How to Care for Giant Elephant Ears in Winter

Overview

Several tropical foliage plants share the common name "elephant ears," but only one, Colocasia, is usually called "giant elephant ears." Colocasia esculenta, also known as taro, is the most widely grown species. Individual elephant ears plants are usually between 3 and 6 feet tall, bearing broad, elephant ear-shaped leaves up to 2 feet long. Depending on the variety, the leaves can be either green or purple-black with prominent veins. With the rise in popularity of all kinds of tropical plants, even gardeners in cold winter zones have used elephant ears in home landscapes. Rather than buying the large corms anew every year, many gardeners store them indoors over the winter.

Step 1

Dig up the large corm after the first frost, when foliage is dying. It is not necessary to remove remaining foliage.

Step 2

Check for evidence of insects or disease, then place the corm on newspaper and allow it to cure in a cool, dry, shady place for several days.

Step 3

Label the paper bag, and fill it halfway with vermiculite.

Step 4

Brush excess soil from the corm, clip off dead foliage remnants and place it in the bag. Cover with vermiculite, fold the top of the bag closed and staple to seal.

Step 5

Store the bag in a cool, dry location where the temperature stays above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In mid-January, open the bag and inspect the corm to make sure rot has not set in. Reseal the bag.

Step 6

Repot the corm in a large pot full of fresh potting soil in spring, when nighttime temperatures no longer fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and place the pot outside; or plant the corm directly into the garden.

Things You'll Need

  • Trowel
  • Newspaper
  • Vermiculite
  • Paper grocery bag
  • Permanent marker
  • Stapler

References

  • University of Minnesota: Storing Tender Bulbs and Bulblike Structures
  • "Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940"; Denise Wiles Adams; 2004
Keywords: elephant ears, colocasia, storing tender bulbs

About this Author

Elisabeth Ginsburg, a writer with twenty years' experience, earned an M.A. from Northwestern University and has done advanced study in horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden. Her work has been published in the "New York Times," "Christian Science Monitor," "Horticulture Magazine" and other national and regional publications.