Elephant Ears should definitely be on your list if you’re seeking an impressive and unique plant to add to your garden. These large-leaved plants are known for their heart-shaped or arrow-shaped leaves and come in various colors, including purple, lime, or dark green leaves. One question many gardeners have is, do Elephant Ears spread and come back year after year?
The answer is yes, they can be perennials in some regions, but it depends on several factors. First, they are tropical plants and thrive in warmer climates. They prefer moist soil and partial shade, although some species can tolerate full sun.
They may not survive freezing temperatures in colder climates and require special care to overwinter. The Elephant plant can be grown from tubers, which should be carefully dug up and stored indoors during winter to avoid freezing where the tuber stays dormant.
In our guide, you can learn more about the perennial purple elephant ear plant. By the end, you’ll better understand your perennial elephant ears and how to care for them as temperatures drop until the active growing season starts. (Read Do Hibiscus Need Full Sun)
What are Elephant Ears?
Consider elephant ears if you’re seeking a plant to add a tropical touch to your garden. These plants are known for their large, heart-shaped leaves that resemble the ears of an elephant, hence their name.
Elephant ears are a genus of plants called Alocasia and Colocasia plants, native to tropical regions of Asia and Polynesia and grown as a food crop called taro. They are part of the Araceae family, which includes other popular houseplants like peace lilies and philodendrons.
The leaves can grow up to three feet long and two feet wide and come in various colors and patterns, including green leaves, purple, and variegated. Elephant ears perennials and grow up to six feet tall in ideal conditions.
Are Elephant Ear Plants Perennials or Annuals?
If you’re considering some elephant ear plants, you might wonder if they are perennials or annuals. The answer is it depends on where you live and the species of elephant ear you’re planting. Elephant upright elephant ears are tropical plants that prefer mild winters; some species of elephant ears can be grown as perennials. However, in colder regions, they are hardy in zones 9-11.
There are three main species of elephant ears: Colocasia, Alocasia, and Xanthosoma.
- Colocasia esculenta is more hardy in zones 8-11.
- Alocasia macrorrhiza are sensitive to cold and typically grow annually in colder regions.
Do Elephant Ears Go Dormant?
During the winter, upright elephant plants go dormant. They are tender perennials and cannot survive freezing temperatures.
In colder climates, it is essential to harvest elephant ears by digging up the tubers before the first killing frost freezes the soil. Elephant ears perform best in tropical climates, where they can grow as unusual plants.
They tolerate wet soil but not wet feet, making them ideal for water gardens. Upright elephant ear leaves and ears, like the purple elephant ear plant, are susceptible to spider mites, while the lime green elephant ear is more resistant.
It is crucial to dig them up carefully to care for elephant ears during the winter months. Remove the soil from the roots and cut back the leaves. Allow the tuber to dry for a few days before storing it in a plastic pot or grocery bag in a dark place with temperatures above 50F.
When planting elephant ears in the spring, fill a pot with dry potting soil. The soil should remain moist but not wet. Add slow-release fertilizer and mix in peat moss to improve drainage. Place the pot in part shade or filtered sun, where the elephant ear can receive indirect light. Elephant ears can remain in the ground throughout the year in frost-free climates.
Do You Have to Dig Up Elephant Ears in the Fall?
One of the most common questions regarding elephant ears is whether you have to dig them up in the first fall frost yet. The answer depends on where you live and the specific variety of elephant ears you have. In warmer climates, some elephant foliage plants and ear tubers are hardy in zones 8-11 and can be left in the ground year-round. However, the elephant ear plants tubers must be dug up and stored for cold climates. (Read Do Calibrachoa Come Back Every Year)
How Cold Can Elephant Ears Tolerate?
Elephant ears are tropical plants that prefer warm and humid climates. They are not frost-hardy and cannot tolerate freezing temperatures. Elephant ears can tolerate temperatures above 70°F (21°C) and will suffer cold-induced injuries when temperatures drop below 50°F (10°C).
If you live in a region with cold winters, you must take special care to protect your elephant ears.
Here are some tips on how to keep your elephant ears safe during the winter:
- Bring them indoors: If you have potted elephant ears, you can bring them indoors before the first frost. Place them in a warm, bright location, like a south-facing window, and water them sparingly.
- Mulch the soil: If elephant ears are planted in the ground, you can cover the soil with a thick layer of mulch before the first frost. This will help insulate the roots and protect them from freezing.
- Cover the plants: You can also cover your elephant ears with frost blankets or burlap to protect them from freezing temperatures. Remove the covers during the day to allow sunlight and air circulation.
