How To Grow Sweet Potatoes

How To Grow Sweet Potatoes

In this article, we share a comprehensive guide to growing Sweet Potato at home.

Quick Guide Information

Common Name: Sweet Potatoes

Scientific Name: Ipomoea batatas

Family: Convovulaceae

Life Span: Perennial to Short Lived Annual

Time Till Harvest: 150 to 250 days

Light Requirement: Full sun to partial shade

Optimum pH: 5.5 - 6.5

Sweet potatoes are one of the most cherished starchy tubers to include into your garden design. They’re easy to grow and require little maintenance, plus they’re low-growing vining habits make them easy to fit into any garden.

Sweet potatoes are actually relatives of the ornamental morning glories, which is evident from their foliage and flowers which bear a resemblance. They thrive in warm weather and make great annuals during the hotter months in temperate climates. In more tropical regions sweet potatoes can be grown year-round without a fuss.


You can start sweet potatoes from an existing tuber. Ideally, you buy these tubers from a farmers’ market or get them from a local grower. While a conventional store-bought sweet potato will probably work fine, they may not be as adapted to your climate and you never know what sort of conditions they were grown in before. Alternatively, if you have an existing sweet potato plant it is easiest to propagate them through vegetative cutting.

Propagating From a Tuber

While it is possible to have success from just planting a sweet potato directly in the ground, these will often rot and have other growth-related issues. The best thing to do with your tuber is to have them start producing some stems and foliage, known as slips, then use this to plant your bed.

To begin, find a sweet potato that is firm and free of any damage, disease, or rot. This will be used as your propagation material. Left in a cupboard these may naturally begin to produce slips, but there are other ways to encourage this behavior.

+ In Water - Take your sweet potato and partially submerged in water, about 30-40%below. You can do this by filling a jar or cup with water then placing toothpicks into the sweet potato so it can be supported by the edge of your container. Keep in a place with partial sun and regularly refill any water lost by evaporation. This will take 3-6 weeks before slips are matured.
+ In Soil - This method is a bit quicker. Just bury your sweet potato halfway in moist well-draining soil. It should be laying length wise and not “standing”. You can mulch this with straw or other dry material to keep the soil from drying up. Keep moist and in about 3-6 weeks your slips will be ready.

Once you have slips, these can be plucked off from the tuber and planted directly. Alternatively, you can place them in water while you wait to plant and they will begin producing roots.

Planting and Maintenance

+ You will want to plant these slips once the weather is warm and there is no threat of frost.
Plant the slips in fertile, loose, and well-draining soil. Sweet potatoes like a lot of nutrients so amend heavily with compost if needed. In excessively wet and waterlogged soils, tubers can easily rot.
Full sun to partial shade will work great for sweet potatoes.
+ They are low growing vines that work well as a ground cover along with plants that do not make excessive shade.

You will want to plant these slips as deep as possible only allowing 3-4 cm of the tip above the soil surface. Space these at around 35-50 cm. Keep soil moist and allow them to grow lanky and taller. Once there is sufficient vegetation you can pile more compost and straw below the vines to encourage the formation of more tubers, similar to the way potatoes are grown.

After about 150 days you can begin checking the growth of the tuber by digging down into the soil. In cooler climates this will likely be more around the 250 day mark. You can begin by harvesting the largest tubers and leaving the smaller ones. Any vegetation can be used as new starting material. Before storage you can leave tubers to dry outside of direct sunlight.

Common Problems

Slow Growth - Climate is either too cold or soil is not fertile enough. Plants grown in infertile soil will have light colored leaves and may have yellowing.

Tuber Rot - This can happen if your tubers are left for too long in the soil or if you plant in excessively wet soil. Once it begins this can be hard to reverse.

Animals - Wildlife loves to eat sweet potato tubers. Keep them well guarded if necessary! Aphids and Insect Pests - These don’t usually occur if proper conditions are met, but they are possible. Consider planting in a different zone and disinfect planting material.

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