Sweet Potato Vines Leaves Are Being Eaten Alive

(Question)

Hello,
I planted some sweet potato vines in my mom’s front yard just recently; less than a week later some of the leaves had many small holes in them. My mom & I are pretty disturbed by this because it’s a lot of holes in very little time. I’ve done a little research & it sounds like some people have had success with Trounce to get rid of the feasting bugs. Does this sound like a good idea? Are sweet potato vines perennial in our climate (Toronto)?

(Answer)

How disappointing!

There are a number of caterpillars , including the sweet potato loper and the golden tortoise beetle, that could be eating your the leaves on your plants.  Trounce is not a permitted treatment under Ontario’s pesticide law.  However you could try using Diatomaceous earth or  Bacillus thuringiensis which can be effective against caterpillars and beetles.  I suggest that you review the guide prepared by Toronto Master Gardener/City of Toronto Guide on Organic Pest Control  Products: www.torontomastergardeners.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Organic-Pest-Control-Products.pdf for more information on permitted pest controls.

Unfortunately  sweet potato vine is not a hardy perennial outside in southern Ontario.  However you could try taking a cutting in the fall  wintering it  inside in a jug of  water.  You might very well have a plant that you can then plant in the garden next spring.