Elephant ears are lush jungle plants with large green leaves shaped like hearts. While elephant ears can’t be propagated from cuttings like many plants, you can divide the tubers of a healthy parent plant. Do this in the fall, then plant the tubers in containers or store them for the winter and plant them outdoors in the spring. Either way, these hardy elephant ears will make a lovely addition to your home.
Dividing Elephant Ear Tubers
- Dig up your parent plant in the fall for the highest chance of success. For best results, wait until the parent plant starts to go dormant in the fall and the leaves start to die off before removing it from its pot or in-ground location. Dividing the new tubers from the original growth in the fall puts less stress on the parent plant because it won’t be actively growing, giving you a better chance of successfully separating the new tubers without harming the parent plant.
- If you grow your elephant ear parent plant outdoors in the ground and the temperature drops below 40 °F (4 °C) where you live, dig them up in the fall and store the bulbs indoors during the winter. Since you’ll already be digging up your plant, this is a great time to separate the new tubers.
Variation: While it puts more stress on the plant, you can also dig up and divide the tubers at the beginning of the plant’s growing season in the spring. If you want to replant the new growth tubers outdoors immediately, separating them from the parent plant in the spring is the best option
- Soak your tools with bleach to avoid transferring diseases. First, mix 1 part bleach with 9 parts water in a clean bucket. Place your pruning knife and shovel (if you’re using one) in the solution. Let the tools soak in the solution for 30 minutes, then rinse them with clean water before using them to dig up and cut new growth tubers from your parent plant.
- The bleach sterilizes your tools, helping prevent the transfer of any bacterial or fungal diseases that may be infecting your parent plant.
- In addition, you’ll also avoid introducing new bacteria to the parent or new plant that may be lingering on your knife or shovel.
- Remove the parent plant from its pot or in-ground location. If your elephant ear plant is in a pot, carefully grab onto the stems to lift it up out of its pot. If it’s planted in the ground, use your hands or a shovel to dig around the plant to loosen the soil, then grab the stems to lift it out of the ground.
- Dig around your in-ground plant slowly and carefully so that you don’t harm any healthy tubers and roots.
- Select healthy tubers with roots to divide from the parent plant. First, gently shake the plant or use your hands to loosen and brush off the soil so you can see the tubers (bulbs). Then, examine the new growth tubers to see which ones are sprouting roots. As long as the tubers have at least one new root bud or sprout, they’ll likely be able to survive away from the parent plant.
- Choose tubers that don’t have any blemishes or rotten areas, as these may indicate that the plant has a disease that can prevent it from successfully propagating
- Separate the new tubers from the parent plant. Carefully untangle and cut away the new tuber’s roots from the parent plant tuber’s roots. Then, use a sharp knife to cut the new tubers away from the parent plant tuber wherever they intersect.
- Elephant ear tubers have a potato-like texture, making them easy to slice through with a sharp knife.
- You can cut all of the new growth tubers away from the main plant mass or leave some attached if you want the parent plant to grow larger more quickly.
Replanting the Tubers
- Plant the tubers indoors if you want to grow them immediately. You can replant the tubers immediately if you want to put them in a container. Select a large pot with drainage holes and fill it with well-draining potting soil. Make a well in the soil a little larger than the tuber and place the tuber in the well with the pointy side facing up. Lightly pack soil around the tuber and water it gently.
- A mixture of peat moss and sand makes a good soil for elephant ears.
- Keep the tubers in a cool, dark place until spring if you want to plant them outside. If you live in an area with cold winters, store your elephant ear tubers inside until spring. Place each tuber in a separate paper bag and put the bags in a cool, dark place that stays dry until the weather warms up. A basement is often a good choice, as long as it’s not too humid.
- Select a planting location with full sun to part shade. Elephant ear plants are jungle plants, so they do best in areas with plenty of sunlight. Avoid planting them beneath trees or structures that provide lots of shade. Ideally, plant elephant ears in areas that get 6 or more hours of sun per day.
- Choose a location that is sheltered from the wind, if possible.
- Plant the tubers outdoors once temperatures reach 40 °F (4 °C) and higher. If you’ve stored the tubers indoors through the winter or if you live in a warm location, you can safely plant your tubers outdoors. Use a shovel to dig a hole for each tuber that’s about 5 inches (13 cm) deep. Place each tuber inside the hole with its pointy side up. Cover the tuber with soil, then water it thoroughly with the hose.
- For best results, let the soil temperature rise to at least 65 °F (18 °C).
- It may take several weeks for the new elephant ear plant to emerge.
- Space the elephant ears 3–6 ft (0.91–1.83 m) apart. Elephant ears are rather large plants, so each tuber needs plenty of space. Avoid planting them close together, or they’ll fail to thrive.
- Lining your walkway or fence with elephant ear plants has a lovely effect.
- Keep the soil around your plants consistently moist. Elephant ear plants need moist, but not soaking wet, soil. Plan to water your plants each morning after checking the soil with your finger to see if it’s dry about 2–3 inches (5.1–7.6 cm) deep. Water the soil around the base of the plant rather than the leaves
Was this article helpful?