How to Dig Up Elephant Ear Plant: Expert Guide

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Elephant ear plants are a stunning addition to any garden or landscape, with their large, impressive leaves creating a tropical ambiance. When the growing season comes to an end, or if you’re planning to relocate your plant, you may need to remove the elephant ears from the ground to protect the tubers or successfully transplant the plant to a new location.

Learning how to dig up elephant ear plants effectively can ensure their tubers remain healthy and viable for the next growing season. Successful replanting relies on a few key factors, such as timing, proper care, and knowing when to dig up the bulbs. Usually, this process takes place during the fall season when the parent plant begins to go dormant and the leaves start to die off. By digging up and replanting with the right technique, you’ll be able to enjoy the lush beauty of elephant ear plants year after year in your garden or landscape.

Identifying Elephant Ear Plants

Elephant ear plants are known for their large, impressive leaves, and they can be a stunning addition to any garden. In this section, we will discuss the characteristics and different types of elephant ear plants.


Elephant ear plants, scientifically known as Colocasia, are best known for their large, heart-shaped or arrow-shaped leaves. These leaves can grow up to several feet in length and have a distinct, smooth texture. The plant’s color varies, but in general, the leaves are green or tinged with purple. One of the most eye-catching features of elephant ear plants is that their leaves appear to have a shiny or waxy surface, which reflects sunlight and adds a beautiful glow to any garden.

The plants typically grow between 2 to 6 feet tall and require moist, well-draining soil. They also thrive in areas with partial shade to full sun. Elephant ear plants grow from tubers, which need to be dug up and stored during colder months in frost-prone regions.

Types of Elephant Ear Plants

There are several types of elephant ear plants, each with slight variations in appearance and color. Some of the most common types include:

  • Colocasia esculenta: Also known as the “wild” or “taro” elephant ear plant, Colocasia esculenta has large, dark green leaves often with purple veins. This is the most common variety and grows up to 6 feet tall.
  • Colocasia ‘Black Magic’: This striking variety has dark purple to black leaves, with a velvety texture. It adds a unique, dramatic touch to gardens and can grow up to 5 feet tall.
  • Colocasia ‘Mojito’: The ‘Mojito’ variety features large green leaves with purple to black speckles. It can grow up to 4 feet tall and creates an interesting contrast with other plants.
  • Alocasia: Often confused with Colocasia, Alocasia is another genus of Elephant Ear plants. Alocasias have larger, more erect leaves and often have unique markings or patterns on their leaves.

Understanding the characteristics and types of elephant ear plants is essential when it comes to identifying and growing these beautiful plants. With the right care and conditions, elephant ear plants can become a stunning addition to any garden, providing an exotic and tropical ambiance.

How to Dig up Elephant Ear Plants

Best Time to Dig

The best time to dig up your elephant ear plants is in the fall when they begin to go dormant and their leaves start dying off. This increases the chances of successfully propagating and storing the bulbs for the next season source.

Tools Needed

To dig up elephant ear plants, you will need the following tools:

  • A garden spade or shovel
  • Garden gloves
  • Container or bag for storing bulbs after cleaning
  • Scissors
  • Hose

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Locate the plant: Find the base of your elephant ear plant and prepare to dig around it.
  2. Begin digging: To avoid damaging the bulb, start digging a foot away from the base of the plant using a garden spade or shovel. Carefully proceed around the plant, creating a circle to loosen the soil and expose the roots.
  3. Gently lift the plant: Slowly and carefully lift the plant, along with the attached bulb, out of the ground. Make sure to handle the bulb with care to prevent damage.
  4. Clean the bulbs: After removing the plant from the ground, use scissors to trim off any excess roots. Then, lay the bulbs on the ground and rinse them with a hose, avoiding scrubbing so as not to damage them source. A little dirt left on the bulb is acceptable.
  5. Prepare for storage: Allow the bulbs to dry naturally for a short period before storing them in a cool, dry place for the winter.

By following these steps, you can successfully dig up your elephant ear plants and store them for future seasons, allowing them to thrive and multiply year after year.

