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How to Winter an Elephant Ears Plant

elephant ears image by robert mobley from

Elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) are big, splashy, tropical plants with leaves measuring 3 to 5 feet in length, varying in color from green, dark purple, and variegated green and white. Elephant ears won’t tolerate cold winters. If you want your elephant ear plant to live another year to impress visitors to your garden, dig the elephant ear plant and bring the bulbs indoors for the winter months.

Dig the elephant ear bulbs in autumn, using a garden fork, after the first frost of the season wilts the leaves. Use garden shears to cut the leaves to no more than 2 to 4 inches. Remove excess soil from the bulbs and put the bulbs in a cool, dry place for 24 hours.

Place the elephant ear bulbs in a cardboard box filled with peat moss, bark mulch or sawdust. Store the box in a garage or basement where the temperature will be between 40 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t allow the elephant ear bulbs to freeze.

Check the elephant ear bulbs every month. Discard any bulbs that are soft or rotten. Mist shriveled bulbs with a small amount of water, and return them to the box.

Replant elephant ear bulbs after the last frost of the season. Choose a place where the plants will be exposed to morning sunlight but protected from the rays of the afternoon sun. Dig a hole for each bulb, and add a small handful of bone meal to the bottom of the hole. Plant the elephant ear bulb, then water the area deeply.

Care For Giant Elephant Ears In Winter

The care and effort it takes to overwinter elephant ears (Colocasia spp.), The soil can dry out completely during the dormant period, but natural rainfall will likely keep the soil moist. Cut back dead foliage and stalks as they die 2 to 4 inches from the soil line. You can cut out dead leaves any time of year. While elephant ear plants survive winters in frost-prone areas, specifically within USDA zones 8 through 9, the foliage will die back after a frost or cold spell. Once the first frost kills the foliage, cut back the stalks 2 to 4 inches from the soil line, then cover the soil with a layer of mulch 4 inches deep. No additional water is necessary during the dormant period. Discontinue watering through the winter. In the spring when the temperature is consistently at or above 60 degrees F, water when the top of the soil feels dry. Elephant ears have fleshy tubers for roots.

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