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With its bulbous, thickened foot and the graceful, green tuft of leaves, the elephant's foot is a specialty among exotic indoor plants. If necessary, the elephant's foot can be easily multiplied via offshoots.

In a nutshell

  • Elephant foot (Beaucarnea recurvata) also known as elephant tree, Mexican bottle tree or water palm
  • palm-like trunk, bottle-like at the base
  • serves as a water and nutrient reservoir
  • not higher than 100 to 150 cm when kept indoors
  • Propagation is mainly via offshoots or cuttings

conditions for propagation

In order to be able to propagate an elephant's foot via offshoots, the mother plant should already have formed at least one side shoot. This is usually the case from the age of three to four years. Because only after a few years the elephant foot forms usable side shoots, which can then be used as cuttings. In order not to damage the plant, the trunk should have reached a minimum height of 20 cm.
If the plant is reluctant to develop side shoots, you can prune them back or cut the trunk at the desired height to encourage side shoots to form. As a rule, two to three possible cuttings are formed afterwards.

notice: If you want to shorten the trunk, you should then treat larger wounds with a wound sealant to avoid infection. The utensils used, such as knives or saws, should also be disinfected before and after the cut.

Utensils needed

  • depending on the number of cuttings, one or more small pots
  • should not be higher than 10 cm
  • loose, permeable potting soil
  • sharp knife, possibly a sharp saw
  • translucent film for covering or hood

Cut offshoots/cuttings

The best time to take cuttings and propagate elephant foot is in spring and summer. They form in the leaf axils of the elephant's foot (Beaucarnea recurvata). It goes without saying that the potential seedlings and of course the mother plant should be healthy and free from pests.
The side shoots are cut off just above the trunk. There should always be a piece of wood at the bottom. Now you shorten the leaves to about five centimeters to keep evaporation as low as possible. Then you can plant.

Instructions for planting

  • fill one or more small pots with nutrient-poor potting soil
  • alternatively a mixture of sand and peat in equal parts
  • Plant the cuttings about five centimeters deep in the ground
  • then press the soil lightly
  • Moisten the substrate and keep it evenly moist
  • Provide pots with translucent covers
  • Foil, glass or plastic cover hood
  • Cover ensures high humidity
  • must be removed regularly for a short time to aerate
  • optimal soil temperature between 22 and 25 degrees

Now the cuttings are placed in a bright and warm place, ideally with sun in the morning and in the evening. Direct sunlight during midday must be avoided at all costs. As soon as the first new shoots appear, after about one to two months, the cover can be removed and the offshoots can be placed in larger containers with suitable soil.

the right earth

The young offshoot of the elephant's foot should not be planted in any soil. A soil pH between 5.8 and 6.8 is recommended. Commercially available potting soil is often only suitable to a limited extent, as it performs important tasks such as e.g. B. water and nutrient regulation and buffering power is not sustainable. In addition, it is usually quite nutritious. For example, cactus soil or self-made substrate mixtures are better suited. Cactus soil is a reliable water reservoir over a longer period of time, has an airy and loose consistency and promotes unhindered rooting.

Self-made substrate mixtures

cactus soil

  • 50% potting or growing soil
  • 15% coconut fiber
  • 15% dry loam, clay, broken lava or expanded clay
  • 20% quartz sand
  • mix all components well

leaf soil

  • made from shredded autumn leaves and mature compost
  • only healthy foliage without fungal attack
  • if available dung or compost worms
  • Lawn clippings and algae lime to regulate the pH value
  • instead of lawn clippings, horn shavings, flour or manure

Tip: Lauberde is particularly finely crumbly and almost free of root remains and weeds.

Mixture with potting soil

  • three parts good quality potting soil
  • two to three parts of arable soil with clay content
  • part quartz sand
  • a part of lavalite, lava granulate or pumice gravel
  • Adjust or correct the pH value with Landerde
thickened foot of an older plant

Tips for care after propagation

  • Care of young plants similar to that of older specimens
  • Young plants even more sensitive
  • as long as the thickened stem is missing, water regularly
  • rather dry than too wet
  • Absolutely avoid waterlogging
  • Danger of root rot and soft trunk
  • Fertilize for the first time after about six weeks
  • fertilize once a month until October

frequently asked Questions

Is it easy to saw off the elephant's foot to propagate?

The elephant foot grows very slowly and takes about 20 years to reach a size of 150-200 cm. In order to limit its size, it can easily be cut to the desired height with a clean and disinfected saw. After that, both watering and fertilizing must be significantly reduced. Evaporation occurs through the leaves. If you shorten the trunk, the leaves are automatically removed as well. As a result, the plant requires significantly less water.

Can the young plants stand outside in summer?

Before you can put the elephant's foot outside in the summer, it should be a little older and more resilient. It should be between 20 and 25 degrees warm and dry. Initially, it is advisable to carefully acclimate the plants to the sun and fresh air. As soon as the temperatures go towards 10 degrees, they have to be brought back into the house.

Is the elephant foot poisonous?

The elephant foot does not belong to the poisonous plants. However, it is better to keep cats away from them. They generally like to feed on grassy leaves. If you ingest these in large quantities, the saponins they contain can cause irritation of the mucous membranes.

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