Common Name — Elephant's Foot
Plant Family — Vitaceae
Cyphostemma juttae is a deciduous tree from Namibia with a bulbous stem structure that brings to mind its common namesake – the elephant’s foot. Each spring it sprouts huge serrated leaves that form a tight canopy. This dramatic transformation from bare caudex to lush subtropical tree takes place in a matter of days. Younger specimens have vibrant, delicate leaves that grow in blue and fleshy as the plant matures.
- Elephant's Foot does best in filtered sun, 4 to 5 hours a day. In the wild, you’ll find it soaking up dappled sunlight beneath the limbs of taller trees and bushes. Avoid intense afternoon sun by sheltering this plant beneath the limbs of a larger plant or placing it in the shadow of a sheer curtain. Grow outdoors in light shade or indoors in a sunny window with southern exposure.
- Cyphostemma juttae prefers warm temperatures in the 70s and 80s. It can become stressed if left in conditions of extreme temperatures or intense sun, even dropping leaves in some cases.
- These plants prefer the heat, but are cold tolerant to just below freezing. Nevertheless, it’s best to bring the plant inside when night time temperatures drop below 55 ºF.
- Native to arid and sub-tropical climates with long droughts, Cyphostemma juttae will happily subsist through long periods without water. Water when the soil dries out in the summer and only infrequently during the winter. Their soil should be allowed to dry out entirely before watering thoroughly.
- If the caudex starts to shrivel up, Cyphostemma juttae is thirsty.
- Cyphostemma juttae prefers a sandy, sharply draining mix. Cacti or succulent potting mix is great. You can amend a regular potting soil with sand or pumice up to 50% to improve grittiness and drainage.
- Cyphostemma juttae produce small, nondescript flowers that fruit into red berries, most often during late summer.
- These plants do not require fertilizer though it can be added to give container grown plants a boost or to supplement poor soil. Apply a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer monthly, diluted at half strength. Never fertilize this plant in winter.
- Cyphostemma juttae is most successfully propagated from seed. Cuttings sometimes work, but are usually hit and miss.
- Cyphostemma juttae are attractive to mealy bugs, so keep an eye out for fuzzy white specks in caudex folds.
- Root rot can also be a concern and is triggered by overwatering. Always err on the side of underwatering.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
- Little maintenance is required to grow these plants.
- Expect Cyphostemma juttae to lose all its leaves in the winter.
- This plant loves to be rootbound in a pot. Once planted, they will be happy in the same pot for several years. Repot once every two to three years.
- If you have a young Cyphostemma juttae, do not plan on exposing the caudex until it’s fully established.
- Cyphostemma juttae leaves and fruit contain toxic levels of tannins. They are highly poisonous. In fact, hunters native to southern Africa have been using Cyphostemma juttae to poison arrow tips for centuries. No part of the plant should be ingested by animals or people.
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