You only need three steps to know how to overwinter elephant ears, and at this point, you might already have a clue about the secret to success. Winter doesn’t have to be a stressful period for gardeners in the United Kingdom with the greenhouse help. Much like with annuals, you can keep your elephant ears safe by preparing them well and storing them in the greenhouse.
Elephant ear plants or wild taro thrive well in full sun, so you can assume that they are not cold, hardy. After all, you can consider them as tropical plants that can face problems in temperatures below 50°F. But before you let go of these eye-catching plants, if your UK area experiences winter, you can learn below how to overwinter elephant ears successfully and have them year to year.
How To Overwinter Elephant Ears The Easiest Way
Step #1. Digging
According to Iowa State University, the best time to dig up elephant ear plants is after the first frost in autumn. It’s also worth noting that you may find sources using the term elephant ear bulbs and elephant ear tubers interchangeably, but the latter is the correct term. Speaking about the proper terms, the first step to overwintering these plants is digging the “bulbs” out of the soil.
A safe way to dig the bulb is to start a foot away from the base. It’s crucial to carefully dig out the bulbs because the most common problem is rotting in the winter. Rotting is due to the bulb’s damages, so practice gentleness and diligence as you dig and lift the plant and bulb.
Step #2. Cleaning
Once you have the bulbs, you want to cut off the foliage and clean them to remove the dirt. However, you don’t have to scrub them and aim to have a completely clean bulb. You can rinse them gently and dry them somewhere warm for one to two weeks.
Step #3. Drying and storage
As previously mentioned, you want to dry the bulbs for one to two weeks after you cleaned them. A warm and dark area should suffice, but ensure that the place is not hot and still provides good air circulation. After a week or two, place the bulbs in peat moss and store them in the greenhouse.
You can also bury the bulbs in wood shavings, but why the greenhouse? The advantage of using a polytunnel for storing or overwintering elephant ears is because you can ensure that the structure protects them from external factors, whether it’s the climate, pests, or animals. More so, the ideal storage location should stay between 70 to 75°F, and this is easy to maintain in the greenhouse.
An area that is cool and dry should keep your elephant ears well over the winter. However, it would be best to check on them if some are rotting or if there are pests present. This way, you can immediately remove the rotting bulb or use an insecticide and save the remaining bulbs.
If you don’t have a greenhouse, some gardeners in the UK also overwinter their elephant ears inside the house. Overwintering inside the house is possible as long as the location is bright and humid, and you treat it as a houseplant, meaning you maintain soil moisture. After the danger of frost has passed in spring, you can then replant your elephant ears outside.
How To Plant Elephant Ears
Proper planting of elephant ears is also crucial to enjoy these plants year to year. As mentioned previously, you can do so in spring after the danger of frost has passed. You can also start them in the polytunnel four weeks before the average last frost date if you want early blooms.
In general, you want the soil to be around 65°F for these tropical plants. You can plant the bulbs at a depth of 5 inches, providing a distance of 18 inches to 3 feet apart from each other, depending on the variety you have. Make sure that the pointed end is facing upward, cover with soil, and maintain soil moisture.
Regular watering and mulching should help keep the soil moist, ideal for the development of elephant ears. They are also heavy feeders, and you can fertilise every three weeks. For maintenance, you can remove the dead leaves throughout the growing season.
Wild taro or elephant ears are one of the most eye-catching plants you can add to the UK garden. But because they are tropical plants in nature, you must learn how to overwinter elephant ears to enjoy them year to year. The good news is that it’s as simple as digging the tubers, cleaning and drying them, and storing them somewhere cool and dry until replanting in spring after frost.
The emphasis is on carefully digging out the tubers because damaged elephant ear plants are prone to rotting in the winter. You should also clean and dry them for a week or two before burying them in peat moss or wood shavings. Lastly, you can opt to store them in the polytunnel or at your home.
The beauty of using polytunnels you know that the tubers will be unbothered can easily maintain the temperatures for them. However, diligence is still necessary to quickly address potential problems like rot and pests and prevent them from spreading.