Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) is the “spiller” plant of a hot-climate gardener’s dreams. This ornamental vine is a fast-grower that loves the heat, thrives in full sun, propagates easily, and requires minimal care. Best of all, sweet potato vine comes in a range of colors and a variety of forms. Learn how to grow sweet potato vine, and add some to your landscape, container, or garden.
5 Tips for How to Grow Sweet Potato Vine
1. Choose the right location for sweet potato vine
Sweet potato vine thrives with plenty of sunshine; look for an area that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. Although it loves the sun, it will grow (albeit more slowly) in partial shade as well. In the low desert of Arizona, sweet potato vine will grow in full sun, but is happiest with a little afternoon shade.
Choose a location with rich, well-draining soil. Amend the planting area with compost prior to planting. Space plants 1-2 feet apart, depending on the variety.
2. Plant sweet potato vine at the right time
Sweet potato vines are warm-loving plants and should be planted in the spring once temperatures are above 50°F (10°C). Once temperatures warm up, plant sweet potato vine anytime – even during the heat of the summer. In the hottest times of the year, the leaves may die back a bit, but as long as you keep it evenly moist, the roots will settle in and begin producing new leaves.
Sweet potato vine is very frost sensitive and the leaves will die back and may turn black in freezing temperatures. In mild winter areas (zones 9-11) like the low desert of Arizona, it is possible to overwinter sweet potato vine. Cover it if there is a frost event.
3. Plant different varieties of sweet potato vine
The different forms of sweet potato vine can add beauty and interest throughout your landscape. Sweet potato vine makes a beautiful bedding plant and will quickly fill in large areas. Use more compact types as a border along a flower bed.
Look for a wide range of colors of sweet potato vine, including deep purple, lime green, bronze, dark green, and pale purple.
4. Care for sweet potato vine correctly
- Sweet potato vine thrives in hot, humid conditions, but tolerates some drought. Even watering encourages more vigorous plants.
- Lightly prune or shape as needed throughout the growing season to keep sweet potato vine in check.
- Fertile soil is often enough for vigorous plants, but a water-soluble fertilizer can be applied monthly to encourage growth.
- Potential problems may include:
- Leaves turning yellow or brown indicate root rot or fungal infections. This is often caused by overwatering or water-logged soil.
- Holes in leaves indicate pest problems; this is usually minor and best left untreated.
- Wilted leaves are often caused by lack of water.
5. Propagate sweet potato vine easily
Whether you are looking to add sweet potato vine in other areas of your garden, share with friends, or overwinter for planting the following spring, sweet potato vine is easy to propagate.
The most common way to propagate sweet potato vine is from cuttings.
- Use clean, sharp garden snippers (these are my favorite) and cut off a branch with several leaf nodes (places where the leaves attach to the branch).
- Remove the leaves off the bottom several inches.
- Place the cut stem in water in a jar in a sunny location.
- Roots will form after just a few days (plant anytime after roots develop).
- Replenish water daily and refresh water every couple of weeks to discourage bacteria until you are ready to plant.
You can also propagate sweet potato vine from tubers.
- Before the first frost, dig up the tubers and let them dry.
- Bury tubers in a box of vermiculite (not touching) and place in a cool, dry location.
- Inspect tubers prior to planting. Remove discolored areas.
- Divide tubers if desired, ensuring each tuber has at least one eye and some roots.
- Plant tubers 2 inches deep in the spring.