Grow your own sweet potatoes

Grow your own sweet potatoes

Welcome, sweet potato fans! This post takes you through all you need to know about starting your own sweet potato slips at home. For more about growing your own sweets through the entire summer, check out the Sweet Potato Grow Your Own Guide

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Grow Your Own Sweet PotatoesHave I told you yet about my love affair with sweet potatoes? Have I explained how they are the ideal plant for a front yard vegetable garden; the perfect combination of beauty and ease and taste? Have I mentioned their attractive foliage and their purple flowers?

Oh. Yeah. I did. Looks like I already covered that pretty well in my post about the sweet potato harvest last fall.

Ok, then. We won’t cover that again. Instead, let’s talk about growing sweet potatoes.

You may not know this, but sweet potatoes and potato potatoes are nothing alike. Sure, they are both tasty treats that grow underground. But, that’s where the similarities end. Sweet potatoes are related to morning glories, which explains their cheerful purple flowers and their rambling vines. But, those trusty Irish spuds? They belong to the tomato family, and are cousins to peppers, tomatillos and eggplants — the nightshades. Sweet potatoes like the heat. They need the heat. Potato potatoes? Well, they thrived in Ireland (until they didn’t). Heat is not something they really appreciate. Cool and moist suits them just fine. This is why we plant our spuds in the early spring, and wait until the real heat sets in to introduce the sweets to the garden.

Here, in northern Virginia (USDA Zone 7a), we can plant our regular potatoes in March. But, the sweet potatoes should wait until early to mid June. No risk of frost, and plenty of promise for heat. Just what those tropical vines desire. And, while we can harvest early potatoes by mid-June, we won’t be digging up the sweet potatoes for months. If you want a nice full harvest, you really need to give your sweets 100 days (or more) of serious growing time.

If we don’t plant the sweets until June, why am I writing about them in April? Well, because, if we want sweet potato seedlings in June, we need to start our sweet potato slips in April. Or, thereabouts.

Note: You can skip this whole thing, and just order sweet potato slips from a quality nursery or seed company. But, what’s the fun in that? Well. Ok. Actually, there is one BIG advantage to purchased slips: quality seed companies offer a much greater selection of sweet potato varieties than your average grocery store.

To grow your own sweet potato, first you need an old sweet potato

To make new sweet potatoes, we start with an old sweet potato. An organic sweet potato (the non-organic sweet potatoes may be treated with sprout-suppressing chemicals). Ideally, you’ll start with a locally-grown organic sweet potato, because then you’ll know that variety will thrive in your region. But, don’t sweat this step too much. A sweet potato from the grocery store should also work just fine. Just, really, buy an organic one.

Don’t think organic makes a difference here? Watch this girl’s video about her sweet potato project. You may change your mind.

Ok. So, you’ve got your organic sweet potato. Great. Now, we’re going to cut it up. Just slice it in half, across the middle.

In order to grow your own sweet potatoes, first you need an old sweet potato

Next, place each section of sweet potato into a container with water. Plenty of people use toothpicks to suspend their sweet potato halves in a glass of water, but I think it’s easier to just set the whole thing into a casserole dish. Use enough water so that about an inch or two of the potato is submerged.

Soak sweet potato halves in water in order to start your own sweet potato slips.

Set the container near a window, and you’re done. Over the next few weeks, the sweet potatoes will send out little baby plants. Your only responsibility during this time is to keep that water level fairly constant. The sweet potatoes will take care of everything else.

After four to six weeks, you should have a nice growth of little baby sweet potato plants. These will become your slips.

Sweet potato slips are easy to grow from old sweet potato tubers.

After a few weeks of soaking, your sweet potato halves should be covered with sprouts. Some of the sprouts will already have roots.

With any luck, some of your sweet potato sprouts will already have roots. Excellent. These little plants-to-be are ready for planting. Others won’t have any roots at all. No worries, those laggards will catch up real fast.

Remove the sprouts by snapping them off at the point where they emerge from the sweet potato tuber. Congratulations! You have your first sweet potato slip!

Sweet potato slips should have strong roots before planting.

If the roots are well-formed, you can go right ahead and plant your slip. Some folks recommend planting slips directly into the garden, but I like giving the seedlings a headstart with some rich potting soil (not seed-starting mix). This allows you to keep the roots evenly moist while the plants establish, and gives the seedlings a nice burst of nutrients (I plant into a blend of leaf humus, compost and dirt). Also, if it’s still cold outside, this step is a necessity. Sweet potatoes hate to shiver.

So, that’s it for the little over-achieving sprouts. But, what about the other ones? The rootless ones?

Well, that’s easy too.

Same process. Just slip those sprouts right off the tuber. Then, instead of planting them in soil and compost and leaf humus, you’re going to soak those slips in a cup of water. Just a few inches of water is all you need. Within a few days, you should have roots. Then, you can plant those slips into pots as well.

Plant your sweet potato slips into 4-inch pots, filled with compost, leaf humus or rich potting soil, or a mix of the three.

