Overwintering elephant ears

Athens, OH

The following has been compiled by rox_male from posts made by DGer members who have been so willing to help their fellow Aroid enthusiasts.

I will ask that this be posted as a sticky for future use.
Feel free to add appropriate questions and answers. Alternatively, as the orginator of this post I can edit/add information as appropriate if you Dmail me.

Sources of info:


Athens, OH

1. Which can be stripped of their foliage and lose roots in the winter [bare-rooted]?

Excerpted from BWilliams response:
I will start with the hardest ones and go from there. The ones below labeled hardest; well they are just picky. They like very warm temps nothing under 55F and they should do well. Also they do not like too much water. Just let them dry out between watering. If it does get chilly keep them dry, but they cannot handle it for to long a time.

Hardest to grow for most:
A. brancifolia
A. bullata (guttatta)
A. sinuata bullata
A. amazonica 'Polly'
A. amazonica ‘Purplee'

Fairly easy and all these forms can be put out in the ground for summer:
A. crassifolia
A. culculata
A. Frydek
A. macrorhiza
A. odora
A. Robusta likes it warmer than most and can rot if cool
A. sinuata, large form
A. 'William's Hybrid' [My hybrid of amazonica with macrorrhiza]

Easiest bulbous forms meaning you can store these no leaves no problem
A. cucullata
A. macrorrhiza
A. odora
A. 'William's Hybrid’
A. crassifolia
A. sinuata, large form
A. Frydek
This list is from easiest to hardest. They can all be stored this way but the bottom ones might be harder to wake up. Sometimes they can take some time to come out of a dormant state. Also A. Portdora should be mentioned. It is a very good grower fast big and can take a lot of abuse.

Athens, OH

2. Which EE are relatively easy to care for and which are more difficult? [more complete list than above].

Excerpted from BWilliams response:

Easy = means they do not rot extremely easy and can take some cold and can usually go dormant. Idea conditions for storing up north 38F to 60F; cool humid area kept fairly dry. Watch out for fungus and mold air movement can help; so can Sulfur powder.

OK = means the temps may need to be a bit warmer around 45F to 70F. Rot can get these much easier; they need to be monitored in the winter for this. All of the forms in “easy” and “OK” can be grown in rich soil outside during summer months. Watch for spider mites on leaves and fungus. Bugs can create rot and weaken the plant. Spray a few times during winter months.

Hard = these are not really hard; they just ask for something that is difficult to give them in winter, and that is heat. They do not like their feet to get cold. Most of these will rot from the bottom up. In greenhouses the coldest area is the floor and most plants are sitting or close to the floor. These plants are about as picky as we are. Keep temps 70F to 95F water; regularly watch for bugs. They do well indoors, but do need some bright light. They can rot easily, but usually this is all due to temps being to low. I recommend not putting these in the ground. The temps up north do not stay warm long enough and the ground will cool off. The best they can be grown would be in a greenhouse, in a raised bed with radiant heat.

C. esculenta 'Burgundy Stem'
C. esculenta var. antiquorum 'Illustris'
C. esculenta 'Violet Stem'
C. esculents 'Red Stem'
C. esculenta 'Black Runner'
A. sinuata, large form
A. 'William's Hybrid'
C. antiquorum 'Illustris'
C. esculenta
C. esculenta "Fontanesii"
C. esculenta 'Big Dipper'
A. odora
A. odora 'California' [aka gageana]
A. plumbea 'Metalica'
A. 'Portora'
A. macrorrhiza
A. macrorrhiza 'Borneo Giant'
A. crassifolia
A. cucullata

Xanthosoma jeoquinii linetum
Xanthosoma sagittifolium
Xanthosoma violaceum
C. fallax
C. esculenta 'Bloody Mary'
C. esculenta 'Black Magic'
A. macrorrhiza 'Lisa's'
A. macrorrhiza 'Lutea'
A. macrorrhiza 'New Guinea Gold'
A. clypeolata 'Green Shield'

A. Robusta
A. sinuata bullata
A. cuprea
A. Frydek
A. longiloba
A. advincula
A. amazonica ‘Purplee'
A. amazonica 'Polly'
A. 'Bako Park'
A. brancifolia
A. bullata (guttatta)

Athens, OH

3. How do I store other EE not mentioned above:
Excerpted from Tropicanna response:
X. Lime Zinger: I stored my Lime Zinger in a pot in the basement, on the dry side by a sunny window. It never did go dormant, just grew slowly. It did very well when I planted it out this year and is nearly 3 feet tall.

