Sandra from Brownwood Texas, asked
"How can you tell which is the top and which is the bottom of an elephant ear bulb?"
For Alocasia bulbs and Colocasia bulbs, each bulb has "eyes" or "sprouts" all around the bulb. Look for an upward pointing apearance of each sprout. That will be a clue as to which end is up. The eyes tend to look like a spade pointing up toward the top end of the bulb. For Colocasia bulbs, they are typicall bought in the stores smooth on the outside and the eyes do readily appear. For alocasia bulbs, (if you can find any) the eyes are under the husk. Peel the husk away from the bulb and notice when you peel the husk from the bulb. One end of the bulb, the husk will be free and you should peel from that end. That end indicates the top end. Peel the husk and you will see the eyes underneath. It is not necessary to remove the husk prior to planting, I only mentioned peeling to give you a clue as to how to see the eyes on the bulb.
Mitch from Long Island, New York, asked
"How do I overwinter my Upright Elephant Ears?"
You can do one of three things.
LINK TO the USDA to find out about your temperature zones and frost times.
First, you can containerize your plants and take them inside your house. Put the plants in a sunny window for the winter. They will grow inside your house depending on room temperature and sunlight. I have seen Upees hit the 8 foot ceiling in a large window facing the southern winter Sun.
Second, you can remove the bulb from the ground or the container you may have been growing the Upee in. Cut off all the green ears back to the top of the bulb. Cut off all the roots. Put it in Newspaper and store it in a cool place. Cool, as in less than 50 degrees preferably. If you can not do that, then it will be ok above 50 degrees, however, you might have small growth on the bulb. Do not do anything with the growth, leave it alone. Next spring, put the bulb back into the soil.
Third, you can leave the bulb in the ground or pot, and cover it up with lots of leaves or straw. If you get lots of cold weather, you must insure the bulb does not freeze. Put it (in a pot) in a basement or barn. If its in the ground, simply cover it up real good with the leaves or straw.
I leave bulbs in pots in the winter here in Arkansas and they will rot if I give them too much water. Let the soil remain dry to slightly moist. A bulb with a healthy root system should be no problem at all.
Jon in Vicksburg MS, asked
"What kind of fertilizer should I use other than compost?"
I use Upee Tea to provide a constant feeding. I lay Cow Manuer on the top surface of the growing beds. I then cover the Manuer with Pine Bark chips to provide a cover up and decoration. As it rains or when I water the Upees, the Manuer, (Upee Tea as I call it) trickles down to the root system and slowly feeds the Upees with Nirtrogen.
Ruth from Enterprise Alabama, asked
"How far apart should Upright Elephant Ears be planted?"
I put each plant at a space that will allow for either display effect or growth. If you plant them far apart from each other, they will grow bigger as they will not compete for the nutrients in the growing beds and their root systems will not crowd each other. They will also have more Sunlight hitting their "ears".
Some of my larger plants are spaced one to two feet apart and they still get very big. I could spread them out and they will get even bigger. I space larger plants in my own landscaping for show, their "ears" touch each other.
Young plants should be spaced so that their "ears" dont touch each other. At such a young age, (refering to their overall height being short and bulb size being rather small), they need all the open area to collect the Suns energy. If young plants are crowded, they will then compete for Sunlight. Put Young plants spaced for growth, not show. This will help the leaves collect the Suns energy for leaf and bulb growth.
Sid & Sue in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, asked
"Can we plant Upees in a pot and place the pot into a water garden or pond, with the pot being submerged in water?"
I understand that Upright Elephant Ears are considered a member of a species of plants that are "Water Plants". I have seen Uprights in water settings and do believe that they will do fine.
The idea of putting the Upees in a pot is always a good idea with any plants in a water garden. That way you can remove the plants when you desire or if they start to look bad.
I would make sure that the potting media is heavy in weight, perhaps lots of sand in the mixture. The potted plant should be heavy enough to permit the pot to sink and stay put. A brick in the pot may help with anchoring the plant.
One thing you must keep in mind is that Upees need to feed on organic material full of Nitrogen (Fish in the pond will help with this). So if the bottom of your water garden or pond does not have lots of nutrients laying on the bottom, you will need to make sure you provide organic material from somewhere. Organic material in the pot is a must. Keep an eye on the potted Upee, if the material you use washes out of the pot then you will have to replace it.
Oxygen is important to any plant, make sure that your pond gets aireated with Oxygen. Splashing of the water will casue Oxygen to enter the water. Get a water fall or a bubble pump. If you have only plants in your pond, you may be able to get a "Liquid Oxygen" suppliment from any plant shop. Read and follow directions!
The size of the Upee might be important. If you have a small plant, you may want to let it and the bulb mature some before introducing it to the pond. I would recommend a minimum bulb size of 2" in diameter, anything less than that may rot. So keep a close eye on it every day. Look for any yellowing of the Ear Stalks. If they seem to be rotting or discoloring, then remove the plant and let it dry out. You may want to even remove it from the very wet media and replace the media.
Upees like to have only three to four Ears. So if the oldest Ear is yellowing, dont panic! Cut it off. If all Ears are yellowing, then remove the Upee from the water. Do not put it back into the water until you have a new set of (3) leaves.
In either case, a good clue that your Upee is happy, is to inspect its root system. If the roots are massive and very white, then the plant is healthy and feeding very well. If the root system is anything other than that, you should keep a close eye on the roots. Look for a loss in mass or browning. If either ocurr, remove the plant and replant it immediately in new soil as the bulb may be rotting.
Keep the plant in the pot as close to the top of the pots rim as possible and keep the rim as close to the surface of the water as possible, keeping the stalks out of the water as much as possible.
One more thing, temperature is very important. Upees do not like their roots to see anything less than 50 degrees F., If you can not maintain your water temperature to this, then you need to remove the plant to a minimum of 50 degrees. Upees will begin to go dormant at this temperature!
David from Kingsport, TN contributed in an email to me regarding this subject--His experiences with Upees have been, that they tend to rot if the water temperature is less than 70 degrees F.. He also said that Upees prefer to not be completely submerged in water, but rather on the waters edge.
My experiences with Upees in containers in the greenhouse is that if I maintain a small amount of water in the bottom of the flats (without holes) and keep the water level rather low so the roots can constantly feed on the water; the plants do much better than the ones that tend to remain wet from top watering.
If any readers have any additional comments, please email me on this subject.
Judy from Kelowna British Columbia, Canada.
I recently moved to a home with an indoor pool, and the plants are thriving in the humidity. This is my first year experiencing them, and love it. I was wondering when the best time to transplant, and seperate the bulbs would be for my area?
Frist off, you have the perfect greenhouse setting for growing your plants. The best time to transplant and seperate depends upon a few things. I will say, if you get good lighting and good temperatures, any time would be alright for Alocasia Macrorrhiza. If you close your pool and the indoor temperatures fall down to 60 or below 50 then perhaps about August where you live would be a good time. I am doing the same thing here and it is now September. You want enough time for the plants to "re-root" after their transplanting before they slow down for winter. But, as I said, if you maintain good lighting and temperatures then go for it, any time.
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