Sweet Potato Vine
Gardeners turn to the sweet potato vine for its ability to power through just about anything while bringing interesting shapes, sizes, and colors to a pot or plot. A vigorous annual or a tender perennial, it takes off in summer heat. Typically used as spillers in containers, they also make fantastic groundcovers, typically spreading 4 to 6 feet.
As the name would imply, these plants produce small tubers that can be eaten like common sweet potatoes or yams. However, they will not be nearly as tasty. Because sweet potato vines are bred to have such unique and colorful foliage, the traits for tubers (the storage roots) have slowly died out. This means the plants will spend more time focusing on growing vigorous, healthy foliage that it does storing nutrients in a root for later use.
Sweet Potato Vine Care Must-Knows
Sweet potato vine loves lots of sunlight and does best in the heat of summer. The plant is grown primarily for its wonderful foliage and tropical feel. Some of the older varieties may grace your garden with a few sporadic lavender blooms, but this is fairly uncommon. If they do, they may remind you of a slightly more tubular morning glory, and for good reason—sweet potato vine is a close cousin to this common annual vine.
Newer varieties of sweet potato vine are compact, have denser leaves, and are less likely to vigorously spread. This makes them perfect for container gardens, because they won't overtake companion plants.
You might notice that the foliage options have increased. The standard chartreuse and purple has expanded to mottled brown, bronze, variegated pink and white, and even almost black. The dark varieties look best in intense sun. In part shade, the nearly black fades to muddled purple and the golds and chartreuse to muted greens. Leaf shapes range from thin, fingerlike to heart shapes. Disease resistance has also been improved.
Sweet Potato Vine Propagation
If you can't bear to give up your plant after the season ends, you can either save the plant or propagate it for next year. Dig up the tuber in fall, before the first freeze, and store it in a cool, dry place. Come late winter/early spring, when the tuber begins to sprout, cut it into pieces, making sure each piece has at least one "eye." Plant the pieces. Cuttings can also be stuck in moist potting soil until rooted, then planted.