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17.11.07

Storing Sweet Potato Vine Tubers

Storing Sweet Potato Vine TubersI'll be storing sweet potato vine tubers that I purchased this year for the first time. If you're interested previously I've posted a photo of my ornamental sweet potato vine flower (really beautiful flower IMO) and on my other gardening blog I've posted on how to root sweet potato vine cuttings. You can visit both of those links for pictures and information if you're interested. This post will be about storing sweet potato vine tubers for the winter and my experience with this plant.



This year I grew the two most common varieties of ornamental sweet potato vine; Ipomoea batatas "Blackie" (black sweet potato vine) and "Marguerite" (green leafed variety) in containers in my garden. I grew a black sweet potato vine in my small container alongside my black Calla Lily and a black Oxalis (you can search my blog for photos) and two more in a large container with Coleus "Kong". The only sweet potato vine that flowered and produced seeds was the sweet potato vine that was in the small pot with the Calla Lily and black Oxalis.

My theory on my sweet potato vine flower.

I'm no expert but I wonder if crowded roots, poor soil quality and drier growing conditions lead to the flowering, fruiting and seed production in the sweet potato vine. The soil makeup of smaller pot was also poorer quality than the larger pot and would often dry out once the plants all were established. Perhaps this lead to stress in the plant and that stress triggered the flower and seeds production so it could reproduce before it died. The plants in the larger pots that had ample room to grow and never dried out concentrated in growing foliage. I've seen sweet potato vines in planters around Chicago for year and never noticed the flowers. When mine began to flower I paid extra attention to the public planters to see if they would also flower but I never observed a single flower on them.

Sweet potato vine tubers are weird.

When I lifted the sweet potato vine tubers in the photo above I was expecting something that looked more like potatoes-to me they look more like something you'd find inside of a baby's diaper than a potato. The other interesting thing about the tubers that I can't get over is the coloring of the tubers. The reddish tuber came from a black sweet potato vine and the larger lighter tuber came from a green sweet potato vine but the smallest tuber in the picture above also came from a black sweet potato vine. Does the color of a sweet potato vine vary with age of the tuber?

Overwintering sweet potato vine tubers.

After I washed off the tubers I placed them inside of a paper bag where I'll keep them for the winter in a cool and dry area of the house. If I had more room to spare I would have kept them inside the pot and let the foliage die back and allow the soil to dry out and place them in the area where the bare tubers will go. I've been doing some reading and some garden bloggers have reported that the tubers are slow to wake up in the spring and start growing. Maybe storing the tubers isn't such a great idea if you're looking to save some money in the spring. The other thing I noted was some gardeners stating that the tubers they left potted and stored were prone to rotting compared with those stored bare.

Some history for the garden nerds.

I did a search on Google for Gardeners looking for storage information and came across an interesting article on sweet potatoes. Here's an excerpt;

Sweet potato was already an important crop on Pacific islands when Europeans landed on the islands: Easter Island (Roggeveen, 1722), New Zealand (Cook, 1769), and the Hawaiian Islands (Cook, 1778). Sweet potato, known as kumara, was a staple in the diet of the Maoris of New Zealand; interestingly, the name kumar is used for this plant in Peru! Rongo ma-Tane, a Maori god, protects this plant; a buried tuber is powerful enough to cause enemy to go mad and run away.

Given that the species does not generally reproduce from seed, the spread of this plant must have been by the transport of the root tubers. Therefore, the pre-Columbian occurrence of sweet potato in southern and eastern Polynesia, as well as in New Zealand, needs an explanation. Certainly the plant originated in the Americas and was carried westward into areas where Asian root crops had not yet arrived. Two equally plausible hypotheses have been proposed: (1) Polynesians raided the Peruvian coastline and took sweet potatoes back with them; or (2) early Peruvians, who used balsa rafts, transported sweet potatoes to Polynesia on their oceanic forays (as tested by Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki experiment in 1947). Long-distance dispersal by ocean currents has been ruled out, because the tubers spoil in seawater.... Source: "Batatas, Not Potatoes".


Edit: see the new post on ornamental sweet potato vine propagation for a picture of sweet potato vine seeds and how to take cuttings of ornamental sweet potato vine. The post also explains if ornamental sweet potato vines are edible.

42 comments:

  1. I do like the colors of the two potato vines you grew. They are a bit too vigorous for my containers, but still worth growing.

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  2. I appreciate the info, I kept a sweet potato vine tuber, I was planning on putting it in a pot and seeing if I could get it to grow inside this winter, then put it out again in the spring. I'll have to rethink that strategy.

