Friday, July 1, 2011

Gardening on a budget: the sweet potato vine

     A sweet potato vine is so lovely. Look in the upper left of the photo below. I grew that vine in a coconut liner last summer 2010.  


      The beauty of sweet potato vines is their growth habit. No slouches, sweet potato vines reach for the sun and air, then gracefully flow down in cascades of branches with heart-shaped leaves.
     Not to deprive the standard bearer philodendron its due. But for a nice change in a hanging basket, a sweet potato is a real sweetie.
     Once the vine reaches high enough to peek over the planter, it's off. A potato is a tuber. And any potato will grow a vine, even if it has sat in your fridge way beyond the time to eat. Cut it in half, and grow two vines.
    In fact, potatoes are the most cooperative tubers around. This leafy one grew from a sweet potato in my fridge. It was withered, too old to eat. I planted it in June 2011.


     Most sweet potato vines offered for sale at the nursery have the purple leaves. Those provide a nice contrast to most green vines. Can't afford to be fussy? Potatoes are the most cost-effective vines around. Any potato -- tuber -- will grow. White, sweet and the specialty nursery kind. Take the potato and look for the eye, usually easy to spot. Plant that side facing up halfway in fairly rich potting soil. But even if the eye faces down -- a mistake I made last year -- the potato leaves will find their way up. 

    These vines make for a nice contrast to philodendrons. For dimension, add different size baskets next to each other with wind chimes to create a tropical or jungle feel.   

      How much to water depends on what houses the vine. I like coconut lined baskets because they dry fast and one can't over-water, which is what usually kills most house and porch plants. My old bungalow did not have a lot of amenities. But it  had that great old porch and I made good use of it. Next:  Got lots of windows? Go Privacy Green.


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