Dioscorea discolor

Common Name: ornamental yam 
Type: Vine
Family: Dioscoreaceae
Native Range: Tropical South America
Zone: 9 to 11
Height: 10.00 to 12.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-11 where tubers may be left in the ground year-round. In St. Louis, plant tubers in spring after last frost date and lift tubers in fall after first frost for overwintering in a cool frost-free location. Tubers may be obtained at grocery markets carrying Asian, African or Latin American produce. Grow in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates light shade. Soils should not be allowed to dry out. Needs a support structure upon which to grow. Also may be grown in containers that must be overwintered indoors or as a houseplant in bright sunny indoor locations.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Dioscorea discolor, native to Ecuador, is a counterclockwise-twining ornamental tropical vine that is grown for its colorful variegated foliage. It is tuberous (same genus as edible yams) and typically grows to 10-12’ in a single season. Pointed, heart-shaped leaves are richly patterned and marbled with dark green, pale green and white with a silvery midrib above and reddish-purple beneath. Clusters of small, white, aromatic flowers in drooping axillary panicles.

Genus name honors Pedanios Dioscorides, first century Greek physician and herbalist.

Specific epithet means of two different and, usually, distinct colors.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Foliage vine for trellises, porches, pergolas. Container plant or houseplant. Greenhouses.