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Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine Propagation

Ornamental sweet potato vine, Ipomoea batatas, are regular fixtures in many gardens and public plantings all over. Their drought tolerant nature make them ideal low-maintenance plants, perfect for container gardens, hanging baskets and mass planting in beds. Ornamental sweet potato vines are grown mostly for their foliage, but I really enjoy their flowers. Especially the flowers of sweet potato cultivars like 'Blackie.'

How to Propagate Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine

Here's a video demonstrating propagating ornamental sweet potato vines. As you can see from the video it is really easy to take cuttings from sweet potato vines to produce more plants for your garden, or to have something to grow indoors over the winter.

The somber blooms of Ipomoea batatas 'Blackie' wowed me when it bloomed in my garden a couple of years ago. I was already a fan of the dark foliage, but the beautiful flowers made me see this ubiquitous annual in a whole new light. Out of curiosity I pollinated the blooms by inserting a paintbrush in the center of several flowers. Some of the literature online I came across at the time explained that either ornamental sweet potato vine didn't produce seeds, the flowers were sterile or that plants wouldn't come true from seed. Undaunted and up for a garden challenge I continued hand-pollinating the flowers.

Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine Seeds

The sweet potato vines rewarded me by setting several seed pods that matured and produced seeds. If the seeds and seed pods are evocative of morning glories that's because they're both related. Sweet potato vine seeds are small, brown and very hard, like seeds from other Ipomoeas. I don't think seeds from a cultivars like 'Black Heart', 'Blackie', 'Tricolor' and 'Marguerite' will produce plants that are true, but it will be interesting to germinate the seeds anyway. There is also the possibility that the seeds themselves are sterile and will not germinate.

A far easier way to propagate ornamental sweet potato vines is to take cuttings. Vegetative propagation of ornamental sweet potato vines is really the only way to assure that your plant will look like the plant you want to make more of.

Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine Propagation by Cuttings
Step #1: Take a cutting from a sweet potato vine that is at least four inches long. Really long sweet potato vines could be cut in half.

Propagation Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine
At this point I like to make sure the "cut" I make with the knife ends at a leaf node on the vine.

Step #2: Remove all the leaves on the vine leaving only a couple at the tip so the cutting can complete photosynthesis. The lower leaves will likely die on their own if you don't remove them because there aren't any roots to feed them, but just remove them anyway to avoid having to pick them up from your potting area, kitchen sink or windowsill later.

Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine Propagation
Here is what the ornamental sweet potato vine cutting looks like after the leaves have been removed. Compost the leaves or throw them away. I've marked the leaf nodes in case you don't know what they are or where they are located on the vine. The leaf node is where the leaves grew out of on the vine.

Step #3: You can place your cuttings in potting soil or water. I like to put my ornamental sweet potato vine cuttings in water because they seem to root faster and I can observe the root growth. Place the cutting in a warm and bright place out of direct sunlight. Make sure that most, if not all, of the leaf node are submerged in water. Roots will start to form along the "bumps" at the leaf node.

Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine Cuttings are rooting

Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine roots growing

After about a week you should start to see the formation of roots along the leaf nodes on your sweet potato vine cutting. Transplant your cutting into a pot once you have a nice bunch of roots forming along the leaf nodes that were under water.

Propagating your ornamental sweet potato vines is really easy and you don't need any special rooting powders or liquids to do so. Within a couple of days you've created a backup that you can overwinter indoors and plant in your garden next year. I should note here that most ornamental sweet potato vines are patented and by propagating them you're breaking the law.

If your sweet potato vine is already potted you can bring it indoors and treat it as a houseplant. The tubers of ornamental sweet potatoes can also be lifted, cleaned off and stored indoors in a cool and dry location in your home and planted out in the garden again in the spring.

Are Ornamental Sweet Potato Vines Edible?

Ornamental sweet potato vines are bred for their foliage, which is why they're described as "ornamental." All of the work in their breeding went into producing beautiful foliage or plants that grow well in poor garden conditions. If you look at the link above 'Blackie' didn't produce tubers that were very large, which would make it a poor choice for a sweet potato you want to eat. Varieties like 'Marguerite' may produce sweet potato tubers that are much larger. So, yes, ornamental sweet potato vine tubers are edible. Whether they are palatable is another question, one which I can't answer. Through the magic of the internet I witnessed saw Chef Jackson, who blogs at The Pleasant House, forage ornamental sweet potatoes from a sidewalk planting in Chicago and cook them. Do with that information what you will, I for one would not eat an ornamental sweet potato vine. Not because I'm above eating them, but because you don't know what chemicals were used in their production at nurseries.


