Propagating Elephant Ears

cajungal328September 4, 2007

Hi, I'm new here, and I really need help, more like peace of mind, rather than help... anyway...

I live in Lafayette, LA, and up until earlier today, I had a beautiful, full cluster of elephant ears growing on one side of my porch, near the stairs. They were at least 8 feet tall, leaves measured about 3 or 4 feet long. It was absolutely georgeous, but too big. They were massive, and taking over my stairway, so much so that there was hardly room to walk up and down the steps. So, I did something that I think may have been really stupid.

Now, I want to say that I have never had a green thumb, and I know very little about growing anything. I wish I knew more and growing stuff, becuase I love plants and flowers.

So, I decided I wanted to eliminate some of this massivly huge plant, and transplant it on the other side of the house (I love these plants). So dumb old me, I take a shovel and try to dig up the bulb to seperate it, but it's like trying to dig up a tree, it's no use. Very little of it will budge. After fighting with it for some time, I hastily decided to take the shovel and cut between some of the outer stems, cut into the root, and seperate part of the root system off of the main root, along with the stalks and the leaves. I cut off about 4 or 5 stems, all of which had some roots attached, and I planted them in other locations throughout my yard. Then I watered them down with water with Miracle Grow Plant Food added, that granular blue stuff that you add to water.

At first I thought it would be ok, until I see the stems that I cut off are drooping to the ground, and all the leaves are shrivelling up and dying. I think they may be in shock, then again, maybe I killed them, I'm not sure. I am a 'KNOW NOTHING' when it comes to plants :-) Even the main plant, though the leaves are not shriveled up, the bottom stems and leaves are drooping to the ground. The stems and leaves growing from the center of the plant look fine, and are as peppy as before. My main plant looks naked now, with so many leaves gone, but that's what I wanted, isn't it? I guess we should be careful what we wish for, right...

Do you think I killed my plant(s)? Will the main plant survive? Will the new plants survive? What should I do? Should I cut the shriveled leaves off? I don't know what to do, or how to revive it. Could you please help me?

Sorry so long...



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Yes, might as well cut off any shriveled leaves. Only time will tell if the part that is buried will survive. If it does, it will sprout fresh leaves.

I think the main plant will survive just fine.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 7:32AM
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Thank you. I did as you said and I cut off and discarded all the dead looking leaves on the new plants, and maybe one or two off the main plant. Time will tell if the new plants will take.

I have another question. On the main plant, some of the stems and leaves at the bottom, near the stems I cut off at the root, the leaves are NOT shrivelled up, but there are about 6 ot 7 leaves that are lying face down on the ground. Do you think that they will pick back up on their own, after they get over the shock, or should I cut them off too? At the rate I'm going, the main plant will be totally naked soon...

It was such a full and beautiful plant when I first started this, and now looking at it, I feel a little sickly. I keep telling myself it will grow back, like a bad haircut, but it doesn't make me feel much better.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 10:07AM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

There are some things you need to know about Elephant Ears. First of all, there are two basic kinds. One is a great big bulb. These will have leaves that face the sky.
The other kind grows on roots. These face the side. If the ones you have face the side, they are very likely invasive. Do a search on Elephant ears and you can read how incredibly difficult these can be to get rid of in your part of the country.
I have read that some of the side facers are clump formers, specifically Black Magic. I sure would like to have confirmation of this from someone who grows it. But that's for another discussion. Back to your questions.
If you have leaves that are laying on the ground, you can trace them back to their base and cut them off. The plant should regenerate fresh leaves. Any that are withered should be removed too.
Cannas (the kinds that grow on roots, not bulbs) like nitrogen and water. They will actually grow in standing water (which is why you see them growing so well in ditches). Even if you damaged your original plant, keep it watered and you should be fine in a few weeks.
As far as Miracle Grow is concerned, I don't recommend it ever for a newly planted or newly divided plant. It has very strong salts in it that can be harsh on tender roots. That being said, it's unlikely you hurt Elephant Ears. In the future, try using it at half the strength the bottle calls for, or better yet, use Fish Emulsion which is an organic fertilizer that never fails to do plants a world of good.
Back to the invasiveness issue. If you determine that your EEs are the invasive kinds, I would highly recommend that you dig them out before winter comes, if not sooner. Not to worry, you won't get them all out. Any roots that break and remain in the ground will come back next spring. At that point, you may want to transplant a few of them into large pots, so you can enjoy these beautiful plants without having to declare all out war. Again, do a search for several threads on them.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 1:47PM
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They are the side facers, the invasive kind I guess...
I wasn't as concerned about the main plant as the ones I cut off. The main plant looks fine, except for those bottom leaves that are in shock and laying on the ground. The ones I cut off, do you think they have a chance of surviving? They all had roots on them...

