If you are looking to add a plant with a tropical vibe to your northern garden, the Elephant Ear Mammoth is the one for you. It loves the sun, and once emerged from the ground is a relatively fast growing plant, easily reaching 48 to 60 inches tall. The elephant ear plant has wonderful large elongated heart-shaped leaves that can catch the eye, become a topic of conversation, and are a focal point in any garden.
The elephant ear plant, like the Dahlia and Canna is easy to grow, and at the end of the growing season can be dug up, stored for the Winter, and replanted the following Spring. Two tubers over time will multiply into many, that you can plant throughout the garden, or give to friends.
Siting and Planting Elephant Ear tubers ..Being a tropical plant, try to find a place in your garden for the elephant ear so it gets full sun (preferably), to partial shade. Full sun is 6 plus hours of direct sun each day, most likely coming from the south-west. Partial shade is an eastern exposure where you get 4 to 6 hours of direct morning sunlight, but no direct afternoon sun light.
Planting the tubers ..In my neck of the woods, upstate New York USA zone 5-4, I would plant the elephant ear on or just after May 1. Other tender Summertime blooming bulbs, tubers, and corms like Dahlias, Canna, Gladioli, etc would also be planted at that time.
Soil preparation is important when planting elephant ears, or any other plant in your garden. Amend (improve) the soil before planting anything. Work a shovel or two each of dehydrated cow manure and sphagnum peat moss into your existing soil. This will boost its organic content and make it more fertile and productive.
Plant elephant ear mammoth so there is just 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches of soil on top of the tuber, and space them 24 inches apart.
A lot of gardeners who have never planted the elephant ear tuber before, have a hard time figuring which side is the top. The top of the tuber has a number of rings, like the age rings, you see when you cut down a tree, and there are little bumps and nipples that could be a pinkish brown, on that top side. The top of the tuber is more round and smooth, where as the bottom is more rough, pock-marked and crater covered. Now look at the tuber in the illustration.
After being planted, the elephant ear plant sometimes waits a while before it decides to start sending up new growth. It seems to want both the air and ground it is planted in warm, before it starts growing. The first time I planted them, after not seeing anything starting to emerge after 3 or 4 weeks, I decided to do a little detective work. I carefully scraped back the top layer of soil that covered them, to see if they had been eaten by something, rotted away, or who knows what else. I discovered they were fine, so I covered them back up, gave them a drink, and maybe two weeks after that, when it got warmer they started to grow.
The elephant ear plant likes a good drink of water. Give it a drink, two or three times a week, if the weather is dry. If you can, mix up some water-soluble fertilizer and give it a drink of that every two weeks, also. Follow the directions on the package for the amount of the product you should use.
As the plant grows, it is constantly producing new leaves. Older leaves will start to yellow and collapse. Cut them off to neaten up the plant.
The elephant ear mammoth can be planted in a container, or the ground. The first time I planted them in containers, the root systems became so strong and vigorous, that they cracked through two of my nice plastic pots. My suggestion, if you are planting them in decorative containers, is to first plant them in inexpensive pots, or a plastic pot a bush or tree comes in, and then put that pot into the fancy decorative pot. That way the elephant ear’s roots can’t ruin a good container, and it will be easier, in the Fall to take the plant out of the dirt, for Winter storage.
Winter Storage ..In middle to late Fall, as days and nights get colder, the elephant ear plant will start to yellow up a bit. Wait for the first frost to knock it down. After that, take a shovel, dig up the plant, and cut off the leaves, leaving just an inch or two of stem. Take a hose, wash off the tubers, let them dry on the lawn for a day, and put them in an uncovered box or bushel basket for Winter storage. I just lay mine, one on top of the other in the bushel basket, and I store then in a semi heated garage that goes no lower than 45 degrees fahrenheit in Winter.
In Spring, when you go to plant the elephant ear tubers, you will notice / find that those thick-fleshy tubers, that you put away last Fall have dried up. The big mother tuber has now died, and is kind of clay like (not slimy). As you remove / peel away the dried layers /skins of the old tubers, you will see small baby tubers hidden in them. Those small tubers are what you will now be planting. It is funny that, even though I’ve started with big tubers, and my elephant ears grow big and healthy, I never get new big baby tubers like the ones I started with, when I first bought them at my local garden center, or nationally known discount or hardware store like Wal-Mart, Home Depot or Lowe’s.
I am now, probably planting the off-spring of two elephant ear plants that I bought 15 or so years ago.
Finally, I think the elephant ear plant is a wonderful companion to the castor bean plant, canna, and ornamental grasses. Look at the photo. You will see mine growing by my deck. These plants make me think of the tropics, and transport me to a place far away.
