Elephant Ear plants are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, and live long lives in warm climates. Surprisingly, they can also thrive in cooler climates if you follow specific maintenance steps before winter arrives. The dramatic and bold texture Elephant Ears bring to your garden is unmatched.
There are several steps you must take to prepare your Elephant Ear plants for the upcoming winter, and those steps are different in north Alabama than they would be if you lived down in Gulf Shores. No matter where you live in our State though, you’ll have to take some precautions against the winter cold.
Elephant Ears must be prepared differently in different regions of the country. The USDA has set zones (1-11) and subzones based on location and temperature ranges. These zones act as a standard by which growers can control which plants are best for that climate. Elephant ear plants are native to Southeast Asia and are only fully hardy in USDA zone 10, which is mostly limited to south Florida. Depending on where you live in Alabama, you’ll either need to mulch or fully dig up and store your elephant ears during the winter.
Hardiness Zones 7-11
If you live in Hardiness Zones 7-11, your Elephant Ears can remain in the garden during the winter, but must be covered for protection. Trussville has been designated Zone 7b, so if you’re one of our local readers, pay close attention here:
- One: Allow the stems of the plants to die with the frost as trimming them will lead to rot.
- Two: Completely cover the plants using lawn grass and chopped leaves as this provides insulation for the plants during the winter. Create a mound or use chicken wire to reinforce the area.
- Three: Once the last spring frost has passed, simply uncover the plants, and maintain as usual.
Hardiness Zones 1-6
For those located in Hardiness Zones 1-6, you must bring in your Elephant Ears for the winter. Here’s how:
- One: After the first frost, trim the stems to six-inches tall.
- Two: Place the tubers into a bulb basket, plastic pot or grocery bag and cover with a mixture of potting soil and peat moss.
- Three: Water the plant before placing the container in a dark and cool location indoors, which will keep the tuber dormant during the winter. It is crucial to keep these plants moist but not completely wet. Once the frost is over for the season, re-plant your tubers as normal.
Follow these additional tips to ensure you have properly prepared your plants for winter.
If your Elephant Ears are in potted plants, they will survive winter well if kept in the dirt in the containers. Potted plants are the easiest because you can simply move the entire container to a frost- and rain-free area to keep the plants from freezing, but also keep them from getting wet during dormancy. The same rules apply for potted plants as those left in the ground, water the soil as needed, keeping it barely moist to the touch until spring.
In colder climates, when you cover the plants, with soil or peat moss, make sure to let them sit for a few days to completely dry out and brush off excess dirt, but do not rinse with water. If there are any damaged, rotten, or diseased-looking tubers remaining, throw them in the garbage.
The lifted tubers are to be stored in potting soil or moss, but a viable alternative is sand or dry vermiculite. These options are all sterile and help keep the tubers from acquiring a disease during storage.
Elephant Ears are a beautiful addition to any garden or yard, but they require the proper protection before the colder months roll in to ensure you can enjoy them next summer. Even in the states that do not receive full northern winters but are subject to frost, it is important to follow the steps we listed above to protect and overwinter your Elephant Ears!