Edible Flowers from the Summer Garden

roseSummer is here and the garden flourishes. As you pick flowers for arrangements and harvest vegetables for dinner, you may want to experiment with another crop: edible flowers. Chances are you have edible flowers in your garden already. Edible flowers are flowers from plants that can be eaten safely and can add flavor, color, and interest to just about anything – drinks, desserts, and main dishes.

Look around your garden. If you are growing bee balm, daylilies, roses, signet marigolds, and nasturtiums, you can use the flowers in the kitchen. Just keep in mind two caveats: even if you do not spray with chemicals always wash the flowers; and, after washing, taste a raw petal to determine the flavor which can vary and to ensure you are not allergic. For some such as daylilies, you may want to remove the anthers to remove as much pollen as possible.Monarda didyma

For example, the red flowered bee balm (Monarda didyma) has a sweet and spicy citrus taste. Of all the bee balm plants, this species has the best flavor. The red flowers add flavor and color to tea, lemonade, fresh fruit, fruit tarts, pound cakes, simple syrups, butter spreads, or melted butter for fish. The entire flower heads can be in a pitcher of lemonade or separated petals can be sprinkled on top of whipped cream with fresh fruit. The purple flowering type (Monarda fistulosa) is not as flavorful but is still edible. If you only have that plant in your garden you can still use the flowers as a garnish, on the side of a salad or pound cake, or you can sprinkle the lavender-colored petals on a white-frosted, angel food cake.

daylilyThe flavor of daylily flowers (Hemerocallis spp.) will depend on the type but in general the petals taste like lettuce with a crunch. Because of their funnel shape, they are great for filling with cream cheese or a chicken salad. If you support an individual flower in a small glass or egg cup, you can fill it with a scoop of fruit salad. Remember to remove the pistils and stamens before you use them in the kitchen. Daylily flowers can be stuffed with cheese and fried. The unopened flower buds can be battered and fried or added in a stir fry dish.

rose budsRoses (Rosa spp.) vary quite a bit in flavor but all rose flowers are edible so they can always be used to color a dish. Try eating a petal first to see if there is a good flavor. If not, then just use the petals to decorate cakes, fruit salad, or a cocktail. Rose buds are also beautiful garnishes for cheese platters and cupcakes. Rose petals can be dried, chopped and added like confetti or layered with sugar for a red or rose flavored sugar.

Although people often say marigolds are edible, the common French (Tagetes patula) and African (Tagetes erecta) types are not very tasty. The best marigolds for flavor are the signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia). Usually you will find them as the Gem series – Tangerine (orange), Red, and Lemon. These are bushy plants, about a foot tall, with fine, feathery leaves and small flowers, only about an inch wide. The blossoms have a citrus taste and depending on the type, provide a bright yellow, orange, or red color. Pulling off the petals and adding them to green pea soup or red tomato soup adds contrast and interest. Adding petals to cheese dishes, deviled eggs, butter, potato salad, muffins, quiche, and egg salad add flavor and color. Usually signet marigolds are used in savory dishes, not sweet. Because these are not commonly grown as bedding plants in this area, you may have to order seeds online and start from seed in May. They are as easy to grow as the other marigolds.signet marigolds

Nasturtium flowers (Tropaelum majus) are very flavorful and are used to add a pepper taste. There is a wide variety of nasturtium flower colors and shapes but they are usually bright orange, yellow, or red. The varieties with a prominent funnel shape are great for stuffing with cream cheese or tuna salad. The entire flower can garnish a vegetable dish, or the petals can be sprinkled on green beans for contrast. These savory flowers are great for finger or tea sandwiches, butter for potatoes or seafood, green salads, or cream or goat cheese. Think of using nasturtiums to add red petals to an orange butternut squash or yellow petals to a red tomato soup. The nasturtium leaves also are edible so you can layer a blossom on a leaf for added interest.

Other edible flowers that bloom in the summer include fuchsia, gladiolus, hibiscus, hollyhock, and rose of Sharon. There are many more plants with edible flowers, including spring and fall bloomers, vegetable flowers and herb flowers but we will save that information for future articles. This list of edible and non-edible flowers will give you more ideas.

Look to Herbs for Drought-Tolerant Plants

Drought Tolerant Garden in Loudoun County Master Gardeners’ Demonstration Garden

Recently, I had a conversation with a fellow GardenComm member who lives in the dry climate of Arizona. We were talking about drought tolerant plants for the garden. I said I tend to use herbs when I need drought tolerant plants in my garden. Many herbs–culinary, medicinal, or otherwise–make great landscape plants.