Grow some Castor Bean Plants, add a Tropical Vibe to your Garden 5-11-2012,
DAHLIAS, dahlias, Dahlias..Planting and Winter storage 9-16-2011,
Plant some Gladiolus in your Garden, they make Great Summer Flower Arrangements 3-26-2013,
My Peonies Don’t Won’t Bloom 5-16-2011,
Daylilies..Planting, Dividing and Maintenance 8-9-2011,
Daffodils..Planting, Fertilizing and Maintenance 4-8-2011,
Tulips..Planting, Fertilizing and Maintenance 4-19-2011,
Plant Tomatoes DEEP in Full Sun! 5-23-2011,
Neatening up a Rhododendron after it Blooms 6-3-2011,
When designing a perennial garden, it’s all about the shape of leaves 1-15-2011,
How to Plant (Design) a garden. Mass versus Specimen planting 2-17-2011,
Container planted or in the ground, Canna Plants are a Focal Point 3-18-2013,
Colored Foliage adds that WOW FACTOR to a Garden 2-22-2011,
Stagger Plant heights when Planting (Designing) a Garden 2-23-2011,
Designing / Laying out Flower Beds 5-4-2013,
Planting a Garden Room on your Property 2-17-2013,
My Hydrangeas Don’t / Won’t Bloom is a Lament uttered by Many 6-21-2012
Were do l cut the old leaves on an elephant plant ? From the top or the bottom ?
Hi Peter, cut them off as close to the ground as possible without cutting into any of the other leaves that form the main stem. You just want to carefully remove that one leave.
HI, I have just dug and cleaned my elephant ear tubers to store for winter. Do I need to cut the roots off too? or just leave those to dry? Thanks
Hi Billie, I would have left the elephant ears in the ground until they were frost bit, before digging them out. Chop the roots off to a few inches from the bottom of the tuber would be fine. I hope they survive through the Winter for you. There is something about the frost signaling the plant to stop, and readying the tuber for Winter storage. By taking it out of the ground so early, you might have eliminated that step. I dig mine up, at the same time I take up the dahlias and canna tubers. It will be sometime in the end of October for me, here in zone 5-4 up state New York, USA , after the leaves have yellowed and the plant has been hard hit by the frost. Good Luck with your elephant ear tubers. If they don’t make it through the Winter, at least they are not too expensive to replace next Spring.
HI , we’ve had a good frost here in Northern Michigan a few nights in a row which is why I dug them now. The leaves were browning and the stalks getting soft. I have no roots on the bottom of the tubers, they’re all around the tops.
Hi Billie, With the killing frost, you did just fine. Shorten the roots a bit if you want, and as I said in the post cut back the leaves to neaten the plant. Store in a bushel basket if you have one, so the tubers have some air movement around them. I store mine in a garage that is semi heated. I only turn the heat on if the temperatures outside fall below 15 degrees. My bedrooms are over the garages, and i want the floors to be warmer and the pipes not to freeze. The garages never go below 40 degrees any day or night during the Winter.
Hello.. My first ear blooms are coming up from when I planted bulbs. I don’t want to dig them out for the South Carolina winter. How should I prep and maintain until next spring?
Hi there Dorie, I’m guessing???? That you should just cut back the elephant ear to the ground when it is hit by a killing frost and just leave it in the ground. If your soil does not freeze the bulb/tuber should be safe. I would stick a bamboo stick in the ground by the bulb, so you know where it is so you don’t dig or step directly on the spot when the elephant ear plant is not visible. I stick a bamboo stick in the ground to mark off where I plant dahlias, elephant ear plants and cannas. Good luck with you over Wintering of the elephant ear plant.
Thanks for the response. I did that with my banana plant but it didn’t make it ( first year). I mulched it and wrapped the stub. I think it may have gotten too wet this spring though cuz the stump was wet and wrotten at ground level. Anyhoo …. wish me luck!
I planted 3 mammoth elephant ears from the bulbs and 6 of the little ones in may and none if them have come up at all I Even went back to make sure they were still there.lol they r . I usually have no problems with them any suggestions?
Hi there Lisa, are you watering them regularly, even thought they have not sent up leaves. The elephant ear likes a good drink. Are they in full sun? I planted mine all on the same day, around May 1. Some of mine are about two feet tall, others, because of the small size of the tuber-bulb are still small. If nothing comes up, I wonder if the bulb you bought were old and dried out too much. If you have it, mix up some Miracle Gro and water them with that, and see what happens. Could you have planted them upside down? Hopefully the other things in your garden are performing better. Enjoy the rest of Summer, it’s shooting by too fast this year ;-}
My elephant ears have not root yet what do I need to do .com
Hi there Marianne, The elephant ear plant is heat sensitive. When the ground it is planted in warms up enough, to will take off, until that point it will just sit there. So be patient, and wait and see. Don’t over water it, as if it is just sitting in wet soil, the bulb might rot.
