Ornamental Sweet Potato Plants - How to Grow Them

Not meant for eating, ornamental sweet potato plants can add a dramatic touch to your patio or indoor houseplant collection.

Black Leaved Ornamental Sweet Potato Plant
ornamental sweet potato
(Image credit: Dennis Harper)

Growing sweet potato vines is something every gardener should consider. Grown and cared for like average houseplants, these attractive vines add a little something extra to the home or patio. Keep reading for more ornamental sweet potato info.

Ornamental Sweet Potato Info

The ornamental sweet potato plant (Ipomoea butatas) is somewhat different from its southern-grown vegetable sibling. While it does produce edible sweet potato tubers (albeit not very palatable and bitter), the ornamental variety bears more colorful foliage, making it a popular houseplant.

This plant produces vine-like stems similar to the philodendron and requires similar care to that of ivy when grown indoors. The vigorous growth and drought tolerance of ornamental sweet potato vines makes them great choices for mixed containers and hanging baskets. They can also be grown outdoors as annual ground cover in flower beds.

Types of Ornamental Sweet Potatoes

When growing ornamental sweet potato vines, there are a number of varieties to choose from. Popular types of ornamental sweet potatoes include:

  • Sweet Carolina Purple- Dark purple foliage and smaller tubers. Also a less vigorous grower. Suitable for small containers.
  • Blackie - Nearly black foliage with deep-cut leaves.
  • Marguerite - Bold, chartreuse green foliage with heart-shaped leaves.
  • Tricolor - Another less vigorous grower with small pointy leaves that are multicolored and variegated in shades of green, pink, and white.

How to Grow an Ornamental Sweet Potato Plant

You might be asking yourself how to grow an ornamental sweet potato plant. Growing sweet potato vines is not too difficult. They are easily propagated either from small rooted pieces from the eye buds of the tuber or by stem cuttings--no plant seeds to worry with as with their morning glory cousin.

Place your sweet potato tuber in a glass of water with the top third exposed by securing it in place with toothpicks. Stem cuttings can also be placed in water with rooting taking place within a few weeks.

Sweet potato vines enjoy a bright, sunny location outdoors with similar conditions in the home. They also thrive in the heat. Give them well-draining soil whether they are grown in pots or in the ground. In containers, make sure there are adequate drainage holes.

Care of Sweet Potato Plants

The care of sweet potato plants is similar to most other vining houseplants in the home, spending summers outdoors. While tolerant of drought, these plants prefer to be kept moist (not soggy).

Though prolific growers, you may fertilize monthly, if desired, using a general all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer. Overgrown or leggy-looking plants can be cut back to encourage bushier growth and keep them under control. New plants can be started with these cuttings to keep an endless supply year-round.