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Potato Vine Care

potato vine care tips pruning, warning

Potato Vine, botanically known as Solanum jasminoides or Solanum laxum, is a fast growing and easy to care for evergreen vine.  If the clusters of white flowers look familiar that’s because this plant is in the Nightshade family alongside potatoes and tomatoes.  Here in Santa Barbara it flowers all year long with the heaviest bloom being in the Spring – it gets covered in white.  It grows very densely and the new growth tendrils out like the snakes on Medusa’s head – crazy wild!

potato vine care

 This is my neighbor’s Potato Vine (which you’ll see in the video below) growing on a 4′ high fence – a pruner’s delight!

I have one of these vines growing on my side fence which I keep pruned to a very small scale.  It looks very different than my neighbor’s. In my years as a professional gardener I maintained quite a few of these. Here’s are a few other things you need to know about this plant if you have one or plan to buy one:

*This vine grows to 25′.

* It needs full or part sun.

*Water it regularly when establishing. After that, it’s fairly drought tolerant.

* The best time to give it a major prune is after the major bloom (late Spring). Here it can be nipped all year long because we rarely get a freeze.

*Pay attention to how big it gets & how fast it grows. It is best planted on a tall,long fence or large arbor.  My neighbor planted 4 plants on a low, short expanse of fence which is major overkill.  I know we all want instant gratification but those 1 gallon plants grow like beanstalks!

* It can take a range of environmental conditions but does need a means of support and needs training.

* It’s not fussy as to fertilizer. Amend with a good organic compost when planting and then apply more once a year. As with most plants, it likes good drainage.

* It’s hardy to 20-25 degrees.

potato vine care

This is a dense growing plant. Some of that new growth grows back on the old growth. That’s why a few prunes a year are recommended to keep it from becoming the man eating vine it wants to be.

The Potato Vine foliage is very fresh in appearance and the plant has an overall lacy feel.  So you can see this is not a small scale vine but it is a very popular landscape plant because of its almost non-top profusion of white starry flower clusters and easy care.  Relatively easy care that is – all I can say is that if you get this plant, then you’d better like pruning!

Here I am up close & personal with my neighbor’s Potato Vine:

potato vine care

Do you like vines? Here are some links to some other beautiful vine options:

Red Trumpet Vine

Bougainvillea Tips and Facts

Bougainvillea, So Much More Than Just A Vine

 

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35 comments:

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  4. Hi Nell do you know how this plant would respond to regular pruning with a hedge trimmer? I want my hedge to be “perfect” and while I love the look of the potato vine I am not sure if it will handle being regularly cut back.

  5. That would be fine Christine. This vine grows so quickly that rough cut would soon be covered up. Actually, that’s how my neighbor prunes his growing on that low fence.

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  7. Hi Nell~

    I’ve had a potato vine in a pot that’s probably about 15 years old. I shudder to think of all the abuse my poor plant has tolerated over the years. It nearly died when my ex forgot to water it and I was looking for my own place. Thankfully, it was hardy enough to take the beating and was thriving for quite along time… until….

    fast forward to about three or four years ago. I had a bout with scale. I’ve never had a plant with scale before. I had received a potted palm arrangement that was inside our foyer and one day, in the sunbeams, I saw movement coming from the plant. It was dripping sap. Long story short, the sticky sap was all over the dang carpet in the foyer.

    So, I did the best I could and moved the plant outside. I didn’t know that what was causing the sticky sap was scale and that it’s highly contagious to other plants. It promptly spread to my schefflera, then my plumeria, and then my potato vine. I googled treatment for the scale and did the best I could to eradicate it from my plants. It hasn’t come back on the schefflera or my plumeria, but my poor, poor potato vine has taken quite a beating.

    Tonight, in a fit of frustration, I cut the entire plant back. I had treated it about a week ago with neem oil, but I figured I should prune it and start from scratch.

    Doing more research, I now understand why my plumeria seemed to attract ants and why my potato vine is currently attracting ants (the dang sticky sap!).

    I just purchased some fish emulsion oil as well as some All Seasons horticultural spray oil. Even after trimming all the stems off, I noticed the main branch of the plant still has scale. I plan on spraying it tomorrow.

    I guess my question for you is, will the All Seasons be a good treatment for the scale? We finally purchased our own home and I have wanted to finally plant my potato vine in our backyard with a trellis for it to climb on. It’s the reason I’ve kept it confined to a pot all these years: no place to actually plant it that I can call my own. I want to save this plant. It means a lot to me. I’ve had it for so long and it’s been through so much, I would be devastated if a despised pest destroyed it. 🙁

    Thank you so much in advance for any advice you may have. Oh, and as for location, we’re in sunny Long Beach, CA, so it gets plenty of sun and very rarely cold snaps.