  1. I also love these vines, and the chartreuse marguerite helped my garden through its infancy (last year!) by quickly filling in and keeping out weeds. I've also wondered about the tubers being edible, but even my mature marguerite's tubers were way too scrawny to be of any use. Thanks for sharing, and I can testify that they do propogate easily from cuttings and air layerings!

  2. OK, now that's an Ipomoea I can get behind. Love the foliage color, love the flower. And I didn't realize they were easy to root (similar to what i do for coleus). I'm going to save to swing by downtown Ypsi to see if their containers still have potato vines...

  3. Those are pretty blooms. And how cool that you were able to get it to produce seeds!

  4. I'll be so thrilled if I see one of these ornamental sweet potato vine selling here especially the 'blackie'. I am sure it will make a nice trailing vine. The bloom is lovely!

    I didn't know we can't even propagate from a patented vine/plant. This is new to me.

    As always your step-by-step illustrations/pics are so clearly shown. Thanks MBT!

  5. Blackie is a beauty, and the different colorful cultivars have added a new dimension to planter design over the last several years. I planted I. batatas, the edible, not ornamental kind of sweet potato, for the first time this spring. It's been a beautiful plant even if it has taken over my small garden, and it's blooming now. I'm amazed at its hardiness since I haven't been around to keep the garden watered and we haven't had much rain for the last couple of months. The tubers that the vines did produce (I'm surprised that anything did grow) have been delicious. I've been told that I'll have plenty of sweet potatoes to enjoy for years to come. I hope so. Thanks for another informative post, MBT.

  6. I love the note on the photo indicating "Roots"! Just in case we forgot! :) Really nice post... I love seeing propagation pics! Ken Druse's book gives similar prop pics.

  7. The following is more plant rescue than propagation, Mr Brown Thumb: ornamental sweet potato vines do pretty well in hanging baskets at my Austin house but stems often crack in high winds. I pick up the pieces, take off bottom leaves and put them in water, using some tall bottles with narrow necks to hold them upright. As long as they get fresh water & maybe a few drops of liquid fertilizer they'll just sit there making roots and growing for many months, until warm weather returns and they go in a big container to start over. I don't have room for many pots, but can squeeze in a couple of tall bottles on the window ledge.

    It will be interesting to see what happens with the seed - in more than a dozen years of growing them, I've only seen flowers twice.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  8. I overwintered a couple of 'Blackie' SPVs two or three years ago. They didn't bloom the first year, but were so full and gorgeous the second year, and bloomed alot. Unfortunately they also attracted a horde of spider mites, so I haven't overwintered them since. From what I understand though, the tubers can be be overwintered like dahlias and other tender tuberous plants. I found them really easy to start from cuttings.

    I'm curious to know if the seeds will grow!

  9. @Rainforest Gardener,
    They are great for filling in a space. I'm amazed by how quickly they can cover an area. Thanks for the feedback.

    LOL. All Ipomoeas are amazing. I know you didn't like the morning glor bloom, but it is awesome. Hope you managed to get some cuttings.

    Thanks, I was surprised by the bloom, since I'd never seen one before, and even more surprised by the seeds.

    Thanks for the feedback on the post. They're probably grow like crazy in your climate. I don't think anyone would arrest you, but knowing about patentened plants is something we should all learn a bit about.

    You're welcomed. I used to have a 'miniature' sweet potato vine (edible) back in the 90s. The tuber only got about the size of a quarter, and the laves didn't get much bigger. I wish I still had that vine or at least knew what variety it was.

    @Dirty Girl Gardening,
    LOL. I like to simplify things because I remember what it was like trying to learn something about plant propagation and trying to understand what was going on just by the text. Pictures and arrows would've been a big help to me.

    @Annie in Austin,
    That's pretty much plant propagation, in my opinion. In the picture above I was using a Coke bottle because I think it helped them stay upright. Glad to find someone else who likes to root the cuttings in narrow bottles for the same reason.

    @Garden girl,
    You're right, the tubers are a lot easier to overwinter than overwintering the whole plant or the leaves. Thanks for bringing up the bugs, because that's something I didn't cover much in the post and something people shold consider when growing ornamental sweet potato vines indoors.

