Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Sweet Potato Vines

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Last Friday, a group of student volunteers and I began pulling the annuals out of the raised beds in the Enabling Garden.  It was sad to see them go, but they were starting to get a bit ratty.  Ready or not, it’s that time of year!

The students were especially interested in the sweet potato vine, Ipomoea batatas ‘Blackie.’  And rightly so – it’s no ordinary annual!  ‘Blackie’ is an especially attractive spreading vine with dark, lobed leaves that grows with vigor in both containers and flowerbeds.  But what caught the eyes of the students were the tubers we found when pulling up the plant.

Do you need a refresher of what a tuber is?  According to dictionary.com, a tuber (too-ber) is “a fleshy, usually oblong or rounded thickening or outgrowth, as the potato, of a subterranean stem or shoot, bearing minute scale-like leaves with buds or eyes in their axils from which new plants may arise.

Finding these tubers, brought up a few good questions:

Are sweet potato vine tubers edible like sweet potatoes?

Yep, they sure are!  Both come from the Convulvulacea family and Ipomoea genus.  But sweet potato vines have been cultivated over the years as an ornamental plant and the tuber has lost its sweet taste (can even be a little bitter).

Can you overwinter the tubers and grow sweet potato vines next spring?

This is something I have never tried (because it they are always so cheap to purchase at the garden centers in the spring), but technically, you should be able to overwinter the tubers and start in the spring just like potatoes.  To overwinter, cut the vines from the tuber and rinse with water to remove all soil.  Let the tubers dry out and then store in a cool, dry spot.

 Sweet potato vine also roots from cutting.  Just stick a shoot in water or moist soil.

 See you in the gardens.

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Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

October 4, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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