Rooting sweet potato vines to overwinter

linnea56(z5 IL)August 21, 2008

Recent posts on rooting other annuals to take indoors have me hopingÂ

I have been growing sweet potato vines for several years. A few are in mixed deck planters I take in and out every year (though those donÂt always make it over the winter and have to be replaced). But I also plant 6 or more in other planters and in the garden. This year I was dismayed at how costly they were at the nursery. I still shelled out but bought fewer. I tried taking cuttings last year but they died immediately. I noticed that the cut stems ooze a milky liquid. If I have to I will dig up the whole plant but IÂm hoping that will not be necessary: plus I am likely to leave it too late before frost.

The chartreuse colored ones in particular I really want to keep going. WhatÂs the secret for these?

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I used to propagate them in sand beds, but found out by accident when I had too many cuttings to get around to setting them that they root up easiest in a container of water, lol. I stuck the cuttings in a jar so they wouldn't dry out before I could stick them and by the time I got around to sticking them, they'd already rooted in the days! Now, I just root them in water and then pot them up in a container when they get a decent rootball.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2008 at 5:58PM
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I'm glad you posted this because I was wondering myself. I adore my sweet potato vines, and they are pricey.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2008 at 10:41PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I had some in pots last summer. I dug up big sweet potatoes out of the pot (not the kind you eat, ornamentals). I put the washed S. potatoes in a clear plastic shoe box with a lid no soil or peat moss. They survived the winter in my cool basement. In early spring I potted them up but they didn't do too well. After it got warm I put them outside and they took off. These were the purple ones. They do root quickly in water. You could buy some in spring and take cuttings then to reduce your expense.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2008 at 11:47PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

I wonder why mine died right away? IÂve tried cuttings in the fall before. If you wait until late does that make a difference? I know it is supposed to with some plants like geraniums.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 2:08AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Just a couple of weeks ago mine had bug holes and looked ugly, so I cut them off. I threw the parts I cut off in a shallow pan with rainwater in it. The vines had lots of roots when I looked the other day. I did not take cuttings these were long vines. The roots were all along the stem.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 4:03PM
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Doesn't that burn you when you pay premium prices for them and then find out how easily they're started? ;-) I don't always overwinter them because I need so many of them in spring, but if I do, then I root up a bunch of them in late fall, and then plant them in a hanging basket or urn and poke it in my solarium when the weather starts to threaten frost. I used to keep one greenhouse kicked on all winter for overwintering things, but with fuel prices what they are, that is a thing of the past and I only kick them on for poinsettias and then a month and a half break before kick one on to start my spring line. So, the solarium gets a lot of foliage stuff for starts the next year.

Putting eight or nine cuttings in a twelve inch basket keeps them so they don't take up a lot of space and I can suspend the pot by a rafter to get lots of light. You can pinch them off through the winter to keep them stubby and for each pinch, you'll get more lateral branching so that by spring, you have gobs of stems for cuttings.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 4:46PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

Linnea, it has been my observation in the past that cuttings from plants do best when they are taken at the peak of the plant's health. Cuttings from plants that were declining often do not take, or if they do, they die. Perhaps if you take your cuttings earlier in the season, especially before your nights begin to cool off, your SPs will root more readily. You may have noticed that the leaves on SPs turn an off color when the weather begins to chill. Perhaps, you should cut before then. Also, remember they need very warm soil. I have flourescents in my basement where I start seeds, but there are certain cuttings, like SPs, that need such warm temps that I keep them upstairs until they are well established.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 5:23PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

After the frost. Dig up the soil in your pot and you will find the sweet potatoes. I only did this once, but it was easier for me to store those than to keep a plant alive all winter.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 11:28AM
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I went looking for an "overwintering sweet potato vine" post today because yesterday I was at my community garden and found zounds of freshly discarded black sweet potato vine that I promptly took home and put in water in hopes of reviving and rooting. They perked up and look great; I'm hoping for roots.

That being said, I've had similar experiences to linnea, or where I've rooted them but then been unable to keep the newly rooted plant going through winter.

The one winter I did best was when I simply dug up a plant, shook some of the dirt off, then heaved the whole thing into a plastic grocery bag and left it in the corner of a cold room. I started giving it small sprinklings of water again once I noticed it was putting out some fresh leaves in late winter or early spring. Go figure.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2008 at 9:52AM
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Ornamental sweet potato plants should root easily as long as the plant is reasonably healthy (it'd be a good idea to take cuttings before the temps start dipping below 40).

One good-sized stock pot kept going over winter in a sunny window or under lights should yield plenty of material for cuttings taken in early to mid-spring, which can be set out once the weather warms up.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2008 at 12:36PM
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I think they can be stored just as Glads, in a cool dark place like a basement.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2008 at 6:40AM
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liz_h(7/8 DFW Texas)

I sprouted a regular sweet potato by accident once, and it made a gorgeous purple vine. I only kept it as long as the plant grew from the potato, which was maybe 6 weeks.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 4:04PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)


I tried again after reading suggestions from this and other posts. I cut identical vines and removed the growing tip and trimmed off the largest leaves. I had also read posts about rooting being better if the sun could not reach the roots.

I put some in a clear glass vase, some in a dark colored plastic drinking glass, and some in a ceramic vase with a cut dahlia flower. Since I suspected my water had too much chlorine, I set a jug of water out overnight for the chlorine to dissipate and used that for the water in all. The ones in the ceramic vase with the dahlia rooted the fastest, in 2 days. The plastic glass second. The clear glass vase had half the stems wilt and rot before I took them out to check. The ones in the ceramic had done so much better that I pulled the glass vase ones out, threw away the rotted ones, washed the rest, and put them in another ceramic vase, where they have now outstripped the ones in the plastic glass.

