|Propagation:||From From seeds|
|Adult size:||Vines up to half a meter, 30cm caudex|
|Watering:||Allow soil to mostly dry|
|Fertilization:||Monthly during active growth|
|Soil:||Extremely well drained|
|See more Dioscorea|
Elephant's foot vine
Dioscorea elephantipes is a caudiciform in the Dioscoreaceae family. The thick swollen stem (or caudex) acts as a store of water and nutrients and allows the plant to survive prolonged periods of drought.
Dioscorea is named after Greek physician Dioscorides
Elephantipes in Latin refers to the elephant-like appearance on the outer covering of the bark.
D. elephantipes has small thin green leaves. The foliage emerges from a swollen stem called a caudex.
D. elephantipes wants high light. As much bright light as possible should be provided, this plant can even take some direct sunlight. When placing D. elephantipes in direct sun attempt to shield the caudex from direct light, as this will stress the plant. As with all plants, when moving it into direct sunlight it should be slowly acclimated over a few days to avoid the risk of leaves scorching or yellowing.
Use an extremely well draining soil mix (see succulent soil) and water thoroughly, allowing excess to drain. Do not allow the plant to sit in water. Allow the soil to dry mostly before watering again. Avoid long periods of drought as this will likely trigger the plant to enter dormancy and drop all its foliage.
I've bought a caudex, what should I do?
If you have received a D. elephantipes caudex and you are unsure which side is 'up' look for a ring or nub where the plant was previously vining from. Plant it with the nub upwards in some extremely well draining soil.
If you're unsure or cannot tell which side is up, pick a side and just plant it. Caudicforms can remain dormant for many months so leave it two to three months and if you still aren't seeing any activity, gently remove it from the pot (checking to see if it has rooted, in which case, leave it be) flip it the other side and re-plant.
Keep it somewhere warm and as you wait for the caudex to root and send out a vine, spray the caudex and soil with a misting bottle, keeping the substrate just barely damp at all times.
My D. elephantipes is leggy
If your plant has produced a long, unattractive vine without leaves you can cut it back to the caudex. In time it will send out a new vine, and if you give the plant more light it should grow more compactly.
Moving the plant from a low-light indoor aspect to a bright, south facing window or outside in direct sun will lead to leaves bleaching and scorching. When moving the plant outdoors, choose a spot in shade or that gets dappled or screened sunlight. Let the plant slowly acclimate to being outdoors and never move the plant into direct sun without slowly building up a tolerance first. Some direct morning or evening sun is fine but hot midday light will scorch the leaves.
My D. elephantipes isn't growing
D. elephantipes is unusual in that it is mostly a winter grower and enters a dormancy throughout the bulk of the summer months.
It indicates when it is requiring water by the presence of green growth. From when a new growth appears from the caudex, it can receive regular watering, up until the growth withers and dies back. This is when the plant goes into its summer dormancy. Then watering should become more rare - until the next new growth appears.
The cycle can be unpredictable but in most cases this results in a watering regime of wetter winter and spring, and a dry summer dormancy period.