Sweet potato vine is very easy to grow and perfect for an eye-catching, trailing display in flower pots and hanging baskets, or growing directly in the garden as an annual ground cover. You can also propagate cuttings, overwinter the plants, or grow them indoors as houseplants.
How to grow sweet potato vine from cuttings has a complete step-by-step tutorial for propagating plants from the ones you have.
Sweet Potato Vine Growing Tips
Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine | Species: lpomoea butatas
Herbaceous tropical perennial grown as an ornamental annual vine in cold climates
Common names: sweet potato vine, sweetpotato, tuberous morning glory
• Light | full sun (6+ hours/day) or some shade (check plant tag)
• Water | consistently moist, well-draining soil
• Soil | Grow in ground, or containers with potting mix
• Temperature | Plant when outdoor temperature is consistently 55°F (12°C) or warmer. Best growing temperature is 75°F (24°C).
• Types | Dozens of cultivars with different colors, sizes, shapes growing as ground cover, climbing vine, and spillers.
• Propagation | from cuttings or seed
• Winter options | overwinter tubers or grow as a houseplant indoors
• Same species as sweet potato grown for food. Ornamental cultivars are unpleasant tasting.
Shop Online: snippers for taking plant cuttings
Ornamental sweet potato vine is so popular because it is reliable, showy, and easy to grow. You’ll find it at most plant nurseries selling annuals either stand-alone or included in flower planter arrangements.
Because this is a non-native annual, it is not going to play a beneficial role in the food web beyond the fact that some insects and other animals like to nibble the leaves.
Available in an array of shapes, sizes, and colors (green, black, and more), some types of sweet potato vine grows as a compact, bushy trailing plant while other grow as long vines reaching 10-feet or more in a single growing season.
Many have large, heart-shaped (“cordate”) leaves. Other varieties have leaf shapes resembling maple leaves or other similar shapes.
While used for their decorative foliage, it is true that older varieties in particular are capable of flowering. It’s rare to see these days but it is possible.
You can plant sweet potato vine in the ground or containers. Depending on the type you choose, it may spread as ground cover, climb up a trellis, or spill over the edge of a container or hanging baskets.
While perennial in tropical regions, sweet potato vine are treated as annuals in cold climates because of their sensitivity to frost.
The life of the plant can be extended indefinitely through propagation or proper protection from winter conditions.
The easiest propagation method is by cuttings.
The tubers can be kept dormant in storage in winter for regrowing the following spring.
You can also grow sweet potato vine indoors as houseplants.
There are more tips on all of these items below.
Two Main Types of Sweet Potato
What is the difference between sweet potato plants and vines?
There are two basic types of sweet potato plants you can grow:
- sweet potatoes grown as a food crop for the edible, tuberous roots
- sweet potato vine grown as an ornamental plant
They all belong to the same species (Ipomoea batatas) but are bred into different cultivars to achieve desired traits.
Basically, the edible ones are grown as food, the ornamental are for looks and not recommended for eating due to the unpleasant taste.
Planting & Care Tips
When growing sweet potato vine as an annual in summer, so long as the basic needs are met (sun, soil, moisture), it should be happy.
With so many cultivars available, it’s helpful to read the plant tag carefully to know what to expect.
- Some grow as long vines (like a watermelon) and do best as ground covers or on a trellis or archway.
- If you’re growing in containers, a bushier type that grows just a few feet long may be preferable.
Light | While full sun is usually recommended, sweet potato vine can also grow in part shade.
Temperature | Plant outdoors when temperatures are consistently 55°F (12°C) or warmer. The sweet spot ongoing is 75°F (24°C). Watch out for cool nights —that’s when the plant can unexpectedly get damaged from the cold.
Soil | Sweet potato vine grows from tubers which are vulnerable to rotting if exposed to prolonged moisture. For this reason, you want to plant your vine in well-draining soil or a container of potting mix with good drainage holes in the base.
Water | As mentioned, this plant is not a fan of excess moisture. It’s recommended to keep the soil or growing medium moderately moist.
Fertilizer | No supplemental nutrition may be needed for a single growing season.
- Proven winners has several types of sweet potato vine. Their instructions recommend applying a granular, slow-release fertilizer at planting time. Then, every two weeks, supplement feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer.
Again, this may not be necessary. I’ve never found a need for it.
