Digging Elephant Ear Bulbs: How To and When To Dig Up Colocasia Plants

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Do you know when to dig up elephant ears plants before winter strikes? 

If your goal is to save your versatile, tropical perennials for the spring, dig up all elephant ears during the fall before the temperature drops. Set them aside somewhere safe.

Elephant Ear Bulbs When to digPin

Signs It’s Time To Dig Up Elephant Ears

Elephant ears are well-known and prized for their dramatic foliage, range of foliage colors, and impressive leaves. Like Caladiums it makes them an excellent addition to flower beds or as container plants for a dramatic feature.

You will know it’s the perfect time to dig up elephant ears (aka Colocasia or Alocasia) when the weather starts to turn and the leaves on your trees turn brown.

If you don’t have time to dig up your plants, don’t worry. It is okay to wait until the first frost but do not go longer than that, as the elephant ear tuber will die.

While the leaves should be brown when you begin digging up the bulbs, exercise caution when working around the plants and stems. 

Its leaves have a coating of needle-like calcium oxalate and are often irritating to touch.

How To Harvest And Store Elephant Ear Bulbs

You do, of course, want to plant elephant ear bulbs in the spring after the danger of frost passes. Here is how to harvest and store elephant ear bulbs.

  • Start by digging the bulbs out of the soil while avoiding root damage. If you damage the bulb, it will likely rot over the winter. If your elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) are in a pot, no digging is required.
  • With that in mind, dig around one foot away from the plant’s base, and lift both the plant and bulb from the soil.
  • With the bulbs safely removed from the soil, it is time to clean the elephant ears. You can gently rinse them with cool, but not cold, water. Do not scrub the elephant ear bulbs.
  • During the cleaning process, you may cut and remove the remaining stems and foliage – carefully!
  • Once the bulbs are clean, you must dry them with no moisture on them. For around one week, keep your elephant ear bulbs in a warm, dark spot with good circulation.
  • Once dried, wrap your elephant ear bulbs in paper and store them in a cool, dry place.
  • If keeping them until spring, check on your bulbs every few weeks to ensure no pests break in or rot occurs.
  •  If you do find pests, treat the bulbs using an insecticide. If corrosion occurs, throw the bulbs out to ensure it does not spread.
  • Remember, elephant ear bulbs will be damaged by freezing temperatures, so it’s best to grow them as annuals.

Why Can You Regrow Elephant Ears?

Unlike many other plants, which only survive for a year or two when transplanted, elephant ears may grow year after year. Why? 

They grow from tubers covered in buds that sprout new growth when transplanted into the soil, watered, and grown in full sun with fertilizer.

It is these tubers you want to protect when digging up elephant ears before winter. They can also be planted four to six weeks before the last frost date.

Remember, these plants do best in filtered or partial shade, so ensure you provide adequate light for healthy growth. 

Too much sun or long exposure to direct sunlight may scorch the leaves to scorch, while too much shade makes them leggy.

Don’t forget to plant elephant ears in rich, well-draining soil or potting mix blended with organic matter like compost for added nutrients when transplanting, especially in containers.

When planting, ensure the top of the bulb is at least 2″ inches of soil deeper than the soil line.

Is It Worth Digging Up Elephant Ears?

Even for someone who genuinely enjoys gardening, digging up elephant ears year after year, cleaning and drying them, then storing them someplace cool becomes a chore.

So is it worth it to dig up colocasias for the spring? Yes!

When you dig up the bulbs – without damaging them – you preserve the plants for the next season. 

Who doesn’t want to enjoy Black Magic Elephant Ears in the spring?

But if you are too busy to dig up each bulb and work step-by-step through the care process, buy new bulbs from your local garden store. The whole point of gardening is relaxation, so do whatever works best for you.

Types Of Bulbs

Alongside the beautiful elephant ears, other types of bulbs need the same kind of care and attention. These include:

  • Tuberous Begonias – Gradually improve and grow for around eight years, with proper care, then perish.
  • Gladiolus Bulbs – Sprouts and flowers for two to three years, then begins to decline. You will want to dig up gladiola before a hard frost occurs – usually in October.
  • Dahlia – Dahlias survive best when dug up two weeks after any foliage dies by frost—around mid-November. When storing dahlia, consider placing them in barely dampened peat moss. When it comes time to plan, divide the bulbs into clumps.
  • Elephant Ears – If you successfully dig up, treat, and store elephant ears, they only get better with time. You’ll have them for years to come.

You may decide to dig up and replant your elephant ears year after year (remember: they only get better with time). Or you may choose to buy new tubers and bulbs for the coming season.

Remember, one of the excellent success predictors when planting Elephant ears is bulb size. 

Generally, larger bulbs produce stronger and bigger plants with more flowers and big leaves. They are also more likely to withstand diseases or any adversity, such as adverse temperatures, than the smaller ones.

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