This post shares how I’m storing elephant ear bulbs for winter. If you live in a climate where you can’t grow beautiful plants outdoors all year long, harvesting your bulbs and saving them for the spring is a great way to bring them back year after year. This post also contains affiliate links.
Adventures in Bulb Harvesting: Storing Elephant Ear Bulbs for Winter
Alright, I recently shared a post about how to debug plants to bring them indoors for the winter. Sadly, we live in a townhouse, so we don’t have room to bring everything inside. *tear* So I prioritized cleaning and debugging the plants we can bring inside first, and then I decided to save bulbs/tubers from all of the plants that had them.
Because why buy another elephant ear plant next year if you can save this year’s bulbs and regrow them next year? It saves money, and growing your own stuff is always super rewarding. So let’s chat about some basics here.
Why can you regrow elephant ear plants every year?
So first let’s talk about why you can save elephant ear bulbs for next year. Elephant ear plants grow from tubers (but people call them bulbs…same confusion with dahlias). For the purposes of this post, it’s not super important.
You’re able to save elephant ear plants year after year because they grow from tubers. (Again, they are not the same thing as bulbs, but they’re similar, so that’s what I’m gonna call them because I want people to be able to find this post and have it make sense). Tubers—like potatoes!—have “buds” all over them. Those buds then sprout growth that can grow plants.
When to dig up elephant ear bulbs for winter
I dug mine up when I debugged all of my plants I was bringing indoors, so about 1–2 weeks before my area’s average first frost date. (You can look up your average first and last frost dates here.)
They’ll probably be fine if you let a frost happen, but if it’s a wicked frost that really permeates the ground or whatever the elephant ear bulbs are planted in, it might damage them. So just shoot for before the first frost and you’ll be golden.
Want more plant care tips? You’ll also love my guides on how to take care of snake plants, how to take care of pothos plants, how to take care of rubber plants, caring for peperomia plants, and how to care for philodendron.
How to prep elephant ear bulbs for storage over the winter
Step 1: Dig up the bulbs
The first step is to dig them up. I cut off all of the foliage first, which was really sad. But necessary. I’ll miss you until next year, foliage! Then I used a small shovel to dig out around the base of the plant. Until you know how big your plant is under ground, start digging wider.
Once you’ve found the bulbs, pull out from the base of the plant. Brush/gently shake the excess dirt off, but don’t worry about getting them super clean. Then gently separate each bulb from whatever the main mass is. If there are very small bulbs attached to a much larger one, you can just leave those attached. Remove dead foliage if necessary.
Step 2: Clean the elephant ear bulbs off
Once you’ve separated as necessary and have a better idea of what you’re working with, you can trim the roots and wash them off. I used scissors to trim off all of the excess roots. Then I laid the bulbs on the ground and cleaned them off with the house. I wanted to be able to examine each bulb, mostly out of curiosity and wanting to learn more.
I then spray them down with neem oil to kill off any rot or fungus that might have been lingering and left them sit out to “surface dry” for about 10 minutes or so in the sun.
Step 3: Store to dry
Then I moved them into a cardboard box to dry for about a week. I left them uncovered in the garage. Once they were pretty dry, I removed any extra dead foliage that had dried up and fallen off.
Step 4: Store for the long winter
Then I wrapped each one loosely in brown packing paper I saved from a package we got in the mail. Make sure it’s loose enough that you can remove it to check on them every few weeks over the winter. If any rot or pests appear, treat appropriately or remove the rotted bulb and chuck it.
How to plant elephant ear bulbs in containers
You can start your bulbs indoors in a container for about two months before they’ll go outside—just like you would with starting seeds. They will need sun and warmth while indoors. Use a rich soil and plant them about 1 inch below the surface.
Make sure they are pointing the right direction, too. Wondering which side of the elephant ear bulb is up? It’s the pointier one 😉 While they are still indoors, water when the top 1 inch of soil becomes dry. Elephant ears like moist soil, but since they are still indoors, you don’t want any mold growth to develop on the surface by overwatering.
When and how deep to plant Elephant Ear Bulbs
Plant in the spring after any danger of frost has passed. This will ensure the soil is beginning to warm up. If you started your bulbs indoors, just transfer them to the ground with whatever growth they have in tact.
Plant them about 1 inch below the surface. Make sure the right side it facing up, just as with starting them indoors in a container! Then cover with soil and water. Keep the soil moisture to get this plant going—elephant ears love rich, moist soil.