Sweet potatoes, originally from South America, have been in cultivation for over 2,000 years. At Genus HQ they’ve been in cultivation for approximately six months but what an impression they've made on us with their colourful tubers and ease of cultivation.
We grew them from young plants bought at the garden centre, often referred to as ‘slips’ if you happen to see them advertised online. Supermarket tubers can also be induced into sprouting by keeping them moist and warm. The resulting shoots can be detached and rooted in water before being planted into a 10 litre pot and placed in a greenhouse from about June onwards.
We planted ours in a peat free compost and kept them well watered all through the hot summer; conditions that they love. We didn’t have any issues with pests or diseases and they slowly took over the corner of the greenhouse with their attractive trailing leaves, and purple convolvulus-like flowers.
This propensity for rapid growth and attractive foliage hasn’t gone unnoticed by plant breeders. Decorative ornamental forms such as ‘Raven’ and ‘Margarita’ have been developed with colourful foliage ranging from black to lime green or chartreuse, all to be used in pot displays. We grew ‘Sakura’ the Japanese word for ‘cherry blossom’ and ‘Murasaki’ meaning ‘purple’. ‘Murasaki’ on the left of our picture produced by far the more attractive tuber with its pale flesh, whilst 'Sakura' was a purple fleshed form, but both had a similar flavour when baked.
The crop wasn’t huge but we’ll definitely be growing them again next year along with their colourful ornamental cousins.