Once you’ve got all your sweet potato slips in their pots, all you need to do is keep them happily watered until it’s warm enough for them to move outdoors. I like to keep mine in a big styrofoam box. Easy to water. Easy to transport outside for some sunlight during the day. And, easy to bring inside again before the evening chill.

No styros? Well, anything that holds water should do fine. A casserole dish. A plastic storage tub. A big pot. It’s just easier if it holds water and holds a bunch of seedlings, because you could be doing a daily shuffle from inside to outside to inside again for a while now.

Whatever you keep them in, it’s best to coddle your sweet potato seedlings until two or three weeks after your last frost date. Then, once the nights are reliably above 50°F, you can plant them out into the garden. Most people grow their sweets in the ground. I prefer containers, because it makes the harvest easier. Last year, I tried bushel baskets with great success. This year, I’m building a big potato planter. And, yes, I’ll be doing bushel baskets too. A gardener can never have too many sweet potatoes.

sweet potato in a bushel basket

It takes all summer to grow a proper crop of sweet potatoes, but it’s worth it.

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260 Comments

  1. I picked up a small one at the grocer just for this purpose. Very timely blog – I’m off to get mine started! Thanks!

    Reply
    • Wonderful! Enjoy your sweet potatoes!

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      • I love purple sweet potatoes. I have bought some from the Asian grocery store, but can seem to get any plants from them. Any suggestions? They are quite pricey at $1.99/lb Would love to grow my own.

        Reply
        • If the sweets you bought are not organic, they may have been treated with an anti-sprouting compound. If that’s the case, there’s really not much you can do unfortunately. If they’re organic, you may be able to coax them to sprout by giving them a bit more heat. If all else fails, you can order slips for purple sweet potatoes from several garden catalogs. Just keep a few of your homegrown sweets to start more slips next year (I find homegrown sweets are always easy to sprout). I’ve had good luck with sweet potatoes from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

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      • hi! I’m hoping you can help me out. I’ve tried to grow my own sweet potatoes for months now (close to a dozen attempts). and every time….they mold and wither up. what am I doing wrong???? thanks

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        • Hi, Trish — Couple things I’d consider: First, make sure you are starting with organic sweet potatoes that are blemish-free and were not wrapped in plastic. Second, if you’ve purchased all your sweets from the same store, consider shopping elsewhere — they may be keeping them too cold and killing or damaging the living roots. And speaking of storage — never refrigerate your sweets; that’ll harm them and may prevent sprouting. Third, be sure your sweets are warm enough. Mine tend to just sit there until the temperature in my house gets above 70 degrees. And finally, you can always start by purchasing slips from an online nursery or catalog. I’ve found that homegrown sweet potatoes cannot be stopped from sprouting! Good luck!

          Reply
  2. Your blog is wonderful! Thank you for the wonderful pictures and great writing. I am very excited to start my sweet potatoes!

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    • Thanks so much, Heather! Enjoy your sweets!

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  3. Thanks for posting this. I am going to try this this year. I don’t think I’d mind having the slips hang out on the window for a while. They are rather pretty.

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    • Definitely give it a try, Kat. Sweet potatoes are much easier to grow than most folks realize. And, I agree, so pretty too!

      Reply
  4. Yes!! We have already started ours indoors and have BEAUTIFUL vines trailing all over the kitchen window sill. This post is inspiring me to get a few more started this weekend. You can never have too many sweet potatoes…

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    • I agree, Erin! It’s just not possible to have too many sweet potatoes.

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  5. awesome,now I can grow my very own sweet potato patch,where I came from we use the young leaves for salads and as a part of stew,so I reall wanted to grow them for so long for I can’t find sweet potato leaves in any grocery store,thank you ,I do have some so I’ll start right away.

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    • I had no idea the leaves were edible too, Elena. I’m going to have to look for some recipes. Thanks for the tip!

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      • My girlfriend is from China, stir-fried sweet potato leaves are big there, at least in the south. Just stir-fry them gently in olive oil, the leaves have a very unique flavor. It may take a time or two to get used to the flavor but once you do, you’re hooked. We tend to cut off about a 1-foot length of stem and leaves, remove all leaves but at the very end for cooking, then stick the stem with the few remaining small leaves back into the soil. They root easily and then provide yet more leaves for eating, and sometimes small tubers too if planted early enough.

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  6. I read somewhere that after the sweet potatoes are harvested, you must store them in a cold cellar for several months. Any comment about this? thanks

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    • Well, yes and no. I’ve read that sweet potatoes become sweeter with storage, and I definitely found that with my sweets last year. But, a root cellar isn’t necessary. In fact, a root cellar might make them pout. These are tropical plants, and they don’t like to be below 50°F, or thereabouts. I just stored mine in an open bin on the kitchen counter. I still have one or two left from last fall’s harvest.

