How to Plant and Grow Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet potato vine comes in different colors and works well with flowering plants.

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 thrives in the summer heat. Typically used as spillers in containers, they also make fantastic groundcovers.

Their name indicates 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. 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 Overview

Genus Name Ipomoea batatas
Common Name Sweet Potato Vine
Plant Type Annual, Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 6 to 12 inches
Width 1 to 3 feet
Flower Color Purple
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Chartreuse/Gold, Gray/Silver, Purple/Burgundy
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Propagation Stem Cuttings

Where to Plant Sweet Potato Vines

Sweet potato vines do best in a humid climate that's not excessively hot, similar to their native tropical weather. No matter where you are, whether it's cooler or warmer, make sure these plants get at least six hours of sun each day. Plant them in rich, well-drained soil.

How and When to Plant Sweet Potato Vines

Once the temperature outdoors reaches 50ºF and the last frost of winter has passed, you can plant sweet potato vines outdoors.

Remove the plant from the container, taking care not to damage the delicate stem. If rootbound, loosen the roots. The hole for planting sweet potato vines should be twice as big as the container it comes in. Place the plant in the hole at the same depth it was in the original container. Pat the soil around its base and water thoroughly. Plant them between 10 to 36 inches apart. Different types require different spacing.

Care for Sweet Potato Vines

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.

illusion emerald lace sweet potato vine

BHG / Kelli Jo Emanuel


Ideally, sweet potato vines will get full sun most of the day, though they can grow in partial shade. The more sun they get, the more vibrant their colors will be.

Soil and Water

When you water sweet potato vines, don't get the soil too wet, or the plant can develop root rot. While they tolerate drought, they grow better when watered regularly and should get about an inch of water per week. The soil should be well-draining and enhanced with organic matter.

Temperature and Humidity

Keep sweet potato vines from getting overheated or letting their soil dry out. Where it's very hot, they benefit from some shade during the day. They thrive in areas with high humidity and tolerate average humidity. They don't do well in low-humidity areas. Sweet potato vines like warm evenings and days around 75ºF.


Sweet potato vines are vigorous growers that don't require fertilizer, but they grow more profusely when they receive it. At planting time, add a granular slow-release fertilizer with a balanced 10-10-10 ratio to the soil following the product manufacturer's instructions regarding quantity. Water it in well and plant the vines. A single application is sufficient. Be careful not to over-fertilize; if the plants receive too much fertilizer, they'll need to be cut back frequently.


Consistent pruning will encourage sweet potato vines to grow more vigorously. Cut the branches no more than one third, about 1/4 inch above leaf nodes. Remove dead or dying branches to enhance the plant's health. They tend to spread, so pruning can keep overgrowth in check.

Potting and Repotting Sweet Potato Vines

Sweet potato vines are excellent container plants. Select a 12-inch clay or plastic pot with drain holes, and fill it with good-quality potting soil. Remove the plant from its nursery container and loosen the roots slightly. Place it in the pot at the same height it was in the nursery container. Tamp the potting soil down with your hands to eliminate air bubbles and water thoroughly. It is unlikely a sweet potato vine will ever need repotting because it lives less that two years, but if it does, replace all the potting soil and select a pot 2 inches larger.

Sweet potato vines adapt well to pots because they tolerate all kinds of light. You can grow them on a covered patio, in a sunny garden, or indoors. If planted in pots, they'll need more water than when planted in the ground, and their pots need good drainage to keep their roots from deteriorating.

Pests and Problems

Sweet potato vines are susceptible to leaf fungus. When a plant is infected, there is no cure; it should be removed from the garden and destroyed to prevent the spread of the fungus to nearby plants. Leaf fungus is known to overwinter in garden soil. To prevent the return of the fungus the following year, plant sweet potato vines in different areas of the garden each season.

Pests that are attracted to sweet potato vines include golden tortoise beetle, which will create Swiss cheese-like holes in the leaves. Other pests include aphids and caterpillars.

How to Propagate Sweet Potato Vine

You can propagate sweet potato vines with stem cuttings or by dividing a tuber.

To propagate with stem cuttings, use clean snippers to cut an 8-inch piece from a stem. The cutting can be taken from anywhere along the stem as long as it contains a leaf node. Make the cut just below the node. Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting and submerge the bottom half in a glass or jar filled with water. Keep the container in a warm, slightly shady area and change the water a couple of times a week, always using room temperature water. In as little as a week—but sometimes longer—roots will start to grow. When they are 3 inches long, gently move the seedling to a small pot filled with potting soil, not garden soil.

To propagate using a tuber, 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 or early spring, cut it into several pieces, making sure each piece has at least one "eye," and plant each piece 1/4-inch deep in a small pot filled with moist potting soil. Keep the pots in a warm area with bright light, but not full sun. After roots form and a seedling grows, the plant can be moved to the garden.

Types 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.

Companion Plants for Sweet Potato Vine


angelonia summer snapdragon
David Speer

Angelonia is also called summer snapdragon. It has flower spires that reach a foot or two high, and they're studded with snapdragon-like flowers in purple, white, or pink. This tough plant blooms all summer long. Some varieties are scented. While most gardeners treat angelonia as an annual, it's a tough perennial in Zones 9-10. Or, if you have a bright, sunny spot indoors, you can keep it flowering all winter.

African Marigold

african marigold bulb
Laurie Dickson

African marigold is a 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 and fresh. Grow them in a warm, sunny spot with moist, well-drained soil all summer. Zones 2-11

New Guinea Impatiens

container with new guinea impatiens
Peter Krumhardt

New Guinea impatiens provide brilliant color for shady spots. The foliage is also often colorful also. These tropical plants thrive in containers with 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. They're a bit more sun-tolerant than common impatiens. Plant nursery starts in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Keep soil moist and fertilize lightly but regularly.

Garden Plans for Sweet Potato Vine

Partial Shade Garden Plan

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.

Raised Garden Beds 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.

Tropical-Look Garden Plan

garden bed with potato vine
Tom Rosborough

Make a bold garden statement with dramatic flowers and foliage.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I overwinter sweet potato vines?

    Yes! Take a cutting from a vine and place it in water. When roots begin to form, either leave until spring when it's time to plant or pot the cutting. You can also take a tuber cutting and store it someplace cool and dry until planting time.

  • Are sweet potato vines deer-resistant?

    For the most part, yes, though some gardeners have experienced deer munching on their plants.

  • Are sweet potato vines good in hanging planters?

    Yes, they fill the roll of "spiller" in the "thriller, filler, spiller" design for hanging plants. Prune them and keep them watered and they'll grow and thrive in a hanging planter.

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