    All the best,

    Dana 🙂

  8. Hi Dana – Greetings from your neighbor up the coast/ Oh, the dreaded scale! It’s hard to get it under control because of the hard shell. If it makes you feel any better, my potato vine grows outdoors & hasn’t ever had it. Indoors the insects spread like crazy, especially when the dry heat comes on. Yes, horticultural oil is the way to go with scale – it smothers it. Be sure to follow the directions & do repeated sprayings as 1 time doesn’t do it. Be sure to spray under the leaves & in the nodes. Also, make sure the plant is watered & not under stress when you spray (ie, no hot sun). By the way, here’s my vlog on ants & plants: https://www.joyusgarden.com/ask-nell-ants-in-around-plants/ Congratulations on your new home! Nell

  9. Hi Nell!

    Thanks for your quick response! For clarification, my potato vine has been an outside plant since I got it. It’s pot-bound, for now. I received the horticultural oil today and will spray tonight. I’ll repeat another dose before we leave to go on vacation at the beginning of July. I have cut back my plant completely and it seemed to make a full recovery, so I know it’s hardy. I just can’t stand that it’s basically been suffering all this time. I’m a big softy when it comes to this plant. 😉

    I watered the plant last night, so it should be OK. I was just afraid to spray it so soon after trimming it completely. I didn’t want to shock it.

    I’ll let you know how my potato vine does. Should I wait until it recovers completely before planting it? I was thinking I might plant it into a bigger pot instead of the ground, but wasn’t sure if that would be a good idea after all this nonsense with the scale. I want to try to completely get rid of it, but I’ve heard once a plant has scale, it’s really hard to get rid of it completely. 🙁

    Dana

  10. Dana – You’re most welcome. If I don’t answer promptly, it falls off the shelve! As I said, scale is really hard to get rid of but you should to able to keep it under control anyway. Potato Vine is so tough that I would just go ahead & plant it in the ground rather than in a larger pot 1st. You might want to wait until after you get back from vacation so you can keep your eye on it. Yes, keep me posted on its recovery! Nell

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  12. I wonder if I can start a new plant from clippings to plant in another part of my garden? I live in Berkeley and bought a couple plants that have taken off and are marvelous at covering up and beautifying all kinds of areas. Can’t I start another plant from some of the branches I’ve pruned back? Hate to throw them in the green waste bin. Thanks

  13. Hi Karen – By the way, I worked at a nursery in Berkeley for many springs when I lived in San Francisco. I’ve never taken cuttings my self but know it can easily be done. Now through fall is a great time to do it. You take 4-7″ pieces from the current season’s growth & root as you would for semi-ripe cuttings. You can find specifics for rooting semi-ripe cuttings on the web. Best, Nell

  14. Wow, thanks. I only saw sweet potato vine rooting advice on line and didn’t think it was the same. I’ll try today, thanks so much….don’t you miss our fog?

  15. Karen – Yes, 2 completely different plants. Sweet Potato Vine is much fleshier & I’ve actually rooted it in water. You’ll find some good & clear info on semi-ripe cuttings on the interwebs so it’s easier than me trying to explain it. I live 7 blocks from the beach. We have a bit of the “maritime layer” here but no, I don’t miss the heavy summer fog – I get to wear sundresses & shorts again. Happy gardening! Nell

  16. Are white potato vine leaves good to eat like sweet potato vine leaves are?

  17. Hi Paul – Sweet potato leaves are supposedly very tasty but I’ve never tried. The leaves of the Solanum jasminoides (white pot vine) are considered to be toxic so the answer is no. Nell

  18. Hi Nell,
    I am in Honolulu and trying to grow potato vines (Solanum laxum), but am not getting the results I had planned on. I am from the San Francisco bay area where we always had plenty of nicely growing potato vines.My current vines are growing nicely – although only one of my two plants flowers occasionally. The plant in the full sun/rain has not made any flowers (the plants are several months old). Also, one of the plants leaves have a slight blueish cast. Are my plants being over/underwatered? Are their containers too small? Thanks for any info – Leah

  19. Hi Leah – To the best of my knowledge, Potato Vine grows like crazy in Hawaii to the point where it can become a “weed”. I lived in SF for 19 years so I’m very familiar with it there. I’ve never heard of a bluish cast to the leaves but it could be too much water (I’m not 100% sure though). They are relatively drought tolerant & need good drainage & also need quite a bit of room for the roots to grow because of that vigorous growth habit. Nell

  20. Melissa Omundson

    My potato vine is 4 feet tall and I have it in raised bed but want to move it to a put to put on deck for privacy, what size put and is September a good time.

  21. Melissa Omundson

    I mean what size pot,

  22. Hi Melissa – Plants like to rest in winter. It’s best to do any transplanting at least 4 weeks before the 1st frost so they plant can settle in before the cold hits. If you’re someplace temperate like the central/southern CA coast, right up through mid-Dec is fine. Yes, Sept would be a good time. Put it in at least a 14″ pot, even bigger if you’d like because these plants grow fast. Nell

  23. Hi / just a quick question regarding the potato vine – I see that good drainage is important but I was wondering if you think it would do ok in a self watering pot ? It certainly won’t be sitting in water all the time but as it gets very hot here I thought it might be ok – what do you think ?

