Ornamental sweet potatoes are easy to grow and they add a lot of color to our landscape. However, the older varieties were almost too vigorous. The new varieties offer lots of new leaf forms, colors, and textures. And they're easier to tame with shorter, thicker vines.

Produced by the Department of Communications at Kansas State University. For more information, visit our website at: http://www.kansasgreenyards.org

New Varieties of Ornamental Sweet Potatoes

The ornamental sweet potato has proven to be a very popular plant in our gardens, especially the first generation plants called Marguerite and the Blackie. People loved them because they added great color, but they grew like crazy. They were almost too vigorous, which could cause problems.

The plant breeders took that into consideration, and they have bred new generations of ornamental sweet potatoes that are more dense and compact. These plants don’t overpower everything else. They’ll only grow three to four feet in a season. They get to that length quickly, and then they stop and just keep adding branches for a dense, full look.

You can put them in pots, window boxes or in the garden without them covering other plants or growing way out into the lawn. So, they have a lot less maintenance, but you still have a color impact.

Other features that the breeders have added are new leaf forms. We have a heart-shaped leaf with a green new growth that turns to a reddish color. We also have plants with a bronze tint. And, there is a new oak-leaf variety. As we look down the row, we can see a whole variety of leaf forms and colors with textural change. Depending on what you’d like to do, there are about twelve new colors or leaf forms to choose from.

They grow well anywhere in the state. They’re probably the easiest plant to grow. You can almost plant them and forget them. They’ll thrive if you water them and fertilize occasionally. There aren’t a lot of insects or diseases to worry about. And, they do produce a potato, but you wouldn’t want to eat it. However, it could be over-wintered like a traditional sweet potato and replanted the next year.

This feature story prepared with Alan Stevens, retired Kansas State University Research and Extension State Leader, Horticulture. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.

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