Plant Preview

Welcome to Plant Preview, a blog dedicated to helping gardeners learn about gardening techniques and preview new plant cultivars. Read about new plants here first and hear how your "comrades in compost" are making use of new plant introductions in their gardens and landscapes. Blog author Geri Laufer is a life-long dirt gardener, degreed horticulturist, author and former County Extension Agent. Plant Preview is copyrighted by Geri Laufer.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sweet Potato Vine; I discovered it flowers!

I’ve had a long love affair with sweet potatoes. As a child, I stuck a regular sweet potato with toothpicks and submerged it halfway in water in a clean pickle jar, then set it on my windowsill and enjoyed watching the green vines grow to frame the window during a long Ohio winter. Later, restaurants served delectable sweet potato chips, and after that our children’s Montessori teacher served raw sweet potatoes as an in-school snack.

About 10 or 12 years ago I came late to visit the UGA Summer Flower Trials in Athens, Georgia. I found everyone gone, but there was still a truck piled with free samples, including a brand new but totally wilted yellow ornamental sweet potato vine. Never dreaming that such wilted cuttings would survive, nevertheless I took a couple and stuck the cut ends in my water bottle for the drive back to Atlanta. By the time I was home, the vines were perky and the leaves all stood erect. They went on to root and grow into a wide mat in the garden that year.

Marguerite sweet potato vine is the chartreuse variety that turns almost yellow in full sun, and takes the hottest sun and abuse, dry, south-facing window boxes, hell strips, or containers set on hot concrete paving, and yet grows luxuriantly. Though wilted in the hot afternoon sun the 6 foot container (left) will be refreshed in the morning, or sooner if it gets some water. 

Marguerite’s original partner, Blacky, (right) had dark, purple-black leaves and has been joined by a new cut-leaf black version called Midnight Lace that was sent to Garden Writers and widely marketed in 2009.

Then this year, imagine my surprise to find some Ipomoea morning glory-type flowers on my Blacky vines! Though small and pale pink, they are the same, familiar, trumpet-style, Convolvulus family flowers. 

Have I been unobservant? I never noticed any flowers before this. What about you? 


  1. My dark purple sweet potato vine, I'm unsure if its "blackie" or something else, has a lavender/pink bloom with a dark purple center, do you think that is the same bloom you are picturing? Yours looks more pink, even magenta in the middle, could that be just the camera, or is it different I wonder?

  2. Yes, Helen, your variety might be paler or white, but that is just horticultural variation! Thanks for posting. Best, gardengeri