Testudinaria : Greenhouse Plants
W – warm, minimum of 13°C (55°F)
If testudinaria means like a tortoise shell and elephantipes means like an elephant’s foot then you may gather that Testudinaria elephantipes, the Hottentot Bread from South Africa, is no ordinary looking plant. The most amazing thing about it is the large tuber which is corrugated into the form of a tortoise shell. Rising and dying down annually from this is the stem which can climb to 3 m (10 ft), although 1.5 m (5 ft) is more normal in cultivation. The leaves are attractively heart-shaped but the flowers somewhat insignificant. It is important that this plant is grown in a well-drained sandyand never overwatered. During winter when there is nothing to see but the swollen tuber very little watering should be done at all. It is also possible for the temperature to drop to perhaps 4.5°C (40°F) although a better plant will result from warm temperatures during the growing season. Propagation should be by seed and the tuber will start to form quickly. I do not know if it is possible to divide up the tuber but I would not like to spoil a plant in order to try. The annual shoot only seems to arise from the middle of the tuber.