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Ornamental Sweet Potatoes

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

I thought maybe someone would be interested in my Ornamental Sweet Potatoes. I have three kinds of tubers (potatoes) saved from last fall. I grew Margaritas and Blackies last year and saved several potatoes. A co-worker gave me a potato from what she called a Tri-Color; I never saw that plant so I wasn’t sure what I would get. I knew it was early to start them but just couldn't wait any longer so I decided to start one of the Tri-color. The potato had been wrapped in newspaper and left lay in my laundry room since last fall. I just unwrapped the potato washed it and gently pulled off any growth that had developed over the winter. Then I placed the whole potato in a container of water half the potato submerged the other half dry. I started this potato on Feb 3rd.

Thumbnail by HollyAnnS
Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Here is a view of the roots. You can see another starter on the top. It's about 1 inch long and won't be removed until it's about 3 or 4 inches long.

This message was edited Feb 20, 2007 6:58 PM

Thumbnail by HollyAnnS
Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Now I will pop off the growth and put that into a rooting jar. Each of the starters will grow their own roots and make a beautiful plant.

Thumbnail by HollyAnnS
Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

I will get quite a few plants from just this one potato. In 2 weeks I have 2 starters large enough to remove from the potato. The ones I removed (just pulled lose) are 3 to 4 inches long. There are 8 more buds coming up, and there will be a lot more. I'll let you know when my starters root. After they develop a good root system I will plant them into pots and wait till it warms up enough to plant outside.

Thumbnail by HollyAnnS
Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

Is'nt it fun starting them that way, and so money saving! The tricolor has cream and pink variegation- very pretty.

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Gemini, That cream and pink color was what I was expecting but these leaves look pretty dark. Wonder if she mixed up her tubers. She gave me several. I won't start more for a couple of weeks, guess I'll find out what colors she gave me when I start the others. This is sooo easy to do and last fall when I traded some of my tubers I had a lot of questions on how to start them. In my area they were selling plants in 4 inch pots for anywhere between $3.00 to $6.00.

Thornton, IL

Thanks HollyAnn for this very informative thread! I didn't realize they were so easy to grow. This looks like it would be fun to do with my six year old, like most kids he's pretty impatient. I found Blackie last year for 99 cents, wish I had saved a tuber now, LOL.

Weedville, PA(Zone 6a)

HollyAnn,
Thanks so much for this thread and the how to pics! I had just come in to the Propagation Forum to ask how to do this!

I do have one question though...When you have the tuber in water do you keep it in the dark, in sunlight or just let it set wherever (like on the counter in your pic)? I've read that the tubers should be kept in the dark until they root or put off shoots, then should be moved to the light. You obviously know what you're doing...so, any suggestions?

I'm starting with grocery store sweet potatoes, two different varieties, so who knows what I'll get...but it'll still be so much fun!

Thanks again for all of your help!
Heather

Taft, TX(Zone 9a)

When I lived in zone 8 in New Braunfels, Texas I had the Marguerite as a ground cover between two Oak Trees.....it began to climb up in the trees.....I did what you did and dug them up.......and stored them.....I didn't even think of doing what you have. I just planted them again and everything doubled and tripled....the 3 cultivars are my favorites and plan to grow every year of my life!!! Good going!!

Cordele, GA(Zone 8a)

HollyAnn, Thanks for this thread. Course you taught me your technique by d-mail last year. I appreciate your help so much and being able to have such a pretty combination as Margarita and Blackie. If you do determine you have the tri-color, I'm game for another trade for a piece. I'm looking forward to seeing pictures of your gardens and your new ponds. Isn't retirement fun?!

Deborah♥

Cordele, GA(Zone 8a)

HollyAnn, Bettygail just brought up a point that reminds me to ask you something. (Or anyone who knows) The new sprouts you pop off the potato can be planted out (weather permiting) & should grow its own potato tuber. In one season? Is that correct? Would I have to dig it up before winter in my zone 8? Is Texas (bettygail's previous zone) zone 8 different than Georgia zone 8? I've gotten so many new plants off one potato and really would love to plant the in the ground to overwinter there. Is that safe?