- Dig them up: If you live in a region with very cold winters, you must dig up your elephant ears and store the tubers indoors for the winter. To do this, wait until the first frost has killed the foliage, dig up the Elephant ear bulb and save Elephant ears in a cool and dry location, like a basement or garage.
Do Elephant Ears Come Back In The Spring?
If you’re wondering whether elephant ears come back every year, the answer is yes, they do. Elephant ears are perennial plants to survive through the winter in warm climates. However, they are tender perennials in cold climates and may not survive freezing temperatures.
Elephant ears are winter hardy in zones 9 and above, but if you live in a colder climate, you will store the tubers indoors during the winter months or treat them as annuals. To keep your elephant ears alive during the winter, carefully dig up the tubers before the first spring frost and store them in a cool, dry place until the next growing season.
When growing elephant ear plants, providing them with the right growing conditions is crucial. Elephant ears prefer moist soil and part shade or indirect light. They can tolerate full sun, but their leaves may scorch in direct sunlight. It’s also vital to ensure the soil remains moist but not waterlogged to prevent root rot.
To help your elephant ears grow and thrive, you can use slow-release fertilizer and dry potting soil. Elephant ears spread quickly and can grow up to 8 feet tall, so ensure enough space to grow.
Elephant ears are known for their large, arrow-shaped leaves and green foliage. Some elephant ear species can also bloom with flowers that resemble calla lilies. With the proper care and growing conditions, these elephant ears bloom, and ear plants can be a beautiful addition to your garden year after year. (Learn How Fast Do Elephant Ears Grow)
Can You Leave Elephant Ears Out All Winter?
If you live in colder regions, it is best to dig up the tubers and store them indoors for the winter.
To overwinter your elephant ear tubers indoors, follow these steps:
- After the first frost, carefully dig up the tuber from the ground, not damaging it.
- Cut off any remaining foliage and let the tuber dry for a few days.
- Store the tuber in a container filled with dry peat moss or vermiculite.
- Keep the container in a cool, dark place, like a basement or garage, where the temperature stays between 45-55°F (7-13°C).
- Check the tuber occasionally throughout the winter to ensure it is not rotting or drying out.
By following these steps, you can ensure your elephant ears will come back healthy for the next growing season.
How to Plant Elephant Ears
If you want to add a touch of the tropics to your garden, planting elephant ears is a great way to do it.
These plants are known for their large, lush green leaves and come in various colors and sizes. Here are the steps to plant elephant ears:
- Location: Elephant ears prefer moist soil and indirect light. They can grow in water gardens but also do well in soil. Choose a location that gets partial sun or filtered shade.
- Prepare soil: Upright Elephant ears prefer well-draining soil rich in organic matter. Mix peat moss and lime into the dry soil to create a slightly acidic environment. If you are planting in a container, use a plastic pot with drainage holes.
- Plant tuber: Elephant ear tubers are underground stems that store nutrients. Plant the tuber with the pointy end facing up and the flat end facing down. Cover the tuber with dry soil, leaving the top of the tuber just below the soil surface.
- Water plant: Water the plant thoroughly after planting. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. If you are planting in a container, ensure the pot has drainage holes and that excess water can drain away.
- Plant Care: Elephant ears are tropical plants and prefer warm, humid conditions. If you live in a cooler climate, you can grow elephant ears indoors by planting the tuber in a pot and keeping it in a warm, humid location. Living in a tropical climate, you can grow elephant ears outdoors year-round.
- Watch for growth: Elephant ears will sprout in a few weeks. As the plant grows, it will produce new leaves that are lime green in color. The leaves will turn darker as they mature.
- Fertilize plant: Elephant ears are heavy feeders and will benefit from regular fertilization. Use a balanced fertilizer and follow the instructions on the package.
How to Care for Elephant Ears
If you want to grow elephant ears in your garden, knowing how to care for them is crucial. Here are some tips to help you keep your elephant ears healthy and thriving.
Elephant ears need consistent moisture to grow well, but they don’t like to sit in wet soil. Underwatered plants lead to yellow leaves.
Elephant ears are heavy feeders and benefit from regular fertilization. Use a slow-release fertilizer every few weeks during the growing season.
3. Pest Control
Spider mites can be problematic for elephant ears, especially in hot, dry weather. Keep the leaves clean and free of dust, which can attract pests.
In colder climates, elephant ears are often grown as flowering annuals and must be dug up and stored for the winter. (Learn How Long Does Wheat Take To Grow)
Elephant ears are easy to care for and add a dramatic touch to any garden. Whether you’re planting them in partial shade or full sun, in part shade, peat moss elephant ears and other summer bulbs with these tips will stay healthy.