Do Sweet Potatoes Flower?
Botanical Names: Ipomoea batatas
It is important to distinguish between edible sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) or ornamental sweet potatoes, which go by the same Latin name. Typically, flowering for both types will only occur in southern gardens with hot daytime and night time temperatures as well as long day length. Neither type of sweet potato is grown for the flowering capability. However, if a sweet potato flower does occur it resembles its cousin, the Morning Glory (Convolvulus spp.) mostly in shades of light blue to purple.
With edible sweet potatoes as with most root crops and herbs, it is important to remove any flowers. If the energy of the plant is going to flower growth and production, then other areas, like the tubers, will suffer. It is important to have a fertilizer that is high in potash in order to encourage tuber or root growth. A fertilizer that is high in nitrogen will promote the growth of foliage and keep the leaves full of chlorophyll. If flowers are continually occurring, revisit the type of fertilizer that you are feeding your plants and confirm that it is high in potassium (K of N-P-K). If all is well with the fertilizer, then it just has to do with temperatures and sunlight. Simply remove the flowers to maximize tuber growth.
Ornamental sweet potatoes are grown for their showy foliage and placed in hanging baskets, window boxes and container gardens. They add the trailing component that is needed to balance out containers. They come in a variety of colors ranging from lime-green to deep, dark purple to copper. The foliage shapes vary as well to extremely lacy to more broad. Like edible sweet potatoes, they prefer full sun. They need as much heat as possible for the best leaf color performance. Since root or tuber growth is not as important as foliage growth, it is best to feed a fertilizer that focuses on leaf production. Look for a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen to get the peak performance from these showy, ornamental plants.
If flowering does occur, it is an added bonus and not anecessity to remove the flowers as it is with edible sweet potatoes. These ornamental plants DO produce tubers. However, coming from those that tasted them, they are not edible. These plants have been specifically bred for their showy foliage and not their edible features. It is best to stick to the edible varieties when going for taste.
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