Wintering sweet potato vine

conace55(z5 CO)October 3, 2007

I love the look of the trailing sweet potato vine in my containers outside each year, but hate the price I have to pay for it in the Spring. Is there a way to winter it over? Can I take cuttings? Or should I dig up the "tuber" and store it in a cool dry place? Any advice from those who have tried this would be much appreciated.


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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Connie,

If its Ipomoea you have, we used to sell them both as bedding plants in spring, and as water plants, so you should easily be able to take some fairly long tip cuttings and just stick them in a glass of waterÂthen either plant them in soil when they root out well, or just keep them in the water all winter. They probably wonÂt look very good by spring, but when itÂs close to planting back out time, you could once again pinch the tips off and root fresh cuttings to plant for next summer. (ThatÂs what I do with my Perilla every year.) If theyÂre in soil, keep them wet and keep them in as much sun as possible over winterÂsame thing if theyÂre in water. I was also wondering about storing the tubers, so I found this site, and it looks like you can do it that way too. As I recall, when we used to grow them with the water plants inside, they were pretty susceptible to mites, so if youÂre growing it over winter, keep an eye out for them, and slosh the whole top around in some soapy water if they show up.

Sure wish it would stay summer a little bit longer,

    Bookmark   October 4, 2007 at 12:08AM
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conace55(z5 CO)

Thanks for your reply, Skybird. And for the link. I'll give it a try; I have nothing to lose.

"Sure wish it would stay summer a little bit longer". But you've got to love these Fall days of mild weather. A person can work in the yard and not get so hot and sweaty. I'm loving it!


    Bookmark   October 4, 2007 at 12:23PM
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bluefortune(z5 CO)


Thanks for that link -- I never knew you could save the tubers over winter -- makes sense though.


I love those vines too! I wish it would stay summer longer too -- even though the fall days are wonderful. They still remind me that winter is on it's way.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 2:39PM
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Azura(z5 CO)

I put cuttings of Margarita and Blackie in water last week and both had several long roots growing within a few days. The cuttings in my propagation chamber are doing okay but are not developing roots as quickly. Thanks for the link, Skybird. If I pull up the tubers tomorrow and they have survived tonight's frost, I might try keeping them to avoid the white fly fun of overwintering the cuttings.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 12:21AM
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stevation(z5a Utah)

Hey guys, thanks to your inspiration here, I snatched some of what looks like Blackie from a downtown sidewalk planter box today and I'm rooting it in water. I also have a bunch of petunia cuttings (also snatched from downtown planters) I'm rooting and will grow them all through the winter in my basement in a south-facing window.

LOL! Steve the plant thief! Well, the city's just going to let the plants die within a few weeks anyway, right? :-)

    Bookmark   October 10, 2007 at 1:16AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado



    Bookmark   October 10, 2007 at 12:19PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Im gonna bump this one back up to report on the success of my overwintering efforts for Blackie sweet potato vine.

Back in October I dug up and planted into 6" pots the two Blackies I had in planters. While I was replanting them I also separated one of the tubers and put it in a small baggie and stuck it in the garage, and I also cut off the longest vines and stuck them in water. Here are the results!

About three weeks after bringing them in, the two in pots and the cuttings in water all started looking BAD and the leaves started falling off. I already knew what was wrong, and when I looked closely, they were covered with mites. I wasnt in the mood for fiddling at that point, so rather than trying to wash everything off with soapy water, I fed them all some systemic insecticidefor the cuttings in water, I just put a little bit directly into the water. Very quickly they all started to recover and I have not had anymore trouble with mitesthe treatment was 3 - 4 months ago now. What I used was a commercial grade granular insecticide that isnt available in stores, but there is a granular insecticide available retail that would be similar, though weaker.

As the winter went on, clearly the two potted plants were doing far better than the ones in water, which did well until they were well rooted and then just kind of sat thereand eventually started to actually decline. About a month ago I finally got around to potting up the cuttings that had been started in water, and they are now starting to grow and thrive again.

The tuber I put in the baggie, I probably should have given more ventilation than I did. It was pretty small, and I was afraid it would dehydrate too much with our low humidity, so I had it pretty much completely closed into the baggie. When I checked it a few days ago, there is some moldthough it is NOT dehydrated!!! I dont know if it will grow or not, but Im curious, so I am going to plant it when its warm enough outside.

So, the conclusion is...........

