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 be wondering 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.

Image from Mountain Crest Garden

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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 more, along with developing 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. Keep in mind 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 is different than 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 get into 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 the planting process to ensure your plant lives longer and healthier.

#1. Find A Good Spot To Plant You’re Succulent

Dioscorea Elephantipes plants are safe to raise indoors or outdoors; however, it is best to do so indoors when first 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. We’ll assume the plant will be starting indoors for this guide.

#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 before, 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 a draining type of 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, it’s recommended to keep it near a partially sunny, partially shaded window area. If you grow your succulent outdoors, it’s best to 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 guidelines of elephant foot plant care 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 that will 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 do water elephant foot plants? Keep watering times at about once a week unless your succulent seems to be drying out
  • Avoid cold temperatures and any temperatures that are too hot (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, though)
  • 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 important to know the correct techniques available to use. For this species, there are two most common techniques that are effective 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 properly conduct each technique safely.

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’re choosing to remove them manually, you will need to lightly cleanse them and allow them time to dry.
  • 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 a bit more difficult due to it using trimmings of the parent plant’s stems; however, it is still effective.

  • Thoroughly clean a pair of gardening shears prior to doing this.
  • Determine which stem you’d like to trim off of the parent plant, making sure that the part you chose is healthy and mostly grown.
  • Carefully trim the stem off.
  • Carefully clean the stem and allow it to sit out 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 the months of 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 present on the female plants only.

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. Keep in mind that the biggest threat to these plants living this long is overwatering; therefore owners should always make sure the soil is not soaking up too much water.


Dioscorea elephantipes are typically only toxic if consumed, due to their saponins. These make 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 definitely one of the more unique-looking species around; however, they make a great addition both 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 so that, you too, can grow a beautiful, flourishing Dioscorea elephantipes.

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Richard Miller

Salute everyone. It's Richard, the author of this Succulent & Xeriscaping blog. I am a traveler and a nature lover looking for a connection with the wild green. In my journey, I found a love for succulents and xeriscaping. What attracts me is the long-lasting & unique beauty of every plant I have the chance to see with my own eyes. Welcome to my little blog and let's enjoy a good time together!

Contact me: richard.succulentcity@gmail.com

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