The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the family Convolvulaceae. Its large, starchy, sweet-tasting, tuberous roots are a root vegetable.
Species cultivars are ornamental subtropical vines that are most often used as sprawling ground covers or as foliage contrasts grown to hang down over the edge of containers or window boxes. Leaves of the ornamental varieties are heart-shaped to palmately-lobed (to 6″ long) and come in bright green, dark purple, chartreuse and variegated (green with pink or white) colors.
This tender tuberous perennial with heart-shaped, lobed, almost black leaves bears trumpet-shaped lavender to pale purple flowers. It is excellent in containers or weaving among other plants in beds and borders. ‘Blackie’ is usually grown as an annual.
“Margarita” or “Marguerite” sweet potato vine is a frost-tender version of the sweet potato. It is a perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 11, and grown as an annual elsewhere. Bright chartreuse foliage provides a light color for this trailing vine. An excellent foliage contrast in containers, baskets, window boxes or garden beds. Produces small white flowers in warm tropical conditions, but is mainly sold as a foliage plant for accent
In the Garden
It is a fast-growing tropical vine that gracefully spills over the edges of patio containers or hanging baskets. Planted in the ground, sweet potato vine serves as a ground cover or sprawls along the border of a flower bed.
If grown as a ground cover, plant stems typically mound to 9″ tall but spread by trailing stems to 8-10′ wide, rooting in the ground at the nodes as they go.
Caring & Growing
Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun.
U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11. Needs to be sheltered from cold, drying winds in colder regions.
Prefer full sun. Best leaf color usually occurs in full sun.
Grow in moderately fertile, well-drained soil.
Water sweet potato vine as needed to keep the soil lightly moist but not soggy until the plant is established. Once established the underground tuber retains enough water to get through some dry spells. Even after established, it is best to keep soils consistently moist.
Usually, mixing compost into the soil at planting time would provide ample nutrition. Fertilize monthly, if growth appear weak, using a general all-purpose, water soluble fertilizer. Water immediately afterwards.
Container plants and or rooted cuttings taken in late summer may be overwintered indoors in bright sunny locations. Best to rotate plantings to different locations of the garden from year to year to minimize possible fungal disease problems.