Dioscorea elephantipes The Elephant-Foot Caudex Care & Culture

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Species Name: Dioscorea elephantipes

Origin: South Africa

General Care & Information about Growing Dioscorea elephantipes

Growth Period & Dormancy: I live in Canada and have found the active growth period for this plant to be from January or February thru until about mid July. In 2017 it started its growth about the beginning of October so that dormancy kind of kicks in an out when the plant feels it’s necessary. I try to leave it in dormancy for about half the year only watering lightly, though I have read that dormancy should be shorter. When I see signs of new growth after dormancy (a spike starting out of the top of the caudex) I’ll increase watering to a full soil drench once per week. After active growth, when the green stems have browned and the leaves have died, I’ll cut off old growths back to the bulb.

Substrate: I use a blended media that is 50% inert material. About half of the potting media is rock, grit, sand, pumice and perlite to about 20% peat, 20% bark, and 10% worm castings.

History of my plant: This plant was started from seed around 2010; the other siblings died off due to neglect over the years, but this one had a succulent growing in the top soil so I was more diligent about watering whenever the succulent started to shrivel. Now my watering practice is a little better and I don’t let it go to dry for more than a few weeks at a time when dormant. During the first 3 years, I left the bulb completely under the substrate, then I unearthed it a bit to see how it was doing. In 2017, I re-oriented the plant so the bulb is nicely centered at the top, in the middle of the pot.

Potting Styles: I have seen a few styles to pot Dioscorea elephantipes that favours their vining nature. I currently just let my plant to hang over the side of a very long pot; however, some more aesthetically pleasing options I’ve seen include a wired loop or a chopstick canopy. I’ll post a couple photos from instagram:

Dioscorea elephantipes Trained Canopy Style

Dioscorea elephantipes Trained Canopy Style #2


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Dioscorea elephantipes Trained Loop Style

For more information about growing the Elephant Foot Caudex:

Dioscorea elephantipes according to Botanic Wonders

Repotting Dioscorea elephantipes

Growing Dioscorea elephantipes from Seed

As mentioned, I started my plant from seed. Seedling care is mostly the same as mentioned above and in the video, but just be careful to keep it the soil consistently moist during the first growing season (water 1-2x/week with a soil that is very open and drains easily); if the soil dries out too much you can kill the newly-forming caudex.

Seed Germination: Place seeds on the substrate and cover the top of the container with a lid or saran-wrap. Punch a couple holes for a bit of air movement and keep the substrate moist while the plants germinate. Once the seedlings sprout and put out a leaf, slowly increase air holes so that the humidity drops over the course of a week or two. During the first 3-4 weeks water regularly, probably 2x/week. You don’t want the seedlings getting stressed as they are throwing out their first set of roots and leaves–again, if the seedlings dry out too much in this first period you’ll risk killing the plant. I’d also recommend leaving the seedling caudex under the soil for the first two to three years so it can get some size and manage drought a little better as the soil holds moisture between waterings.

Dioscorea elephantipes (Elephant Foot Caudex Plant) Photos

March 3, 2020

Oct 15, 2017
2017 Oct 15 – New growth spiked (repotted)
Dioscorea elephantipes - Elephant Foot Caudex
Dioscorea elephantipes – Elephant Foot Caudex