Garden Design

Sweet Potato Vine 15 Great Ways to Grow

Table of Contents

This sweet potato vine variety called Proven Accents® Margarita grew well with hot pink petunias under the dappled light of a smaller maple tree.

What are ornamental sweet potato vines?

It’s mainly used as an ornamental plant that is considered an annual in colder areas because it’s sensitive to frost. Sweet potato vines are often planted with other annuals because their light green color is an attractive contrast to darker green foliage of most plants.

It’s also grown with other plants and over structures because of it’s attractive vine features. In ideal conditions, they can get big and full very quickly covering ugly areas in your garden. Or they can bring attention to beautiful areas in your garden you want your eye to go to.

They come in a variety of colors…the most popular being chartreuse but they also come in a deep purple and with variegated leaves.

The versatility of either covering an ugly structure in your garden or bringing attention to a beautiful spot makes this plant very popular among gardeners.

Do you get potatoes from ornamental sweet potato vines?

The tubers from ornamental variety are small and edible but you may just want to save them for growing next year. They often taste bitter. You would probably enjoy eating sweet potato varieties that are meant as a food crop a whole lot more.

What’s the difference between sweet potatoes and sweet potato vines?

Ornamental sweet potato vines are propagated for their gorgeous foliage. Edible varieties like Beauregard are grown specifically as crops.

Are sweet potato vines annuals?

Yes, they are only hardy in Zones 9-11. Anything under that creates a frost that ornamental sweet potato vines are very sensitive to. Their leaves turn a lighter yellow then a dark brown. Once a deep frost hits them, it’s best to pull them out of the garden bed and compost the vine.

How do you use them in your garden?

As previously mentioned, many people in colder regions use this potato vine as annuals. You can plant them to cascade over stone walls like the above photo. Some people plant them to cover up ugly areas in their garden. They can be planted at the top of a hill to spread down or trained up an arbor or trellis. You can plant them in raised beds to add interest to your crops. If they get too unruly, make sure to keep them trimmed.

When planted with flowers that are hot pink, yellow or purple, they help makes these colors pop more when seeing them from a distance.

I like to plant them in a planter because I don’t have any walls or other structures in my garden but I do like the cascade effect they have. The lime green color is a great contrast to my dark green planter.

This variety is planted with a hot pink petunia in a planter under dappled light. The hot pink really pops and can be seen at a distance.

Can you plant potato vines in a planter?

Planting ornamental sweet potato vines in a planter that is either made of clay or plastic, as long as it has drainage holes on the bottom. The nice part about having them in a planter is that you can move it around until you find a spot where it can vigorously grow.

They need at least 6 hours of sun. The planter needs drainage holes to prevent the roots from rotting. If you forget to water it sometimes, sweet potato vines are somewhat drought tolerant but they won’t grow as vigorously.

See the difference in the shape of the leaves with Proven Accents® Margarita being on the left and on the right is Proven Accents® Illusion® Emerald Lace.

Can you use sweet potato vines as a ground cover?

If planted directly in the ground, they will fill in a space as a ground cover probably choking out anything else. You’ll want to pick a spot where the soil drains well and at least 6 hours of sunlight. It should be pulled out after the first deep frost hits it and composted.

New growth can be trained to climb just about anything.

Can you train them on a trellis or arbor?

Yes, you can train an ornamental sweet potato vine up a trellis or along an arbor. You can use fabric ties, twist ties, or plant ties to tie up the newest growth. Just make sure to use a material that won’t harm the delicate stems of the new growth of the potato vine.

When you are ready to pull the dead foliage, you can snip the ties and pull the stems/leaves through. It’s a lot easier to train a sweet potato vine with other vigorous growing annuals because you can pull them all at once. Planting an annual with a perennial or climbing rose makes the job of pulling a dead annual much harder.

They can be trained to overflow over walls and other hard structures giving it a wonderful dramatic effect.

How can you make them more full?

If you want them to be full, don’t be shy about pruning any dead stems or leaves which creates side shoots giving a sweet potato vine that more full look. Encouraging new growth can help you cover any unsightly areas in your garden. It also gives the impression of looking like a healthier garden.

What eats a sweet potato vine?

Army worms are the potato vines biggest enemy but aphids, cutworms, weevils and white flies…just to name a few. You can click here to learn more about these pests and how to combat them without using chemicals.

If you have a problem with potato weevils attacking your plants, you can add dill, chives, borage, oregano and summer savory as a companion plant. Their strong scent is a major turn off for this pest. Plant them in planters to protect them from being overtaken by the vine itself and you can move it around as needed.

The first time I ever saw a Golden tortoise beetle, Charidotella bicolor was on my sweet potato vine. It is a host plant for them and so are morning glories. Don’t be worried because this beetle isn’t considered destructive and I only ever saw one so far. They don’t bite but watching them transition into a gold color is something amazing to see.

Deer might nibble the leaves but planting them in a planter gives you the flexibility of moving it closer to the house where deer are more hesitant to go.

Are they deer resistant?

No, but if you have issues with deer nibbling on your plants, consider planting a sweet potato vine in a planter and place it on your back patio. Most deer that are afraid of people so they won’t get that close to the house.

The foliage isn’t poisonous to pets but the seeds are. In colder regions where the growing season is short, this isn’t much of a problem.

Are they poisonous to pets?

The plant itself isn’t poisonous to pets but the seeds are. If you are seeking a completely safe garden for people and animals, then don’t plant ornamental sweet potato vines or plant sweet potatoes that are mean for human consumption. The foliage won’t look at nice but it will give you peace of mind that the plants are safe in your garden.

Will it choke out any plants?

Under the ideal conditions, this vine can spread creating a thick mat so it’s important to consider which plants to choose. Annuals can grow just as fast. Some of my favorite annuals to pair up with because they like similar conditions and can keep up are Wave Petunias, Lobelia, Nemesia and Calibrachoa (Million Bells).

You can easily trim them back when they get unruly with kitchen scissors since the stems aren’t really thick. Depending on the planter space you have, just plant them with one or two other annuals.

When choosing plants to grow with ornamental vines, choose ones like a rose bush or salvia that can stand their ground against the vigorous growth. Don’t be shy about pruning when if it gets too big for the space.

What can else you plant with sweet potato vines?

As you can see from the photo above, there are roses and and salvia planted alongside the vines. The vines are planted strategically so they add drama as they grow over the stone wall. This gardener had a purpose for them and chose study plants that could hold their own without the vines overtaking them.

Summary

The ornamental sweet potato vine is widely treated as annuals because they are so sensitive to frost. Usually used as a showy accent with other plants that can handle their vigorous growth, they offer flexibility to grow in a planter, trained up a trellis, trained down to cascade over a wall and for the strategic gardener, they can hide ugly spots in the garden. Rarely do they flower but it’s the striking foliage and dramatic sweep of the vines that gardeners are after. Deer resistant and only the seeds can be toxic to pets but if you live in a cold area, the growing season rarely gives sweet potato vines enough time to go to seed.