Sweet Potato Vine

illusion emerald lace sweet potato vine
Photo:

BHG / Kelli Jo Emanuel

Sweet Potato Vine Overview

Description 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.
Genus Name Ipomoea batatas
Common Name Sweet Potato Vine
Plant Type Annual
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 6 to 6 inches
Width 3 to 6 feet
Flower Color Purple
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Chartreuse/Gold, Gray/Silver, Purple/Burgundy
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Propagation Stem Cuttings

Po-tAY-to, Po-tAH-to

As the name would imply, these plants produce small tubers that you can eat like standard sweet potatoes or yams. However, they won't 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 sweet potato vines will spend more time focusing on growing vigorous, healthy foliage than 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 summer heat. The plant is grown primarily for its superb foliage and tropical feel. Some older varieties may grace your garden with sporadic lavender blooms, but this is uncommon. If they do, they may remind you of the slightly more tubular morning glory, and for good reason—the sweet potato vine is a close cousin to this common annual vine.

New Innovations

Newer varieties of sweet potato vine are compact, have denser leaves, and are less likely to spread vigorously. These qualities make them perfect for container gardens because they won't overtake companion plants.

You may notice that the foliage options have increased. The standard chartreuse and purple have expanded to include mottled brown, bronze, variegated pink and white, and even an almost-black hue. The dark varieties look best in intense sun. In partial shade, the nearly-black fades to muddled purple and the golds and chartreuse to muted greens. Leaf shapes range from thin and fingerlike to heart-shaped. Disease resistance has also improved for sweet potato vine.

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. When the tuber begins to sprout in late winter/early spring, cut it into pieces, making sure each piece has at least one "eye", and plant the pieces. Cuttings can also be stuck in moist potting soil until rooted, then planted.

More Varieties of Sweet Potato Vine

'Blackie' Sweet Potato Vine

Blackie Sweet Potato Vine

BHG / Kelli Jo Emanuel

Ipomoea batatas 'Blackie' offers purple hand-shaped foliage on a vigorous plant.

Illusion Emerald Lace Sweet Potato Vine

illusion emerald lace sweet potato vine
Justin Hancock

Ipomoea batatas 'Illusion Emerald Lace' is a compact selection with bright lime-green foliage and a mounding/trailing habit. It grows 10 inches tall and spreads 4 feet across.

Illusion Midnight Lace Sweet Potato Vine

illusion midnight lace sweet potato vine
Justin Hancock

Ipomoea batatas 'Illusion Midnight Lace' has a compact, mounding/trailing habit and rich purple foliage. It grows 10 inches tall and spreads 4 feet across.

'Marguerite' Sweet Potato Vine

'Marguerite' Sweet Potato Vine

BHG / Kelli Jo Emanuel

Ipomoea batatas 'Marguerite' is a lovely selection with golden-chartreuse foliage.

'Sweet Caroline' Sweet Potato Vine

sweet caroline sweet potato vine
Peter Krumhardt

Ipomoea batatas 'Sweet Caroline' offers hand-shaped foliage in an intriguing shade of coppery bronze.

Plant Sweet Potato Vine With:

Angelonia

angelonia summer snapdragon
David Speer

Angelonia is also called summer snapdragon, and you'll know why once you get a good look at it. It has salvia-like flower spires that reach a foot or two high, and they're studded with fascinating snapdragon-like flowers with beautiful colorations in purple, white, or pink. It's the perfect plant for adding bright color to hot, sunny spaces. This tough plant blooms all summer long with spire-like spikes of blooms. While all varieties are beautiful, keep an eye out for the sweetly scented selections. While most gardeners treat angelonia as an annual, it is a tough perennial in Zones 9-10. Or, if you have a bright, sunny spot indoors, you can even keep it flowering all winter.

African Marigold

african marigold bulb
Laurie Dickson

There's nothing subtle about an African marigold, and thank goodness for that! It's a big, flashy, colorful punch of color, usually yellow, orange, or cream, for a sunny bed, border, or large container. Plants get up to 3 feet tall and produce huge 3 inch puffball blooms, while dwarf varieties get just 1 foot tall. The mounded-dark-green foliage is always clean, fresh, and tidy. Grow them in a warm, sunny spot with moist, well-drained soil all summer.

New Guinea Impatiens

container with new guinea impatiens
Peter Krumhardt

New Guinea impatiens provide hard-to-find brilliant color for shady spots like their more common cousins, impatiens. And it's not just the flowers–the foliage is often brilliantly, uniquely colorful as well. These tropical plants shine in containers, where they thrive in the perfect soil and drainage, but they also do well in the ground as long as you take the time to improve the soil and work in plenty of compost. Note that they're a bit more sun-tolerant than common impatiens. Plant established plants in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Keep soil moist and fertilize lightly but regularly.

Garden Plans for Sweet Potato Vine

Garden Plan for Partial Shade

partial shade garden with bench
Janet Mesic Mackie

This garden plan combines easy, adaptable plants to add color to spots that don't see full sun.

Download this plan!

Raised Beds Garden Plan

garden planters with potato vines
Tom Rosborough

Meander down a wonderful walkway flanked by a raised bed overflowing with lush swaths of annual flowers.

Download this plan!

Tropical-Look Garden Plan

garden bed with potato vine
Tom Rosborough

Make a bold garden statement with dramatic flowers and foliage.

Download this plan!

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