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Sweet Potato Vine Design: A Pop of Shade Garden Color

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Sweet Sweet Potato design in shadePotato design in shade

Planting combinations

Sweet Potato Vine, or Ipomoea batatas, comes in many different colors. They include bronze, black, chartreuse, green, purple, and bi color vining foliage growing from spring to fall. The vine can grow 8 to 15 inches with trailing branches up to to 60 inches long.

Every year I try different planting combinations in my full shade vegetable garden in my back yard. Here you see the raised performance platform garden in Illinois. It is dripping with shade plants and Proven Winners Sweet Potato Vine ‘Sweet Caroline Light Green’. This vine is one of my favorite “color fills” for creative garden design. While tags on the plants say they should be placed in full sun to part-shade, I plant the bright vines in full shade with no problem. They do not over-perform in shade conditions, but they do provide an amazing little pop of color where needed.

Growing Sweet Potato Vine

Related to the sweet potato vegetable, sweet potato vines are edible. The ornamental trailing varieties do not produce a flavorful root. Their vine is edible and can be cooked like you would swiss chard or spinach. Most varieties of these vines collapse at first frost. I cut the long vine stems and root them in a glass of water inside on a sunny window. You can enjoy their colorful leaves that way year round.

Sweet potato vine is a weak climber. It is known instead as a great spiller and filler standard for window boxes. The vines adore sun, but do well in part sun and even shade. With new, colorful leaf varieties, the combination possibilities are endless for garden beds, vertical wall gardens, and containers. They make an astounding ground cover mosaic in any garden.

1. When, Where, and How to Plant a Sweet Potato Vine

While most labels for the plant say to grow in full sun, the vine will also do well in shadier levels of light exposure. The plant will grow more length in full sun situations. Amend soil with a heavy amount of organic content such as compost or rotted manure. This annual prefers a well drained soil. Incorporate an organic slow release into the soil when planting. Use an organic water soluble fertilizer every few weeks throughout spring and summer. Mix chelated iron in the soil when planting to help keep the color strong and producing. 

2. Best Growing and Care Advice

Ornamental sweet potato vine is carefree and exceptionally heat tolerant. The plants can sometimes suffer from root rot if overwatered. Therefore needs to dry out between waterings. Although it is fairly drought tolerant if you wait too long to water the plant it will wilt. Container plants typically require more watering than ground planted vines.

Sweet potato tubers can be dug up in the fall and overwintered in a cool, dark, place. Deer, rabbits, and voles love the vine unfortunately. Additional pests include beetles – hand pick to remove. Aphids are best treated by squirting a strong blast of water from a garden hose or spraying the bugs with soapy water.

3. Sweet Potato Vine Companion Planting and Design

Sweet potato vine performs well when planted en masse in borders and garden beds. Drape beautifully over hanging baskets, window boxes, and containers. Planting partners include euphorbia, angelonia, calibrachoa, coleus, geranium, grasses, zinnia, and mixed varieties of petunia. Building walls of draping color over balconies is quite easy to do.

Try These Colorful Plants

‘Blackie’ has deep purple almost black foliage that is shaped like a hand. ‘Marguerite’ brings bold chartreuse green colors to brighten up shadier areas. ‘Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Red’ has adorable little heart shaped leaves with a bronzy-red tone. ‘Illusion® Emerald Lace’ is a bright green plant. It has a more upright habit with less trailing stems which goes well with more trailing varieties of flowers. ‘Tricolor’ has ivy-like green, white, and pink leaves that trail up to 36 inches.

Other fantastic benefits to ‘Ipomoea batatas’ or Sweet Potato Vine ‘Sweet Caroline Light Green’ include heat tolerance. Dead heading is not necessary. Just plant and water regularly. Below you see a close-up photo of the performance stage shade garden with Sweet Potato vine, white impatiens, and coleus as the super stars.

Try a sweet potato vine this year in a different niche in your containers or gardens. You will be surprised by its color-fill adaptability.

planting combinations

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  1. I’m starting to get my flower magazines and looking at your pictures and mine are making me long for spring. I love all the colors. With days like today, if at all possible we can slip into your pictures and feel the warmth well at least only in our minds Pam

  2. Don’t wait for your sweet potato vines to wither away in the fall. If you press them, they will turn a rich brown with pronouced deep chocolate veining. I use them a lot in my abstract botanical compositions but they’d be great laminated as placemats or in any number of applications. I think I have a few now in my Etsy listings.

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