Coincidently that same weekend, I visited the Loudoun County Master Gardeners’ demonstration garden in Leesburg. I highly recommend visiting this garden, which is free and open to the public. There are several mini-gardens designed to demonstrate a particular characteristic such as the drought tolerant garden. I, of course, looked for herbs and found yarrow, hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), catmint (Nepeta), and winter savory (Satureja montana).

You don’t think of Virginia has having to need drought tolerant plants, but we do have dry stretches in the summer. In addition, my garden has dry areas, particularly under the roof eaves where rainwater cannot enter the narrow, sheltered space.

Yarrow in the drought-tolerant garden

For this area, I have several 6-year-old bushes of ‘Phenomenal’ lavender to the right of the front door. These bloom reliably every summer; the bees love the purple flowers. Nearby is a 5-foot-tall fennel plant that supports beneficial insects and pollinators.

To the left of the door, I have low growing lemon thyme and 2-foot-tall curry plants which are gray with small yellow flowers (Helichrysum italicum).

Throughout the garden, I have various drought-tolerant herbs. We have been on this property for more than 20 years and I am struck by how many of my herbs are old, yet they still perform well. My 13-year-old oregano and knot marjoram plants still bloom every summer, surrounded by bees and beneficial insects. The 10-year-old, 4-feet-tall Rosemary ‘Arp’ blooms lavender colored flowers in the winter. Now it often blooms when the azaleas are blooming. The 10-year-old, 3-feet-tall tansy has small yellow flowers now. The 7-year-old English thyme serves as a groundcover in the front of the house. The 3-year-old germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) is blooming small lavender blossoms now. This can serve as a small hedge in place of boxwood.

Tansy’s yellow button flowers

I have a penchant for the “flavored” thyme plants so I have 3-year-old rose thyme and 2-year-old lemon, nutmeg, and Pennsylvania Dutch thyme plants. All are great groundcovers and can be used in the kitchen. My 2-year-old sage (Salvia officinalis) blooms in the spring and my 2-year-old, 3-foot-tall silver artemisia (Artemisia absinthium) is just now beginning to bloom.

I am really impressed with my 2-year-old santolina (Santolina rosmarinifolius). This is the green foliage type which not only has thrived but bloomed many yellow pom poms type flowers in the late spring/early summer. I highly recommend this for any garden.

English thyme blooming for the bees

My 2-year-old winter savory is still only a foot tall but this is a perennial that has just started to bloom small white flowers.

The 1-year-old horehound (Marrubium vulgare) was very easy to start from seed last year. In fact, it seemed all the seed germinated quickly so I ended up with quite a few plants. They have already bloomed which have resulted in fascinating Dr. Seuss type seedheads.

I have yarrow throughout the garden in various flower colors. I used to grow rue which is a pretty plant with yellow flowers but you have to be careful about touching it as it can cause a skin irritation.

Because these plants are drought tolerant, once they are established, I do not have to worry about watering them with a hose and I don’t worry about fertilizing either. I may deadhead – especially the lavender and santolina – but for the most part they don’t require much attention.

Of course, this is only a sample, there are plenty more drought tolerant herbs and I always keep an eye out for them at the local garden centers. If you have had success with any, please let me know by commenting below and maybe I will add them to the garden.

The gray curry plant smells like curry the dish!

Visit Demonstration Gardens for Education and Inspiration


small mailbox garden with suitable plants

In the summer I like to visit demonstration gardens to see how well the plants and vegetables performed in this area. Demonstration gardens are a great way to learn what works in the Washington DC metro area and how to manage our local issues, such as deer and rabbits. Each county that has a Master Gardener program usually has at least one demonstration garden, managed by the volunteer Master Gardeners. These are open to the public and free. To find such a garden, call your local county Master Gardener program representative (your local extension agent). Some have several to showcase various environmental conditions and some use the garden as a place to teach or host workshops.

In Northern Virginia, the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia (Arlington and Alexandria) now have eight demonstration gardens. They recently added Buddie Ford Nature Center Garden. The Prince William County Master Gardeners manage a very large Teaching Garden at St. Benedict Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow. Within this property are mini gardens to illustrate certain conditions or issues, such as a deer resistant garden, shade garden, vegetable garden, and pollinator garden. The Loudoun County Master Gardeners uses Ida Lee Park on Ida Lee Park Drive, Leesburg, as a teaching garden.

deer sign

examples of deer resistant plants

In Maryland, the Montgomery County Master Gardeners manage six demonstration gardens. The Prince Georges County Master Gardeners have demonstration gardens at their headquarters at 6707 Groveton Drive, Clinton.

