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PlantFiles: Elephant's Foot
Dioscorea elephantipes

Family: Dioscoreaceae
Genus: Dioscorea (dy-oh-SKOR-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: elephantipes (ell-uh-fan-TY-peez) (Info)

Synonym:Testudinaria elephantipes

One vendor has this plant for sale.

21 members have or want this plant for trade.

Tropicals and Tender Perennials
Vines and Climbers

under 6 in. (15 cm)
6-12 in. (15-30 cm)
12-18 in. (30-45 cm)
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Bloom Time:
Late Fall/Early Winter


Other details:
This plant is suitable for growing indoors
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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4 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive EvilPlot On Mar 7, 2012, EvilPlot from Calgary , AB (Zone 3a) wrote:

Was gifted some seeds for this last summer, and started them outdoors in a pot. Out of 3 seeds sown only 1 survived to grow to a seedling.

Taken them indoors about a couple of weeks before 1st frost. In the brief initial growth spurt the stem (caudex) grew from barely visible to about 0.5cm diameter, with 2 leaves.

The growth kinda slowed down with the indoor lighting (basement, overwinter light setup), hope it'll grow more in the spring!

Also known as Hottentot's Bread as the caudex contains starchy goodness that's edible and prized by said tribe. I won't eat mine, I don't think :) incredibly cute caudiciform plant!

Positive susansexotics On Jul 4, 2009, susansexotics from Spokane, WA wrote:

This is a hearty plant and interesting conversation piece. The vines grow rapidly and last year it was well over 6 feet in vine length with branching. The roots do come out the side and if you don't check it you won't notice that there are new ones to cover. We keep ours in a clay pot outdoors in semi-shade in summer and indoors in winter {as it snows here} with indirect lighting and it has done well and is healthy.

Positive Gourd On Oct 2, 2007, Gourd from Mesilla Park, NM wrote:

I've had a very interesting experience with this Elephant Foot, it was inside during the winter months, as soon as it was warm, It went outside. It started to grow a stem, then the hail decapitated at about 3 ft tall, where it then grew another stem. Within one year's time here, it has grown up into a tree and is now blooming. I LOVE this plant.

Positive palmbob On Nov 19, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

THis is a cool looking plant- like a tortoise shell with vines growing out of it. When I first got to know this plant I assumed it was too tender to grow outdoors in So Cal, that it would rot in the cold winters. Turns out it does pretty well here. I have seen one in the ground in Huntington Botanical Gardens. It's a great pot plant and curiosity item for the 'weird' gardners, and the vines are attractive in the summers (loses most leaves and vine in the cold winters, unless well protected).

Just be sure it's planted or potted in very well draining soil. Also, roots come out the SIDES of this plant ONLY... not the bottom, so be sure you plant it a bit into the soil or it will just sit there ( a common mistake). Also this is the reason you don't plant it in a deep pot (no need, just more chance for rot) or a pot that it barely fits in... need at least a few inches all around sides of this caudex and the sides of the pot. This plant has small leaves of up to 1" in diameter. Please note the difference between this and the more common Dioscorea macrostachys of the same common name.

That other species of plant (D macrostachys) has much larger leaves of diameter 3-4" on the average, and produces much longer, extensive vines (sometimes over 20' long). And more importantly, Dioscorea macrostachys is NOT hardy in southern California and rots incredibly easily if not watered very carefully.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Phoenix, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Bonsall, California
Casa De Oro-mount Helix, California
Fresno, California
Garden Grove, California
Pasadena, California
San Diego, California
Simi Valley, California
Thousand Oaks, California
Mesquite, New Mexico
Spokane, Washington

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