Ornamental Sweet Potatoes, After Hurricane Irene in album plants

In Albums:Philadelphia plants brick

Three large planters of ornamental sweet potatoes, on a brick sidewalk, with leaves and plants torn off and lying on the ground

Aug 28th, 2011, by Alex Zorach

This photo shows ornamental sweet potato plants that were damaged by hurricane Irene in Philadelphia. This is not exactly serious damage, but I will say, I've never seen these plants torn off by wind before, and I see these plants planted in nearly every city I visit.

As I approached these planters, which were located in a large expanse of brick sidewalk, there were long strings of these sweet potato plants strewn very far, some as far as a full block away from where these planters were.

These plants are interesting to me: they are cultivars of the sweet potato, which is normally used as a food plant, but these cultivars have been selected for their colorful leaves, and are primarily used ornamentally. They do, however, produce edible roots, which you can find if you dig them up. Their roots are smaller and are usually white (even on the red-leafed varieties) unlike the large, red roots of the plants that are cultivated for food. These plants are extraordinarily easy to grow from cutting; cuttings root in a class of water, usually in only a few days, and then can be immediately planted. In cold-winter climates, these tropical plants cannot survive the winter, and can be grown only as annuals or houseplants. Their rate of growth is so rapid, however, and they are so easy to propagate, that they make very good annuals.

I find all the cultivars grow well except the variety with smaller, white and green leaves, tinged with pink. This variety grows well if planted on its own, but grows slower and less vigorously than other varieties, which is seen in that it has been choked out in all of these planters. If you look closely you'll see a few leaves of this variety in the closest pot.