I got a elephant in a ceramic planter from a friend it looked terrible.. Sought stems like mushy really..i have had it 2 weeks tried to not water and put outside because their was literally standing water to of soil.. So I have decided to carefully dig it out of pot… The tubers seem ok the biggest had a slush on bottom smelled like rotten eggs… Should I leave out of soil for a bit? Hope its savable I am new to this plant thing discovered I had a green thumb last summer. House you reply
Hi there Miranda, I would say try replanting it in a plastic or clay pot with s few drainage holes in the bottom so water can exit easily after you give the plant a drink. Also don’t have the pot sitting in a tray of water, that will keep the plant too wet. If you have the pot in a saucer, after watering it empty the saucer. Tubers or bulbs smelling like rotten eggs, to me says ROT. Keep the plant outdoors and see what happens. Good luck with your project.
Just planted elephant ear plant (black) in a large container yesterday. Today it is totally falling over and I’m afraid it will break. What should I do? I’ve tried to stake it up with what I could reaily find but t’s dark out now
Hi there Alice, Don’t worry if the leave falls down, soon a new leave will start coming from the center of the plant, and the leave you have will eventually die, and you will be clipping it off. The black leave might even turn a yellow color before you clip it off.
I planted my elephant ear in early June. It is about 4 ft tall and very beautiful. I used a border to contain it. All of the new plants seem to be choking. Could it be the border?
Hi there Louis, it could be the border, but my experiences with the elephant ear is that it never gets really wide, but keeps sending up big leaves, kind of close to the base, one after another. I’ve seen elephant ear plants in containers that have done well with things around them. Being mid August, I would say, leave the plant as it is (if you live in a place that has a frost killing winter), or pull up the border so the plant can expand if you live in an area that is frost free year round. Now, knowing your plants growth habit, you can make changes on how you will replant it for next years growing season. Thanks for you comment :-}
I am trying to split and repot some of my elephant ears. What kind of soil would u recommend. Mine have never grown very big.
Hi there KK, I never tried splitting the bulb/tuber. Each year I replant last years bulbs, that I take out of the dried up paper-skins left from last years growth. I plant mine right in the garden soil. You could put a handful or two of cow manure, or some compost in the hole when planting; a shovel or two of sphagnum moss turned into the dirt would also be helpful. There are different kinds of elephant ear plants. Some do grow shorter than others, and some grow really tall, but you can’t always believe the packaging. I bought one that was supported to grow 6 to 10 foot tall, and it reached about 4 feet. I saw the variety I bought planted in some parks and commercial locations in my area, and their success was no better than mine. The elephant ear plant like full sun (6 plus hours of sun daily) and a good drink. Every few weeks give it a feeding of MiracleGro, that might also help. Happy planting to you, and have a wonderful Summer!
My nursery bought elephant ear is quite large now in ground. Can I pot it for winter and bring it in and enjoy it as an indoor ornamental plant.
Hi there Joyce, if you live in an area that has a cold Winter with frost and freezing, let the plant get frost bit, wait about three or four days and dig up the tuber and store it in a cellar place during the Winter in a paper bag. When Spring comes, pull the dried up outer skin of the tuber from the bulb, and plant it again. Good luck with your plant.
i am wanting to plant my elephant ear in a pot but do not know what size of a pot i should get it is a big bulb
Hi there Carol, I would say you need a pot that is at minimal 12-14 inches wide, and 12-14 inches tall. The elephant ear grows about 30 to 36 inches or taller, and you need something that can anchor the leaves, so the whole thing does not blow over. Also buy a pot that has somewhat slanted sides, nothing that bellies out, as the roots will fill in the container, and at the end of the year you want a pot that you can easily slide the whole thing out of and store it for winter. Good luck with your project, and Happy Spring!
Do they have tubers that spread or will it stay in area planted
Hi there Cecilia, mine just stayed in place. When I bought the tubers they were large sized, but every year of over-wintering them in my partially heated cellar, they got smaller and smaller until eventually they were too small to hold enough moisture to live through a Winter out of the ground My garden is in Up-State New York where the ground freezes solid, but if you live in a southern climate where they can be left in the ground all year, your results might be completely different from mine. Good luck with your Elephant Ears, they are quite a beautiful plant.