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  3. I'll follow this with interest - storing roots are both tricky and pretty easy. (Adendum; Google for Gardeners - cool!)

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  4. I brought in my black sweet potato vine that I had growing in a large pot with coleus, but the green one that was in with them, I only saved the tuber and it's in the basement in sawdust in a bag. I've never tried saving them before.
    The black one just got done blooming again. I think they're very pretty, too!

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  5. Hi all,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment on the post and if you're storing them too I hope we have good luck getting them to wake up in the spring.

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  6. Thank you for the tip!

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  7. Great post! I tried storing tubers last year, but when I planted them they didn't sprout. Maybe I gave up on them too soon? So this year I am rooting cuttings in water. They are growing lots of roots, so I will need to pot them up soon. I grow 'Marguerite' in a container with a dark leaved Perilla...I love the combination! I root the Perilla and overwinter it, as well.

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  8. Anonymous12:40 PM

    Howdy!! Got a brown thumb myself!! Well planted some Marguerite Sweet Potato Vines here at work and was leaving them in as long as possible becuase they looked nice - just pulled them - from 2 plants i got over 7 pounds of tubers and have two that weigh 1 1/2 pound each!!!! Not a tough plant to grow but i feel pretty darn special :)

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  9. Anonymous8:11 AM

    My wife bought two plants this spring and they were both beautiful but the green one (sweet potato plant) on the east side of the house was the prettiest. She pulled the vines up this week and was screaming for me to come look. The tubers were growing on top of the ground and they are the wildest things you have ever seen. I can't find anything on the net that will compare. I have pictures for anyone to see. Its worth the trouble.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:37 AM

      so can i bring the whole vine in as a indoor plant for the winter or just save the tubers? AND someone said save in sawdust did they mean peatmoss?

      Delete
  10. Anonymous6:08 PM

    ARE THE TUBERS ON ALL ORNAMENTAL SWEET POTATO VINES EDIBLE, OR JUST THE ONES FROM THE SUPERMARKET? I PULLED SOME MAMMOTH POTATOES OUT OF A POT FROM THE NURSERY THAT WERE GROWING IN WITH OTHER PLANTS, SURPRISED THE HECK OUT OF ME!
    I NEVER GREW ANY BEFORE, SO FORGIVE MY DUMB QUESTION.

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    Replies
    1. I find the colored potato vines to taste the same as the regular sweet potatoes but less sweet. The red ones (from the green vine) are quite good. I steam them and the turn out quite soft and intact. I am a hort tech and have started to plant more at work and harvest them in the fall:)

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  11. Anons thanks for sharing your experience growing these plants.

    To the person asking if they can be eaten-I read they can be eaten but they aren't very tasty.

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  12. nancy mccarthy5:28 PM

    I have some great round tubers from my sweet potato vines I'm dying to see if they are edible? Anyone try this or am I going to die from somw exotic disease. They are red and rotund and doubtful if I can store them thru winter, Need advice before I start peeling

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  13. Anonymous10:27 AM

    As a kid, I remember how much fun it was to start sweet potato vines from sweet potatos purchased in the grocery by putting it(tuber) in water and watching it sprout. Is this how the ornamental sweet potato tuber in started?

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  14. Nancy,

    Sorry for the late reply...they are edible but said to not taste very good.

    Anonymous,

    Probably done through vegetative propagation cuttings of the tuber or stems in a mass production process.

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  15. Laura3:46 PM

    Hi Fellow Gardeners! I just found your site when I did ask.com "sweet potato vine." so this is great. I had the same question: how do you store the tubers? I have grown the lime green and black sweet potato vines before in pots, but never had any idea what was beneath!! My husband was emptying the pots for the winter and yelled for me to look at what he found. There were these crazy magenta pink potato looking things! So now I know how to store them thanks to this site. Hope they will grow back next year. Should I store them in peat moss? I'm putting them in the basement. I'm in the Northeast, too cold for garage.

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  16. Laura3:42 PM

    Hi again. I forgot to mention that the reddish skinned tubers were from my GREEN vine, not the black one. It was the lime green one. So, Mr.Brownthumb, in response to your comment that you wonder if the redder tubers are the younger or older ones, or if they are just from the black vines, I guess they come from the green variety too. All my tubers, small and large, were the magenta red color so maybe the age doesn't matter?

