}. Cut the ends off of the taro, and slice the baby taro from the root.

Harvesting and Storing

The Taro plant is a tropical root crop that is grown in a variety of places around the world. In the South Pacific, it is referred to as “Poi”, and is used to produced a dry paste that has a soft slimey texture.

Grown in Hawaii for hundreds of years to make Poi, Taro is now grown all over the world.

The leaves can be eaten as well, but the root is what is used for Poi.

The taro plant is a starchy tuber. It is grown for its edible and starchy roots. It has a light crisp texture, and a starchy flavor reminiscent of potatoes.

It should be noted that taro is a staple in Japanese, Filipino, and Hawaiian cuisines, but it is not the same as the potato. The taro root has a starchier texture and it is not as sweet. It is not normally eaten raw, but is often cooked or baked.

There used to be a variety of taro grown in South Pacific Islands, but over time it has been replaced by the Chinese “Yam Bean.” These plants are now easy to find at local nurseries and are usually grown in warm climates.


You may be wondering when to harvest the taro for the first time. This stage is called primary harvest or dug up taro. As leaves extend, begin to harvest them.

To harvest taro, start by removing the leaves from the stem. Use a sharp cooking knife. It is ideal to do it in the morning, when taro leaves are fresh. Another advantage to removing the leaves is you can use them to feed the family in the evening.

Cut off the leaf at the base of the stem. Cut down slightly more than intended. If you want to harvest by hand, just slit the leaf and lay it open. Use a sickle to cut the leaf around the base of the stem. Some prefer to use a sickle because it's easy to remove all of the leaves.

Cut leaves are compacted to prevent air from getting into the taro. If left alone, fungi and pests will eat into the taro. It also gives the taro a long shelf life. However, compacting also makes it harder to wash the leaves when stored.


Once the taro root is poi ready, it should be cooked and eaten within 24 hours. After the first batch of poi has been removed, new poi can be put straight into the pot. To keep the plant producing more poi, keep poi in a plastic bag or container in room temperature.

To slow down the taro plant’s growth, place it in a dark room and keep the soil moist but not soaking wet.

To speed up the plant’s growth, place it in a sunny spot and fertilize it every time you remove some poi.

To prevent the poi from spoiling in the sun, spray your taro plant with a non-propylene glycol-based flower mist. This will help seal your poi from spoiling.

Have some fun with who you invite over to try poi. In Hawaiian culture, poi isn’t served as a flatbread, but as a delicious, Hawaiian-style pudding dessert. It is a bit difficult for Hawaiian visitors to try poi, so it’s fun to have them over for dinner so they can experience the real deal.


Problems with taro plants often cause delays or death of the plants. Most problems are caused by poor root development from cuttings or by pests or diseases. In the following section you will find some of the most common problems with taro plants and tips to help you prevent and overcome these issues.

Brown Leaf Margins

Brown leaf margins and leaf tip dieback are the most common problems when taro plants enter the home. These symptoms often lead viewers to believe that there is something wrong with the plant. The most common problem with taro leaf tips is brown necrosis. This condition is caused by eating ladybugs. Their droppings get smeared onto the plant and will quickly develop into brown leaf margins.

Control brown necrosis by removing any affected leaves to reduce further infestation and prevent future damage.


Aphids can reduce the greenish color of the plant due to loss of chlorophyll. Your taro plant is undergoing infestation and the leaves will lose their green.

To control the aphids, carefully examine the undersides of the leaves for aphids and use a hand-held sprayer to apply insecticides containing malathion or abamectin.


When taro plants are allowed to become dehydrated, the leaves will develop reddish brown areas around the tips. This is caused by oxygen deficiency at the tips of the leaves.

Growing Problems

With proper care, the taro should do just fine. However, if you do run into problems, here are some possible reasons why and some of the common remedies:

Taro is subject to the same pests that any other plant would be and some are extremely hard to get rid of.

One of the most troublesome is the broad mite. Getting rid of this pest is usually as frustrating as you'd imagine. Since the female does not leave her eggs on your plant, and they are rarely found above ground, the best method of control is frequent application of insecticide to the soil where you have seen them.

Another pest that you will likely have to deal with is the taro beetle. These pests are anywhere from a bright green to a grayish color with orange and black stripes and are only found on the leaves of the taro plant. They are more of an annoyance than a real problem except when they are found in high numbers, in which case they will keep your plant from thriving.

Your best bet is to hand pick them off and keep them contained.


Growing taro in your backyard may require a little pest control help before you get too far into the planting process. Taro is an aquatic plant that grows well on lake bottoms in wet climates but is not an invasive plant like some other aquatic plants are. Although taro is usually grown in tropical or semi-tropical climates, it can be grown in a garden with the use of shade cloth and careful monitoring of water temperatures. At temperatures above 29 degrees Celsius, taro may be susceptible to root rot. This is a disease that presents itself as fluorescent yellow spots on the leaves and roots of the taro plant. This problem can be avoided if the plant is kept out of direct sunlight and water temperatures are kept around 18 degrees Celsius.

If you live in an area where the temperature is well above 29 degrees Celsius, you can keep your taro plant healthy with the help of shade cloth. The most important thing to remember when growing taro is to keep the temperature of the water below 29 degrees Celsius. This can be difficult in some geographic areas. Carnivorous, or insectivorous plants, are carnivorous plants whose prey are insects. They are quite diverse, and include many familiar species, such as the Venus Flytrap and the pitcher plant.


Luckily, the Taro Plant is generally pretty sturdy. It's resistant to many major diseases and pests, making it a very easy plant to grow. Nonetheless, you should watch out for a few diseases and defects that can kill your Taro Plant.

Although the chance are very slim that they will strike your plant, know that they can attack.

The presence of a few fruit and flower diseases, as well as plant-specific pests, can cause growth defects and weakness in the plant. Diseases such as anthracnose, leaf-spot, and purple blotches can affect it. The presence of these diseases won’t necessarily kill it, but they could cause very harmful growth deformities.

Sometimes pests such as mites can attack and cause damage to the plant. These are very small, scurrying creatures and are difficult to spot. If you notice little dents on your Taro Plant leaves, chances are that these because of feeding by pests. This might cause leaf-drop or holes in the leaves that you will be able to spot easily. If you notice these, remove the infected leaves and sterilize the soil to prevent the pests from coming back.

Frequently Asked Questions

One of the most frequently asked question about the taro plant is how it is grown?

The taro plant is propagated by runners, which you can encourage to take root and propagate new plants. In the wild they are very labor intensive to dig out and use. This is why we cultivate them now.

In basic terms you will put a small bit of the runners into the ground. If you keep it well watered, and feed it some fertilizer it will grow like a weed.

Planting taro is very similar to planting any garden vegetable. You will want to dig a hole about 6-8 inches deep.

Put the corm inside, then pack the hole with a handful of clay.

The clay will help keep the moisture in the ground around the corm longer. Although it is a tuber, it is very much like potatoes. You want to keep the water from evaporating, which will cause the plant to die.

Make sure you water the ground around the corm often, and after a bit it will start to grow.

After about 6 weeks to a month the leaves will start to grow and it will flower.

As a warning, don’t try to grow taro unless you are truly passionate about it.