Air Potato

“Air Potato”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


Here in south Louisiana, many older gardens have the air potato vine (Dioscorea bulbifera) growing on trellises during the summer.  This vine grows well in shade or sun.  The large heart-shaped leaves are very attractive.  Even though the vine dies down in the winter, it is a very vigorous grower once springtime warmth starts. 



Here is mine growing in the shade of the bamboo.  Even though it gets only about an hour of morning sun, the vine is very full.  I have found that those growing in the shade do not produce as many of the “air potatoes” as those growing in the sun.  This vine is invasive in certain parts of Florida, but I have not had a problem controlling it.  I do pick the little potato like tubers that grow along the stems in the fall.  If I have no one to give them to, I just dispose of them.  I do like this vine, but I don’t want to be the cause of it ruining other plants.


The fall is the time that the tubers appear.  As I was checking out the back garden for any damage from Hurricane Gustav, I discovered the beginnings of the tubers.



In a month or so, they’ll be big enough for me to pick them, and in the spring, they will be ready to plant.  These bulbils range from marble-sized to soft ball-sized, but mine are usually no bigger no bigger than golf balls.  This is a great old-fashioned vine for summer.



  1. nancybond said,

    September 8, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    What an interesting plant!

  2. valwebb said,

    September 8, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    It is a pretty vine, but how do you control it? Here (in Mobile, Ala.) they quickly cover everything they can reach. I once lived in a rental house where the lease required that I keep the tubers picked up out of the yard and throw away any that I saw. Yours appears to be quite well-behaved!

  3. Jan said,

    September 9, 2008 at 4:39 am

    Yes, Nancy. This vine is very unusual looking when the tubers start showing.

    Valwebb, I don’t seem to have a problem controling this vine. I just whack it back if it starts to grow off the trellis. Like I wrote, mine doesn’t get a lot of sun, and that could be why it is better behaved. Since I have read that in some areas it is a problem, I keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t get out of bounds.

  4. mrtumnas said,

    September 9, 2008 at 5:31 am

    I have this plant growing as well as it’s cousin, Cinnamon Vine, which is much easier to control and has edible underground tubers. Both very interesting plants! I like the way you have it growing over the cross like that. Very cool.

  5. linnie said,

    September 9, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    have enjoyed reading your blog again after returning from our Gustav evacuation. Almost finished cleaning up the mess in the yard and looking forward to planning for fall planting.

    Linnie in Destrehan, LA 9/9/08

  6. Jan said,

    September 9, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks, mrtumnas. I have not seen the Cinnamon Vine, I’ll have to look it up. I hope everything was okay for you after Gustav.

    Hi, Linnie, glad you are back. It is a drag cleaning up after a hurricane. Dear hubby is outside right now picking up the stacks of raked debris.

  7. TxGirlinNOLA said,

    October 3, 2010 at 7:56 am

    I am so excited to have found this discussion! I LOVE potato vines. I realize they are an invasive species and that there are well-organized campaigns to accomplish their eradication in some areas (most notably, Florida), but I, like you, have never had a problem with the ones I grow each year in pots on my patio. They grow quickly and run up the posts along my veranda. I keep them trimmed and have never experienced any problems with them. That being said, I moved to New Orleans from Houston a couple of years ago and did not bring any tubers with me. I figured I would easily find some to use as starters here but no such luck….until stumbling upon your post. I would love to visit with you more about where you acquired yours originally and how I can go about re-establishing my pots here in New Orleans. 🙂

    • Jan said,

      October 3, 2010 at 4:08 pm

      When my vines start making the “potatoes”, I’ll save you some, and you will be able to start them in the spring. I originally received mime from my sister and have never seen them for sale. I believe they are pass-along plants, and many people don’t know about them.

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