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  17. Laura,

    you can store them in peat or newspaper and just keep them cool and dark so they don't try to grow. In the spring plant them out again where you want them to grow.

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  18. Anonymous3:09 PM

    I always buy a sweet potato plant in the Spring, for several years now. They grow like crazy and I hate to lose them in the Fall. Last year I tried storing the tubers in a bag and stored them in my garage, it was cool and dark there. It didn't work, they shriveled up and died. This year I'm going to try storing the tuber in a pot with just the tip showing.

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  19. Hi Anonymous,

    Even when the tubers of plants look like they're dead plant them anyway. I had several bulbs/tubers I thought were dead and I planted them and was surprised by them coming back!

    Thanks for commenting and good luck with yours. Don't forget to take cuttings too, just to make sure.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous7:16 PM

      Hello, my sweet potato vine produced tublers and a few large potatoes as well. Can I cut the potato in 1/4's and plant next spring or do I have to leave them whole?

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    2. Gee, that's kind of a hard one. On the one hand I would say to leave the ornamental sweet potato vine tuber whole and cut it up in the spring when it is breaking dormancy. Or leave the tuber whole and plant the whole thing again in the spring.

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  20. Anonymous6:33 PM

    As for your post about the odd finding of sweet potatoes in polynesia - the Book of Mormon tells of people living in the Americas who boarded ships and sailed west never to be seen again. It is not so odd to think that they would have taken some sweet potatoes along for the journey.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous12:37 PM

      To understand the probable source of many plants, inclucing sweet potatos, in Polynesia and thruout the world, read "1421, the Year china Discoved America". This book is exceptionally well documented, including DNA, blue Ming China, carved message stones, etc., that seems to verify that a large fleet of China ships (often close to 500 feet long)sailed virtually the entire world in 1421-1423, stops at Sacarmento,CA and Newport, RI. You need to read the documentation to understand.

      Delete
  21. Anonymous,

    I'm not familiar with the teachings f the Book of Mormon...so thanks for the comment because that's a really interesting theory I never would've come up with on my own.

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  22. Anonymous2:02 PM

    I cooked two of my tubers that were very round. They were very sweet, but quite a starchy texture. Think I'll stick with the idea of storing them over the winter. I love the Marguerite variety and can't believe how HUGE the tubers are!

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  23. Anonymous12:05 PM

    I am interested in growing sweet potatoe vine next spring. Do I purchase the tubules somewhere or try to get sprouts from a sweet potatoe. I really am clueless.
    Gardener from Minnesota!

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    Replies
    1. You can get them fairly cheap at Bachmans

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  24. @Gardener from Minnesota,
    You usually can purchase them from garden centers. You can make your own from propagating ornamental sweet potato vines through cuttings. It may be too "cold" in your area to find them in garden centers, but if there's a gardener in your area who would share some cuttings propagate some SPVs that way. The tubers will form as your cuttings get older.

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  25. I was hardly aware of ornamental SPV when I discovered Mr.BrownThumb's posting. I understand why ornamental SPVs are potted or alternately grown out in the soil. I have vine tubers from plantings grown outdoors specifically for tuber consumption. I want to plant them next May so I guess I keep them cool and dry through the winter and try to revive them in the spring. Will they be hardy and productive when planted back in the garden plot? My location is North Alabama.

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  26. John, they should be hardy and productive when you plant them back into your garden if they're stored properly.

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  27. Denise11:08 AM

    I have grown sweet potato vines for several years, but this year when I pulled the tuber out of the soil they seem to have rotten parts on them so I am going to cut the bad part out and dry the tuber a bit and wrap in news paper and store in the garage . we'll see what happens.

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  28. Denise,

    Sorry to hear about your tubers. Make sure to dust the cut parts with something like a fungicide to keep the cut ends healthy.

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  29. Anonymous4:26 PM

    Hello,

    Thanks for all your info, I just found out this year that the Blackie and Lime Green plants I planted have potatoes grow from them. So I guess when they called them potato plants it wasn't just a clever name.

    Anyway I was going to cook them for dinner tonight but I thought I should check the internet first and I came across your blog. My Blackie plant grew white semi round potatoes and the Lime Green grew red fingerling type which I guess is the tubers. Sorry but I'm not quite clear on the storage method. I believe I clean them first then wrap them in newspaper and store, as you said but should I put them in water to wait for the roots to grow and then store them because I was thinking that if the roots were to grow it might help when you plant them because you've given them a head start and maybe they won't be late bloomers. What do you think?

