The Shawnee News-Star
  • Sweet potao vines

  • Popularity has grown in last decade.
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  • The ornamental sweet potato vines, Ipomoea batatas, have grown in popularity over the last decade. In 2002 the “ Margarita” cultivar was selected as an Oklahoma Proven annual.
    For the last two years this plant has been a feature of the Main and Bell landscaping in Downtown Shawnee. It has done well both years. In fact, it is growing so well that it is spilling over into the street. If you would like to have some of the vine yourself, it is not too late to take a cutting, root it a few days in water and then plant it into a container or in the ground. One request: take your cuttings from the edges where it is growing over the brick border and eventually into the street or sidewalk.
    In addition to the light green Margarita variety, two other cultivars are frequently used. The pots at the 9th street entrance to the City Hall and in the median at 9th and Bell both have Blackie ornamental Sweet Potato vines. They tend to not grow as profusely as the Margarita variety. Another cultivar is named “Tricolor.” Its leaves are a combination of green, gray, and pink.
    In the fall, after the killing frost comes, it is time to remove the ornamental vines. If the planting is on the south side of a wall or house, you might consider cutting the vine back to the ground and leaving the tubers in place. If we have a mild winter, it is possible that the vines will come back next year. This happened several years ago at the entrance to the Expo Conference Center.
    If you do dig the tubers, you will find a long skinny potato. I have been asked if they are edible. The answer, according to the literature, is yes, they can be cooked and eaten, but they don’t taste very good. My recommendation is to stick with regular sweet potatoes.
    In addition to planting these vines in the ground, they can be placed in containers or trained to grow on a trellis. On a TV program recently featuring use of bathtubs, bathroom sinks, commodes, etc. as plant containers, a bed spring placed vertically was used to grow vines. With a little assistance the Margarita sweet potato vine might be trained for such an unusual feature if that fits your landscape scheme.
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