In DC there is the Washington Youth Garden, a program of the Friends of the National Arboretum, with support from the U.S. National Arboretum.  This is located on the Arboretum grounds.

plant sign

unusual plants at demonstration gardens

Some plant societies such as the National Capital Dahlia Society have demonstration gardens specific to their plant of interest. Contact the society directly to see if they have one. The National Capital Dahlia Society has the Nordahl Exhibition Garden for displaying dahlias at the Agricultural History Park in Derwood, MD. Plant NoVA Natives has a list of demonstration gardens that feature native plants on their site.

If you know of any that I have not listed here, please contact me and let me know.

Learning About Herbs Under the Arbor

One of DC’s best kept secrets is the Under the Arbor program. The Units of the Herb Society of America in the mid-Atlantic area host demonstrations at the National Herb Garden in the U.S. National Arboretum. These are on designated Saturdays, 1:00 to 4:00 pm, free and open to the public. Plenty of parking and visitors can also roam the entire Arboretum and/or check out the National Herb Garden. Sometimes one Unit will host the event and sometimes it is a multi-Unit event with many tables and demonstrations. Volunteers drive up to the Arboretum for the day from other states such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the DC metro area to set up the tables, complete with displays, handouts, and often freebies to take home. They love to educate the visitors about herbs and answer questions.

Members of the Potomac Unit

The first Under the Arbor this year was held on June 10. Several Units gathered to present “Well Contained Herbs.” The Potomac Unit had a table literally under the arbor in the National Herb Garden, with information on fire cider, ginger, and rose beads. Folks could sample the fire cider and pick up informational flyers. Nearby was the Pennsylvania Heartland Herb Society discussing scented geraniums and showcasing a strawberry jar full of scented geraniums and large plastic containers planted with several culinary herbs. The Philadelphia Unit talked about Wardian cases which are glass cases used to transport plants on ships in the 19th Century. They had many glass jam jars for visitors to start seeds by adding a little bit of soil and water, and a seed. Next to them a Potomac Unit member was filling a strawberry jar with herbs and giving away ginger rhizomes while another member from Virginia Beach, a member at large, demonstrated thematic containers of tomatoes and herbs.

Members of the Philadelphia Unit

The next Under the Arbor event will be on June 24 and theme is tussie mussies. Tussie mussies are small herbal bouquets that were very popular in Victorian times. Often the herbs were gathered with a bit of lace and ribbon and a small holder to make it easy to hold. While they provided a nice scent, the plants were chosen for their special meanings. The Philadelphia Unit will demonstrate how to make tussie mussies, explain the symbolism of the herbs, and visitors may be able to take one home.

On September 16, the theme is ginger, which is the herb of the year for 2023, and lemon scented herbs. The South Jersey Unit will take the lead in showcasing ginger and other units may participate with ginger delicacies. Volunteers will explain the many lemon-scented herbs.

On October 7, most of the mid Atlantic Units will attend for the annual Chile Celebration. Visitors love this event because they get to taste very hot chiles, as well as fudge made with chiles, and other delicacies. Don’t worry, the volunteers will bring milk and bread if it gets too hot! In addition to learning everything there is to know about the genus Capsicum, visitors can view the Herb Gardens’ chile border which is planted every year by staff.

Members of the Pennsylvania Heartland Unit

Under the Arbor programs are planned and conducted by the National Herb Garden committee. The committee is comprised of representatives from the Herb Society’s mid-Atlantic units, members at large, and with the support of the National Herb Garden’s curator and gardener.

Make sure you visit one or all of these Under the Arbor events this year!

Under the Arbor events are also a fun way for members at large and members from different units to catch up with each other

Subscribe to a Free, Local Gardening Newsletter

Subscribe to Pegplant’s Post Gardening Newsletter, a free monthly newsletter about gardening in the VA/MD/DC metro area. Enter your e-mail here to subscribe. Each issue lists 50-100 local gardening events, recently published gardening books, articles, tips, and news specific to this area. Pegplant’s Post Gardening Newsletter always has a giveaway, an opportunity to win a free plant or gardening-related product. For the upcoming July 2023 issue of Pegplant’s Post, the giveaway is a Golden Hoogendorn Holly (Ilex).

