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Elephant Ear

(December 2011)

QuestionI have giant elephant ears in a huge pot outside and I'm scared for them with the cold.  Do I let them die down and dig up and store; or I could move them to my covered porch for the winter?  It's cold for them! 

 

AnswerFor the most part, elephant ears are winter hardy outdoors throughout Arkansas, but there are some varieties that are a little less hardy.  The fact that you have them in containers, also lowers their hardiness, since soil in elevated containers is going to get colder.  If you can move the pot, I would leave them in the container and store the container in the garage, storage shed or porch. If the porch is in use and visible, they won’t be attractive so you may want to store them elsewhere.  If the container is too large to move, you can dig them up now that they are dormant, allow them to dry and then store in a cool spot in a box with shredded paper, shipping peanuts or dry peat moss until spring planting.


(September 2009)

QuestionI have grown elephant ears over the past 30 years but have never had one to bloom.  One now has had two blooms and two others budding.  When the flower wilts there is a pod left below the bloom, could this be some sort of seed? Should I cut them off or what?  The bulb has really grown this year producing the largest leaves ever.

 

AnswerElephant ears have the ability to bloom like other members of the aroid family.  If you find an open flower, you’ll see that it consists of two main parts. A spathe, or modified leaf, covers the spadix or stalk—similar to a peace lily bloom. The spadix is actually a cluster of tiny flowers, with the male flowers on top, female flowers on the bottom and a string of sterile flowers in between.  They actually have the ability to set seeds, but rarely do we see that in a growing season in Arkansas, since it takes months for the orange seeds to mature.  The flowers are pollinated by beetles.   Cutting off the spent flowers won’t hurt, unless you get one really early in the season and you want to try to get seeds.


(Dec 2008)

QuestionSeveral years ago I was given what I thought were Elephant Ears.  And, they DID grow and look like Elephant Ears.  But, then they started to send out runners, which would root and form more plants, and soon I had HUNDREDS!  Some runners are above ground, some are below the soil surface.  They are very easy to pull up.  A friend from Florida told me I had "Taro", but after checking my Southern Living Garden book, it classifies Taro as Elephant Ears, and does not list a variety that produces runners.

 

AnswerThere are several plants that are given the common name elephant ears.  They are all in the arum family, so closely related, but they are in different genus’s.  They include: Alocasia, Colocasia and Xanthosoma.  In the Colocasia group (which is where the edible taro root comes from) there are clumping forms and running forms.  The running forms form stolons--similar to how strawberries grow.  In tropical areas, they can actually be considered somewhat weedy because of their growth habit.  My guess is you have one of the running forms of Colocasia.


(July 2006)

QuestionAbout four or five years ago, we started two beds (4' x 4') with two elephant ear bulbs in each bed. Now "our cup” has runneth over. We need to thin our beds. My questions are: 1) Can we split bulbs that have grown together, and 2) what time of year should we do this? Incidentally, we leave them in the ground year -round.

 

AnswerElephant ears can become quite prolific over time. The best time to divide them would be as they begin emerging in the spring. Fall division could be done, but it will make the plants less winter hardy. You could also lift and store for the winter and divide when replanting next spring. When making the divisions, you can separate individual bulbs or cut the bulbs where they have fused. If the plants are really crowded, you could make some separations now, but it would impact their growth this season.


(April 2006)

QuestionMy wife and I recently bought our first home. At the time, it had a handsome flower bed. Not being floral experts, we asked the previous owners how they cared for the plants. One plant needed to be pruned, which we did. The others required no pruning or any other maintenance, we were told. Now, what we believe are elephant ears, and some of the other plants, still show no sign of life. I realize they may be reading the weather better than we, but I wonder if there is more that needs to be done. Would you help us by identifying the plants and suggesting any care or maintenance the plants need?

 

AnswerIn the picture you sent, the main plants you have are elephant ears, cannas and hostas. These are all perennials and should be sprouting within the next couple of weeks. Growth rates vary based on soil temperature. In south Arkansas last week, I was amazed at how much had already begun, while in cooler areas, it is not unusual to see sprouting begin in mid April. Be patient for now. The blooming plants appear to be zinnias--it looks like the Profusion Cherry and White zinnias. These are summer annuals and will need to be replanted. I do think you probably want to incorporate some evergreen shrubs in the landscape so your winter landscape is not so barren. You may need to regroup some of the perennials to make way for shrubs, but this can be done as the plants emerge this spring.


QuestionI had two Elephant Ears that multiplied into 8 or 10 over six years in big pots, which we moved to the basement in winter.  Last fall, we moved to a house with no basement or garage, so I dug up the bulbs, dried and stored them in sand.  When I checked them this spring,  the ones on the top had sprouted and were snaking through the lid of the box, and the bottom ones were rotting ( I think the sand must have been damp),  I planted them in buckets and six of them came up and were transplanted to the yard.  All are doing well, considering, though rather smaller than the originals.  My question is this:   Is it worth going through the whole storage routine again, or should I just give up on these and buy new bulbs next spring?

 

AnswerAlthough you are borderline in Fayetteville, elephant ears have been over wintering in most gardens, if they are actually planted in the yard (not in containers now).  You may want to do a test on a few this year.  As soon as we have had a killing frost, cut off the old foliage and add an extra layer of mulch over them.  Make sure the soil is well drained, and hopefully they will come back.  If you want to dig a few to store (as a safety net) lift and cut off old foliage, shake off the old dirt and store in a box filled with shipping peanuts, shredded paper, or other porous substance.  Don't use sand or soil, or they may try to grow.  Store in a cool, dry place until spring.  If the plants are still in containers, they would not be cold hardy.


 

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