Taft, TX(Zone 9a)

Our temps in zone 8 would get mighty cold.....a lot of nights in the teens!!!!! I didn't take a chance as they are expensive to buy in a 4" pot. I saw the variegated pink,white and green one yesterday at the nursery....should have gone ahead and bought one of each to start propagating before summer gets here....maybe I will go back and get them.

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Heather,
I put mine on the kitchen window sill in full sun. I stored it for the winter wrapped in newspaper and put on a self in my laundry room out of the sun light. When I was ready to start it, I got it out washed it and put it in the container right out in the sun. The starters that I popped off go into a rooting jar right on the shelf next to it until they are ready to plant in pots.
Prairegirl,
They are one of the best things to grow with kids. They are very fast growing, and it's really neat to watch the roots grow.
Hi Deb,
I saw your name in a couple of co-ops. We are both going to be very busy this spring. I'd be glad to do more trading and I will let you know what I get from these Tri-colors. This one wasn't what I expected but she gave me several tubers and I'll be trying all of them. Yes each starter will become their own whole pant and will grow several tubers I got about 5 tubers (potatoes) from each plant and mine were in window boxes I wonder how many I would have gotten if they had been just planted in the ground. After my starters rooted I put them in 4 inch pots to grow a little before I put them out. I could have probably put them out in my flower boxes and not bothered with the 4 inch pots, but it wasn't warm enough. Plus I gave a lot of those 4 inch pots away. I'm not sure if yours would overwinter outside, they don't in my Zone 6. You could pull some of them in the fall and leave some in the ground that way if they don't overwinter you would still have some saved.

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Oh almost forgot here is a picture of a couple of starters that have already begun to root. In just 3 days. Very small roots look close. ;}

Thumbnail by HollyAnnS
Cordele, GA(Zone 8a)

Window boxes! That's a good spot for some of mine. I have window boxes but the patio has a covered top. Will they be ok without direct sunlight on them there, I wonder?

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

I grew mine in North facing window boxes that only get sun in the morning and I also grew them in my back yard south facing deck boxes they did well in both. The ones in the direct sun needed more water they would wilt faster than the ones that were shaded. I am planing on putting Caladiums in my front window boxes this year and think I may plant the Margaritas with them. I think the solid lime green would look good under the colorful Caladiums. What do you think?

Cordele, GA(Zone 8a)

Yes and the larger leaves of the caladiums would be a good contrast. See, you are just giving me all these good ideas.

Thornton, IL

I spent half an hour picking up and putting down pots of caladiums at HD last summer. I just couldn't decide if I could part with them all at the end of summer. Not feeling too confident that I would know the right way to dig and store them.

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Prairegirl, I love caladiums but have never had any. Didn't want to dig them up and store them. This year a couple of people started a Caladium Co-op here on DG. I ended up getting Caladium bulbs. for $.70 and $.80 a bulb. I will admit I went a little crazy I have 60 bulbs coming. I'm going to put them in my window boxes, do a couple of large pots for either side of the front door and I'm making up pots for both my Mom's house and my Daughters house. I think of them as annuals. I'll pack them away to store but if they don't do well, I didn't spend more than I would have buying annuals. If you would like a couple of my Caladium bulbs I'm sure we could do a small trade. Just a few to put in a pot.
You should check out the co-op forum if you haven't most of them are already closed but they are putting together a Rose co-op right now.
Oh, check out the rooting jar exchange that is going on in the house plant forum too. It's a lot of fun. maybe get something cute to put your sweet potatoes starters in.

Weedville, PA(Zone 6a)

Thanks so much HollyAnn! I'll be starting my sweet taters this weekend. I need something to get me through till all this snow melts! =^)

Thornton, IL

thanks for thinking of me Holly, dh laid off so no funds. But lots of plans for summer! ;0)

Garland, TX(Zone 8a)

Are the common store variety good enough? I've not seen any decorative types at the nurseries here (maybe I wasn't being observant enough though....).

