Growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area. With a wiener dog.

November 19, 2014

Helping Elephant Ears make it through the winter in Phoenix, Arizona

One of my favorite plants here at The Tropical Paradise in Glendale, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix) is Elephant Ears. The photo is from about three years ago, and they grow well here. In fact, too well sometimes, as I have often had to cut them back and move them.

But they hate cold. They're the first plants in my garden to show cold damage. It's mid-November and it got down into the forties (F) a couple of nights ago and I noticed some cold damage to a plant that I had planted in the front courtyard. It has already gotten droopy and the leaves have turned purplish. It will get to below freezing by late December and January, so that leaves will die back to the ground.

Some years the Elephant Ears just show some mild damage, some years are cold enough to completely knock them to the ground. But the bulbs don't die, they come back year after year. This past year, in fact, so many of them multiplied that I filled a big Home Depot bucket with bulbs and gave them to a friend.

Elephant Ears love water, and they love shade. They do best in the winter when they are crowded together with other plants, sharing warmth. That way the cold only hits the top leaves, which I can trim off later.

My advice is to plant them in a protected area, and keep an eye on the overnight temperatures. Depending on where they're planted in your yard (an open, exposed area is NOT a good idea), they will look fine through the winter. If it gets below freezing, it's a good idea to put some frost cloth over them. I use old bed sheets. Place them lightly over the plants when the sun goes down, and be sure to remove the sheets at first morning's light. That's why I don't have any tender tropicals out front, I do all of this in the privacy of my own backyard.
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