I have a question about how to winterize Elephant Ears growing in my yard. What needs to be done and how.
Elephant ear, Alocasia are a semi-tropical tuberous bulbs that are hardy in zone 8-11 and will die in freezing temepratures.
In a cooler climate, zone 7 or lower, there are several methods you can use to winterize your elephant ear plant.
When the foliage starts to die back (turn brown) reduce watering. If/when a frost blackens the foliage, cut the stem down to 6″, dig up the tuber and remove excess soil. Try not to bruise or cut the tuberous bulb as that can cause infection and rot during storage.
To “cure” the tubers, air dry, out of direct sunlight at 60F for three weeks or dry them in the sun for a couple of days and then remove the excess soil.
Once dry, store the cured bulb in peat moss, vermiculite or sawdust around 40-60 degrees in a dry, ventilated location such as a basement or cellar. During the winter, check the bulb for shrinkage and rot (discolored soft spots). If the bulbs appear shriveled, moisten the medium a bit. Replant next spring.
Store in container
You can also store the bulb as is in the pot in a heated garage. Insulate/wrap the container for added protection. After the leaves yellow and die back, cut off the dried foliage and add 2-3″ of mulch on top of the soil.
If you don’t have a heated garage, a cool, dark place such as a basement will work. Store between 40-60F and water lightly once or every 2 months to keep the soil from totally drying out.
Treat your elephant ear as a houseplant. Give it a southern exposure (high light), high humidity and water enough to keep the soil from drying out. If it continues to produce leaves, feed it with a 1/2 dose of liquid fertilizer, otherwise, just keep it moist. The plant may sulk indoors during the winter but when the weather warms up in spring bring the plant back outdoors slowly re-acclimating it to brighter light exposure.