Is the Sweet Potato Vine Drought Tolerant?

With trailing leaves varying in color from chartreuse to purple, the ornamental sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) makes a striking addition to the backyard. Though a tropical plant, the vine grows well in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11 and as an annual elsewhere. Although established plants can manage brief periods with dry soil, sweet potato vine is a plant plant which prefers humid conditions and is not a fantastic alternative if your gardening goal is to decrease water use.

Water Needs

As a tropical plant, sweet potato vine prefers humid circumstances and won’t thrive in areas with low humidity or strong, drying winds. In warm places, such as USDA zones 9 through 11, watering the plant regularly keeps the soil moist and produces a humid atmosphere around the plant which simulates its indigenous, humid atmosphere. When conditions become dry, the plant can require the moisture stored in its tuberous root. The vine’s vitality is reduced if it must continually rely on the tuber for water, which means that you won’t receive a lush abundance of leaves on your plant.

Dehydration Issues

Decorative sweet potato vine is mostly grown for its large, boldly colored leaves. Like all plants, these large leaves are covered at microscopic holes called stomata that permit the passage of air and water. This implies that in low humidity or even when dry winds kick up, the leaves can quickly lose water. The issue is increased because this plant is typically planted in full sun and the heat in the sun adds to water loss. After the plant’s soil gets too dry, the roots can replace some of their moisture loss to the leaves. Alas, the varieties of sweet potato grown for cosmetic purposes do not have large tubers like those grown for food and can only supply a limited quantity of water. Following a week of dry states, the tuber begins to pull water in the leaves, causing the leaves to wilt. The plant has to be watered at the very first sign of wilting in order for it to recover.

Watering Frequency

How often you water your sweet potato vine depends on your conditions. Though it can manage occasional dry soil, the plant grows most vigorously if its soil stays constantly moist. The ideal way to find out if the vine needs watering is to feel the soil around it. If the soil is dry to a depth of 1 inch, it is time to water. In hot, dry or windy conditions, check the soil daily. When the weather is calm and cool, check the soil once per week. Only established plants show tolerance of dry soil, so ensure any newly planted vines aren’t permitted to dry out.

Planting Wisely

Sweet potato vines should be planted in loose, well-draining soil. To help the soil around the plant retain water, cover the soil with a 1-inch layer of mulch. When planting different plants around the sweet potato vine, particularly in a container, elect for plants which have similar moisture requirements, such as eggplant or strawberries. The soil will be too moist for plants which are known for true drought tolerance, such as succulents, and can cause root rot in these plants.

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