re: overwintering ‘Elephant Ears’


Hello, I had a gorgeous Elephant Ears in a patio pot over last summer, & it grew huge in a shaded area. I wanted to save it indoors over winter, but it’s now weak, pale and spindly, and the stems kink over when they reach a certain height. It does get some sun by the window. Should I have just cut it back to the ground and kept the root ball dry and dormant? I hear conflicting recommendations as to whether to dig and save the dormant tuber or to just bring the whole thing intact and indoors for the winter. I keep some clear plastic around it and I do mist it to keep it somewhat humid, part of my ongoing efforts to overwinter some of the larger plants, it seems such a waste to toss them in the fall especially when they look so beautiful by end of the season.


Congratulations on growing an elephant ear as large as that on the balcony.  It must have been very happy there.  Coming inside has naturally given it a shock and elephant ears do tend to go dormant and rest when it gets colder.

There are two possible courses of action, as you already know.  You can save the tubers for next year by cutting the stems off, digging the tubers up, letting them dry out, and keeping them in peat or sand in a cool, dry place until spring.

Or you can soldier on and  hope that the plant recovers gradually.  Cut the stems back to about 6″ (shorter if they are mushy) and water just a little.  When new shoots appear, increase watering a little, and give it a small amount of slow-release general fertilizer once a month.

The trickiest question with elephant ears is how much to water.  Yellowing leaves might be caused by either too much or too little water.  For a large healthy plant 2 – 3 ” of water per week is sufficient., especially given that you are also misting.  Does the pot have good drainage?  These conditions might have changed when you brought it inside.  The soil should be consistently moist but never soggy.  When leaves first start to turn yellow, we naturally tend to water more, but often in fact should water less.  I also wonder if being that close to a large window in the winter is too cold and drafty for it.  Your plastic barrier may help keep out the cold, but perhaps there is still enough light a few inches further away from the window where it will be warmer?

Here is an article from the University of North Carolina which may be helpful:

And another less official article which I found useful:

December 28, 2021