  10. For the record, I do like morning glory blooms, just not the one that looks like a petunia! ;-)

  11. Anonymous8:31 AM

    Thanks for the info. I will try all three ways and see what happens.

    1. You're welcome. Hope you had success propagating your sweet potato vines.

  12. In my experience, 'Blackie' is actually better at producing tubers than 'Marguerite'. Of course, my experience is limited to two or three plants of each variety. ;)
    And I've found them ridiculously easy to root - mine were showing the first roots in less than two days.

    1. I have found the same thing you did with these ornamental sweet potato vines. 'Marguerite' did better at growing foliage, whereas 'Blackie' seemed to put its energy into producing more tubers than foliage.

  13. Anonymous4:17 PM

    I planted one ornamental sweet potato this spring, dug it up a few days ago, and found three nice red sweet potatoes bigger than any I have bought in the store. Boy would I like to eat them. Can I cut these and plant them (as you would white pot.)next year?
    What can I do with them?

    1. LSLSJC, you can repot your ornamental sweet potato vines in the spring or plant them in the ground in your garden.

  14. WAY too complicated. They root so easily, all I do is cut mine into sections with one leaf, put it on the ground with a little soil over the node, and in no time at all, new vines. OR cut them with two nodes, remove the bottom leaf, and stick it with that node covered. These are way too easy to propagate.

    1. It may seem complicated to you, but to someone who is knew to propagating plants, or may have tried your method, it may not seem to be enough information to be comfortable with the process. Not every gardener online has the same level of skill or confidence to do what you do.

  15. Anonymous7:15 PM

    My potato vines were brought indoors and are turning brown and dying. what can I do?

    1. Are your sweet potato vines still turning brown? Sometimes when we bring outdoor plants in, they go through shock and drop foliage. With overwintering sweet potatoes the foliage can die off, but the tuber will be fine below the soil level.

  16. Replies
    1. Tracy, you can buy sweet potato vines at just about any garden center in the spring and summer.

  17. Hello Mr. Brown Thumb! I hope this is a good place to pose my question.

    I have been growing sweet potato vines indoors for three years now. The current generation in my sunny apartment is just under one year old. The vines offer both privacy and great light over one large east window, and have even spread across my ceiling to hang down over a smaller north window.

    PROBLEM: after all these years together, I fear I have developed an allergy to my beloved housemate! At first I had a few tiny poison-ivy like blisters that I thought nothing of. That was a little over a month ago. Over time it has gotten so bad that if I so much as touch the vines I break out in little horrendously itchy bumps. They like to wind around things and then collapse, so I have to touch them to take care of them. I have rashes on my arms and even on my face.

    I have googled around and apparently this just doesn't happen. Can you think of anything else I could be reacting to, maybe some insect that does this, some fungus or anything else you've encountered in your gardening years? I am LOATHE to get rid of them. They're beautiful and of course it could be something else altogether that they just exacerbate... But if it's the plants, what on earth is it they release that could be doing it, and can that be controlled?

    Thanks in advance for any insight or direction as to anyone else who might know! :)

    1. A co-worker and I just traced rashes on our forearms to handling sweet potato vines this weekend. And only found one other anecdotal report ( Even found it on some website "safe" lists. Does not seem that rare if two people in the same office independently turned up with it, but it does not look like there is any other evidence of this plant being an allergen.

  18. Can you cut the tubers into smaller pieces? Mine are huge and would be a problem to re-pot in the spring.

  19. Anonymous9:57 AM

    I would like to know what potato makes the limey green and black foliage. I have also seen a variegated foliage which is very pretty do you know what potato that is as well?

  20. Anonymous7:11 PM

    I've had some cuttings in water for a week and no roots. Could the nursery have done something to them so they won't root? Just to clarify - someone about mentioned they do this with coleus as well??

  21. Anonymous10:52 AM

    The photo showing a top view of the cuttings submerged in water isn't helpful. What kind of bottle did you use (I'm guessing Coke from the red label but it isn't clear)? How far did you submerge the entire cutting in water (I know that the nodes need to be covered but as a beginner gardener, I would like to see the entire set-up so I can see how it's to be done correctly)? Just showing the leaves doesn't really tell us anything about how to place your cuttings in water to root; it's better to show the whole set-up from the side.

  22. I planted a bed of ornamental sweet potato one time and tried cooking them, but they never tasted good.



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