Sweet Potato Vine Ipomoea batatas Green

Ornamental sweet potato vines are a classic “spiller” plant perfect for container gardening. They are cultivars of the same species as edible sweet potatoes but are only ornamental, not edible, as they are very bitter. This beautiful, fast-growing tender herbaceous perennial is native to tropical regions of the Americas and best planted in the spring once temperatures consistently stay about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It has long tendrils that tumble over the edges and down the sides of containers.

What is the Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet potato vines are available in various colors—from almost black to chartreuse—and with several different leaf shapes. They are bred for the beauty of their leaves rather than their edible tubers, and the vines from these plants make them look more like morning glory or clematis.

  • Botanical Name Ipomoea batatas
  • Common Name Sweet potato vine, ornamental sweet potato vine
  • Family Convolvulaceae
  • Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
  • Mature Size 8–10 ft. long, 5–12 in. wide
  • Sun Exposure Full sun
  • Soil Type Moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH Neutral to acidic
  • Bloom Time Spring, summer
  • Flower Color Rarely flower but may produce pink to purple-lavender
  • Hardiness Zones 9–11 (USDA)
  • Native Area Tropical regions of the Americas

Sweet Potato Vine Care

Ornamental sweet potato vines are versatile plants that are equally suitable for filling outdoor containers, spilling over a wall, or covering ground in a landscape bed. They are also popular as indoor plants and can grow inside year-round or during winter. Like many rooting vines, they can be vigorous growers in the right conditions and may need frequent trimming to stay in check. The parts you trim back can be used to propagate the plant elsewhere.

The plant grows best at an average temperature of 75 F and does not tolerate frost. It prefers sunny days and warm nights. The plant is drought-tolerant but likes its water. Do not allow this plant to get waterlogged. Sweet potato vines rarely flower when the daylight is longer than 11 hours, which normally occurs outside the tropics.

Light: Sweet potato vines love the sun but will also grow in partial shade and sometimes full shade. The more sun the plant gets, the more vibrant its leaf color will typically be.

Soil: These plants prefer moist, well-drained soil that’s nutritionally enhanced with organic matter. They are prone to root rot if their soil remains too wet. Make sure that the container you choose has ample holes for drainage.

Water: Sweet potato vines are drought-tolerant, though they will grow more vigorously with frequent watering. Water enough to keep the soil consistently moist but not overly wet. Its leaves will wilt when the plant is thirsty.

Temperature and Humidity: These vines like sun more than high heat. In hot climates, they will benefit from some shade, and they should be watched carefully, so their soil doesn’t dry out. They thrive in many humid climates but don’t need high humidity as other tropical plants do.

Fertilizer: Fertilize sweet potato vines if you want them to grow vigorously. A weekly feeding with a well-balanced fertilizer during their growing season will boost growth, but given their naturally robust habit, you may find that feeding also increases the need to cut them back.