Excerpted from Henryr10 response:
I just let these go dormant. They stay in their pots, dry, till Spring.
A. amazonica 'Polly'
A. 'Bako Park'
A. longiloba
A. plumbea 'Metalica'

These I do in a 55 gallon vivarium w/ lights.
A. sinuata bullata
A. cuprea
Alocasia clypeolata 'Green Shield'

A. Odora and Macros we have in a GH w/ temps around 60 at night.
They sit on 1 1/2" Styrofoam blocks so their feet stay warmer.
I also don't water until the leaves start to droop. Then VERY lightly.

Exceprted from BWilliams:
A. Hilo Beauty: Well Alocasia Hilo Beauty I am 100% sure is not a Alocasia. It is most likely a Caladium. If not a pure caladium, it could be crossed with a Colocasia or Xanthosoma. I have always over wintered the plant in the greenhouse in a pot. I usually let it get fairly dry. It seems to never really go totally dormant for me but does tend to slow down in winter. I would treat it similar to a fancy leaf Alocasia, but it can handle lower temps and more neglect than most.

This message was edited Oct 3, 2007 9:24 AM

Athens, OH

4. When should I bring in my EE?
Excerpted from BWilliams response:
The fragile alocasias need to go [come in] first, then Caladiums and Xanthosomas. Colocasias and cannas and bananas can take a frost.

Excerpted from Raydio response:
Stop watering now [posted Sept. 8 in reference to Colocasias in Wichita, KS Zone 6a] (if you haven't already) to help them go dormant. When they have pretty much yellowed out and maybe before the first frost, dig the ones you want to move and let them finish drying in a warm dry airy place. Let the foliage shrivel and dry.

Athens, OH

5. How do you prepare the EE for storage?
Excerpted from Henryr10 response:
Don't wash the bulbs. Knock of the majority of the dirt. After they dry out gently brush off the excess dirt. You want them dry before storage.

Athens, OH

6. How do I store bare-rooted EE?
Excerpted from BWilliams response:
If it is a dry area you will see them dry rot as the moisture is pulled right out of them. I would suggest something around the bulbs tubers or roots to help prevent this. As you notice stores sell tubers in plastic bags with sawdust this is for the same reason. The plastic holds in moisture and the sawdust keeps the bag from sweating too much and causing wet rot. It’s a fine line we have to walk here, and everyone has different situations. I have done well with plastic containers with powdered sphagnum moss over the tubers. Sometimes tubes can touch each other and sweat and cause rot. Sulfur is a good preventive; so is cinnamon (yes I said cinnamon).

Excerpted from Tropicman response:
I have been successful with the alocasia, Xanthosoma and the Colcasias, overwintering along with my cannas. I buy those clear blanket boxes, with the plastic lids, fill with peatmoss, and just bury them [EE] under the peatmoss. About every month or so I give them a check to see it there ok. If they are a little on the dry side, take a spray bottle of waterand give a few squirts. If it seems to be to moist, then I leave the lid off for a while.I store them in the garage, unheated, but covered with old blankets and quilts bought at garage sales.
Now these have been nice size bulbs a couple inches across in diameter; can't say with the smaller bulbs, which I always keep growing on.

Those large clear blanket boxes allow at least 6 inches of peat moss.
I dig the bulbs, let dry under shade tree couple 2 or 3 days. I remove as much as the dirt I can shake off, cut stems about 4 inches above the bulb. I sink them down in the peat moss as If I were planting in the ground top up. Peat moss is dry, as it comes right out of the package.
Remove the roots, for they are no longer any good anyway. When EE starts to grow again,it will grow new roots. Keep lid tight. I stack boxes one right on top of another;stack as many as 4 high. Keep in the garage, in a corner. As the temps get colder, or if it looks as the gargae will get below 32F, I then cover with the blankets and quilts. Check monthly. If they seem to be getting lighter in weight, as if they might be starting to dry out, I squirt the peat moss with water from a spray bottle -not real wet but moist enough to stop the drying process.

Make sure you keep a eye on them at least once a month, and if you see any soft spots or mushy spots, rub or cut them off immediately, for they will take over the entire bulb, if you give them enough time.