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Larissa, I know that you can grow the grocery store kind the same way that I do the Ornamentals. I just don't know what kind of leaf you will get. I've heard that some of them are very pretty. I will probably have extra tubers to share but most of them are still packed away and I won't be getting them out for a couple of weeks yet. Also I will have extra rootings as well. Just a matter of waiting until it's warmer and that won't help those who like me neeeeeded to get something started now. ;}

Charlevoix, MI(Zone 4b)

I'm so glad I found this thread! I've never seen the ornamentals in the stores around here. I may just take a shot at it with one from the fruit market. Thanks Holly!

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

HollyAnn,

When is your last frost? Mine is about April 20 with a true soil warm up May 1. Based on those dates, when do you think I should I pull mine out of storage?

All,

There is a restaurant here that has gigantic 48" tall and probabaly 6 foot long cement planters with Marguarite SPVs trailing down the sides last summer. I didn't know until now that I could have helped them make those things fully and bushier with some pinching, me taking those pinchings home of course, so I missed that opportunity, but last Oct, I drove by, saw the frost hadn't gotten them, and asked the manager if I could have the potatoes. She was instantly intrigued and I was afraid she'd get the idea to harvest the potatoes herself, and she was thinking about it, but she was thinking of EATING them. LOL! (2 different people, 2 different passions, I guess)

Anyway, I assured her they were non palatable ornamentals and went harvesting. From the 8 plants in each of the 5 planters, only 4 plants had potatoes, but they had many. The rest had regular fibrous roots. The plants were virtually all the same size and I know from seeing them grow that the stems were virtually the same size, too. I just thought it was interesting that only10% of the plants had potatoes, but I also wonder why? What makes one plant have a potato, but the ones right next to it not? Oh, and there was nothing about the placement in the boxes, or the boxes themselves that had anything to do with it, either. The 4 plants with potatoes were each in a different planter and totally random. (Since I had gotten permission, I took my sweet time and sifted the soil in those boxes up to my elbows looking for them, and oddly, the potatoes were all on the surface of the potting soil. I could see them!)

The bright chartreuse Marguarite with dark purple petunias they had was quite striking, but I think Blackie with pale pink petunias would also be wonderful. I might drop her a note suggesting it. I need some of those black ones. LOL!

For anybody wanting to do the grocery store SPs, the darker the flesh, the darker the leaf, but they are green. The dark fleshed ones sometimes have a faint purple edge, but it's not as ornamental as it sounds.

Suzy

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Suzy, I don't know what our last frost date is. I always wait until Mother's Day. Second week in May to plant my annuals. For me that's my "it's safe day". I have a friend that does plant earlier May 1st is her date but last year she was outside covering her boxes. We had some very cold weather the 1st week in May. I couldn't remember when I started last year. I started this one just to get an idea how long it will take and because of that neeed we all have to see something grow. Here is a picture of my 1st starter it's 4 inches long and the roots are about 1 inch. Right now I have 5 starters rooting seems as though I get one everyday that is large enough to remove from the potato and put in my rooting jar. I started this process on Feb 3rd that's 3 weeks ago. I'll be digging mine out any day now and I'm keeping notes so I will know next year just when to start the process. I love that you got plants from the restaurant. What a great idea and the pink Petunias and Blackie is a great combo. My Blackie flowered last year and the flowers are pink. Of course you can hardly see them with all the foliage but they do flower. It was the first time I've ever seen any OSP in flower.

Thornton, IL

I used an no name cultivar from HD (could've been Blackie or Sweet Caroline Purple) last year in lots of containers. Here's a favorite of mine, using silver licorice vine, white pelargonium, and white pentas

Thumbnail by PrairieGirlZ5
Cordele, GA(Zone 8a)

Looks like Blackie, PrairieGirl,wow! Gorgeous basket combination!☺

Thornton, IL

I found this article that explains how Sweet Caroline series was developed with reduced root size, good thing, those tubers get big otherwise! They also are bred to be bushier, with shorter internodes (stems between leaves). So they don't stretch until they get covered by the plants in the middle, when they do start to drape as they reach for the light, in late summer. They flower in response to stress, probably drought stress in a container.


http://www.greenbeam.com/features/plant083004.stm

Thornton, IL

Thanks CD, I love the dark foliage as an accent. I plan to pot up my pink dwarf butterfly bush this summer, my prairie flowers are cramping its' style, with a skirt of Blackie and some purple, lavender or dark pink plants. Any ideas?