Pruning | You can selectively shape the plant or remove dead or dying (dry, brown, or yellowing) stems and leaves at any time. Use clean snippers for any trimming or cutting.
Flowering | Older varieties may produce flowers but this is not common. I’ve just seen this once. If it does happen, they will be pink or light purple.
Pests | Sweet potato leaves are clearly a treat for a whole bunch of different insects and other animals. I can’t recall ever growing them without seeing holes in the leaves (from munching bugs) at some point during the growing season. To me, that’s entirely tolerable, and, I hope, of some benefit to the animals.
Possible suspects include:
- Flea beetles
- Golden tortoise beetle
- Sweet potato looper
In instance where the plant is actually dying from the pest, the first step is to positively identify what the pest is and proceed from there. Personally, I just remove the plant if needed and never use any products or remedies that could cause greater damage to the food web or environment. Nature is more important than a single, non-native plant I’ve chosen to grow for a season.
Some claim deer and rabbit don’t like sweet potato vine, others say they do. It may be that they prefer the taste of the sweet potato varieties grown for food, not the ornamental ones, just like we do. Although a hungry animal without other options will eat whatever it can.
Related: How to Deal With Deer in the Garden
Disease | Some sweet potato vines are susceptible to various disease or fungal infections including soil-borne infections like fusarium and verticillium. To combat this, you will see some cultivars marketed as “disease-resistant.”
This explains the limited uses for hydrogen peroxide on fungal diseases.
One sign of possible disease at soil level is when the base of the plant turns yellow but the rest of the stems and leaves seem okay.
Be sure to check that any plant you want to propagate is not protected by a patent.
You may also notice when sweet potato vine grows on the ground, roots (known as “adventitious roots”) will form at nodes on the stems. These new roots help anchor the plant to the ground. Many other plants including strawberries also do this.
Indoor Growing | Sweet potato vine can live indoors like a houseplant. You can grow it in a container with potting mix or grow stem cuttings in water for months on end.
The same light, moisture, and temperature needs apply as they do when growing outdoors. I’ve kept a number of plants indoors for our long winters. Some leaves and stems always die off (become brown and dry) but the plant itself continues on. This could be due to the low humidity conditions created by forced air heating.
Winter Storage | It is possible to save your sweet potato vines for growing next year by “overwintering” them. The tubers (tuberous roots) can be stored in a cool (but not freezing), dark location the same way dahlia tubers are stored.
Types of Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine
The species is the same for all sweet potato plants: Ipomoea batatas.
For ornamental vines, you may see the name written as Sweet Potato Vine ‘Blackie‘ or Ipomoea batatas ‘Blackie‘. In this example ‘Blackie’ is the cultivar.
Here are some examples of cultivars:
- ‘Blackie’ (dark purple)
- ‘Black Heart’ (reddish purple)
- ‘Illusion Emerald Lace’ (lime-green)
- ‘Illusion Midnight Lace’ (purple)
- ‘Margarita’ or ‘Marguerite’ (bright green)
- ‘Pink Frost’ (pink leaf edges)
- ‘Ragtime’ (pale purple)
- ‘Sidekick Lime’(lime green)
- ‘Sweet Caroline’ (various colors)
- ‘Sweetheart Purple’(purple)
- ‘Sweetheart Red’ (reddish purple)‘
9 Creative Ways to Display Sweet Potato Vine
These ideas come from my own garden and some creative blogging friends. I’ve linked to their websites wherever available so you can explore the ideas further.
- Sweet potato vine in an old bucket with contrasting flowers (by Proven Winners) in my garden | Empress of Dirt
- Rooting sweet potato vine cuttings in water | Empress of Dirt
- Sweet potato vine with pink flowers | Empress of Dirt
- Sweet potato vine on ladder with birdhouses | Our Fairfield Home & Garden
- Sweet potato vine on bicycle planter | Our Fairfield Home & Garden
- Sweet potato vine spilling out of a planter | On Sutton Place
- Sweet potato vine (purple/black variety) in turquoise pot | Garden Matter
- Sweet potato vine in deck containers | Flower Patch Farmhouse
If you haven’t tried it, I hope you’ll give sweet potato a try. It’s definitely one of the easiest, most eye-catching plants you can choose.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
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by Melissa J. Will
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