sweet potatoes

Wintering a sweet potato vine: the winter of the ornamental sweet potato

Sweet potato plants add tons of interest to a standard flower basket or hanging container display. These versatile plants are tender tubers with zero tolerance to freezing temperatures and are often grown as disposable annuals. However, you can save your tubers and a dollar if you replant them the following spring. There are three different methods for overwintering sweet potato plants. How you save your sweet potato plants over the winter depends on how much work you want to do and how cold it is in your area during the winter.

Decorative candies for winter care of sweet potato

Ipomoea butatas , or sweet potato, grows in hot, tropical climates. It is a plant with ornamental foliage that is often used as a leaf for floral arrangements. This heat loving perennial will die if the plant suffers a severe frost below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 C.). However, the tubers, and even the plant in some cases, are easy to store for another season. Ornamental sweet potatoes can be overwintered by burning them in places where temperatures are not usually cold, bringing them indoors, or harvesting and storing the tubers.

Heels in the sweet potato vineyards in winter

If your region does not often receive sustained frosts, you can simply bury the container in which the vines grow in the beaten earth. Then cut the vine down to a few centimetres and spread a thick layer of mulch around the container to act as a cover and protect the roots. This is one way to overwinter a sweet potato vine.

As long as the tubers do not freeze, the plant should return in the spring when warm temperatures arrive. The greenery may wilt again, but the tubers are the source of leaves and stems for the following spring.

You can also simply cover the buried container with burlap or a thick blanket at night when there are brief frosts. Remove it during the day so that the plant can harvest the sun’s energy. Remember that occasional watering is part of winter care for the ornamental sweet potato. Plants will only need water once or twice a month in the winter because they are not growing.

How to overwinter with sweet potato plants indoors

Another way to winterize a sweet potato vine is simply to take it inside. Again, in areas where frost is not sustained, it is often enough to take them to a shed, garage or other structure that is not heated but prevents the tubers from freezing.

In colder climates, it is wise to bring the vines inside the house, but before doing so, they should be inspected for the presence of insects. Treat them with horticultural soap and a good rinse if you see small insects. Next, cut the vines to 6 cm, pull out the tubers and repot them in good soil.

Water them and place the containers in a sunny window. Keep the sweet potato plants moderately moist during the winter and gradually move them back outside when all danger of frost has passed.

Ornamental winter sweet potatoes as tubers

If you lack the space or motivation to look after a vineyard during the winter, you can always dig up and store the tubers. The tubers must be kept slightly moist, otherwise they will dry out and no longer germinate.

Remove the tubers from the container and separate them from each other. Remove any remaining greenery. Wrap the tubers in moist peat moss or newspaper and place them in a cool, dark place.

Check tubers weekly to make sure they stay moist and spray if necessary. This is a balancing act because tubers cannot dry out completely, but too much moisture can cause mould and damage to the tubers. Moderation is the watchword.

In the spring, prepare containers or beds with lots of organic matter and replant the tubers. Soon you will find the deep colours and attractive foliage of your sweet potato vineyards.

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