The potato vine has long been popular as a garden ornamental in the United Kingdom and is now gaining popularity in the United States as well. The plant adds striking summer interest with a nice bushy form and bright violet flowers. But this potato tree won’t grow just anywhere, at least if you want it to survive the winter
The USDA recently released new zoning for the entire United States based on recent environmental changes that have gradually warmed all the regions. That said, you might be able to enjoy potato vine in your garden where you previously may not have been able to 30 years ago. To see how much things have changed, check out this arbor day zone change map; I think you’ll find it pretty surprising!
Technically, the plant thrives in zones 8a and above. That includes a lot of southern and western states but unfortunately leaves out the breadbasket area, Rocky Mountains, and the east coast. Sorry folks. If you really want to grow this, you’ll be forced to seed it every year because it will die back with each frost. Potato vine is very popular in California, Texas, and Florida (among the southern states). However, it can be grown in cooler climates in Washington and Oregon as well, at least in areas west of the Cascade Mountain range. Many growers have reported success growing Solanum from Maple Valley, WA to coastal Florence, Or. There have even been reports of growth up in British Columbia in zone 7b!!
If you live in a cooler climate, it probably helps the plant to keep it close to a house wall for protection from wind and cold. Paghat has a garden in zone 8 and successfully grows potato vine; check out the pictures and story here. If you live in 7b, it sounds like it might be worth a try integrating Solanum crispumin your garden! If you live in a place where potato vine and other warm weather plants might succumb to freezing temperatures, this may be your long term solution
Do you have potato vine in your garden? Where do you live? Let us know or send us a picture!
Click here to find out if you can grow potato vine in your region!
This post may seem premature, considering it’s only March and we have months before this should be an important topic for you, but read this now and you’ll be ready when you’ve harvested your sweet potatoes.
It’s important to know if you plan on consuming the tubers or not. If you do, it’s recommended that you “cure” the sweet potato to allow the potato to develop its sweetness and flavor as well as heal any dings and cuts. If you eat the sweet potatoes shortly after pulling them out of the ground, you’ll find their flavor is really lacking. During the curing process, the potato starches are converted to sugars and that characteristic sweet potato flavor. To cure, keep the sweet potatoes in a humid environment (~80-90% humidity) and in a warm place. If you can achieve a temperature of 85 degrees, 10 days will be sufficient to cure the sweet potatoes. If you keep them in a 70-80 degree environment, count on 2-3 weeks to cure.
That said, if you have a variety or cultivar sweet potato, I would really wonder if it’s worth eating at all. If you bought it at a nursery or really any place other than the grocery store, it was probably started using fertilizers and pesticides, which have been passed on to your roots.
Once you’ve given the potatoes time to cure, you can store them in a dry, cool location, much like you would potatoes from the grocery store. Keep them in something breathable so humidity doesn’t accumulate; avoid moisture at all costs. Outdoor pits are not recommended in this case. Your target storage temperature should be around 55-60 degrees. If you’re thinking of keeping your sweet potatoes in your refrigerator, think again. Keeping them at such a low temperature will render the core solid and give you an “off” flavor. Check on the crop every couple weeks to cull out any that might be rotting. To that end, keep sweet potatoes away from other produce that might encourage sprouting.
Follow these instructions and you’ll be seeing healthy, plantable sweet potato tubers in the spring. Have a tip I might have missed or a story you could share?
You’re considering planting a potato vine (Solanum crispum)…GREAT! Potato vines are fairly simple to care for and make excellent additions to your garden. You’ll really appreciate the quick growth and beautiful flowers.
Or perhaps you already have a vine growing. Either way, here are 7 tips you must know if you plan to have potato vine in your garden space:
- During the plant’s first season, water regularly to allow water to penetrate deep and allow for a deep root system to develop. Afterward, you can get away with watering less frequently but make sure to let the water penetrate deeply.
- Make sure your plant gets plenty of sun, at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. The plant may need the shelter of a west or south-facing wall in cooler climates.
- Watch out for pests! The most common potato vine pests are aphids, thrips, spider mites, and whiteflies. Control the aphids with a natural household concoction of water, white mineral oil, and dish soap.
- Use a good organic fertilizer to provide necessary nutrients the soil might be lacking. I like Alaska Fish Fertilizer that you can buy at a big box store, but there are many to choose from.
- Fungus can be an issue in more humid climates; you might see powdery mildew or blight. Organic fungicide works well to combat these problems.
- Use a trellis to support the fresh growth, or consider an arbor.
- Prune annually to control its shape and promote next year’s growth, but not to the ground like some other vines.
Best of luck! Anything I missed? Let me know.
