How to Split Elephant Ear Plants

Dividing elephant ear bulbs is a great way of making the most of the showy plants in your garden. Before you split them, ensure they are strong enough to withstand the process.

Elephant ear plants that have spread out into big clumps may take over and compete with other plants for nutrients and moisture. Splitting the plants keeps your garden healthy, and clutter-free, and gives you more space for other plants. Here are the deets.  

Splitting an Elephant Ear Plant

To split the elephant ear plants, you should properly identify the bulbs ready for removal. You will need a shovel or a sharp knife to split the plants.

Ensure the tools are sterilized and clean to prevent the spreading of diseases among plants.

For removal of bulbs from the ground: About 12 inches away from the plant, you should dig a trench 6 inches in a circle around it. Use this trench to search under the elephant ear parent.

With the help of a shovel, dig under the root ball and lift it. The root ball should look like a massive network of bulbs and branches.

Cut the pup from its parent plant and repot the pup into a separate pot. Before cutting the pup from the parent plant, you should ensure that it is mature enough and has an established root system.

Ensuring that the roots are already attached to the pup will greatly increase its chance of survival.

The pup should be replanted in a pot with well-draining potting soil. If you keep the plants inside, you’ll need to water them weekly.

However, if you keep them outside under unfiltered sunlight, you will need to water them once every one to two days until they fully settle in.

Step-by-Step Guide to Splitting Elephant Ear Plants

Elephant ears grow from a bulb that develops into a powerful root system capable of providing water and nutrients to large leaves.

However, elephant ears are not true bulbs. They grow from tubers or corms; although it is common to refer to them as bulbs

Keep reading to learn how to split elephant ear plants in more detail.

Look for Pups that are Ready for Removal

Tropical perennials like the elephant ear plants have the habit of spreading out runners to grow. These runners eventually mature into a pup and grow their root systems.

Once the root system settles in, it’s time to remove and split your elephant ear plant. You can confirm this by clearing some of the soil around the pup.

If you can see a root system, the pup is ready for dividing and is almost guaranteed to survive the process. It will likely grow into a healthy elephant ear plant.

Splitting the Elephant Ear Pup from the Parent Plant

The exact method of splitting the pup depends on whether the parent plant is in a pot or the ground.

…if the parent plant is in a pot

De-pot the parent plant and remove all of the soil around the pup to see if it has a root system. Observing the root system will help you know where to cut.

…if the parent plant is in the ground

Do not uproot the parent plant if it is in the ground. It is much easier to remove the soil around the pup without disturbing the parent plant.

This will help you know where to cut. Your goal in both cases is to minimize the stress inflicted on the parent plant.

Splitting elephant ears in the ground is easier because you don’t have to disturb the parent.

How to Make Cuts into the Elephant Ear Plant         

First things first: get your splitting tools ready. You can use a towel, garden fork, spade, nozzle, or even a sharp knife to get the job done.

We recommend using a garden spade or a sharp knife to split the plant. In some cases, you may be able to split the elephant ear plant with your hands.

Pro tip: Get a pair of garden gloves if you don’t want to get your hands dirty.

Once you have split the pup from its parent plant, clear off any excess soil and prune any dead leaves.

You may want to cut the plants back before replanting. This will minimize any shock that the plant gets from the splitting and transplanting processes.

Replant your elephant ear pups in a similar location or a separate pot.

The splitting process is stressful to elephant ear plants. Make sure the elephant ear plants in California are hydrated to relieve the stress of splitting them.

Provide enough water to penetrate the root of the parent plant.

How to Replant the Elephant Ear Plant Pup

Once you have split the pup, you have two choices for transplanting it:

  • Planting the pup into a pot
    Fill the pot with well-draining potting soil and plant the pup at the same depth as it was before it was divided from the parent plant.
  • Planting it into the ground outside
    Dig a hole about 1 foot wide and 1 foot deep and fill it with fresh soil. Ensure the pup is planted at the same depth as before you removed it from the ground.

In both cases, plant the pup at the same depth they were growing when you first split them. This relieves the stress of dividing them and makes it easier to replant them.

Pro tip: You don’t have to water the pup before it is replanted into a pot or the ground.

What is the Ideal Time to Split Elephant Ear Plants?

The best time to split elephant ear plants is in the Spring and Summer months. This is the ideal time to split elephant ear plants because it’s their growing season.

Do not remove the pups in the winter because the parent plant is in a weakened state. Moreover, do not replant the pup in an area where the temperature is under 8°C.

Elephant ears are tropical plants that grow in warm climates and are usually found in rainforests. They don’t do well in extreme cold and a frost will almost certainly kill pups.

If you live in a cold environment, you may be likely to encounter some frost. Wait until the winter months to subside before trying to split your elephant ear plants.

How Many Elephant Ear Plants Can One Bulb Grow?

Each bulb can develop a robust root system that can propagate many elephant ear plants. Before planting these bulbs, you can test them with your hands.

Those that break away easily are the best ones to plant. Otherwise, you may need a sharp knife to cut them away.

How to Plant Elephant Ear Bulbs in Pots

Fill the pots with potting mix 3/4th of the way up. Now, look at the bulb to see which end is up and which is down.

The upper end has a tiny bump that propagates from the bulb. This will develop into a shoot system. The other end comprises a root disc that allows the roots to develop.

Insert the bulb into the container in the correct manner and surround it with soil until the nub is only two inches under the soil.

Keep the bulb at shallow depths. Burying them too deeply will increase the growth period. Water the bulbs frequently and test the soil to see if they need more hydration.

It may take some time for the bulbs to emerge from the soil. But once they do, you’ll thank yourself for going through so much effort.

Caring for Elephant Ear Pups

For elephant ear pups to grow, they need proper care instructions. They are tropical plants and prefer hot and moist conditions.

As moisture-loving plants, elephant ear pups need a lot of water. Test the soil by inserting your finger into it.

If the soil feels dry, your plant needs water. If the soil feels dry, test the soil again two days later.

If you choose to replant the pups in a pot, make sure to get large containers. This would allow them to achieve maximal size and growth.

Smaller pots will result in smaller growth, which is ideal for smaller gardens.

But if you want more dramatic appeal and a large variety, then choose larger pots. This will help the elephant ear plants reach sizes of more than five to six feet. Now that’s showy!

Make sure to provide each pot with lots of drainage holes so that water can freely flow.

It is recommended to use glazed ceramic pots. However, you can use metal, plastic, and wood containers too.

Avoid using terracotta pots because they are prone to drying more quickly.

Regal Shields Elephant Ear Live Plant - Alocasia

Wrapping Up

So there you have it, a detailed look at how to split elephant ear plants in California. The process isn’t difficult but it does require some planning and knowledge. You should only remove bulbs once they have developed a root system of their own. The best time to split elephant ear plants is in the growing season, such as early spring and summer.

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