Dioscorea Elephantipes (The Elephant’s Foot Succulent)

Dioscorea Elephantipes (The Elephant's Foot Succulent) Featured image

The Elephant’s Foot Vine – what an interestingly unique name for a plant, right? The actual name of the plant is Dioscorea Elephantipes.

Scientific NameDioscorea Elephantipes
Other NamesElephant’s Foot Succulent, Elephant’s Foot Vine
Growth SeasonThis plant grows best in winter and spring.
Preferred TemperatureHot temperature.
Hardiness ZoneUSDA Zone 10 & higher.
Average Mature Height & WeightIt can be around 3 feet tall, with a diameter of around 10 feet.
ToxicityToxic to both people and pets due to their saponins. Don’t consume this plant!
Dioscorea Elephantipes Summary

What Is A Dioscorea Elephantipes Plant?

The initial question that many may wonder is what an elephant foot plant, or Dioscorea Elephantipes, is in the world. An elephant foot plant is a succulent species from the Asparagaceae plant family. The plant was named “Elephant Foot” because its stem formed to look like a wrinkled elephant’s foot during the growth stage. During this period, many owners tend to think the branch is dead or in the process of dying. However, that is not the case – if you’ve felt the same, know that your elephant foot plant is healthy and living. This plant is known to be a native succulent to South Africa and is often shared throughout many generations in a family.

dioscorea elephantipes in a pot full of rocks
Photo by @haru.plants via Instagram

Dioscorea Elephantipes Features

Dioscorea elephantipes is known for possessing a widely unique feature – a similar shape to that of an Elephant’s Foot. This feature is significant to this plant and has contributed to the name Dioscorea Elephantipes or Elephants Foot. From the time the seedlings begin growing up until they’re fully grown, you’ll notice the plant has a base that appears to look swollen. That part is called a caudex and will grow and develop ridges as the plant grows. When cared for properly, the Dioscorea Elephantipes can grow to reach a height of around 3 feet, with a diameter of around 10 feet. Remember that this plant is one of the slower-growing species available, and it can take up to five years to reach maximum growth.

How To Plant Dioscorea Elephantipes

A common misconception about planting nearly any type of plant is that it’s simple. And while that may be true in some ways, planting succulents differs from planting any other standard plant. Succulents require lots of oxygen and water to survive (as any plant species would); however, it is straightforward to drown a succulent by watering it. We’ll learn more about avoiding overwatering your succulents later, but first, learn to plant a Dioscorea Elephantipes plant properly. The following guide will help prepare you for planting to ensure your plant lives longer and healthier.

#1. Find A Good Spot To Plant

Dioscorea Elephantipes plants are safe to raise indoors or outdoors; however, it is best to do so indoors when planting the seeds. But that is the owner’s choice, of course. As the plant grows, you can then transfer it outdoors if you choose to do so. For this guide, we’ll assume the plant will be starting indoors.

#2. Get The Appropriate Pot To Plant Your Succulent In

The Dioscorea Elephantipes plant tends to grow to a suitable height when taken care of properly. Therefore, you must choose a wide enough pot for the plant roots to expand and for the stem to blossom. The pot you choose doesn’t necessarily need to be deeper, as the roots will not grow long enough to reach the bottom.

#3. Use The Right Soil

As I mentioned, succulents can easily drown while watering, so we must avoid that entirely. The way drowning is by water being soaked up into the soil. Therefore, the best ground for this plant is draining potting soil. You can speak to specialists in a garden center for advice on which brands to use for your succulent growth and health. Once you’ve established that, plant your Dioscorea Elephantipes seeds.

#4. Determining The Appropriate Lighting

The lighting guidelines may differ depending on where your succulent is planted, indoors or outdoors. Too little light will stunt the plant’s growth, but too much light exposure could harm the plant. If your succulent is planted indoors, keeping it near a partially sunny, partially shaded window area is recommended. If you grow your succulent outdoors, keep it in a partially shaded area, where the stems and leaves will get the most sunlight exposure.

Dioscorea Elephantipes Care

There are so many species of plants to choose from; the list goes on and on. Knowing how to care for each plant properly can get confusing and stressful, as they don’t all have the same care guidelines. Luckily, those elephant foot plant care guidelines are short and sweet for the Dioscorea Elephantipes plant owners. And so easy to keep up with! Like any succulent, the elephant foot plant has specific “rules” to follow to help your plant remain happy and healthy. The following guidelines are quick tips to help you understand how to care for elephant foot plants.

