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How to Grow and Care for an Elephant's Foot (Dioscorea elephantipes)


Dioscorea elephantipes, commonly known as known as Elephant's Foot, is one of the most beautiful, weird and wonderful, caudiciform plants around! It has a deeply fissured surface, resembling an elephant's foot, hence its common name.

Attractive, heart-shaped vines grow from the corky bark of Elephant's Foot. The starchy tuber, which is partially buried, grows slowly. However, in time, the tuber can reach heights of more than 3 feet (90 cm) and width of up to 10 feet 93 m). With proper care, Elephant's Foot can live as long as 70 years.

Native to South Africa, Elephant's Foot is drought tolerant and does fine in extreme heat. The plant may survive a frost but a hard freeze is likely to kill it.

Growing Conditions and General Care

In most climates, Elephant's Foot are grown as indoor plants, and the plant is relatively easy to grow from seed. The roots aren't deep, so plant Elephant's Foot in a shallow pot, filled with a porous, well-drained potting soil. Water the plant around the edges of the pot and not directly on the tuber. Allow the soil to become nearly dry before watering again.

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If you grow Elephant's Foot outdoors, place it in sandy soil amended with rich, well-rotted compost. Be careful not to overwater.

Elephant's Foot care is simple. Feed the plant with a very dilute (25 percent of normal) fertilizer with each watering. Withhold fertilizer and water sparingly during the plant's dormant period, when the vines turn yellow and die back. Plants often go dormant during the summer, but there is no set pattern or time schedule.

If the vine dries up completely during dormancy, move the plant to a cool place and withhold water completely for about 2 weeks, then return it to the sunny location and resume normal care.


This can be done from seed. Cuttings are not an option. The seed capsule must be dry before seed can be collected. The seeds, which are winged, should be sown in flat seed pans. They should be covered with a sowing medium not deeper than 2 inches (5 cm).



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