A yam by any other name is a sweet potato, as the names often are used interchangeably. Yams aren’t just good to eat — they also make beautiful vining houseplants. The quick-growing purplish vines covered with emerald-green heart-shaped leaves are attractive wandering around window frames in homes. Have your children grow them anytime for an excellent activity, especially this time of year.
Right now, yams are in great abundance at grocery stores and keep well in cool, dry places with good air circulation in your home. To me, yams say autumn, bountiful harvest and are downright delicious.
My mother always had sweet potato houseplants growing in our home. If one died, she replaced it. Yams were one of the few houseplants we had available when I was a child. Now, sweet potato houseplants are making a comeback, and I’m seeing more of them in homes. As houseplants, they resemble philodendron or pothos, with their vining habits.
Sweet potato houseplants are so easy to grow. All you need is a jar or vase, water, a firm yam, toothpicks and a kitchen windowsill. Here’s how:
• Choose a jar or vase to hold the tuber in its opening. The jar must be deep enough to hold water a couple of inches below the yam.
• Look for a yam that’s firm and free of soft spots.
• Using four toothpicks, suspend the yam’s tapered end in the jar with half the vegetable above the rim, the other half below the rim of the jar.
• Now fill the jar with water.
• Keep an eye on the water level. Never let the water drop below tuber-end. Replenish the water every other day during the rooting process.
• Set the plant where it gets lots of sun to warm the tuber and speed up root and top growth.
• In as little as two weeks, you’ll notice roots and purplish stems emerging, soon to be followed by heart-shaped lime-green leaves.
• Add fresh, clean water often as the plant develops to prevent stale smelling water.
• If your vines stretch between internodes, place in a sunnier location.
• Take care not to disturb new growth; new shoots easily break off.
• Fertilize monthly for a vigorous vine.
• Occasionally nip vines to make the plant fuller. You’ll enjoy vines crawling around your windowsills to add interest and beauty during those winter days.
• Next spring, plant it outdoors in the morning sun and it may reward you with yams next fall.
BRING OUTDOOR PLANT CUTTINGS INDOORS
Late fall brings about magical transformations in our gardens. If you don’t believe me, come see the transformation taking place at the Springs Preserve.
With days growing shorter and cooling, plants take on new dimensions, ripening into warm gold, russet and sepia tones. Textures become more pronounced, with many of our perennials, ornamental grasses and shrubs displaying their seed heads, seedpods and dried foliage. In reality, you capture a second season of beauty, but this time it’s indoors.
Go through your yard and friends’ yards gathering armloads of plants to display. These arrangements will last for years. I still have pampas flowering heads in my home I harvested 20 years ago.
The only tool you need is a pair of pruning shears. You may need florist’s foam to wedge them in your container to stabilize the arrangement. But most dried material is so stiff, it probaby will stabilize itself.
Group cuttings of one kind together in bunches using ornamental grass blades to tie bunches to add to the display. Or, make an assortment of elaborate bouquets in baskets or containers to complement the natural mood.
For a ready supply of natural materials for fall arrangements, consider adding these plants to your landscape: four-wing saltbush, sand love grass, rabbit brush, pyracantha, cotoneaster, pomegranate, winter fat, sedum, giant allium, desert holly and other plants that may capture your imagination.
Even if you don’t make dry arrangements every year, they’ll lend greater fall and winter interest to your garden.
NEVADA GARDEN CLUBS’ FLOWER SHOW WINNERS
The Nevada Garden Club proudly announces the winners of this fall’s flower show in floral designs and horticulture displays. They are: Floral design: Karen Burth (won twice), Anna Williams (won twice), Xem Hagenson and Jane Matthey.
Horticulture: Alana Sullivan (won three), Roberta Baltz, Cathy Morgan, Elsie Koerwitz, Aaron Schave, Peg Cummings, Don Fabbi and the Doolittle Senior Center Community Garden, which also won the sweepstakes award.
Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@ springspreserve.org or call him at 822-7754.