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Past Articles Library | How to Grow and Care for Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine

As one who has been a frugal gardener for many years, I have developed a liking to plants that serve dual purpose.  What do I mean by that?  Well, plants that I can use in my landscaping and/or container gardens along with indoors.  Purchasing plants that serve dual purpose is a great way of keeping my gardening budget under control, which sometimes gets out of hand, while creating a beautiful interior and exterior environment.

Before I go on, I would like to explain that I am talking about the ornamental sweet potato vine not the sweet potato vine grown from a sweet potato.  While the latter does create a beautiful houseplant, I want to discuss the ornamental sweet potato vine.

As stated before, this plant has a dual personality.  It looks wonderful hanging out of a hanging basket.  This plant adds that special trailing feature that is so important when it comes to container garden design and creates a unique border when planted along the edge of a landscape design.  It can also be showcased when grown along the edge of a rock wall or rock garden and allowed to trail down the surface of the rock. 

Another use for the ornamental sweet potato vine can be found when it is planted for the indoor environment.  If can find home in a hanging basket or growing up a trellis.  Either one of these approaches can, believe it or not, be used to create living walls by which to divide your living space.  But regardless of how you use ornamental sweet potato vine, there are a few tricks to the trade to keep it looking its best.

The first item to check off when growing ornamental sweet potato vine, is knowing how to select the best plants.  In general, there are four different varieties of ornamental sweet potato vine.  This includes the tricolor, which is smaller, has pointy leaves that are splashed with green, pink, and white colors.  Next, there is the Marguerite, which is ornamental sweet potato vine with bright green, heart shaped leaves.  If you are looking for something a little darker, you have two choices.  The Sweet Carolina Purple or Blackie both of these varieties are dark in nature.  Sweet Carolina Purple is as the name indicates a purple colored ornamental sweet potato vine.  It does not grow as quickly as other varieties.  Blackie is a variety that has leaves that are almost black.  The leaves of this variety are deeply sliced, which gives a unique texture to this plant.

Now that you know the varieties that you have to choose from, how do you select the best plant?  Most ornamental sweet potato vines will be purchased from your local garden center.  The key is to select plants that will not care disease and pests to your home.  The signs of problems include damaged leaves, drooping, and discoloration.  If you see any of these signs, do not buy the plant.  On the other hand, a healthy ornamental sweet potato vine is vibrant in color, has new growth on the ends, and the growth is not spindly. 

Once you have your plant material home, the next step is to plant it.  Ornamental sweet potato vines like areas that receive partial shade to full sun.  As far as the soil goes, the only requirement is that it is well draining.  While this plant’s requirements are pretty flexible, one important requirement is not and that is space.  A typical ornamental sweet potato vine grows to be 6 inches in height while its spread can be as much as 5 feet.  In doing so, make sure you have enough space in your landscape design for this beauty.

After you have selected your area, prepare the ground as you would for any other plant.  Once the ground is smooth, dig a hole that is the same depth as the container of your ornamental sweet potato vine.  The width will need to be two to three times the width of the container.  When doing this step, do not just throw your soil on the ground.  Place it in a bucket and mix in a little compost, which will feed your newly planted sweet potato vine.

Once the hole is dug, place the pot in the hole to test it out first.   If the hole is fine, slit the sides of the container, tease the roots with your fingers and place the plant in the hole.  Fill the hole in with the prepared soil and water in until you no longer see bubbles coming to the surface. 

If you are using your ornamental sweet potato vine in a hanging basket or container garden, the process is simple.  Clean and sterilize the container by washing it in a bucket of soapy water with a capful of bleach.  Once the container is clean, rinse it in clear water and allow to dry.  Next, place drainage material in the container and fill an all purpose potting soil mix.  If you are a forgetful gardener, consider adding a slow release fertilizer to the planting mixture prior to filling the container.  As far as the formulation goes when it comes to fertilizer, look for one that is high in nitrogen, which is the first number.

Once you are ready to plant, consider planting your sweet potato vine along the edge.  This will highlight the cascading nature of this plant.  While a pot or planter of just ornamental sweet potato vine is beautiful, what planting companions look best with this plant?  The first plant that comes to mind is the New Guinea Impatiens.  This plant has similar growth requirements and can tolerate more sun than other impatiens varieties.  There colorful foliage and flowers give that splash of color that compliments the texture of the sweet potato vine.

Another easy to grow companion is the African Marigold.  Again, this plant has similar growth requirements and loves full sun.  While the ornamental sweet potato vine grows out, this plant takes up the vertical space.  It can grow up to three feet in height but the brightly colored, puff ball like blooms are well worth it.  Also the striking yellowish orange blooms against the vibrant colors of the sweet potato vine make this combination unforgettable. 

What do you at the end of the season?  Well, you can let the weather take your plant or you can bring it in but there is no reason to have to dig it up.  Instead, consider just taking a cutting or two.  This process is easy but prior to bring you starts in, make sure that they are free of pests and disease.

Once you feel confident that your plant material is fine, begin the propagation process by selection a healthy branch.  After you have picked your branch, take a cut.  At this point, remove all the leaves along the stem except the top three.  Next, make a new cut on the stem and either place it in a glass of water or push it directly into the soil.  If you choose the latter, make sure to keep the soil moist and in about 6 weeks you should have a new ornamental sweet potato vine plant.  To keep your sweet potato vine as healthy as possible, make sure to place it on a sunny window sill.


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Once in a while, it is nice to just step back, admire all your hard work, and the simple beauty of nature.

So this tip is to take a deep breath, take a minute, and look around and enjoy the beauty of all these wonderful plants.

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