  24. Hi Dianne – I’ve never grown 1 in a self watering pot, but think a potato vine would do just fine. The pots have a reservoir at the bottom (separated by a screen or something similar) so the water is held down below & the roots can’t get saturated. Hope that helps! Nell

  25. Here in Healdsburg our mature potato vines have intense and very ugly die-back. We have had our gardener shir them back but the result is extremely unsightly. We are waiting for Spring 2017 to see if a full blossom of both sides and the top occurs. If not, what should we do? If there is not a full blossom throughout, we are on the verge of pulling them out and replacing with something else. Comments and suggestions? Thanks.

  26. Hi Andy – Potato Vine, like all fast growing vines 20’+, is best kept pruned & trimmed from the start. It does tend to get “ratty” if left to grow on its own. It’s a common vine so you can always replant & keep it well pruned. Most vines grow that way except for deciduous ones which are easier to manage. I’m a fan of large shrubs which you can more easily keep looking good (like Grewia, lavender star flower, which may or may not grow in your area) & can be espaliered. Nell

  27. Hi Nell, I have a very healthy Potato Vine growing in Taupo New Zealand- I am a Senior male and suffering with a stuffy nose , I have had a allergy test and am told a plant is creating my problem Could it be my Potato Vine ? I think it is– any one out their with a similar problem . Have you heard of this before?

  28. Hi Arthur – I used to live in California here there were a lot of Potato Vines planted – they’re a very popular landscape plant. I’ve never heard of anyone being allergic to this plant. I was extremely sensitive to Pink Jasmine & Star Jasmine because of the heavy scents but I never had an issue with Potato Vine. Nell

  29. Hi. I am in Orange County Ca and I planted about 15 Solanum jasminoides along my back and side fence. But they won’t grow! Most are under a large tree but not all. They get partial sun, not a lot. We water regularly but they just don’t grow. Most look like sticks now. We planted about 1 1/2 years ago. Any advice?! Help.
    Thanks.

  30. Hi Blake – Solanum jasminoides usually grow like crazy, even in the 1st year. They need a good amount of sun, well drained soil, regular water to get established & room to grow. I’d say it sounds like lack of light. Nell

  31. I cut down a large potato vine plant, and a friend wants to grow it in pots over a trellis. Should I put the cuttings in water or in soil and water frequently to establish a root system?

  32. Hi Cynthia – With Potato Vine, it’s best to take softwood cuttings (3-6″ long) & root them in a propagation mix. I’ve never tried rooting them in water. Nell

  33. Hi Nell, I live in Australia in a cool climate (warm summers to 28 cold winters to -8). I have a potato vine growing in full sun. I water it regularly and itt seems to be growing very well but the leaves are very curled up and are not bright green like my neighbour’s (which is stunning).

    Do you have any idea as to what the problem might be?

    Thank you,

    Vicki

  34. Vicki – I’m not quite sure but here are a few things which mite cause it: spider mite infestation, not getting a deep enough watering, or poor drainage. Hope that helps, Nell

  35. Hi Nell, I live in Oakland and have two of these vines growing on trellises on either side of a large arched window – I trained them so they now meet atop the arch which was looking great, at first. You are right about the “man-eating plant” bit — they are now growing out from the house onto electric cable and nearby trees! It’s at a height that’s hard to get to for pruning. Could you recommend another vine that can take lots of sun but won’t behave like the creature from the deep? I like the fact that solanum is evergreen, and it seems to bloom pretty nonstop. Thanks for any thoughts!
    Anne

  36. Hi Anne – Most vines grow like crazy & tend to take over after a while. Some of the Clematis stay smaller & are easier to control. Pretty flowers too. Also, climbing roses. You might check out a shrub like the Lavender Star Flower (Grewia) which is fairly easy to espalier. I used to work at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery. You could check & see what they have in stock. Nell

  37. Hello Nell,

    Thank you for doing such awesome work in the world!! Wondering if I can keep a potato vine in a pot vs. planting in the ground. How about Jasmine (star or pink)? Can I keep them in a pot vs. planting. I’ve got a few places that I would like some climbers yet to keep in a pot.

    Thank you kindly,
    Candra

  38. Hello Nell,

    Thank you for doing such awesome work in the world!! Wodering if I can keep a potato vine in a pot vs. planting in the ground. I’ve got a few places that I would like some climbers yet to keep in a pot.

    Thank you kindly,
    Candra

  39. Candra – You’re very welcome! Yes, you can grow PV in containers. The taller it gets, the bigger the pot you’ll need. Also, you’ll most likely need to water it more than in the ground. Nell

  40. Candra – All of them can be grown in containers. The SJ is especially suited to containers as it tends to stay a little smaller. Nell

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