The Elephants Foot (Dioscorea elephantipes) is a slow growing succulent that originates from the tropical deserts of S. Africa, it’s main feature is it’s large, corky caudex (living tuber) that can grow up to 6’ in it’s natural habitat and resembles an elephant’s foot (hence the popular name). The plant grows vines with attractive heart-shaped leaves and small yellow flowers – it is dioecious (male and female flowers are produced on different plants) and may die back and regrow several times a year.

Elephants Foot plants are easy to care for:

  • A window sill with moderate to full sun is adequate
  • Keep the plant at around 65F/18C min
  • This plant should NOT be kept damp as with other tropical plants – allow it to *almost* dry out before watering again as over watering will cause them to rot (water well around the edges, do not get water into the point from which the vine will grow)
  • Use dilute (25 percent of normal) fertilizer with each watering

If the vine begins to yellow and die back, limit the water and stop the fertilizer. If the vine dries up stop watering and move plant to a cool place for a couple of weeks, the return to a sunny area and wait for the vine to sprout again.

When repotting use potting soil that is very porous/loose so that there is easy drainage and allow the soil to come up and slightly over the edge of the caudex 1/4″- 1/2″ so that the edges are covered.  Keep in a warm area and wait for the first shoots of the vine to appear. Water regularly from this point on.

Also, seeds are the only way to reproduce (the seedlings caudex forms below ground it will grow much faster if left underground for a couple of years).

NB The Elephant Foot does have a natural dormancy period, having said that many books say that it is a winter grower because it is native to the southern hemisphere, but it is actually an ‘opportunistic’ grower and will grow in all seasons – some plants will be dormant for a couple of weeks and others may be dormant for months, several plants in the same pot can go dormant in different times in other words the plant will go dormant when IT wants to.


(Ed Sienkiewicz/ Top Tropicals)