Preventative Measures

Winter Care

Proper winter care is essential for the health of your elephant ear plant. Before the first frost, dig up the plant’s bulbs to avoid root damage. Dig around one foot away from the plant’s base, and gently lift both the plant and bulb from the soil. If your elephant ear plant is in a pot, no digging is required. Dry the bulbs at 60 to 70 degrees F for two to three weeks after digging them up. There’s no need to add any unnecessary details or descriptions of the process. Plant the tubers about 2 to 3 inches deep indoors approximately eight weeks before the last frost date, and focus only on essential details in your article.

Pest Management

While elephant ear plants don’t usually have significant pest problems, regular inspection and some preventative steps are necessary to maintain a healthy plant:

  • Look for signs of pests such as holes in leaves, yellowing foliage, or a sticky residue.
  • Remove affected leaves and dispose of them properly to prevent the spread of pests.
  • Use natural predators, like ladybugs or lacewings, to control aphids and other pests.
  • Apply neem oil or insecticidal soap sprays to manage infestations.

Remember to keep it brief and straightforward, providing useful information without exaggerating or making false claims. By taking these preventative measures, you’ll be well on your way to ensuring the continued health and growth of your elephant ear plants.

Propagating and Storing Elephant Ear Bulbs

Division Method

Elephant ear plants are propagated through division, which involves separating the new tubers from the parent plant. The best time to do this is in the fall, especially if your elephant ear plant is grown outdoors where temperatures drop below 40°F (4 °C). Start by digging around one foot away from the plant’s base, taking care not to damage the bulbs. Gently lift the plant and bulb from the ground, and rinse them with cool water. Avoid scrubbing the elephant ear bulbs to prevent damaging them.

Storage Tips

Proper storage ensures the survival of your elephant ear bulbs during winter months. Follow these steps to store the bulbs safely:

  1. Dig up the bulbs: Ideally, this should be done before the first frost. Cut down the foliage and carefully dig up the bulbs.
  2. Clean the bulbs: Gently rinse the bulbs with cool water, but do not scrub them.
  3. Dry the bulbs: Allow the bulbs to air-dry for a few hours or overnight in a cool, well-ventilated area.
  4. Prepare for storage: Place the bulbs in a box or container filled with peat moss, sawdust, or vermiculite. Ensure that the bulbs don’t touch each other and are fully covered by the storage medium.
  5. Store in a cool, dark place: A temperature range between 50-60°F (10-15 °C) is ideal for storing elephant ear bulbs. Check on them periodically to ensure they’re not rotting or drying out excessively.

By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to successfully propagate and store your elephant ear bulbs for a healthy growth in the next planting season.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to store bulbs for winter?

After digging up the elephant ear bulbs, allow them to dry and clean off any excess soil. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry, and dark place, preferably between 50-60℉. You can also place the bulbs in a box filled with peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite to help prevent them from drying out too much.

When to dig up bulbs?

It’s best to dig up elephant ear bulbs after the first light frost in the fall. The foliage will have started to yellow or wither, signaling that the plant is entering its dormant stage. Dig carefully to avoid damaging the tubers and ensure that you have a healthy plant to replant in the spring.

When to bring indoors?

If you’re growing elephant ears in a container, bring them indoors before the first frost. Place the pot in a cool room with indirect sunlight, and reduce watering during the winter months. This will allow the plant to enter dormancy and prepare for spring growth.

How to replant elephant ears?

To replant elephant ears, choose a location with well-draining soil and partial to full sunlight. Plant the tubers about 2-4 inches deep with the buds facing upwards. If multiple tubers are being planted, space them about 2-3 feet apart to allow room for growth. Add a layer of organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, to the planting hole to provide nutrients as the plant grows.

Can they stay in the ground over winter?

In USDA hardiness zones 8 and above, elephant ears can stay in the ground over the winter. However, in colder climates (zones 7 and below), the bulbs should be dug up and stored to protect them from freezing temperatures.

Do they grow back annually?

Elephant ear plants are perennial in nature and will grow back each year from their tubers, given the appropriate care and winter protection. The plants will enter dormancy during colder months and emerge once temperatures warm up in the spring.

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