The ornamental sweet potato vines 'Margarita' and 'Blackie' create colorful cascades in containers.
The ornamental sweet potatos (Ipomoea batatas) are fast growing, twining vines with palmately lobed leaves. These showy forms produce a tuberous root identical in appearance to the common (green leaved) sweet potato but probably not tasty. Late in the season tubular, fairly large flowers appear which are similar to morning glories. Usually they are not particularly noticeable, though, because the foliage claims most of the attention. Three types are of ornamental sweet potato are cultivated for annual, summer vines: 'Blackie' with dark purple, nearly black foliage; 'Margarita' with chartreuse leaves; and 'Tricolor' with pale green, white and pink margined leaves. 'Blackie' and 'Margarita' come back with the same color foliage as the mother plant, but 'Tricolor' may revert to green.
The origenin Tropical Americas.
Plant in reasonably good, loose, well drained soil, and water as needed. Once established, the plant is not particularly "thirsty," since the underground tuber retains enough water to get through some dry spells. Cut often if needed to control for size and to create more branching. The vines are vigorous and will put on new growth immediately. Beetles can create annoying holes in the foliage; either tolerate imperfection or spray with insecticide such as pyrethrin or malathion. Light: Full sun to mostly shade.
Moisture: Average - leaves droop when the vine needs water. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. Grow as an annual in other zones. Propagation: Where the ground freezes, dig roots in fall and put in dry storage. Otherwise, tubers may be left in the ground or lifted for division in spring. To increase, cut tubers into pieces, making sure that each has at least one "eye" (sprout).
Sweet potato vines 'Blackie' (dark red) and 'Margarita' (chartreuse) alternate creating a ribbon of color cutting through Mr. Cason's Vegetable Garden at Callaway Gardens, Georgia. I failed to notice them among the dazzle but I suspect there are some plain green "eating" sweet potato vines here too! - JackDownload a large version (800x600).
Use any of the ornamental sweet potatoes as an annual ground cover, especially on a bank where it will be the most visible. 'Blackie' and 'Margarita' contrast beautifully and can be planted side by side. In a container, 'Blackie' and 'Tricolor' can cascade down, their purples intermingling with the lighter variegation for brightness. Plant an eggplant (Solanum melongena) for height! The purple flowers and dark purple fruit will create a composition of coordinated color!
This beautiful and fast growing vine is provides an easy means of adding color to shady areas. These plants are inexpensive and becoming readily available to help you add sophisticated color and form to containers and shade gardens.