Dioscorea elephantipes, commonly known as Elephant's Foot, is one of the most beautiful, weird, and wonderful caudiciform plants. 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 a width of up to 10 feet (3 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
Elephant's Foot is grown as an indoor plant in most climates, and it is relatively easy to grow from seed. The roots are not deep, so plant Elephant's Foot in a shallow pot filled with 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.
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, withhold water completely for about two weeks, then return it to the sunny location and resume regular care.
This can be done from seed. Cuttings are not an option. The seed capsule must be dry before the seeds 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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