I’m hoping to have fun with this experiment. Now that it’s March, it’s time to start thinking about our summer gardens. Why not get started with home-grown sweet potato vine?
This is day one. I’ll be documenting how long it takes to develop roots and shoots so you might get a better idea of what to expect if you do the same. This is a project to start with your kids as well…I’m sure they’ll have a lot of fun helping out with the garden!
Three easy steps to starting your sweet potato vine:
- Fill medium to large glass jars with water. I like glass jars so you can keep an eye on the root growth progress without disturbing the tuber.
- Place potato pointy side down.
- Use a rooting aid such as Superthrive shown here to help speed up root production.
Stay tuned to see how this experiment turns out. How long do you think it will take to see shoots?
Real Simple magazine calls it a “goof-proof” plant for beginner gardeners; the sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) is easy to propagate and simple to care for. The plant is a wonderful container garden plant and makes a great creeper or ground cover as well. The foliage consists of bright green palmately lobed leaves, while the flowers are colorful morning glories. Morning glories, you ask? The sweet potato is in the same genus as the prized garden flower, so there’s no surprise they look similar. In fact, some nurseries might sell the sweet potato vine as a “tuberous morning glory.”
There are quite a few varieties of sweet potato vine, including:
- Sweet Caroline
- Illusion Emerald Lace
- Illusion Midnight Lace
Gardeners in colder environments should probably steer clear of this plant. It abhors frost and must be in zones 8b and higher. It would make a lovely indoor container plant otherwise. In cold environments, the sweet potato vine is grown as an annual, since the frost will claim the plan come winter. In warmer climates it is a perennial and bless your garden year after year.
China is the leading producer of sweet potatoes worldwide (80% of the world’s production!), but that shouldn’t keep you from growing your own sweet potato vine. It’s easy! I’ll give you three ways and photographically illustrate them in future posts. First, take a sweet potato from your pantry and place the bottom third of the tuber in water. Wait. Second, you could cut the sweet potato in half and plant the two halves in a container and again, wait. Soon you’ll see strong sprouts coming out of the top! In the first case, you’ll also see roots growing in the water. If you already have the plant and just want another, you can simply cut off a portion of a vine and place the cut end in water until it produces roots.
Have pictures? Send ‘em along! I’ll post them to the blog!
The potato vine (Solanum crispum) is a climbing shrub native to Peru and Chile, often planted as an ornamental in temperate zone gardens of the United States and UK. It is also commonly known as the Chilean Potato Vine or Chilean Potato Tree. Its growth pattern defies its vine nomenclature; it grows much more like a bush or small tree. The potato vine is related to the potato by genus (Solanum tuberosum), and is named due to the similarity in flower appearance.
It’s a semi-evergreen plant, which means that it can, in some climates, stay green with foliage year round while in other circumstances lose its leaves and require pruning to invigorate growth the following season. The plant explodes with growth if given its preferred environment: a sunny locale and frequent watering. During warmer months of the year, the potato vine grows quickly, up to 10-15ft in a single season. During its growth period, the woody-stemmed plant sprouts many lavender star-shaped flowers with vivid yellow stamen from May through September or October. It can grow unsupported but thrives if left to climb on sturdy trellises or even on neighbor trees and bushes. The plant is perennial, so new growth occurs every year.
Popular varieties include the striking Solanum jasminoides, with white, fragrant jasmine-like flowers and the hardier variation, Glasnevin, which withstands colder conditions and also tends to flower more than its relatives. These potato vine varieties also make excellent eye-catching additions to the garden.
The potato vine makes an easy and beautiful addition to the garden in US zones 8 and up (look up your zone here.) The bright, contrasting flowers add a burst of color to any trellised area or on the side of house. Planting near a wall can help with cooler conditions in zone 8. In the fall the Chilean Potato Tree produces berries, but be careful not to ingest the berries because not only do they taste unpleasant but they are also toxic.
Do you have Solanum Crispum in your garden? Let us know! We’d love to hear additional information and personal stories about your potato vine plant.
This website is designed to be the most comprehensive resource available for potato vine (Solanum crispum), but we know you might also be looking for information on sweet potato vine (Is there a difference? Stay tuned!), so we’ll be doling out all sorts of informational goodies for both types of potato vine.
We hope to address the following questions in the posts to follow:
- How do you grow sweet potato vine?
- When do you plant potato vine?
- Can sweet potato vine be grown indoors?
- Can you store tubers over winter?
- How does one propagate sweet potato vine?
- How does one propagate potato vine?
- Is it annual or perennial?
- …and many more!
Have suggestions for what you’d like to know about potato vines or sweet potato vines? Leave a comment! We’d love to hear from you!
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