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Sweet Potato Vine Care - The Ultimate Guide from Proven Winners®

For long-lasting color and sheer drama in the landscape, few plants rival ornamental sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas). Grown for its showy, exotic-looking foliage, this fast-growing heat lover comes in various colors and forms.

Contributors: Janet Loughrey

sweet potato vine

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Sweet potato vine is easy to maintain and tolerant of different growing conditions, including heat, humidity and shade. It is a tender perennial grown as an annual in most regions.

Lush, vigorous foliage occurs in a range of bold hues, including chartreuse, green, bronze, red, brown, burgundy, purple, black and variegated. Leaves are heart-shaped, deeply lobed or lacy, creating textural interest in the landscape. One of the most popular trailing plants for containers, hanging baskets and window boxes. Sweet potato vine can also be grown as a groundcover, trained vertically on a trellis, or allowed to cascade along a wall or slope. 

PLANTING & CARING FOR SWEET POTATO VINE

How to plant:  Plant sweet potato vine in late spring to early summer after all danger of frost is past. Space plants 10-36 inches apart, depending on the variety and how it’s used. 

For containers:  Use high-quality all-purpose potting soil. Make sure containers have drainage holes in the bottom. Plants can be spaced closer together than in the ground.

Soil:  Sweet potato vine prefers moderately rich soil but is tolerant of different pH levels and soil types as long as soil is well-draining.

Fertilizing:  At the time of planting, apply a granular slow-release fertilizer according to instructions. To encourage faster growth or for container-grown plants, supplement with a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks.

Pruning:  Lightly trim plants back as needed.

TRY THESE PROVEN WINNERS® VARIETIES

Sweet potato vines come in a range of foliage colors and shapes. Try these in your garden:

sweet potato vine margarita

Proven Accents® Margarita

Vibrant chartreuse heart-shaped leaves grow vigorously along trailing vines up to 6 feet long. Makes a stunning accent in containers, grown up a trellis or arbor, or as a quick filler in sunny or part shade borders.

Proven Accents® Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Lime

With charming heart-shaped lime-green leaves and a smaller growth habit, this variety is a good choice for pots, hanging baskets or window boxes. Combine with flowering annuals such as petunias or lobelia in contrasting hues of hot pink, blue or purple for sizzling summer color.

Illusion Emerald Lace

Proven Accents® Illusion® Emerald Lace

Yellow-green leaves are deeply lobed for a lacy effect that adds fine texture to any landscape. Use as a trailing accent in container combinations where the compact form won’t overwhelm other plants. Makes a frilly backdrop when massed with other flowering plants in a garden bed.

Blackie sweet potato vine

Proven Accents® Blackie

One of the darkest varieties, with deep purple-black foliage, the attractive maple-shaped leaves grow on vigorous vines up to 6 feet long. Add dramatic contrast to the landscape by combining with other plants in strong colors of hot pink, chartreuse or orange. Use as a groundcover in a garden bed or a stunning trailer in large containers or hanging baskets. Give plants plenty of room to grow and prune back as needed so adjacent plants don’t become overwhelmed.

Tricolor sweet potato vine

Proven Accents® Tricolor

Lobed ivy-like leaves are uniquely variegated in colors of pale green, pink and cream. The less vigorous habit won’t compete with other plants. Use as a striking accent by itself or in combination with other annuals in hanging baskets, window boxes and containers. Place on a patio or deck where the intricate foliage patterns can be enjoyed up close.

HOW TO USE SWEET POTATO VINE IN YOUR LANDSCAPE

Sweet potato vine can be used in many ways. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Mass at the front of a mixed border for a sea of continuous color from summer to frost.
  • Alternate contrasting colors such as chartreuse ‘Margarita’ and dark purple ‘Blackie’ as a quick-growing groundcover along a slope for a dynamic display.
  • Lighten up a shady area with a chartreuse or lime-green variety such as ‘Margarita’ or ‘Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Lime’.
  • Create a welcoming display by planting a row of hanging baskets along your front porch with complementary colors such as ‘Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Lime’ and ‘Blackie’.
  • Plant sweet potato vines along the top of a rock wall and allow to cascade over the side.
  • Grow sweet potato vine up an arbor or trellis in combination with other quick-growing annual vines such as nasturtium or morning glory for a vertical screen of color.
Happy Place combination
Combine ‘Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Lime’ in a window box with ‘Helena’s Blush’ wood spurge and Luscious® Berry Blend lantana for a “thriller, spiller, filler” effect.

For an elegant focal point, plant a decorative ceramic pot with ‘Tricolor’ sweet potato vine, Plum Dandy Alternanthera and purple fountain grass.

SWEET POTATO VINE FAQ’s

Does sweet potato vine like sun or shade?

Plants are adaptable to varying light conditions from full sun to shade. Foliage color is richest when plants receive at least 6 hours of full sun per day. Leaves will be greener when planted in shade.

Does a sweet potato vine grow sweet potatoes?

Though sweet potato vines can produce tubers like their edible sweet potato relatives, they were bred for their attractive foliage rather than edible qualities. The tubers are not particularly flavorful, and production can be scant or non-existent.

Is a sweet potato vine an annual or perennial?

Hardy in USDA zones 9-11, sweet potato vine is perennial in warmer climates, but is most often grown as an annual.

How fast does sweet potato vine grow?

These vigorous quick-growing vines can reach 6 feet wide and up to 10 feet long in a single growing season.

Do deer eat sweet potato vine?

Deer will graze on sweet potato vine foliage, so protection should be given in deer-prone areas.

How often do you water sweet potato vine?

Keep soil evenly moist. Make sure plants receive an inch of water per week, or more during extreme heat. Containerized plants will need to be watered more often, every 1-2 days during hot spells. Don’t overwater or allow plants to dry out.

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