  • Never use any soil that isn’t well-draining.
  • Only use plant pots that include drainage holes.
  • Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot, dried-out leaves, and decay.
  • How often should elephant foot plants be watered? Keep watering times at about once a week unless your succulent seems to be drying out.
  • Avoid cold and too hot temperatures (the soil often recommends suitable temperatures for reference).
  • Avoid as much direct sunlight as possible. Minimal sunlight is good, but these plants need shade too.
  • Plant or set your potted Dioscorea Elephantipes plant somewhere where it receives plenty of light (not direct sunlight).
  • Do not fertilize the succulent during cold temperatures or when the plant is dormant.
  • Always ensure that the soil is very lightly moistened.
  • When using fertilizer, only do so once a month.

Also, read:

Dioscorea Elephantipes Propagation

When you’re ready to propagate your Dioscorea elephantipes, it is crucial to know the correct techniques available to use. For this species, the two most common techniques are practical and guarantee your plant remains safe – seedling propagation and trimming propagation. Propagating Dioscorea Elephantipes is easy, although the growth process following propagation remains slow. Read on to learn how to conduct each technique safely and properly.

Seedling Propagation

Disclaimer: For this technique, you will need Dioscorea Elephantipes seeds – you can either purchase some online or carefully remove them from the parent plant yourself.

  • Gather your seedlings. If you choose to remove them manually, you must cleanse them and allow them time to dry lightly.
  • Using the appropriate soil and gardening pot, plant the seedlings in a separate pot from the parent plant. The seeds should be buried at least a third of the way into the soil.
  • Water the soil.
  • Choose a safe location to place the newer pot, keeping the safe temperatures in mind. Step 5: Water the soil once a week and wait for your new Dioscorea Elephantipes to grow!
  • Water the soil once a week and wait for your new Dioscorea Elephantipe to grow!

Trimming Propagation

Disclaimer: This technique tends to be more complicated because it uses trimmings of the parent plant’s stems. However, it is still effective.

  • Thoroughly clean a pair of gardening shears before doing this.
  • Determine which stem you’d like to trim off the parent plant, ensuring that your chosen part is healthy and mostly grown.
  • Carefully trim the stem off.
  • Carefully clean the stem and allow it to dry before planting. This may take a few days.
  • Plant the stem trimmings in the appropriate soil and water them.
  • Continue watering the soil once a week.

What’s More About Dioscorea Elephantipes?


Dioscorea elephantipes usually go dormant throughout May and June. During dormancy, the plant should be watered less than usual. If you’re unsure if your Dioscorea Elephantipes is in dormancy, check the leaves, as they will start to appear yellow and/or fall off.

Is Dioscorea Elephantipes Dioecious?

Yes! Being dioecious essentially means that this species has both female and male plants. You can depict which is which by finding the blooming flowers, as those are only present on the female plants.

Lengthy Life Span

When cared for properly, these Dioscorea Elephantipes can live up to 70 years. Of course, that depends on whether or not it is healthy and if it is receiving the necessary needs to grow. Remember that the biggest threat to these plants living this long is overwatering; therefore, owners should always ensure the soil is not soaking up too much water.


Dioscorea Elephantipes are typically only toxic if consumed due to their saponins. These make the consumption of the plant toxic to both pets and people. Be sure to keep your Dioscorea Elephantipes in a safe location to prevent this occurrence. Conclusion In conclusion, Dioscorea elephantipes are one of the more unique-looking species around; however, they make a great addition indoors and outdoors. They’re easy to care for and even easier to propagate when the time comes! Hopefully, this article has given you enough insight to grow beautiful, flourishing Dioscorea Elephantipes.

Succulent City chief editor


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Hey everyone! Welcome to Succulent City! We are all about succulents, cacti, and a bit about air plants. Ten years back, in 2013, we began the journey with succulents. It started as a simple hobby, crafting and selling charming succulent-themed pins and decorations. But as time passed, our fascination with these remarkable plants grew, and we gained extensive knowledge about them. Therefore, Succulent City is the blog as you see it is now. Enjoy your visit and happly planting!

4 thoughts on “Dioscorea Elephantipes (The Elephant’s Foot Succulent)

  1. Richard,

    My Dioscorea surprises me every year. Last year, I had some leaves that were 10-12 inches across. This year, I have vines (with off shoots) that total 12-15 feet to date, but no leaves. How do you divert the plants’ energy from vine production to leaf production?

    Also, it may be relevant to note that I transplanted the Dioscorea to a larger container between last year and this year paying special attention to the root structure and the soil.

    Here are a couple of pics.


    1. Hi Steve,

      Thanks for sending me the question!

      For this case, I think it needs more time. Usually, the leaf production will be postponed when the offshoots are developing. Ensure you keep the plant under enough sunlight, which is a vital element for the leaves to grow!

      Also, congratulations on the successful re-potting of this plant. Your plant will be in good health as it has a wonderful owner like you.


      1. Thanks Richard. I’ll continue to keep a patient vigilance and we’ll see. When it does leaf out, I’ll send another pic.

        Thanks again, Steve

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