Ipomoea platense (2015)

PhotoBy Mike Hellmann (May 2015)

Ipomoea platense is a cool plant with swollen tuberous roots containing water storage tissue that helps this plant make it through times of drought with few consequences. It is in the potato family (Convolvulaceae) and is endemic to Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

From what I understand, it likes a well-drained soil and does best if kept moist while in its growing season. I would imagine any good succulent soil recipe would work, with probably a bit more organic tossed in to hold on to more soil moisture.

It is fast-growing. The vine can reach up to 12 feet in length, and the caudex can eventually reach 24 inches across. Of course, the vines can be kept in check by constant pruning, which gives the plant a more contained look and habit.

One must remember that by pruning this plant on a constant basis, its potential to bloom will be constantly taken away, as one is taking away the developing flower buds when pruning the plant. In order to enjoy the bell-shaped, pink flowers, it will need to be grown on a fence or trellis, where pruning would not be necessary. A larger caudex will most likely develop this way than if the plant is kept pruned and in a smaller pot.

One is cautioned to avoid putting the plant in full sun. I would imagine that they’re referring to the pot and caudex only. The long vines will reach for the sun no matter where they are grown.

This plant can be propagated by both seed and stem cuttings. One must be vigilant for spider mites, which are reputed to be the worst nemesis of this plant. During dormancy, they can be overwintered anywhere the temperature remains above freezing. Just like a potato, Ipomoea platense will sit in silence, bone dry, not needing any light until spring calls.

I think I’m going to put my plant in my free root run bed for the summer. I’ll give it some bamboo stakes on which to climb and plenty of water, and hopefully I will be rewarded with flowers this summer and a large caudex later in the fall.