The Golden Hoogendorn Holly is a low growing, dense evergreen shrub with small rounded leaves. This is a dwarf Japanese holly with foliage like boxwood but without the disease issues. Hardy to Zone 6, this shrub will grow to 3 to 4 feet with a 4 to 5 feet spread. The new spring foliage is golden yellow, maturing to green. This plant is brought to you by Garden Debut®, a landscape collection of Great New Plants™ and Trusted Selections™. You will find the Garden Debut line of plants at nurseries but you can also order online via Sooner Plant Farm. Garden Debut is managed by the well-known Greenleaf Nursery Company one of the largest wholesale nurseries in North America. Greenleaf Nursery has been in business for 55 years and has production fields in Oklahoma, Texas, and North Carolina.

If you don’t already subscribe, subscribe now to the free Pegplant’s Post Gardening Newsletter to be eligible to win this fantastic giveaway!

New Maryland Native Plants Program

Buttonbush, a Maryland native plant

Good news for Maryland! The Maryland General Assembly passed HB950 which is legislation designed to establish the Maryland Native Plants Program. The goal is to encourage and promote the use and sale of plants native to Maryland at certain businesses and to educate the public on native plants. The Department of Agriculture will administer the program in coordination with the University of Maryland Extension (UME). The UME will hire an extension agent to serve as a native plant specialist for certain educational purposes. The UME also will create a specific website on native plants. A commercial Maryland native plant list will be established as well as a voluntary certification program for growers and retailers to be identified either as a Maryland Native Plant Grower or a Maryland Native Plant Retailer or both.

The bill has been approved by the governor and will take effect in July 2024. Here is a current list of Maryland Native Plants on the UME website.

Problems in the Garden? Ask These Experts

virus “aster yellows” deforming blossoms

Summer is here and by now you are seeing a host of issues in your garden. If it isn’t Japanese beetles eating your roses, it’s leaf hoppers spreading aster yellows and bagworms covering your evergreens. But don’t worry, there are plenty of resources for help in our DC metro area. One of the first places you should go to is your local Master Gardeners group and county extension agents.

Help in Northern Virginia

In Northern Virginia, there are two Master Gardener groups. People who live in Arlington and Alexandria are probably familiar with the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. They have an excellent website with plenty of resources. If you have a gardening question, you can contact the Extension Master Gardeners Help Desk via phone, in person at their office, or via email at mgarlalex@gmail.com. This is a service for the public. You do not have to be a master gardener, live in those areas, or pay anything. The people answering the questions are volunteer Master Gardeners and County Extension Agents.

Japanese beetles are notorious for decimating rose bushes

The second option is to contact the Fairfax County Master Gardeners Help Desk by calling or e-mailing at mgfairfax@vt.edu. This is a service of the Fairfax County Master Gardeners but again, you do not have to be a master gardener, you do not have to live in Fairfax County, and you do not have to pay anything. The reason why there are two Master Gardener groups in Northern Virginia is because the demand for the Master Gardener program is so high. This group also has an informative website.

Master Gardeners staff plant clinics at libraries and farmers markets. Here is the schedule for 2023. Again, free service, visit them and bring a diseased plant and they will help you. They also will help with any gardening question or issue.

Help in Maryland

In Maryland, there is the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC) which is managed by the University of Maryland Extension. You can e-mail via a form and questions are answered by horticulturists. In the form, describe the problem and attach photos, if needed. The website lists a few suggestions: include an object to indicate scale for insects; attach both a close-up as well as the entire plant; send a photo of the entire weed plant with flower or seed head; and, if seeking a plant disease diagnosis, send photos showing the transition from healthy to diseased. This is a free service and the HGIC will assist Maryland and DC residents. This website also has a lot of great gardening information.

Leaf hoppers can spread viruses from plant to plant

Plant clinics are by county so just enter “plant clinic” and the county name to see if there is a schedule. Or the county name and “master gardeners” to see if they provide this service in another format. For example, here is the 2023 schedule for Montgomery County, Maryland.

There is a DC Master Gardener program but they do not provide plant diagnostics which is why DC residents are encouraged to contact the HGIC.