~ The two plants in pots did the bestby far.
~ The cuttings started in water are doing well now, but would have been better off if they had been potted into soil more quickly after they were rooted.
~ However theyre kept over winter, if theyre kept as live plants rather than just as tubers, they need to be watched very closely for insects. I didnt have any problem at all with white fly, and I believe mites are the biggest problem on Ipomoea, but I think they could be susceptible to eitherand possibly more!
~ No real decision yet on the tubers, but I think they might be pretty difficult to overwinter in such a dry climate where balancing the air circulation well enough to prevent both desiccation and mold might be a problem.

Heres a picture of the two that were put into soil in pots right away. (click to enlarge)

The plant in the middle is a pineapple mint that was left over at the Fall Swap that I thought would be kinda fun to grow inside over winterand Ill probably take it back to the Spring Swap for somebody whod enjoy it since Im not about to put it into the ground! (I treated it for the mites along with the sweet potato vines!)

And heres a picture of the cuttings that were started in water and only a couple weeks ago put into soil in a pot.

The Blackie is the one in the foreground. The other thingswhich I also brought in to save over winter, are.....
~ A geranium, on the right, that was put in too late to do anything outside. It now has a small flower opening!
~ Perilla Magillathe one that looks like coleuswhich, like sweet potato vine, is just too expensive to buy new each year. Im getting ready to take more cuttings from this plant so Ill have more for different places by the time its time to plant them out. The Perilla was also started in water (and treated), and was potted into soil about a month ago, along with the Blackie. It, too, is doing much better now that its in soil.
~ And a little scrap of Purple Fountain Grass (behind the Blackie), which was planted into soil immediately, and hasnt done much over winter since I was only able to get a very small piece with almost no roots chopped off of the parent plant, but Ive started feeding it and with the longer days its finally starting to grow. Yes! It WILL turn purple again once it gets going well!

Was anyone else successful in keeping their sweet potato vineor anything elseover winter?


    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 11:15PM
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aliceg8(CO 5)

I have got to find a place indoors for starts and seeds!! I put my tubers in a paper bag with wood chips - the kind used for rodent litter. The bigger ones are kind of soft. One looks like it has a little mold on it. They're kind of shriveled too. I guess I won't hold out too much hope.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 2:46PM
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Azura(z5 CO)

I got tired of the white fly infestation and trashed all of my sweet potato vine starts months ago. I dont have any of the white flies left now and I wished I had kept some of the plants! I did save the tubers from the frost so it will be new plants for me. I hope to buy them early in the season and have several new plants started by my last frost date.
I am glad you had success!
Im sorry to hear about your tubers, Alice. I dont know how to store them. I wonder if its somewhat like dahlia tuber storage? I am reading up on that because Ive ordered some heirloom dahlia varieties after reading Digits posts on dahlias.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 4:02PM
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stevation(z5a Utah)

My sweet potato cutting rooted quickly in water, and I left it there probably too long. Eventually, I transplanted the big, rooted mass into a pot by a south window in my basement, and it died within a week. I should have taken some cuttings off of it before it died and put them in water in case that happened. I don't know why it died. I heard our local gardening guru on the radio once say that the roots plants develop in water become different than the roots they'll grow in soil, so you should transplant things into soil very quickly after they sprout roots in water. But it sounds like yours worked OK, Skybird. Wonder what was wrong with mine?

I did have good luck with some petunia cuttings I took last fall. They're all still alive, although a few are looking a little hammered. Most are thriving quite well, and I just took new cuttings off of several of them. They're even flowering with only several hours of sun a day from the window.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 4:43PM
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Linda's Garden z6 Utah

I also tried to save my sweet potato vine by storing the tubers in peat moss. I kept them in a box in the garage and about six weeks ago I checked them and most of them were moldly. I few seemed ok so I decided to pot them up to see if they would grow. After several weeks and no sign of life, I dug one up to see if it was starting to grow and it was mushy. I don't know if it was too cold in the garage, the average temp was about 40 degrees. The dahlias, cannas, and elephant ears and begonias were all ok and starting to sprout. The caladiums were mushy too! One thought is maybe I should have let the potato vines dry more before putting them in storage or maybe I should try storing them in the unheated basement. I would really like to find out how to store the tubers sucessfully!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 9:43AM
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triple_b(BC 5b)

yes it is a fine balance with temperature, and dryness/humidity as to what to store them in too. I find that with dahlias as they are also tubers. Two winters ago I kept checking my dahlias and finding fuzzy mold starting on the surface. I sprayed them with Lysol aerosol spray. You can probably cross-reference sweet potato tuber storage tips in the dahlia forum.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 1:37AM
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