Dioscorea Species, Elephant's Foot, Khoisan Bread, Tortoise Plant

Dioscorea elephantipes

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


Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Vines and Climbers

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


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)

Where to Grow:

Suitable for growing in containers


Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Fall/Early Winter

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

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


This plant is said to grow outdoors 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

San Jose, California

Simi Valley, California

Thousand Oaks, California

Punta Gorda, Florida

Mesquite, New Mexico

Sugar Land, Texas

Spokane, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jul 30, 2016, guyby85 from San Jose, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

About a dozen years ago, I purchased a Dioscorea with a caudex smaller than a ping pong ball from a nursery in Rosemead, CA. Price: $10

It remained in its 3" plastic pot for several years, in spite of a squirrel having eaten most of its caudex the first year. It was in mostly shade for that period and still grew fairly well. I only brought it into the garage on the coldest winter nights, otherwise it was outdoors all year.

Several years ago I gave it a larger terracotta pot with a quick-draining mix and placed it where it gets filtered sun and bright shade. The caudex has grown rapidly ever since, and at this point it's in a 12" round bowl with caudex at least the size of a softball. Just within the last few weeks it has shed last year's growth and is se... read more


On May 24, 2016, bluemeadow from Sugar Land, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I have this growing outside in Sugar Land Texas (near Houston). It is on the west side of the house in an older neighborhood. It loves it here. I treat it like any other plant that grows in the garden. It gets water from the automatic sprinklers. It has flowered a few times as well. They are hard to spot at first, hiding under all those leaves. I have to keep track of its very woody vine stems so I can keep it on a trellis, otherwise it just balls up all over itself. The local green anole lizards love this thing. The only downside so far has been an invasion of the newly arrived Mexican elongate twig ants who love this plant. They don't bother the plant and they generally don't bite people, but they get all over my patio table and try to take it over. These ants also like some of my othe... read more


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!


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.


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.


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 ... read more