Other Options

One other option is the “Ask Extension” website, which is a portal for the Cooperative Extension System. Your question would be sent to the appropriate extension office within your state. (If you type in Washington DC you will be redirected to the Maryland HGIC.) Questions are answered by cooperative extension/university staff and volunteers within participating land grant institutions across the United States. In Maryland the land grant institution is the University of Maryland and in Virginia it is Virginia Tech. Again, a free service to the public across the country. Complete the form by entering your state, gardening question, e-mail, the county and state where you live, and the images, if needed.

bagworms are little “houses” for worms that will decimate foliage

At many independent garden centers, such as Merrifield Garden Center, there are help desks with staff horticulturists who can help you with your gardening issues. Call your local nursery to see if they have available, professional staff.

Of course, there are always gardening books at the local public libraries. Below are suggestions of helpful books. Remember, do not get stressed about your garden. This is all part of the process. Figuring out what is wrong with a plant is part of gardening because gardening is a learning experience.

  • Bug Free Organic Gardening: Controlling Pests and Insects Without Chemicals by Anna Hess, Skyhorse Publishing, 2019
  • Pests and Diseases by Andrew Halstead and Pippa Greenwood, DK Publishers, May 2018
  • Home Gardener’s Garden Pests and Diseases:  Identifying and Controlling Pests and Diseases of Ornamentals, Vegetables, and Fruits by David Squire, Creative Homeowner, 2016
  • What’s Wrong with My Plant (And How Do I Fix It?) (2009); What’s Wrong with my Vegetable Garden (2011); What’s Wrong with my Fruit Garden (2013), What’s Wrong with my Houseplant (2016) by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth, Timber Press
  • The Gardener’s Guide to Common-Sense Pest Control: Completely Revised and Updated by William Olkowski, Helga Olkowski, Sheila Daar, Taunton Press, 2013
  • The Practical Encyclopedia of Garden Pests and Diseases: An Illustrated Guide to Common Problems and How to Deal With Them Successfully by Andrew Mikolajski, Anness Publishing 2012
  • Good Bug, Bad Bug by Jessica Walliser, St. Lynn’s Press, 2011
  • The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control: A Complete Guide to a Healthy Garden and Yard The Earth-Friendly Way by Barbara W. Ellis, Fern Marshall Bradley, and Deborah L. Martin, Rodale Press, 2010
  • Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver by Fern Marshall Bradley, Rodale Press, 2007
  • Better Homes & Gardens Garden Doctor Advice from the Experts, Meredith Corporation, 2005
  • Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw, Princeton University Press, 2004
  • Reader’s Digest, Gardener’s Problem Solver, Miranda Smith, 2004
  • Insect, Disease and Weed ID Guide: Find-it-Fast Organic Solutions for Your Garden by Linda Gilkeson, author; Jill Jesiolowski, editor; Deborah L. Martin, editor, Rodale Press, 2001
  • Pests and Diseases: The Complete Guide to Preventing, Identifying, and Treating Plant Problems by Pippa Greenwood, Andrew Halstead, A.R. Chase, Daniel Gilrein, American Horticultural Society, 2000.
  • Weeds of the Northeast by Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal, Joseph M. DiTomaso, Cornell University Press, 1997

This Summer Visit Public Gardens

Summer is the time for traveling, exploring, and spending time with family. Thinking of where to go? Consider public gardens and arboreta. Many of these are historic places as well, great for teaching your kids. On my website, pegplant.com, I list local public gardens as well as gardening books written specifically for the Washington DC metro area. Several of these books, copied and pasted below, are resources listing botanical, public, or historic gardens in eastern states. Check out these books from your local library and plan a day trip with the family. Enjoy your summer!

A Garden for All Seasons: Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Hillwood by Kate Markert and Erik Kvalsvik, Rizzoli Electa, 2020

All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses: How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America by Marta McDowell, Timber Press, 2016

Gardens of Georgetown: Exploring Urban Treasures, text by Edith Nalle Schafer; photos by Jenny Gorman, Georgetown Garden Club, 2015

Maryland’s Public Gardens and Parks by Barbara Glickman, Schiffer Publishers, 2015

Capital Splendor: Parks and Gardens of Washington DC by Valerie Brown, Barbara Glickman Countryman Press, 2012

A Guide to Smithsonian Gardens by Carole Otteson, Smithsonian Books, 2011

Historic Virginia Gardens: Preservation Work of the Garden Club of Virginia by Margaret Page Bemiss, University of Virginia Press, 2009

Virginia’s Historic Homes and Gardens by Pat Blackley and Chuck Blackley, Voyageur Press, 2009

Garden Walks in the Southeast: Beautiful Gardens from Washington to the Gulf Coast by Marina Harrison, Lucy Rosenfeld, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2006

