With frost rapidly approaching, it’s time to remove my tender Elephant Ears and prepare them for winter storage. My method is something that I have adapted over the years, and it’s based on what I’ve learned after saving dahlias and caladium.
What you will need: garden clippers, a pitchfork or shovel, old clothes, nerves of steel.
Step 1: The first thing to do is cut back the stems. I try to leave about 8″ to 10″ of stem. No matter how many times I have done this, I always feel a little guilty because the leaves have reached their fullest. But, alas, all good things must come to an end. Do not be surprised if there is a gush of water that pours from the stalk after you make your cut.
Step 2: After the stalks are cut, within minutes they begin to “bleed.” If you decide to try this project, be sure to wear old clothes — the brown/red liquid will stain and it does not come out in the wash. I learned this the hard way, and now I have my Elephant Ear cutting outfit.
Step 3: Using the pitchfork, I carefully work in a circle, prying up the bulb. Once it feels loose, I gently pull the base upward, revealing the bulb and the wild mass of roots. At this point, I will shake off the excess dirt. You may notice that your main bulb might have smaller bulbs attached. Do not separate these at this time — that task will be much easier in the spring when you replant your bulb.
Step 4: Here we have pretty Elephant Ears all lined up in a row. Once the plants are dug, I store them for a little more than a week in the potting shed. It’s warm enough and dry enough for the bulbs to set before they are packed away.
Stay tuned for a future post on the final step.