Excerpted from Tigerlily123 response:
I cut off almost all the leaves (maybe all but the newest ones) cut off the roots to about an inch from the corm, set them in large pots that had slightly damp peat moss, semi-buried the corms in the peat moss, and set them under the house in the crawl space. I don't know how cold it gets under there, but I do remember that in late November the temps dropped to 17 degrees a few nights in a row. At the same time, my heater broke and I had to wait a week for them to get a new one and install it. So it must have been pretty cold under there, and yet the corms didn't look like anything cold happened under there at all. I can tell you that it was pretty cold in here! I have an inset in the fireplace, so I was able to keep parts of the house fairly warm, but I bet it was a lot colder underneath the house. In January, I brought them out and into the greenhouse to start growing them out, and they grew fine all spring. I also kept some in pots in the greenhouse thru the late fall/winter and they just sort of sat there until Feb or so when they started to kick in. I stored both very large and very small corms and they all grew.

Athens, OH

7. At what temperature should I store my EE?
The area should be cool, not hot not cold but cool to chilly. This keeps the plants in a dormant state and saves them from using energy, and that keeps the tubers healthy and large. 38F to 60F is perfect.

If you cannot do this keep them growing. But keep them growing hot around 65F to 80F at least and feed some.

Now if you have a greenhouse or a structure that gets cool at night and heats up a bit during the day like a greenhouse, water every few weeks and allow drying between. I water early in the morning and by night when cool temps come it is dry or close to it. This helps prevent rot. Another problem with rot is bugs. But this is a whole other story but keep a eye out for white fly's and spider mites a lot of you might have them and not know it they can drain energy out of the plants not to mention the larva on some eat tubers. OK well hope this answered the questions. So yes you can store them dry but the roots must be covered or protected.

Athens, OH

8. What do I do if my EE get rot?
Excerpted from BWilliams response:
Clean the tuber out use some deluded chlorox and remove infected parts. Place sulfur on it and allow it to dry for a day or two, then put back into container. This is used in extremely hard tubers like Amorphophallus.

Athens, OH

9. What do I do if my EE have pests?
Excerpted from Henryr10
I use Safer Insecticidal Soap on everything but Succulents and Cactus and never had a problem. Just be VERY sure you keep them out of the Sun [until the soap dries – Added by rox_male]. Scale, Mites and aphids all gone.

Excerpted from Grow_Happy
One of my Alocasias grown indoors got spider mites and the leaves looked like that. I used Neem oil over the course of several weeks and those critters were never seen again.

Excerpted from rox_male
Colocasia leaves are super sensitive to many chemicals.
If you use Safer Soap, use it at night or protect the plant from light for several hours.

If things get really bad, I also like to take the plant into the shower (for water sensitive plants you can cover the pot to prevent too much watering). Dowse the leaves with lots of water. Then spray the leaves with Safer Soap and use a paper towel to clean each leaf. Then spray more Safer on and let sit in the humid room overnight. Repeat in 7 days, every 7 days until infestation is gone.

1. If protected from light, Safer seems to do a good job w/o leaf burn.
2. Individually washing each leaf helps ensure you get all surfaces.
3. Spraying additional Safer ensures no hiding in the nooks and crannies (especially at the base of the leaf stems)
4. The humidity also heps get rid of the pests and the EE love humidity.

Athens, OH

10. Do I have spider mites?
Excerpted from Mike_Freck
They are [spider mites] almost microscopic but you can see the effects. Slight cobwebbing on bad infestations and yellowing of the leaves as if they had been pricked with a tiny pin all over. If you have sensitive fingers when you feel the leaf it will feel gritty or dusty.

Excerpted from Grow_Happy
Have you tested the plant by holding a white piece of paper underneath a leaf and giving the leaf a firm tap? If you see little dots fall to the paper and start moving around, you do have spider mites. One of my Alocasias grown indoors got spider mites and the leaves looked like that. I used Neem oil over the course of several weeks and those critters were never seen again.

Athens, OH

11. How do I wake up my EE?
Excerpted from Henryr10

I give my EE's, Caladiums and other 'warm' bulbs a jump start by putting them in the furnace room. Once they peak out or the soil I throw them in the GH (which has great sun but minimal heat).
Forget any new significant EE growth (at least w/ the most common Colocasia) outdoors until you're getting temps in the mid 60's at night. They will pretty much just sit there.

Excerpted from Tropicman
[If storing in boxes with peat moss]
St. Patricks Day, I pot them up for an early start. There kind of like a potato, so why not plant at the same time as you would your potatoes? Cover with a foot high of straw as a mulch, then a layer of plastic over the straw to help warm the soil. A reminder, when you plant in the ground that early in March, you best have a good draining soil or they might rot. If you have a clay soil do a lot of amending.