Garden Walks in the Mid-Atlantic States: Beautiful Gardens from New York to Washington DC by Marina Harrison, Lucy Rosenfeld, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2005

The American Horticultural Society Guide to American Public Gardens and Arboreta:  Gardens Across America, Volume 1, East of the Mississippi by Thomas S. Spencer and John J. Russell, Taylor Trade Publishing, 2005

A City of Gardens: Glorious Public Gardens In and Around the Nation’s Capital by Barbara Seeber, Capital Books, 2004

Barnes & Noble Complete Illustrated Guidebook to Washington, D.C.’s Public Parks and Gardens, published by Silver Lining Books, 2003

Complete Illustrated Guide to Washington DC’s Public Parks and Gardens by Richard Berenson, Silver Lining, 2003

Subscribe to a Free Gardening Newsletter

Subscribe to Pegplant’s Post Gardening Newsletter, a free monthly newsletter about gardening in the VA, MD, DC metro area. Enter your e-mail here to subscribe. Each monthly issue lists 50-100 local gardening events, recently published gardening books, articles, tips, and news specific to this area. Pegplant’s Post Gardening Newsletter always has a giveaway, an opportunity to win a free plant or gardening-related product. For the upcoming June 2023 issue of Pegplant’s Post, the giveaway is a combination of four gardening products: sprayer, watering can, cultivator, and plastic tote, all courtesy of Crescent Garden.

Crescent Garden has been in business for more than 20 years and is one of the premier container gardening providers. Headquartered in Miami, Crescent Garden is a pioneer in self-watering solutions. Crescent Garden developed the Trudrop self-watering planters that enable gardeners to easily determine when to water. Containers are available in a variety of sizes, colors and shapes for both indoor and outdoor plants. In addition to containers, Crescent Garden sells gardening tools, sprayers, watering cans, outdoor tableware, and accessories such as planter saucers and tote bags. The informative website has a blog and there are both wholesale and retail catalogs.

If you don’t already subscribe, subscribe now to the free Pegplant’s Post Gardening Newsletter to be eligible to win this fantastic giveaway!

Sweet Potato Twists

Sweet potato

Sweet potatoes are botanically different from white potatoes. Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are in the morning glory family while white potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are in the nightshade family. Both produce tubers but sweet potatoes are planted in the summer and harvested in the fall, while white potatoes are planted in the early spring and harvested in the summer. Sweet potatoes need a long growing season, at least 4 months, and thrive in our hot and humid summers here in the DC metro area.

While white potato plants are started with chunks of the tuber, sweet potatoes are grown from rooted sprouts called slips. Slips may look like limp, short stems with no roots. If you order slips, plant them when the soil has warmed to at least 60 degrees and nighttime temperatures are above 60 degrees. If it is too cold, pot them up and hold them inside near a sunny window.

Plant slips about a foot part, covering with soil up until the first pair of leaves. These plants are usually grown in the ground, in loose, well-drained soil. These plants are vines that grow several feet long so give them plenty of space. The green, heart-shaped leaves are edible (deer like them too). The plants will grow up until frost and the tubers should be harvested before the first heavy frost.

Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Red ornamental sweet potato

Ornamental sweet potato plants are grown for beautiful foliage in a wide range of colors. Ornamental sweet potato plants can have chartreuse, dark purple, bronze-red, mahogany red, or variegated cream, green, and red colored leaves. These are used frequently in containers in public spaces and gardens because the vines are ideal “trailers,” draping over containers. Since they are tropical plants, they tolerate our hot summers and add quite a lot of color. These are easy to find at local garden centers and are sold as small annuals in cell packs.

There is a relatively new line of sweet potato plants that have beautiful ornamental foliage (still edible) and produce tubers for harvest. Treasure Island Sweet Potatoes have been bred by Louisiana State University AgCenter from an original concept development and collaboration work by their partner FitzGerald Nurseries in Ireland. These plants can be grown in a container in the summer for colorful leaves and the tubers can be harvested in the fall. The plants in the Treasure Island series are named after different Polynesian Islands because each plant “hides” a treasure underneath the soil.

There are five plants:
Tahiti, green leaves and purple tubers
Tatakoto, dark green purple leaves and orange tubers
Makatea, golden green foliage and white tubers
Kaukura, purple foliage and orange tubers
Manihi, dark purple foliage and orange tubers.

These new plants would make an ideal children’s gardening project and vegetable container plant for those with limited space.

Either way you slice it, sweet potatoes are great additions for the garden. Try growing some this year!