Another thing, why dig up the roots before winter? Is it because you think they might freeze? I live in south Louisiana, and the ground doesn't freeze here, and we seldomly get any snow, and then only a few flurries at most.

At any rate, that root is so big it's next to impossible to get it out. I found that out yesterday. I couldn't get it loose.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 9:57PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

Oh, I'm pretty confident the ones you transplanted will live. The reason I told you to dig them up is I am afraid that by spring you could have hundreds and hundreds of them running everywhere. If their roots get intertwined with the roots of other plants, they are almost impossible to get rid of. Round-up does not kill them. Of course if you want them...go for it. Trust me in this. Theyll be back and will bring all their friends and relatives with them. I was just thinking that if you dig up the transplants now they won't have a chance to create a whole lot of work for you later.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2007 at 9:57PM
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Thanks for your help...

I am so excited! I have transplanted 4 plants off of the main plant, and after 4 days, they are all alive and well, and 2 of them have sprouted leaves! I am so happy I didn't ruin them after all. As for the main plant, I have cut the majority of the leaves off of it, so it is pretty naked right now, but it too is sprouting new leaves. By next year, they should all be very lovely. Before I started cutting at the main plant, I got alot of compliments on that plant, big and full and healthy as it was, and I look forward to having them on both sides of my porch.

I really love caladiums and EEs, big or small, and on the front of my porch, I have planted another bulb variety of EEs. I have grown these in a pot, and they seem smaller than the other ones, but I have never seen these planted in the ground, so I'm not sure how big they will actually get once they grow in the ground. The look different, they are a lighter color green and the leaves are shaped different. I think they will look very nice along with the others. I can't wait to see them!

As for the invasiveness issue, I have placed these plants on both sides of my porch, that's it, not all over the whole yard. I have no problem with them invading this area, for not only will it make the area far more attractive than planting bushes, but it will also get big and full and they will shade the area keep the grass and weeds from growing up too much (this is a difficult area to mow, since it's next to impossible to manuver a lawnmower here) The only concern I have with invasiveness is around my porch steps, becuase the EEs have a tendency to crowd the stairs, but I will just keep them cut back if this happens, that's not a big problem.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 10:27PM
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Upon planting shoots or offspring from Black Magic or other Caladium/Elephant Ears they go from beautiful to all leaves completely shrivel up. Plant shock I'm there a process whereby this does not occur or is this an expected outcome.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 9:32PM
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Check with your local Agricultural Extension Office and sign up for the next Master Gardener class .
You will be astounded at how much you will learn in a short time . It is an amazing experience .
Never , ever fertilize anything during or right after planting it . Let the poor plant recover from shock and get established before you add nutrients .
Do not buy Miracle Grow or Osmocote again . Contact your local Master Gardeners and find out what they recommend for your area .
Have a soil test done before you do anything else . Here they cost just one dollar and the results can save you tons .
You will make a fantastic gardener . Go with your passions and learn better gardening practices which will make you feel much less frustrated . It's So worth the effort !!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 6:55PM
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