Excerpted from LariAnn
When I prepare a tuber for planting (which is almost year round where I am), I use a product called Pro-Tech; the link is below:
[[email protected]]

This is also a great product for cleaning/sterilizing pots, trays, and other areas that might accumulate pathogens, such as your potting bench, plant benches, greenhouse floor, and tools. Unlike Clorox, it can even be mixed to use as a soil drench if you think something might be rotting but don't want to unpot for fear of disturbing the roots.

After treating with Pro-Tech, I will dust any raw areas with cinnamon; it is important, BTW, to remove any rotted tissue material so you have only good solid healthy tissue before treatment with Pro-Tech and application of cinnamon powder.

This message was edited Sep 25, 2007 5:06 PM

NE, KS(Zone 5b)

This is good stuff, Rox. THANK YOU! I know it took a lot of time to organize all that information. I appreciate your effort! Thanks to everyone for offering their experiences/techniques! And I think this should be a sticky up there with Brian's "How to Identify!"

Crosbyton, TX(Zone 7a)

thank you thank you:)

now could you do one for gingers?? (grin)

Bushland, TX(Zone 6a)

Excellent.....I see the makings of a great book here!!!!

Richmond, TX(Zone 9a)

Rox, this is absolutely excellent. I think this thread itself shoud be a sticky, I am going to request it. Thank soooo much for compiling/sharing

West Central, WI(Zone 4a)

Thanks so much. I was just starting to think about how I would overwinter things this year. I've tried several different methods for various bulbs that I need to lift, and while some make it....others don't. This will help immensely.

Miami, FL(Zone 10a)

The idea of using cinnamon powder to dust cut or raw areas to fend off rot is an excellent one. I use it and it also smells nice!

When I prepare a tuber for planting (which is almost year round where I am), I use a product called Pro-Tech; the link is below:

This is also a great product for cleaning/sterilizing pots, trays, and other areas that might accumulate pathogens, such as your potting bench, plant benches, greenhouse floor, and tools. Unlike Clorox, it can even be mixed to use as a soil drench if you think something might be rotting but don't want to unpot for fear of disturbing the roots.

After treating with Pro-Tech, I will dust any raw areas with cinnamon; it is important, BTW, to remove any rotted tissue material so you have only good solid healthy tissue before treatment with Pro-Tech and application of cinnamon powder.


NE, KS(Zone 5b)

Thanks LariAnn, I use peroxide sometimes, directly or diluted and poured on the potted plant... I'll check out the bio-plex link, though.

Sumner, WA(Zone 8a)

This is a great help! Thank you for all the information.


Downers Grove, IL(Zone 5a)

Outstanding information -- and just when I need it. I appreciate the amount of effort that went into collecting this in one spot for easy reference. Thanks for your hard work!

ipswich, United Kingdom(Zone 9a)

Do aroids benefit from a winter hibernation, or do they do better if they are kept growing all year around?

Birmingham, AL(Zone 7b)

I would like to know that answer also.

I have been growing some Alocasia's in my spare bedroom that has one window facing the Southwest. I've had good luck so far growing in this room. Plants have been in there since late September. The room stays the same temp as the house, around 68 during the day and 65 at night. I've kept the soil pretty moist. I also have one 40 watt grow light at the top of the window.

My question is am I setting myself up for rot? Or does it sound like I'll be fine? I get new qrowth weekly from these plants.

Here are a list of some of the EE's I've been growing in that room:

A. Calidora
A. Gigantea
A. Polly
A. Argentea
C. Illustris
C. Midnight

Miami, FL(Zone 10a)

In my experience, Alocasias do best if you keep them growing rather than making them go dormant. When keeping them growing, two important considerations are to keep them from being too moist, and to hold up on the fertilizer. If your daytime temps are not in the upper 70s/low 80s, the plants will not grow very fast, so they don't need fertilizer to any extent. My familiarity with Alocasias tells me that a forced hibernation offers no benefit to them; the benefit is to the grower who doesn't have the space or the means to keep them growing. That you can do it doesn't necessarily mean that you should do it.

When space is tight, I slow mine down by withholding most fert and watering less. This keeps them "awake" but encourages slow growth. In Spring, when you can turn them loose in the garden, you'll have a great head start on the season.


