Gardeners in cold winter regions can preserve their of elephant ear (Alocasia spp., Colocasia spp. and Xanthosoma spp.) and caladium (Caladium spp.) plants by lifting the bulb-like tubers when the growing season ends and storing them inside over the winter. Keeping them dry in a cool, frost-free location is key to having healthy, ready-to-plant tubers next spring when frost is no longer a threat.
Wipe or break off clumps of soil from the freshly dug elephant ear or caladium tubers in autumn.
Cut off stems and foliage from the tubers with hand pruners, making the cut about 1/2 an inch above the stem attachment to the tuber. Discard the leaves and stems in the compost pile.
Place the tubers in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight to allow any soil to dry on the tubers. This drying period lasts from five days to two weeks. Once dry, rub your fingers and palms over the tubers to break off excess soil clumps.
Count the number and note the size of tubers you need to store over the winter.
Line a cardboard box with a nest of shredded newspaper or coarse wood shavings/sawdust to a depth of about 3 inches.
Place the tubers atop the newspaper or wood shavings with no less than 3 to 4 inches between tubers.
Add another layer of shredded newspaper atop the tubers, to a depth of 4 to 6 inches, and place another layer of tubers as in Step 6.
Continue placing tubers into boxes in the newspaper or shavings until all are contained.
Position the boxes of tubers in a cool, dark, and dry location for the winter. The spot for the boxes must not reach temperatures below 32 degrees F. Also avoid situations where dripping water leaks from pipes, windows, doors or floor cracks may infiltrate the boxes and their contents.
Monitor the tubers, checking them every four weeks. Rummage through the boxes to remove any tubers that have become moldy, soft and rotten, or dried and raisin-like.
Things You Will Need
- Hand pruners (secateurs)
- Cardboard boxes
- Shredded newspaper or coarse sawdust/shavings
- Avoid overwintering tubers that have been accidentally cut during the digging process. Chances are greater these tubers will rot or dry out prematurely over the winter.
- Consider having many boxes to house your tubers, so that they rest in only one or two layers. This makes monitoring them easier over the winter and increases air circulation.
- Avoid fine, compacting materials to place your tubers in. Powdery sawdust, cotton fibers, or mulch prevents good air circulation around tubers and may encourage rot or mold growth.
- Make sure the tubers' surfaces are fully dry before placing them in the storage boxes or trays.