Want an easy plant to grow during the summer, with nice color that covers a large area and is extremely versatile? Consider the sweet potato vine. It is all of these things and more. What first caught my eye was its extremely bright and unusual lime green color.

These vines are not only found in chartreuse, but can range from yellow to purple, a purplish-black, which produces a bloom, and a bronzy-pinkish mixed-tone leaf. They spread nicely, up to 4 feet or so, and grow 10 inches to 2 feet in height. Some might feel sweet potato vines can be somewhat invasive in bedding areas, but I disagree. They can be easily nipped off where you don't want them growing, almost to the point that you can manipulate them exactly where you want them to spread.

They grow and fill in quickly, not taking long to get good coverage. I like planting them a foot or so apart, mixing the different colored foliages together. In a week or so, you will have a gorgeous mixture of hues over as large an area as you'd like. The summer heat makes them flourish.

Another great characteristic is that it is fairly easy to propagate, getting new plants out of existing ones. All you have to do is take a foot-long piece of vine, snip it right below where a leaf is forming, trim off all leaves from there up, leaving only a couple at the top for photosynthesis purposes. Put the cutting end in a container of potting mix or in a vase of water until tiny roots form. Then, you can replant it. The vines prefer moist soil, especially when planting or re-planting.

Sweet potato vine can handle sun or shade, looks great in beds, hanging baskets or pots, and is a wonderful accent plant to mix with other species for a change in texture or a contrast in color. Its vine is ideal for open or bare areas that need color but not regular maintenance, or pots out on your property that add touches of color from a distance. Adding a tall urn-type pot of sweet potato vine to the back of an existing flower bed will add both height and color to a seemingly one-dimensional area. Hanging baskets on porches/eaves would also add "pop."

Disadvantages to this plant might be bugs and slugs eating its luscious foliage, regular watering and controlling its spread.

Other than that, it's a delightful specimen to consider adding to your home.

Darla Menking is a certified Bell County Texas Master Gardener and a Texas Master Naturalist. Email her at darla.menking@gmail.com.

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