The Versatile Sweet Potato Vine

Ipomoea batatas

How sweet it is to grow a sweet potato vine! Whether you are planting tubers for your table or growing ornamental sweet potatoes as eye candy for your flower bed designs, there is a sweet potato plant to sate every craving.

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Save on your hotel -

Sweet potato vine planted beside a pond.

Ornamental sweet potato plant 'Chillin Limeade' growing at the edge of a pond.

There are an enormous variety of sweet potato plants you can grow.

They separate into 2 groups: ornamental varieties which are grown as annual or tender perennial garden accents and edible varieties which are confined to the vegetable garden.

This is not to suggest that there is no overlap between these groups.

Edible sweet potato leaves.

The heart-shaped green leaves of edible sweet potato vines are pretty as well. People have been rooting chunks of sweet potato tubers indoors to grow the vines as houseplants for decades.

To grow 1 of these free houseplants: cut a sweet potato in half crosswise, stick a toothpick in either side of 1 half and suspend the tuber in a glass of water (cut side in) so that only about an inch of it is immersed.

Set the glass near a window and refresh the water every other day. Roots will begin to form within a few days and the eyes in the tuber will sprout leafy shoots.

Sweet potato leaves are just as tasty as the tubers.

How to Harvest and Cook Sweet Potato Greens

As for ornamental sweet potatoes, their tubers are also edible.

The thing is, these plants have been bred to produce beautiful foliage in a multiplicity of colors. They will not produce as many tubers as sweet potato varieties bred for food and the tubers will not be as large or sweet. Some may even have a bitter aftertaste.

Growing Sweet Potatoes

My backyard sweet potato patch.

My backyard sweet potato patch.

Sweet potatoes are a warm season crop so wait until after the soil has warmed to set out the slips or plants.

Commercially, sweet potatoes are grown in the southern U.S., but this does not mean that northern home gardeners cannot successfully raise a crop.

Just choose short season varieties and plant them as early as possible.

Cover the young plants with a frost blanket on cold (but not freezing) nights to get them off to a healthy start. Repeat this procedure in the fall to extend the growing season by a couple of weeks.

There are orange-fleshed and yellow-fleshed varieties to choose from. Moist and dry types.

The vines grow vigorously and spread for several feet. If you are short on space, plant a bush variety which will grow more compactly.

Edible Sweet Potato Varieties, Plants for Sale

Plant sweet potatoes in light soil that is good but not too rich.

They will not perform well in a soil that is heavy or contains too much clay. Too much nitrogen will give you lots of greens but few tubers. Sandy soil enriched with compost is perfect for tuber production.

Or course, if you are growing the ornamental types, they will flourish in a nitrogen rich soil.

Find out when and how to harvest your crop here

Ornamental Sweet Potatoes

'Margarita' sweet potato vine encircling a fountain in Savannah, GA.

'Margarita' sweet potato vine encircling a fountain in Savannah, GA.

Ornamental sweet potato leaves appear in 2 forms: heart-shaped and deeply lobed.

Your color choices include lime green, chartreuse, several shades of bronze and purple and variegated.

There is a color to compliment or highlight any landscape garden design.

Use the bright colors or variegated cultivars to draw the eye to landscape features like fountains or specimen plants. Anything you want to shine a spotlight on.

Use the dark hues to add a sense of drama to the landscape or to contrast with silver foliage or jewel-toned flowers.

Propagating Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet Potato Plant, a Tropical Vine with an Edible Tuberous Root
Sweet Potato Plant, a Tropical Vine with an Edible Tuberous Root
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Any piece of the vine that is buried and kept moist will root.

The tubers can also be cut into pieces and planted. Make sure each piece contains at least one eye.

Propagate culinary sweet potatoes with vine cuttings or buy sweet potato slips from a nursery each year as the tubers can harbor diseases.

Recipes for Your Sweet Potato Harvest

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