Cordele, GA(Zone 8a)

I can never come up with my own designs. I hope to lurk around all the wonderful pictures folks post to get their ideas. I'll be watching to see who helps you with some ideas.

Weedville, PA(Zone 6a)

Just a note about the SP from the grocery store...I just got mine out last night to put them in water and found that they had started putting off little shoots on their own. Guess they had been in those bags for a bit too long! Anyway, the very tips do look as though they will be a purple color, one darker than the other...I have two different varieties. As soon as any growth is big enough to take a pic of I'll post it.

Thanks again for all of this info...and I just love the planter pic! I wish I was that creative mixing my own stuff too, instead I copy from places like......
http://www.plantbynumber.com/
http://www.provenwinners.com/combinations/

I really like the proven winners site for combos...I'm copying a lot of theirs this year...or at least that's the plan! Hope those links help.
Heather

Cordele, GA(Zone 8a)

From one copycat to another, LOL, thanks for the link Heather.

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Nice links, Heather

Thornton, IL

Heather - Manet's Disparity and O'Keefe's Blooms are my two favorites from the first link. I like the drama. I think I'll go with some Bordeaux petunias and maybe some dark pink gomphrena with the dark sweet potato vine. I won't know for sure until I get to the nursery, then all bets are off! ;-)

Weedville, PA(Zone 6a)

I actually ordered seeds around my plans for being a copycat this year! If I couldn't find the exact plant/seed I wanted I just got something close in color and size. I'm hoping that'll work. That's kind of the story w/ my grocery store SPV too. They aren't exactly what the plan called for, but they will work...and somehow be more special because it was my bit of a twist on the plan. Ok, so I'm cheap, LOL!

SPVs are actually hard to find in my area. If you do find them at a nursery they are way over priced.

Another thing that's neat about those combo pics is they'll at least let you know what color combos you like best. I surprised myself. I fell in love w/ pink & blue...and here I always thought that was reserved for baby showers! Plus the Proven Winners pre-planted baskets sell for $25-$50 at a local nursery here. Again, I'm cheap!!

Ok, sorry for going OT...back to our regular scheduled SPV talk. =^)

Thornton, IL

Well, that's true about pre-planted containers. But I bet when you factored in each individual plant, soil, and the pot itself, you'd see what a bargain they are. Or at least they'd cost the same if you'd did it yourself. Maybe you save by growing your own plants? And there's always the "specialness" factor, LOL. I never seem to save either way. But that doesn't stop me from having a whole lot of planters every year! I always say, wouldn't that look nice together, just one more, etc. ;-)

Thumbnail by PrairieGirlZ5
Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

PGZ5, That looks wonderful! Did you plan & plant it yourself or buy it?
My neighbor has a board fence bordering our lots, can I hang a basket from his fence? Doubt he'd care, but there is absolutely no water anywhere near there & I'd have to water by hand, but it sure would look nice!

Suzy

Weedville, PA(Zone 6a)

PG, your combos are gorgeous! You don't need to copy anything. Where do you get your ideas, or do you just wing it?

I don't think I'll have $50 in one of the baskets by the time I'm done...maybe only because I have most of the things on hand that I need, inculding the baskets. The only things I had to buy were the seeds, seed starting mix and soil. If I were starting from scratch it would probably cost a lot more to get all the seed starting supplies, etc.

Hopefully it all works out, the seeds germ and grow well, and I pick good combos. I'm excited about it, but a little nervous too.

Weedville, PA(Zone 6a)

Suzy, we cross-posted...but just a little tip if you do put a planter on that fence.....try using some moisture crystals (water crystals) in the basket so you don't have to water as often. You still might have to water daily, depending on the type of planter you use, but it could keep those flowers from drying up and dying on you. Those crystals really helped me out last year in my little moss lined baskets.

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