Friday, June 29, 2007

An Unlikely Bloomer: 'Blackie'

This is a first time here for this particular plant, Ipomoea batatas, an annual we always have in the garden ... it's the increasingly common, yet incredibly attractive Sweet Potato Vine variety called 'Blackie.' A few years ago we started seeing these positively everywhere, in gardens, container plantings, you name it ... and it's no wonder they caught on so quickly! They're a really easy vine to grow, make a great groundcover and provide an incredible splash of purplish-black colour anywhere you choose to plant them. Wherever you're looking for a bold contrast with brighter coloured flowers in the garden, 'Blackie" can give it to you in abundance.

We like to plant a few of these each year in the main boulder bed to creep around and eventually spill out over the rocks where they always provide a dramatic counterpoint to the other flowers growing toward the front of the bed. They really require very little care once planted, other than giving them a regular watering in dry periods, when they'll definitely let you know when they're thirsty by wilting. And though most everyone plants these primarily for their foliage value, they do indeed bloom when they're really happy ... and last year we had a few blooms on one specimen. However this year, this particular one seems especially happy where it's planted ... in a large pot with our specimen of Colocasia esculenta "Black Magic." (I'll have more on this one at a later date!)

The Ipomoea genus comprises a really large range of vining plants, including the common Morning Glories, Spanish Flag, Convolvulus "Blue Enchantment" and other less desirable members of the Convolvulaceae family such as common bindweed. Fortunately, most of them are really welcome members in the garden space, and this one has become a favorite of ours over the past few years.

Though it's unclear whether the tuber they produce is as edible as the common sweet potato, one really doesn't plant this for its food value ... I have read, however, that if you dig the tubers and store them properly over the winter, you can revive them in the spring and plant them again. This year I think we'll give it a shot and see what happens ... at worst, we'll have a rotten tuber by spring! I've also spoken with some gardeners who take cuttings, root them and keep them inside over the winter, so that's another option to preserve their beauty for future seasons. There's also another variety called 'Marguerite,' a chartreuse coloured one we also have planted in a couple of areas. You'll likely see more of her as the summer progresses, so stay tuned....

Note on the photos: taken June 24, 2007 by IVG, on that same gloomy Sunday as the previous ones posted earlier this week.


olivia said...

Great photos there IVG ... you've captured the colour and the IBs well ... but the foliage is fantastic! I can see what you mean about the dramatic effect they'd have in a planter/garden.

I know not everyone likes them, but I like MG flowers -- simple, colourful, not open long, but they bloom so profusely there are always lots of blooms.

Family Man said...


I kept trying to post yesterday, but couldn't for some reason.

I agree with Olivia about the color and foliage. I like the purple inside. It really shows it off.

FARfetched said...

Nice... but what made it "unlikely"? I looked through the posting twice & didn't see it.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey there FAR... we're not used to it blooming, nor are most who plant this. Remember, we're up here in the 'hinterlands' according to the Shrub. We're just glad that the foliage survives!

Blooms are a bonus for us mere mortals ....