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Sweet Potato Vine

Ipomoea batatas

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.

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Light:

Part Sun, Sun

Type:

Height:

Under 6 inches

Width:

3 to 6 feet wide

Flower Color:

Propagation

Sweet Potato Vine Care Must-Knows

Sweet potato vine loves the sun and does best in full heat. 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.

Po-tAY-to, Po-tAH-to

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) has 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.

New Innovations

New varieties of sweet potato vine are created almost every year. Some are compact, have denser leaves, and are less likely to vigorously spread. This makes them great for container gardens, as 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.

More Varieties of Sweet Potato Vine

'Blackie' Sweet Potato Vine

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

Illusion Emerald Lace Sweet Potato Vine

Illusion Emerald Lace Ipomoea batatas 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 Ipomoea batatas presents gardeners with a compact, mounding/trailing habit and rich purple foliage. It grows 10 inches tall and spreads 4 feet across.

'Marguerite' Sweet Potato Vine

Ipomoea batatas 'Marguerite' is an especially attractive selection with golden-chartreuse foliage.

'Sweet Caroline' Sweet Potato Vine

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

Plant Sweet Potato Vine With:

Angelonia
Angelonia is also called summer snapdragon, and once you get a good look at it, you'll know why. It has salvia-like flower spires that reach a foot or 2 high, but 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 spirelike 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
There's nothing subtle about an African marigold, and thank goodness for that! It's a big, flamboyant, colorful punch of color for the sunny bed, border, or large container. Most are yellow, orange, or cream. 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 long.
New Guinea Impatiens
Like their more common cousins, New Guinea impatiens provide hard-to-find brilliant color in shade. And it's not just the flowers. The foliage is often brilliantly, exotically colorful as well. These tropical plants really 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.
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