Elephant Ear Plants and Banana Trees with their large leaves add a tropical or coastal feel to our landscape. Grown in ground or in containers these perennials can be enjoyed year after year in our yards.
Their foliage is affected by freezing temps and heavy frost turning their leaves dark brown to black almost overnight, but the underground tuber is not affected on many species – so they are still very much alive!
Only the foliage has died back, the tubers (bulb and root ball underground) are still kickin’. In our climate, the tubers are winter hardy, so removing them from the garden in fall or early winter and replanting them in the spring is not necessary.
Over the past 30 years our area has experienced 2 periods of prolonged excessive cold (consistent low temps in the 20s and teens) that caused serious damage to most Elephant Ears and Banana Trees, resulting in some to not come back. No one can control or guess what Mother Nature will do, but under normal conditions these plants overwinter well.
Overwintering Elephant Ears Tips
– You can prepare them for winter prior to inclement weather when it is more pleasant to work outdoors, or you can wait and cut them back after the foliage turns black.
– Some gardeners believe it is best to let the stems die back naturally versus cutting them which could lead to rot. I’ve done this both ways and have not noticed a difference.
– When cutting the stems off be careful of the milky sap, it can be a skin irritant. My husband discovered this the hard way, he had itchy skin for several days where the sap came in to contact with his skin, whereas it didn’t have that effect on me.
– After cutting or allowing them to die back cover the plant with a small mound of mulch, leaves, grass cuttings – something to help protect it from the cold.
– When spring arrives, remove some of the protective layer so the sun can help heat the soil. Once our soil is 60 to 65 degrees you should see new growth emerging.
Overwintering Banana Tree Tips
– Just like the Elephant Ears you can prepare them for winter prior to the arrival of inclement weather or wait until the foliage turns black.
– Again, like the Elephant Ears, be careful of the milky sap, it can be a skin irritant.
– You can cut each leaf frond from the trunk and then remove the trunk itself or cut the whole tree down fronds intact. (I suggest removing the fronds first if it is a large tree, they can be quite heavy and bulky to move otherwise.)
– Cut the trunk down close to the ground and cover the plant with a small mound of much, leaves or grass cuttings to help protect it from the cold.
– When spring arrives, remove some of the protective layer so the sun can help heat the soil. You will see a new plant emerge from the edge of the tuber once the ground temperature has warmed up to 60 – 65 degrees.
Is your plant drying out every few days? Has it stopped growing completely? It may be time for a new container! Check the roots of the plant by GENTLY removing its existing pot.
You can tell if the plant needs repotting if the roots are:
2) growing together, OR
3) circling the pot.
The new container should be 2-4 inches larger in diameter than the original.
Here’s how you repot:
– Loosen the plant roots carefully but thoroughly.
– Set the plant into the new pot so that the base of the plant (where plant meets soil) is at least one inch below the rim, and then add soil all around it.
– Make sure not to add soil above the base of the plant.
– Water thoroughly.
Camellias are showy plants, offering long lasting blooms during the late fall and winter, lasting well into the spring. Their large flowers brighten up your landscape during those winter months when little else is blooming. The blooms are profuse and cover the entire bush making it the superstar of any landscape.
There are numerous species of Camellias but the most popular varieties grown are Camellia Sasasanqua and Camellia Japonica. These 2 varieties have similarities in their flower color but bloom at different times of the season. Camellia Sasanqua will bloom from late Fall through early January and Camellia Japonica will bloom January through early Spring.
Camellias are known as a shade loving plants, but the Sasanqua can handle some sun. It’s smaller than the Japonica in overall size (6’ tall and wide to 10’ tall and 6’ wide) and has smaller leaves and flowers. Blooms are 3” – 4” in diameter, are sweet smelling and usually have ruffled edges with a burst of yellow color in their center.
Japonicas prefer shade and are taller (12’+ for old mature plants) than Sasanquas. Their flowers boast more petals, are often 5” wide and are stunning. A single bush can have well over 100 flowers for weeks, blooming consistently from January through early spring.
Both varieties offer striation or multicolored blooms, but most camellias bloom in one of three colors – white, pink or red, – in many shades from the palest shell pink to rose pink to bright red.
These slow growing evergreens are relatively care-free. They should only require pruning after they finish blooming. Fertilize at the same time and again in mid-summer. Camellias are prone to Scale and treating yearly with a horticultural spray or drench will help control these pests.
Consider adding camellias to your landscape if you haven’t already. By planting both varieties you can enjoy the “Queen of winter flowers” from late fall through Spring.
Keeping your plant looking healthy year-round takes just a bit of “housekeeping”.
It doesn’t take long for our houseplants to become dusty. This layer of dust will block sunlight and reduce the plant’s ability to photosynthesize and that is how the plant feeds itself. A well-fed plant will be a healthier plant which is less prone to diseases.
How often to clean depends on how much dust you have. Rub your fingers over the leaves – if you feel or see dust, it’s time to clean.
Leaf cleaning options:
– Spray – It’s the easiest but is not the best for all plants. Move the plant to the sink or shower and spray them with lukewarm water. Don’t use hot or cold water, it can injure the plant’s leaves.
– Wipe Leaves – This is the safest method except for sticky or fuzzy leafed plants. Use a damp cloth and wipe the leaves to remove the dust.
– Dust Leaves – If you clean often enough you can remove dust with a duster in between damp cloth cleanings. Dusting will cut down on how many times per year it is necessary to clean with a damp cloth.
– Brush Softly – For sticky or fuzzy leaves gently brush the dust from the leaves.
Trimming plants –
– Get rid of dead, brown or yellowing leaves.
– Some leaves will fall off when touched, others will require cutting with scissors.
– You may want to cut any brown tips, follow the natural contour of the leaves when cutting.
Don’t ignore the Pot –
– Wipe the dust off the pot
– If you have a saucer, rinse it in the sink to remove stains
– Do you have salt or mineral buildup on the pot? If so, it may require removing the plant to thoroughly clean the pot.
Your houseplants will reward your cleaning efforts by looking and growing better.
Is it too late to apply a pre-emergent to my lawn and flower beds since it’s Fall?