QUESTION: Do sweet potato plants need to flower? Is there a way to determine if the sweet potato plants will produce flowers? -Kevin B.
GARDENING CHANNEL REPLIES: No, sweet potatoes do not need to flower. In fact, not all sweet potato plants flower as part of their growth cycle near the end of the growing season. But, some sweet potato plants will produce flowers on their own. Flowering happens for some sweet potato plants and not others depending on the climate (specifically, whether nighttime temperatures have dropped low enough for the sweet potato plants to flower) and the fertilization. Plenty of fertilizer and nutrition is required for a sweet potato plant to produce flowers. Eventually, the flowers turn into small green fruits that resemble a tomato. Plants that do not flower will not set fruit, but they will still develop the tubers underground that we eat and commonly refer to as the sweet potato.
These green fruits that grow from the sweet potato plant’s flowers are not edible because of the solanine they contain. Solanine is a toxic alkaloid. Consuming solanine has a variety of negative effects, including confusion, diarrhea, digestive discomfort, drowsiness, vomiting, shortness of breath, and weak or rapid pulse. Those who experience solanine poisoning and do not seek treatment are at risk of death due to respiratory failure. If you have children or children are often exposed to the plants in your garden, it’s safest to remove the small green fruits from your sweet potato plant to prevent the risk of a curious child ingesting them.