These popular container garden plants form thick, rootlike tubers similar to edible sweet potatoes (but not quite as tasty) and have edible leaves, too.

By Jenny Krane
Updated July 16, 2020
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Often grown in container gardens for its trailing stems of purple, chartreuse, or variegated foliage, ornamental sweet potato vine is actually related to the sweet potatoes you'd grow in your vegetable garden. That means the tubers it forms are actually edible; popular varieties like 'Marguerite' have small, round tubers, while varieties like 'Blackie' have longer, narrower tubers. Still, if you want sweet potatoes to eat, you're better off choosing a variety that's specifically developed as a food crop because they'll have a much better flavor and texture than ornamental varieties. However, you can use the tubers you find in your container garden to grow new plants.

Credit: Andreas Trauttmansdorff

While you may want to pass on eating the tubers of ornamental sweet potatoes, you could give their edible leaves a try. They're full of vitamins and antioxidants, plus they're a good source of fiber. Raw sweet potato leaves have a slightly bitter taste (similar to spinach) but will lose their sharp flavor when boiled or steamed. Just make sure to avoid using pesticides on the plants if you want to eat them.

Left: Credit: Marty Baldwin
Right: Credit: Marty Baldwin

Sweet Potato Slips

Whether you want to eat them or not, it's always worth keeping the tubers to grow new plants for next year. You can save them like bulbs and plant them in containers the next spring. Just rinse the tubers off after you've cleaned out your containers for the season and let them dry off completely. Then store them in a cool place like a basement throughout the winter.

When you're ready to start growing more plants for a new growing season, you can easily make cuttings, known as sweet potato slips. To start, set one end of a sweet potato tuber in a jar of water so that half of it is submerged. Leave it in a warm, sunny spot. It will send out roots and stems within 2 weeks. Once the stems reach a few inches long, snip them off the tuber and place these cuttings in another jar of water. Wait another 1-2 weeks for them to root, then they'll be ready to plant!

How to Care For Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet potato vine does well in containers, where it is a common spiller plant. It does best in full sun and warm weather (temperatures should remain above 55ºF before planting outside). Some of the older varieties may even grace your garden with a few sporadic lavender blooms that look like a slightly more tubular morning glory, and for good reason: Sweet potato vine is a close cousin to this common annual vine.

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