Now all I have to do is get them to survive potting up. The first ones I did have already died, apparently. IÂm not sure when to pronounce "dead" but it doesnÂt look good. The leaves have all dried up and the tiny leaf tips at the nodes look like they are dying too.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 2:18PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

This is really interesting, linnea. Keep us posted! Have you tried sticking the cuttings in potting soil and rooting them that way? Some plants I have tried in water and seen rot, survive being stuck in soil.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 10:17PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

I tried doing that last year and had no success. But I have been reading up here to try to improve the odds. I read on one post here to mix potting soil 50-50 with perlite and try that for rooting cuttings, the idea being that they would be less likely to rot. The soil still has to be kept pretty damp. I have a bunch of miniature ivy cuttings IÂm trying that way, with the addition of rooting hormone: all the cuttings of those taken earlier rotted in plain water. Too soon to tell but after a week they still look pretty good.

I think as long as I have sweet potato plants in the garden to cut from, I should try the soil/perlite combo for those as well.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 10:28PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Just thought IÂd post an update. The last rooted cutting has died. I made at least 25, rooted in several different ways, potted up in several different ways. I thought I had their preferences all figured out when some did better than others at the start. But then, one by one, they all died. Some even had new sprouts up until the last days. I also dug up whole plants from the garden, 2 chartreuse and 2 Blackie. 3 of those are alive, but donÂt look too great. Next year when I buy them (which I was hoping I WOULDNÂT have to do anymore), I am going to pot some up alone to be able to bring them in for the winter without doing either cuttings or having the stress of transplanting. Sigh.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 11:06PM
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linnea56 ,

Can I buy some of your sweet potato vine in spring? I want the one with the light green leaves.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 1:48AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Hi v1rtu0s1ty;

I would have to see which survive! And if I will be able to start cuttings off of them that root and live. I only have 1 of the chartreuse ones. IÂm hoping that rooting them in spring will give me better results.

I bought them at Home Despot in May, thatÂs where I will go look again next spring.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 1:33PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

Almost every garden center has these in the spring once the chance of frost has passed. Buy one of each and snip the tops. Put it in water and you'll have roots in a few days. Once that has rooted, the one you bought should have new growth again if planted outdoors. Keep doing this until you have enough plants. In warm weather, they grow pretty fast.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 12:05PM
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Perfect! I'll check some nurseries in spring. Thanks for helping me again. :D

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 12:17PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

I will have to do that this year. I hope that in springtime they will "like" being rooted and then planted in soil more than they did in the fall. I had plans last spring to make cuttings from the new ones I bought, but the stems were too short and I just planted the whole plant out instead. I remember being dismayed at how stubby the plants were, considering the price. Annuals were way up everywhere I looked, casualty of gas prices at the time, I suppose.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 1:21PM
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Can we keep them in the basement just like how we do for canna rhizomes?

Buy one of each and snip the tops.
You mean, once it's grown, cut at least 4" long from the top then place in water?

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 3:52PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

What you want is what I call a nub. It's technically a node, I guess. It's where the leaf meets the stem. If you cut just below that, you can put the node in plain water and have a new rooted plant in a few days. Just sit it in a sunny window. I do this every year. This year, I made cuttings of my own plants. They're still alive and growing, just slower than they would outside. Just make sure you have a node, and they'll root really quick.

You can also do this with petunias, impatiens, coleus, and a few other annuals. Some do better in moist soil, but these will root in plain water in a sunny window. Buy a 6 pack and make 6 new plants. Keep doing that for a few weeks and you have plenty of annuals.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 11:16PM
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Dragon Wing Begonias can also be cut and stuck in potting soil and it makes a new plant in a few days. You can even just take small cuttings of Dragon Wing Begonias and make little pots that you can eaily overwinter indoor, so you do not have to pay $25 to have just one plant next Spring!

The same you can do with Wandering Jew Vine!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 9:40AM
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Just an update. My sweet potato vine on a big pot made it. I even barely watered it. I placed them in the basement near window to get some light. It got some light maybe 1-2 hours a day and depending on the month. The maroon version though looks like didn't make it or maybe the pot where it was wasn't deep enough. The chartreuse kept producing leaves but were pale and losing leaves too. It's outside now. But I might have to bring it in tonight since we'll get down to 38F in the next few.

I'm so happy since it's somewhat a success and that I didn't put a lot of effort.

Bad news, my purple fountain grass didn't make it. It stopped producing leaves around January. I brought it outside. We'll see.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 10:22AM
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Taking them away from the outside will help them survive.

Here is a link that might be useful: custom fountains arizona

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 12:05PM
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shelley_t(z5 IL)

I do both... at least this year.

I always dig up the "potatoes" to overwinter each year and put out in the spring. But this year, my daughter picked a flower arrangement and included some chartreuse sweet potato leaves (right where they naturally break from the vine) and it rooted in the water! They are doing quite well and I think I'm going to float them in my son's fish tank until spring.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 11:50AM
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Just an update. The potato vines that I kept in the basement made it. It grew 10 ft long. However, the color wasn't chartreuse anymore. It became normal green. Another person had the same experience. The following year, he noticed the leaves aren't lime color anymore. I've brought them in last week. The tubers are fat now. :D

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 7:26PM
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