Effingham, IL(Zone 5b)

I've been growing my A. 'Brian Williams' all winter in my kitchen. It's sitting in front of a 6 foot wide sliding door and has done fine for the most part. It has started losing most of its leaves due in part I think to the extremely cold weather we had here in IL about two or three weeks ago. The leaves look like they got burned but overall the plant is still alive and doing better than I had actually hoped. All of my other plants like my philos and "Walmart" pine have been growing leaps and bounds in this same spot. But my 'Brian Williams' was closest to the window and the cold glass may have burned it I'm guessing. I've always had some trouble keeping the more finicky Alocasias growing all winter except for the really tough types like 'Portodora' and odora. Looks like I can add A. 'Brian Williams' to that list. It's one of my favorites too! And I hate storing elephant ears for the winter. If I don't keep them growing I usually lose them, no matter if it's Alocasias or Colocasias.

Birmingham, AL(Zone 7b)

I would also like to know that answer. I have some Brian Williams Hybrids that I keep in room that stays around 80 degrees with lots of light and I just started having the same problem. Only with the Williams, not any other of my Alocasias. I think mine might of been a result of to much watering. I've cut back on the water and they seem to be doing better.

Hartsville, SC

What a wonderful wealth of knowledge this thread has been for me.

thanks to everyone.

Winnipeg, MB(Zone 4a)

Awesome thread, Rox_male!! Fantastic collection of everyone's tips! Thanks!!
:) Donna

Athens, OH

Some comments:
The following overwintered well for me last year as bareroots in peat moss:
Colocasia Fontanesii; Pink China
Alocasia gageana, macrorrhiza
Xanthosoma Saggitifolia, violaceum, robusta

The following did not do well as bareroots in peat moss:
Colocasia Red Stem, Chicago Harlequin - the corms were small (< 1" diameter); I lost most to dry rot.
Most of my Hawaiian taro; C. miranda - the stems/corms had too much moisture and I lost many due to "wet" rot


NE, KS(Zone 5b)

Donna thanks for reviving this thread.. Rox, so appreciate your continued dedication and sharing your trials with us. I stored P.China just laying "naked" in a cardboard beer flat in the basement with some amorph bulbs... stayed above 50 all winter down there, and I covered the flat with a newpaper to keep the bright light from them.

Craryville, NY

One question now: Do I cut down the stalks and leaves before storage? How far above the bulb should it be cut to? Many thanks!

Thumbnail by morrigan
Himrod, NY(Zone 6a)

Oh Morrigan thanks for asking that question. I too need to know.

Chesapeake Beach, MD

I usually cut mine back, leave them in their pots and put them in the basement, watering sparringly.

Xanthosoma S.
Macro.. Thailand Giant
Tea Cups

Is this ok?

Himrod, NY(Zone 6a)

Super! But how about the ones we planted in the ground.? Last year I just threw them in a tub with some soil and tried to water them once and a while but I don't remember what I did to their tops.


Craryville, NY

Joyous: thanks I need to know that too, since all my EE's were planted in the ground!

Athens, OH

I plant mine in the ground.

See Sept. 7, 9:15 post.

Basically I uprooted the EE just before a hard frost. Took off the dirt and threw them on the garage floor for several weeks until the leaves and stems dried up. Them I chopped off the dead foliage and put them in plastic containers with shredded peat moss.

A problem was that it warmed up and the uprooted colocasias (not Xanths or Alos) tried to grow again. I had issues with fungus and moisture in the plastic containers.

I think the container methods works if the EE really are dormant and the residual moisture in the stems is gone.
For most colocasia, where I had problems, I think storing them bare rooted in an open container or in a pot with dry soil would be better.

Himrod, NY(Zone 6a)

Rox, thanks so much! Just dug mine today about 2 dozen. We are expecting 25 degrees tonight!

Not sure about our garage floor but that I can figure out. The ones in pots DH is taking to his shop because he says it doesn't freeze in there. I will let the frost get them and then worry when it begins to get real cold like it can and does here.

I do have an Alocasia from Annaz and I am trying to keep that alive in the house in our washroom.

Do have an Africian mask that I dug, not too worried about that.......it didn't do anything really out side. The most I had was 3 leaves on it.

thanks again,

Athens, OH

In my experience, the African masks are sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and watering.

This is one that I overwinter routinely in a pot. Don't overwater!

Here is an interesting article on container plants. I use the potting soil recipe and this year I am trying the wick to prevent wet feet.


Canton,IL &Dent Coun, MO(Zone 5b)

ok...what if mine's grown in the house all year long? they both sit in front of huge picture windows....No drafts cause the house is practically air tight...didn't realize that until the brugmansia and datura started blooming (they were promptly moved outside), and my Black Magic does not like to be dry at all...it starts getting even a little dry and it starts falling down

Athens, OH

What's the specific issue?

Some EE grow perfectly happy as house plants. Others need air circulation or higher humidity.

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