The Q&A Archives: Potato Flower

Question: I have two quite large potato flower bushes/vines growing on a trellis at the house I bought in springtime. They have been very healthy all summer. In the last few weeks, the bushes have started to drop a sticky substance all over the ground, and the leaves are drying up and falling off. The bushes appear to be dying. Do potato flowers lose their leaves in the fall and get them back in spring, or are my bushes really dying? If so, how can I save/take care of them? Do they need much water? help!

Answer: Solanum jasminoides, the Potato Vine, is a vigorous, twining vine, producing pure white or white tinged blue flowers one-inch across, in clusters of 8-12. Depending upon climate, the plants can be evergreen or deciduous. You can cut the plants down to the ground to remove tangled vines and encourage new growth.

It sounds as though your plants are infested with sucking insects (perhaps aphids or scales). When insects like this feed they excrete a sticky substance. The affected leaves and stems usually turn yellow and then die. Inspect your plants carefully for signs of insect pests. If that's what's causing the problem, cut the foliage down and remove it from the garden. Next spring your plants will develop new shoots, which should be free of insects.

Solanum gets along with little water but grows best when the soil is moderately moist.

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