Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
November, 2011
Regional Report

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Starting a sweet potato vine is a fun project that results in a fast growing houseplant.

Grow A Sweet Potato Vine

For the past few months I have been honing my skills in the kitchen. With all the produce from the garden, there is plenty to eat fresh and put away in the freezer. A plentiful harvest of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beets, and potatoes has kept me busy for the past several weeks.

My uncle and I have been enjoying the goodness of sweet potatoes, and not just for eating. Sweet potatoes can also be grown into attractive vining houseplants. The fast growing vines will have bright green leaves that can be trained on a trellis or allowed to sprawl over the window ledge. The tubers can be forced at any time of year. If you have any youngsters around, this is an excellent project for kids to learn about plant growth.

It is easy to grow your own. Pick a tuber that is firm and free of blemishes. Both yellow or red varieties of sweet potatoes work fine. When possible, choose tubers that have buds or "eyes" poking out. These will result in faster growth and loads of vining stems.

My preference is to start the tuber in a container filled with good potting soil. Bury the more tapered end of the tuber halfway into the potting mix, leaving the other half exposed above the soil. Place a drainage saucer under the pot and place on a sunny windowsill.

It only takes a week or so to see growth emerging from the eyes. Soon you'll have a homegrown vine in the kitchen window. If needed, you can train the vining stems on a houseplant trellis to keep them within bounds. Also, don't be afraid to pinch or prune overgrown stems to keep the plant within its boundaries.

I can remember my grandmother growing vines from the oldest stored tubers that were starting to bud out. She merely stuck them in an old pint canning jar filled with water. She would stick toothpicks into the mid section of the old tuber to support the sweet potato on the jar so that only the bottom end was submerged in the water. Within a week or so roots could be seen emerging and green vines growing from the eyes.

Scraps from the kitchen can be recycled into living houseplants. Be creative and see what you can grow to add fresh greenery to your kitchen this winter.

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