Sunday, October 29, 2023

Growing Ornamental Sweet Potato Vines - Propagation

Growing Ornamental Sweet Potato Vines

The deeply lobed leaves of the sprawling vine of the Ornamental Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) continue to be quite a show stopper in the garden. It's a great way to add a tropical feel to even the northern gardens.

They are considered to be perennial in Zones 10A through 11B. In Zone 9 and north, they are grown as an annual plant that needs to be propagated or overwintered to last year to year. The vines grow to 6” high and have a recommended spacing of 18” apart.

Types of Ornamental Sweet Potato Vines

The two most popular leaf colors of the ornamental sweet potato vine are chartreuse, like in Margarita and Bright Ideas Lime, and the deep purple to black leaves of Blackie and Bright Ideas Black. Red and tricolored leafed varieties are also available, but for my money, the combination of chartreuse and deep purple can’t be beaten.

Caring for your ornamental SPV

Sun/Heat Requirements

Ornamental SPV can be planted out after outside temperatures reach at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The optimum growing temperature range is 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

They can grow in full sun to part shade, though their leaf color will vary depending on their siting. During the hottest days of summer, the SPV will thank you for some respite from the hot sun.


Any well-draining healthy soil will do, however, they are intolerant of highly alkaline soil.


Fertilize the SPV once in the spring and once in the summer with a balanced fertilizer at half the strength to keep them healthy and happy. Be sure to fully water the plant after fertilizing to get the fertilizer to the roots.


Moderate watering is fine with well-drained soil. Just be sure not to leave the SPV roots too soggy as they are prone to root rot.

SPV in Containers

The Sweet Carolina series of ornamental SPV were bred for container use.  This variety has smaller tubers for less vigorous growth.  It comes in several colors including yellow, green, red, purple, bronze and lime green.  But any variety of SPV will spill over a window box or hanging basket nicely.

Here are a few care tips for container plants.

  • Fertilize once a week with a balanced fertilizer at 1/4th strength.
  • Check the soil for dryness daily.
  • Remove dead or dried out leaves.
  • Trim the vines back as needed.

If you want to get a mounding pattern or you want the plant to branch out, make a cut just above a pair of leaves to encourage it to split and branch off.


By Seed

Because SPVs don’t produce many flowers, they don’t produce many seeds, and the seeds they do produce may not be viable. Rooting cuttings is the preferred method of propagation as it's easier and faster.

Roots Growing where leaves pinched off

By Cuttings

Snip off 6 inches of a branch right below leaf nodes.  (I will note that in my experience, cuttings much longer than 6" are more difficult to pot up in 3-4" pots later.)  Then pinch off the leaves of the lower two to three rows of leaves. This is where the new roots will grow.

Submerge the cuttings in lukewarm water making sure the stems are submerged but not the leaves which will rot in the water. Roots will start to grow in four or five days. As the roots grow, keep them under the water. Change the water every two to three days.


Place the rooted cuttings in indirect sunlight or a windowsill. If the leaves begin to turn brown and crinkle on the edges, they are getting too much light. Filtered light is the best.

Cuttings can also be planted in a pot of soil to root. They can even be planted right in the ground. However, the cuttings will root faster in water. Ornamental SPV cuttings can live indoors with a grow light or sunny window during the cold months and be ready for the spring growth spurt.

SPV tubers ready to overwinter

By Overwintering Tubers

Like edible sweet potatoes, the ornamental sweet potatoes vines form tubers underground. To save them year to year, you can dig up the tubers making sure not to slice into them. Brush off the excess soil and place them in peat moss, sand, or vermiculite making sure the tubers don’t touch each other. Store them in a cool, dry place. In spring, watch for sprouts.


Very few garden plants are so beautiful yet so easy to grow and care for. The fact that they’re so easy to propagate can give any gardener a lot of bang for their buck. And that’s just a few of the reasons why ornamental sweet potato vines remain so popular!


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