Grandma always knows best!

May 11, 2024

Years ago, Grandma grew potatoes in the veggie garden.  Potatoes are fun to grow because all the action happens below the surface.  The leaves rising above the tubers reveal nothing of what quietly grows below them.  The surprise comes at harvest time when bushel after bushel of fresh potatoes are dug up.

For the frugal Grandma, potatoes were a godsend.  Potatoes were a staple vegetable especially for European immigrants.  Potatoes were inexpensive, wholesome, and they stored well, enabling families to enjoy them all winter.

Grandma also grew Morning Glories, a cousin of the common potato.  Equally easy to grow, Morning Glories are an age-old annual plant that was used to decorate gardens and patios long before todays’ huge selection of annual plants became available for home gardeners.

Morning Glories are characterized by their quick growing vines that climb fences, television towers and wooden trellises.  Trumpet shaped flowers in many colours appear all summer long.  Flowers are short lived, only lasting a day or two, but are replaced with new flowers as quickly as old flowers fade.

Morning Glories are not fussy.  Easily grown from seed, they suit the frugal gardener just as well as their edible cousins.  As their name suggests, Morning Glories are most beautiful at sunrise, then lose their luster towards the end of the day.

Today’s wildly popular potato is botanically called Ipomea ‘batatus,’ although most folks call them Ssweet potato vine.   Like Morning Glories, potato vines do their performance above ground.

For Sweet potato vine, colourful foliage rules.  Mostly in dark bronze or light green, Sweet potato vine trails over the edge of planters, making it a popular choice for containers.

Sweet potato vine loves summer sunshine.  If you plant too early in spring Sweet potato will patiently wait until weather warms up before growing.  When warm weather finally arrives, it grows so quickly that it will likely need to be pruned back for fear of drowning out neighbouring plants.

Sweet potato vine does not have fussy growing requirements, but likes rich, well drained soil.  Water frequently, but do not allow roots to sit in waterlogged soil.  Interestingly, Sweet potato is quite draught tolerant, and will grow slowly if it receives less water.  If you want it to grow more vigorously, give it more water and more fertilizer.

The most interesting selection of sweet potato vines will be found under the Proven Winner banner.  Ipomoea Caroline ‘Emerald Lace’ has finely cut foliage in bright green.  ‘Sweetheart Lime’ has heart shaped leaves in charteuse lime shades.

For a darker Sweet potato vine look for ‘Jet Black’ with heart shaped foliage or ‘Raven,’ named for their resemblance to the pointed black bird.  Also interesting is ‘Red Hawk’ with reddish peach colour, and ‘Key Lime’ with striking lime coloured foliage.