UACES Facebook Ornamental Sweet Potato

Ornamental Sweet Potato

(March 2010)

QuestionI have a neighbor that needs some help with her nine window boxes.    Her window boxes are 36" long, 7 1/2 " wide and 6 " deep, and they have a nice layer of moss all around, and no plastic liner.   There are 4 on the first floor and 5 on the second.  They get some morning sun, the 4 on the right more - maybe 4 hours, and the 5 on the left maybe 2-3 hours.   Watering is not a problem, but her house is a dark red.  Light pinks, yellows, white and any shade of green, especially the silver ones would look good.  She would like a cascading effect on the top 5 as they are so high up.  Would perennials work? That way she wouldn’t have to replant every year.  Any suggestions you have would be wonderful.

AnswerThere are two reasons I would probably opt for more annuals than perennials.  First, I wonder how long perennials would last in these window boxes.  The soil temperature will get much colder in these moss lined wire containers than in the ground, the containers aren't that large, so the volume of soil is smaller, and they will be elevated, so my guess is that most perennials would freeze or at least go totally dormant during the winter.  Another downside for flower potential, is that perennials have a defined season of bloom and then they have a period of just green growth.   Do you want them to have color in the winter months as well?   How awful would it be to use annuals? For the summer season, Silver falls dichondra would be fantastic in them as would the sweet potato vine--there is a pink and white variegated one, or even the Blackie would look good.  If you want to try a perennial, try variegated Vinca major or the variegated needlepoint ivy.  Creeping jenny would also be nice, but the bright yellow of the foliage might clash--you may want to go with the green one.  For color in the pots that is more upright, try the Zahara zinnias, bubblegum pink petunias or angelonia.  These are all annuals, but give you way more color in a season than perennials would.  Some of the smaller ornamental grasses may also be a perennial option for filler.


(April 2007)

QuestionI have three 10" hanging pots that are in full sun all day. I would like to plant some colorful plants (that maybe hang over).  Do you have any suggestions?

AnswerThere are several suggestions.  One that really can take heat and grow non-stop is the ornamental sweet potato vine.  It is a cascading plant that comes in either bright lime green- ‘Margarita’, purplish black – ‘Blackie’; or variegated.  It is quite prolific. You could use it as the cascading plant and use pentas or melampodium as a filler plant, but try not to overcrowd the containers or watering will be more difficult. You can also use some of the trailing lantana or petunias.  If you have ever seen the glorious hanging baskets in downtown Hot Springs, they are all one variety of petunias. Try the Wave or Supertunia varieties.  They all should take the sun.  Make sure you keep up with the nutritional needs of the plants and the daily watering that will be needed as the heat increases this summer.


(February 2010)

QuestionI have a neighbor that needs some help with her nine window boxes. Her window boxes are 36" long, 7 1/2 " wide and 6 " deep, and they have a nice layer of moss all around, and no plastic liner.   There are 4 on the first floor and 5 on the second.  They get some morning sun, the 4 on the right more - maybe 4 hours, and the 5 on the left maybe 2-3 hours.   Watering is not a problem, but her house is a dark red.  Light pinks, yellows, white and any shade of green, especially the silver ones would look good.  She would like a cascading effect on the top 5 as they are so high up.  Would perennials work? That way she wouldn’t have to replant every year.  Any suggestions you have would be wonderful.

AnswerThere are two reasons I would probably opt for more annuals than perennials.  First, I wonder how long perennials would last in these window boxes.  The soil temperature will get much colder in these moss lined wire containers than in the ground, the containers aren't that large, so the volume of soil is smaller, and they will be elevated, so my guess is that most perennials would freeze or at least go totally dormant during the winter.  Another downside for flower potential, is that perennials have a defined season of bloom and then they have a period of just green growth.   Do you want them to have color in the winter months as well?   How awful would it be to use annuals? For the summer season, Silver falls dichondra would be fantastic in them as would the sweet potato vine--there is a pink and white variegated one, or even the Blackie would look good.  If you want to try a perennial, try variegated Vinca major or the variegated needlepoint ivy.  Creeping jenny would also be nice, but the bright yellow of the foliage might clash--you may want to go with the green one.  For color in the pots that is more upright, try the Zahara zinnias, bubblegum pink petunias or angelonia.  These are all annuals, but give you way more color in a season than perennials would.  Some of the smaller ornamental grasses may also be a perennial option for filler.


(November 2005)

QuestionI am writing to ask a question about the decorative sweet potato plants we had in our garden this season.  Ours formed several large reddish skin tubers, which when cooked are white.  The question is are these edible?

AnswerYes, they are edible, but the quality is probably not that good. The ornamental sweet potatoes were discovered while breeding for an edible variety.  The resulting foliage was a keeper, while the vegetable wasn't great.  Thus they became an ornamental.  Some folks have saved the sweet potato fruit to start new plants for the following year.  Some breed true--keeping the bright green foliage or black, depending on variety, while others have reverted to the old green.  It is worth trying.


(April 2005)

QuestionLast fall, I harvested two large tubers from my ornamental sweet potato vine.  They are beginning to sprout now.  Please tell me how to plant them..

AnswerEdible sweet potato plants are grown from slips, which are produced from the sweet potato saved from the year before.  While the ornamental plants also can produce some large fruits--and many did last year, they don't always breed true.  I have had some gardeners tell me that the resulting plants were all green the following season, while others have gotten something similar to the Margarita or black-foliaged version of the year before.  Since you have them, give it a try and see what results you get.  You won't be out anything but your time.  To grow your own plants, place the sweet potato roots about one inch apart in a hotbed and cover with two inches of sand or light soil. Add another one inch of sand when the shoots begin to appear. Keep the soil in the bed moist throughout the sprouting period, but never allow it to become waterlogged. Keep soil temperature between 70° and 80°F. Plants are ready to pull in about 6 weeks (when they are rooted and 6 to 8 inches tall).


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