need help saving my elephant ears

bzbnok(z7 OK)November 3, 2007

I have several huge elephant ears in pots that I need to store for the winter. Could someone tell me when to dig them up and how to go about drying and storing them. Do I need to wait until the leaves die off or should I cut them? If so, how close to the bulb? If you can help me would you spell it out. Unfortunately I need lots of detail.

Your help will be greatly appreciated.


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I would pull them up with the leaves on then cut them off close to the bulb after a couple of days.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 10:10AM
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It is really easy. Wait for the frost to kill back the growth, dig them up, trim them up, place in a show box with peat moss, and store in a cool dry place.

Unless you live in the panhandle, I don't think you have to dig them up, they should come back each year. My brother's do and he lives in Tulsa.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 11:40PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I agree with Texas-weed that they should overwinter just fine in the ground, but let me throw in a couple of conditional statements.

IF the soil is well-drained, they should be fine. If the ground stays excessively wet and soggy, though, there is a chance they might rot during a prolonged cold and wet period.

IF they are subjected to a huge plunge in temps and they are unprotected, they might freeze/die or freeze and suffer death of part of the root clump, but not all. For example, yesterday and today in Love County, we are around 80s degrees for a high temp. If the cold front coming in tomorrow were to plunge the overnight lows on Tuseday night down into the teens (and we aren't going to cool off that much!), the elephant ear roots MIGHT suffer damage. The cause of the damage, though, wouldn't really be the temps in the teens.....they can handle that OK. Rather, it would be the sudden plunge from very hot to very cold that caused the damage. The best way to protect plants from that type of plunge in temps is to have them well-watered and well-mulched.

I leave my elephant ears in the ground all winter long. I've only lost them once....and that was when we didn't have a hard freeze at all until mid-December. We had a VERY warm and dry October, November and early December, so all the plants kept growing and lookin' fine! Then, when the first freeze finally arrived, we went from about 60 degrees one day down to about 15 degrees that night, and then stayed very cold....pretty much below freezing for 4 straight days. I lost my elephant years that year. A year like that is fairly rare, though. Most years are more like this year where the days and nights gradually grow colder and the plants acclimate to the cooler temps and go dormant.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 12:11PM
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Thanks for the advice. I have some I'll need to dig up soon as well. My neighbor gave them to us for free, so we'll be getting a lot of use out of them.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 12:22PM
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I have been leaving my EEs in the ground for the last 3 years. I let the frost kill the leaves back, then mulch

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 2:18PM
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What about in a large pot--metal washtub? Will they survive like that in the southern part of zone 6? And is that 6A or 6B? And what about caladiums in the same pot? Last year I dug them and put them in a paper bag on my glassed porch that I heat to keep above freezing as I overwinter a bunch of tropicals. thanks Dorothy @ mulberryknob

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 12:29AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


The southern part of zone 6 would be 6B.

I am not sure elephant ears would survive in a pot above the ground. It would depend on just how cold it gets, and you know how wildly variable Oklahoma weather can be. Having said that, though, our local weather forecasters here in southern Oklahoma tell us we are in a La Nina weather pattern, which tends to give us a warmer and drier than average winter. (For us here in extreme southern Oklahoma, this seems to be true so far, as we are still having daytime highs in the upper seventies to mid-eighties, and haven't had a killing freeze yet. No rain either.) One unfortunate aspect of a La Nina weather pattern as experienced here in Oklahoma, though, is that there are often some very cold though brief blasts of Artic Cold, so 'warmer and drier than average' doesn't mean there won't be some periods of extreme cold.

In general, when I have a plant in a pot, I consider the plant in that pot to be one-half to one full zone colder than if in the ground. So, if you are in zone 6B, then your elephant ears in an above-ground container would be overwintering in at least zone 6A and possibly zone 5B. The reason is that the ground is a great insulator, and you lose much of that insulation value if you overwinter in a large above-ground container.

If you have no choice about leaving the elephant ears in the container and leaving it outside, you could try to add extra insulation by placing lots of hay or bags of leaves around the container. You could pile a lot of mulch on top of the container. The elephant ears might make it and they might not. Be sure to water them occasionally, keeping them moist but not sopping wet, beacause plants that are very dry suffer freeze damage more easily.

Caladium bulbs are tropical and need to be dug and overwintered in a non-freezing location. I have had caladiums survive only one year in the ground in the 9 years I've been in southern Oklahoma and I am in zone 7B. Even when I lived in Fort Worth, which is zone 8, caladiums seldom survived the winter in the ground.

Hope this info helps.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 7:39AM
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Thanks Dawn, I won't chance it. tomorrow, both elephant ears and caladiums come back on the porch. Dorothy

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 9:29PM
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