Elephant ear plant winter care doesn’t have to be rocket science, and it’s actually a lot easier than you may think.
The key to keeping your elephant ear plant happy through the winter is to determine whether it can stay inside or outside. Once you know where it will be staying over the winter it’s just a case of using a few simple tricks to make sure that the plant can survive through these months.
Elephant Ear Plant Temperature Tolerance
Elephant ear plants are native to tropical regions of southern Asia, Indonesia and many other places where the temperature is quite high most of the time.
They thrive in daytime temperatures between 70°F and 85°F (18°C-26°C), with temperatures during the night dropping no lower than 60°F (15°C).
Keeping An Elephant Ear Plant Outside During Winter
Elephant ear plants can be kept outside during the winter in USDA zones 7-11.
In order to do this, you’ll need to follow a few simple steps:
- After the first frost of the winter season, cut the stems to between 4 to 6 inches tall. Use a sterilized pruning tool for this to prevent any spread of disease. You can also opt to let the plant reduce in size naturally as the temperature drops as well.
- Cover the rest of the stems using mulch or cut leaves. This provides insulation and allows the stems to survive during the cold months.
- After the last frost, remove the mulch or leaves and resume watering as you normally would.
That’s all there is to it. Keeping an elephant plant outside during the winter is simply a case of trimming the stems down and protecting the plant by providing insulation – you won’t need to water or fertilize at all during the winter months or worry about sunlight.
Keeping An Elephant Ear Plant Indoor During Winter
In USDA zones 1-6, you’ll need to bring your elephant ear inside during the winter as the temperature will drop too low outside for the plant to survive.
If your elephant ear is planted into the ground you can dig it up, or if it’s in a container you can simply carry it inside. I’ll explain the different methods for moving your plant inside during the winter shortly, but in this section, we’ll focus on the care once your plant is inside.
Elephant ears will go dormant during the winter months when the temperature starts to fall, even when kept inside. Luckily, keeping an elephant ear happy during the winter is very simple during the winter:
- Watering – During the winter you won’t need to water your elephant ear very often at all. Check the top few inches of soil and water when they’re dry, but this should only be around once every 2 or 3 weeks.
- Sunlight – Elephant ears prefer lots of bright, indirect light similar to the conditions in which they are native. Make sure you save space with this kind of light for your elephant ear to bring it inside during the winter.
- Soil – Elephant ear plants require well-draining soil, so if you need to repot your plant consider adding peat moss, compost and perlite to your soil mixture.
Elephant ear plants don’t have bulbs, instead, they grow from tubers.
These tubers can be removed from the ground and stored through the winter and planted again once the cold weather has passed. To do this you’ll need to start digging a good distance away from the base of the plant, as any damage to the tuber can cause it to rot during storage.
Once the tuber is visible dig around the base of the plant and gently remove it. The next step is to dry the tuber, which can be done by placing it on a paper towel in a warm, dark room for around a week.
After it has dried you can wrap it in fresh paper and store it in a box with peat moss or soil through the winter. Once winter is over the tuber will be ready to be planted again.
Is It Better To Keep An Elephant Ear Inside Or Outside During Winter?
If you have the option to keep your plant either inside or outside during the winter I would opt to keep it inside, where possible.
This is because frost during the winter can damage the plant and cause quite a significant loss of stems and leaves. Elephant ears can survive this, but if you bring your plant inside you can avoid this altogether and maintain the size of the plant, while reaping the other benefits of keeping it inside.
It all comes down to personal preference of course, and in some climates, the winter temperatures are not particularly low anyway so it’s nothing to worry about in that case.
How To Transfer An Elephant Ear Inside During Winter
If your elephant ear is planted into the ground, start by digging around the base as you would to remove the tubers.
Once the plant can be lifted gently remove it from the soil and examine the roots. Make sure they are looking healthy and not showing any signs of rot or disease.
Gently brush away excess dirt and repot the plant in a container that will fit inside your house. Use a mixture of compost, peat moss, perlite and vermiculite for the potting mix and water the soil generously once the plant is in place.
I recommend leaving a few inches on either side to allow for root growth, but no more than that.
What Temperature Is Too Cold For An Elephant Ear Plant?
Anything below 50°F (10°c) is absolutely too low for an elephant ear plant.
If the temperature drops into this range you will start to notice symptoms such as wilting leaves and yellowing leaves, which eventually turn brown and fall off. The stem may also become damaged, and over a long period of time, the plant may die.
Elephant ears are very hardy though, so it would take quite a long exposure at this temperature range or freezing temperatures to kill the plant entirely.