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What is a Potato Vine?

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  • Written By: Misty Amber Brighton
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2016
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A potato vine, or Solanum laxum, is a climbing evergreen plant often grown in the U.S. and Australia. It is characterized by dark green leaves and white, star-shaped flowers. The name of this perennial is somewhat deceiving as it does not actually produce a potato.

The leaves of this plant are usually shiny and dark green. They may be somewhat round or oval-shaped in appearance. The leaves also sometimes look as though they are folded in half along the center vein.

This plant produces light-colored flowers that have five petals, which may be arranged in the shape of a star. They also have a red or orange anther, or area where the pollen is produced. These anthers are said to resemble small potatoes, hence the name. They are not edible, but often drop off the plant in order to sprout new vines.

The flowers of a potato vine bloom nearly year-round in many warm areas of the U.S., such as Hawaii. While they are normally white, they might also be light blue or cream-colored. Each petal is somewhat oval-shaped, with a point at the end. They can appear to have a vein running down the center of them as well.

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A potato vine is a climbing or trailing plant that can grow to be quite long. In many instances, this plant can grow to be up to 20 feet (6.05 m) in length. It might also spread anywhere from one to two feet (.3 to .6 m) wide. For this reason, a gardener may want to place this vine near a fence or building, or use a trellis for support.

Many people like to cut this plant back, close to the ground, in late winter. It is sometimes believed that doing so increases the number of blooms in the following growing season. Gardeners who choose to trim a potato vine in this manner might want to make sure it is not flowering first. This lack of blooms can indicate that the climber is dormant and will not be harmed by pruning.

Although it does not produce a crop, the potato vine nonetheless can add beauty and fragrance to a patio or garden. It is sometimes believed to attract beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, to a backyard. The vines can also be used in a butterfly or bee garden. People who live in warm climates may enjoy this unique and interesting plant almost any time of the year.

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