Starting Sweet Potatoes:
Beautiful Vines In No Time

There are a lot of pretty plants out there that require a lot of work to get started: grow lights, cold starts, mail-order starts, and plenty of coddling. To grow sweet potatoes, put half a sweet potato in water. That's it! Soon it will be covered with adorable little sprouts called slips, which will grow into attractive vines, and eventually — pie.

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My new dream is to someday grow sweet potatoes, their vines tangled with those of black ornamental sweet potato vines: chartreuse & black, edible & toxic. I tried to find an example of a similar planting, to no avail. If you've done it, please tell us all about it! The black ornamental vine shown above is Ipomoea batatas 'Illusion Midnight Lace', featured in Garden Design, which I also declared my love for in Wicked & Wonderful Plants: My Personal Arsenal and Blood-Burgundy & Nearly-Black Plants For Fall. When I've written about a plant three times, it's time to acquire it, already — though I don't know how happy it would be on my super-windy fire escape.

But back to the slips. Nothing could be easier than starting sweet potatoes. It has all the elementary school fun of starting avocado pits, without the heartbreak. All you need is a sweet potato. According to the DIY Network's thorough tutorial, one sweet potato can create up to 50 slip sprouts, so share with your friends. The down-to-earth Mother Earth News has some helpful insights, including changing the water frequently to prevent rot. They also tell us that the slips are ready to plant once the roots are sturdy and the ground is warm, and that this is a great use for sweet potatoes you might hesitate to eat. "If there are any potatoes that have sprouts already coming out, then you have a head start." The University Of Illinois Extension reminds us that, although sweet potatoes are delicious, they're worth growing just for their lovely vines. "For their ornamental value, sweet potatoes are often grown as ground cover or in hanging baskets, in planters and even in bottles of water in the kitchen. Cut-leaf types exist that are particularly attractive." They also offer some helpful trouble-shooting, as well as detailed planting instructions and recommended varieties. Start your slips today, and there will be lush vines soon, and pies before you know it.

(Images: 1. Tess Wilson 2. Garden Design)

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