    Ontario
    Canada

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  30. Anonymous9:59 AM

    I was glad to find your blog. I had a pleasant surprise yesterday as I was cleaning out my planters. At first glance the "tubers" looked like little piglets, so pink and quirky! Somewhat like an Anne Geddes picture of children in a planter. I beleive technically they are tuberous roots or the swollen tips of Rhizomes, but I guess tuber covers it for most people. I am going to attempt to overwinter them in a cool spot and get them started indoors to get them ready again for my plants in the spring. I had a hard time finding them at my local garden center this year because of their popularity. Keep up the good work on your blog!

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  31. Hi Mr. Brown Thumb!

    I have a question... my tubers have not yet 'died down' but I'm ready to lift them to try to store them over winter. Should I simply cut off the vines that are currently growing from the tubers? (I'll try to propogate a few more from cuttings in the meantime)

    Thanks for any advice ya have! :)
    ~Wendy

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  32. Anonymous7:35 AM

    Hello,
    Someone mentioned that it takes a while for the tubers to wake up in the spring. Any idea how long so I give them plenty of time. Thanks.

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  33. @Anonymous from Ontario, Hope I'm not too late to answer your question about storing ornamental sweet potato vines. If you're lifting the tuber don't place them in water. Just clean them off and store them as you would any other tuber you're trying to overwinter indoors.

    @Anonymous, The tubers of sweet potato vines do look like little piglets. You're right that they're technically swollen rhizomes, but tubers is an easier term for the general populace to understand. Good luck with storing your tubers.

    @Sassy, Also hope I'm not too late to answer your question. Yes, just cut off the foliage when you lift them and are trying to store them indoors over the winter.


    @Anonymous, I've found that they awaken from dormancy in about two weeks when moved into a warm location in the spring to break their dormancy.

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  34. Anonymous7:09 AM

    Hello everyone, Rhonda here :) This is my first post on any blog.! Just had to share this info. I grow the beautiful Margarite. We moved from central FL to southern. pulled up a few pieces of vine to take to our new house.. it has grown & spread everywhere! I nip a piece and stick it in the dirt to decorate my whole yard ~ plant it around all my trees. The potoatoes are Absolutely edible. We had some yesterday morning. I cubed them real small and made hash browns...sauteed onions with them, seasoned with garlic salt and black pepper. They were fantastic and to grow them yourself is Eden on Earth! The differences I notice from our normal Idaho/russet potatoes are: They grow irregularly, with some deep crevices,very odd shapes..one looked exactly like a human heart!, skin is red, potato is harder to cut. The taste is sweeter than a regualar potato but not as sweet as the red sweet potato that we are used too. I have done lots of reading online to find out about eating them as mine have grown huge. There is no need to bother trying to overwinter the potatoes/tubers and go through all that hassle. Take some cuttings from your vine and root them and have them as house plants to over winter. (originally from Pgh. so I know all about overwintering to save my sweet plants!) Just know.. Any little cutting stuck in the ground will take. I even tried a single leaf and one took..lol they love to spread as far as you will let them but are also easy to pull out when they get out of hand and try and take over the whole place!! The colors are beautiful, the flowers are precious (lilac morning glory) and the potato will feed your family... what an amazing miracle plant!! Wouldn't be surprised to find out it has medicinal uses as well.. hmmm, maybe my next online search..lol! Love that sweet potato vine! I have pix of everything..vine all over my yard, potatoes bigger than my hand, and hash browns in the pot, but i don't see where to upload them here? Anyway, I hope this helps.. Rhonda

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  35. Anonymous7:59 PM

    Found this while searching for an alternative propagation method in hopes of reducing the spring planting cost. Was excited to see how easy it seems to be. Last week (Nov 1st) I made some cuttings and was surprised to see how easy and quick the roots grew. Almost an inch per day. I was most surprised when I went to dig up the potato tubers to try and winter them. They were the size of nerf footballs! Never seen the like. I grew them in dirt from the local mushroom factory that I call "black gold". It is about 1/3 chicken manure, 1/3 Ky horse barn manure and 1/3 straw. Really looking forward to seeing how they winter.

    Hooper (East TN)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Hooper,

      That sounds awesome. I've never grown ornamental sweet potato vines that large, but maybe I'll try your recipe for next year. If you're the person that also left the message about whether ornamental sweet potato vines were edible; they are. But I'm not sure how palatable you'll find them. I've never grown the courage to try to eat one, but a chef I know online has cooked them and he say ornamental sweet potatoes make fine eating.

      Delete

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