The October weather has been strange. There was a moment when it felt like autumn, but then it became more mild and humid — and so I let my tropicals stay in the ground. But how much longer will I be able to get away with that? At some point, it will become cooler and frost will arrive — and these tropicals need to be stored for the winter.
This will be my weekend project — and since I’ll be a bit busy, I thought it was the perfect time to re-visit a previous post that chronicles the process. Up first are the elephant ears.
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’ll 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 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.