Overwintering sweet potato vines is easy, and it’s a great way to save your favorite plants to grow again next year. In this post, I will show you three different methods for keeping sweet potato vines over winter.
Decorative sweet potato vines are gorgeous, and super popular filler plants for annual gardens and summer containers. I love growing these colorful vining plants in my garden every year. They grow quickly and look amazing cascading over a retaining wall, climbing up an obelisk, or spilling out of large planters and hanging baskets.
But it’s expensive to buy sweet potato vine plants every spring (I don’t understand why they’re so expensive!). So, since it’s super easy, I make sure to overwinter them every year to save myself some cash come spring.
Is Sweet Potato Vine Annual Or Perennial?
Though they are commonly sold as an annual bedding plants in the spring, sweet potato vines (Ipomoea batatas) are actually tender perennial plants. This is why they can be overwintered indoors and grown year after year.
They’re actually fairly cold tolerant, and can survive the winter in mild climates where it gets below freezing for a short time. However, if you live in a cold climate like I do here in MN, sweet potato vine plants will not survive the winter if left outdoors. So we must overwinter them indoors.
3 Methods For Overwintering Sweet Potato Vines
There are three methods you could try for overwintering sweet potato vines. These methods will work for all
ornamental sweet potato vine varieties. So whether you’re growing the common chartreuse sweet potato vine, a variegated or purple sweet potato vine plant, or some other variety, you can overwinter them the same way.
- Potted sweet potato vine plants can be brought indoors and grown as houseplants.
- The plants can be allowed to go dormant, and you can overwinter the tubers.
- You can grow sweet potato vine from cuttings, and overwinter the cuttings indoors.
Heck, you could even try a few of these methods with one plant to see which works best for you.
How To Overwinter Sweet Potato Vine Indoors
Below I will discuss each of the three methods in more detail. If you’ve never tried overwintering sweet potato vines before, I encourage you to experiment with each of these methods. Some people find one easier than the others, so it’s a good idea to experiment to find your favorite.
Growing Sweet Potato Vine Houseplants
One popular method for overwintering sweet potato vines is to bring the whole plant indoors and grow it as a houseplant through the winter. If your plant has grown huge and is too big for your home, you can prune it down to a manageable size before bringing it indoors.
Just keep in mind that, since your plant is used to being outside, it may go into shock after you bring it inside. You may notice that the plant looks droopy, and it may even drop a few leaves when you first move it indoors. But don’t worry, it should recover within a few days once it gets used to it’s new environment.
Storing Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine Tubers
Just like the edible varieties, ornamental sweet potato vines also form large tubers (aka: bulbs or potatoes) under the soil. Those tubers can be overwintered on their own, and grown again next year. This is the best method to use if you don’t want to worry about caring for plants or cuttings all winter, you don’t have the space for them, or if your plant was damaged or killed by frost before you could get it inside.
To store sweet potato vine tubers over winter, allow the plant to be exposed to cold or frost to trigger dormancy. Don’t allow it to freeze though, or it could damage the tuber. Then you can just leave the tubers in the pots, or you can dig them up and store them in boxes. Either way, be sure to store the tubers in a dry, dark, above freezing location until spring. Get step-by-step instructions for how to overwinter bulbs and tubers here.
Growing Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine In Water
My preferred method of overwintering sweet potato vines is to take cuttings in the fall. Sweet potato vines root easily in water, and the cuttings can be kept inside all winter. This way, I can just discard the main plant and I don’t have to bother bringing the whole thing indoors.
As I mentioned above, the plants can survive outside in mild winter climates. However, if you want to try this method of overwintering them, it’s best to take cuttings before it gets cold outside. Frost can damage the foliage, and cold weather will trigger the plant to start going dormant – which means the cuttings may not root.
Bringing Sweet Potato Vines Indoors For Winter
If want to try overwintering sweet potato vines as houseplants or as cuttings, then you definitely want to debug them before bringing them indoors. If you plan to bring a sweet potato plant indoors for the winter, then follow these instructions for debugging it first.
You can use that same method for debugging the cuttings, or you can just wash them in a sink instead. Soaking the cuttings for 10-15 minutes will drown any pest insects that are on the leaves. I like to add a squirt of mild liquid soap to the water to kill bugs faster.
After soaking your sweet potato vine cuttings, rinse them off. This will help to remove bugs, dirt and debris from the cuttings, and any soap that is left over after soaking. Then you can just place the cuttings in a vase of water and allow them to root.
You can leave sweet potato vine cuttings growing in water all winter long if you want. Or you can pot them up into a container once the roots have formed, and grow them as a houseplant. Sweet potato vines don’t require any special soil, you can just use a general purpose soil for potting them.
Indoor Sweet Potato Vine Care Tips
Caring for sweet potato vine plants indoors is a bit more difficult than growing them outdoors – especially during the winter. The three most important things you’ll need to worry about for sweet potato vine care indoors are light, watering and pest control. Below are my tips for how to grow sweet potato vine indoors.
Sweet Potato Vine Light Requirements
Potted sweet potato vine plants will grow their best in a sunny window, but they will tolerate lower light conditions. Cuttings growing in water should be placed in a spot that gets bright, indirect light rather than in full sun. If you notice the plant starts growing leggy and reaching for light, then add a grow light. You can plug it into an outlet timer to ensure your plants are getting enough light throughout the day.
Sweet Potato Vine Water Requirements
Established sweet potato vines in pots don’t require a lot of water during the winter months. It’s best to keep the soil slightly on the dry side so that you don’t accidentally overwater them. However, if you let them dry out too much, then it will trigger dormancy and the foliage will start to die back. So, keep the soil evenly moist, allowing the top of the soil to dry out. If watering is a struggle for you, I recommend getting an inexpensive soil moisture gauge to help you get it right.
On the other hand, if you took cuttings, then you can grow a sweet potato vine in water all winter. If you overwinter them this way, check the water periodically to make sure it’s not slimy or evaporating too quickly. Keep the water level above the roots all winter, and never allow the roots to dry out.
If the water becomes slimy, dump it out and wash the vase with soap and water. Rinse the roots in lukewarm water before placing them back in the vase of water. Keeping the water fresh will ensure your cuttings stay healthy.
Controlling Sweet Potato Vine Pests
One of the biggest challenges of overwintering sweet potato vines indoors is controlling houseplant pests. In my experience, whiteflies and spider mites love the leaves, and plants growing in soil can also become infested with fungus gnats (though they don’t eat the leaves).
If you discover bugs eating sweet potato vine leaves, then it’s best to act quickly to get rid of them. I recommend first washing the leaves. You can bring the plant to the sink or shower to wash them, or use a solution of soapy water and spray it on the leaves (I use 1 tsp of mild liquid soap per 1 liter of water). If you don’t want to mix your own, you can buy organic insecticidal soap. Keep in mind that some types of soap can damage plants, so it’s best to test it on a few leaves before spraying the entire plant.
Another great way to control or prevent sweet potato vine bugs is to spray the leaves with neem oil. Neem oil is an organic product that kills bugs and prevents future infestations (learn more about neem oil insecticide here). Horticultural oil also works very well to get rid of bugs on plants.
Overwintering sweet potato vines takes a bit of work. But now that you know how to save sweet potato vines over winter, you can experiment with the three methods to find the one that’s easiest for you! Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to grow your own sweet potato vine year after year and save yourself some cash!
If you enjoy rooting cuttings in water, and you’d love to learn more about propagating plants, then my Plant Propagation eBook would be perfect for you! It will teach you everything you need to know to get started propagating all your favorite plants. Download your copy today!
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Share your tips or your favorite method for overwintering sweet potato vines in the comments below.