      Sweet potatoes store best if you cure them. I’ll post about that when the time comes (late summer / early fall), but you can also check out this article from Mother Earth News. Good tips here: Sweet Potatoes, Even in the North.

      Reply
    • Wondering about how many sweet potatoes can#nt. I expect from each slip I plant,

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      • It varies a lot, Karen. My biggest plants gave me about 5 pounds from a single plant (thus, 5 pounds from one slip). My worst-producing plants gave closer to 1 pound per plant. Average works out to about 3+ pounds of sweet potatoes from each slip. The better harvests come from plants grown in full sun, in hot microclimates and in good, loose soil.

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  7. Any tips on how to care for them once they’re planted outside? How much water do they need? Should they be planted in a super sunny spot, or part shade? I love this, and want to start some today!

    Reply
    • Sweet potatoes are fairly undemanding in the garden. Their biggest requirement is heat. They do best in full sun, and I did notice that my part-shaded plants produced less than the ones I had in full sun. Other than that, they are super easy — fairly drought tolerant and low nutrient requirements. A bit of compost in their soil, and they should do fine.

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  8. How many plants come from a half a potato? Can they be companion planted near tomatoes? I have a very limited garden space. Finally, from each plant, how many potatoes can I expect? I am excited to try this and look forward to your responses as well as future posts on the topic!

    Reply
    • A single sweet potato can produce up to a dozen slips, though some of those slips may be rather small. I used two sweet potatoes for my slips, and have a bit more than 20 seedlings now.

      As for tomatoes, I’m not sure. Why not give it a try? Since sweet potatoes are ground-crawling vines, and tomatoes are usually trained up a trellis, they might be perfect companions. The only trick is that you will need to dig around your tomatoes to harvest your sweets. But, since you generally wait until right before the first frost to harvest the sweets, maybe that won’t be a problem at all. Or, if you want to skip the digging, try growing the sweets in large containers.

      My happiest sweet potatoes grew in the sunniest spots, and gave me about 4-5 nice-sized potatoes each, with a handful of smaller ones (good for saving for starting the next year’s crop).

      Have fun with your sweet potatoes!

      Reply
  9. I didn’t have luck with my sweet potaoes and I am sure it was *green thumb error*. Do you add additional soil as the vine grows to increase the depth for potato growth? I was successful with fingerling and red potatoes last year using haybale method would this work too for sweets?

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  10. I tried this method, but the mother sweet potato turned to mush within 4-5 days. It was a firm sweet potato when I cut it half and put it in the water. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts?

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      • Thanks Christina, I will check out the FAQ post and try again. I am determined to have sweet potatoes. :) I will let you know how it is going.

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        • Mine turned moldy. I also had a green giant one in the plastic wrapper and when I opened it to use it, I noticed it had some sprouts. I put it in a large plastic ziplock bag and it is sprouting nicely. Maybe you could try that.

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      • Diane.I had several that started to get soft also! I cut the bad part off and set them back in to the water, I had to remove some bad several times bf the shoots started. I usually change out the water every other day till the slips start then I just add water till im done taking slips off or the water starts to smell bad.

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  11. Any chance these sweet potatoes can make it in the heat of Tucson, AZ???

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    • I think so, but am not 100% sure. I hope you’ll give them a shot, and then report back!

      You might also want to check out the FAQ post for more information about growing sweet potatoes: Your Sweet Potato Questions: Answered!

      Reply
    • Yes! They grow very well in southern AZ I’m near Phoenix.

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  12. Hej Christina

    We are for sure gonna try this in our collective house. I Denmark. I really hope for a warm summer this year ;o) What a good tutorial, good pics and fun to read. Gonna share your blog with my housemates, we are just in the middle of building a greenhouse.

    kind regards
    Randi, Copenhagen, Denmark

    Reply
  13. Hi-I live in Western WA (across the Sound from Seattle) and it’s pretty cold here. I think our average temp for summer is in the 60’s. It’s May 3 and it was barely 40 degrees this morning. Should I even bother trying these? We have a short summer and it doesn’t get very hot.
    Thanks!
    jaime

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    • Jaime — I’ve heard sweets can produce as far north as Canada. You’ll probably just want to help them along with some black plastic mulch, to heat the soil.

      You might also want to check out the FAQ post for more information about growing sweet potatoes: Your Sweet Potato Questions: Answered!

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    • Jamie, give it whirl!… If you don’t mind taking your sweet potato plants in & out of doors as needed…I’ve where people grow then indoors year round! Best to ya!

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  14. Cristina, thank you for this great post. I am going to try it too.
    You said container (with cut potatoes) needs to be set near a window….does it need to receive lots of sunshine at this phrase? The window in my kitchen faces east, and I am planning to place the container at a shelf next to the window….would it work? Or do I need to place the container on the bank of the window?
    Once again, thank you for this sweet potato post!
    Have a great weekend!
    Angie

    Reply
    • Indirect light is fine for the developing slips. But, aim for full sunlight when you do plant them out into the garden.

      You might also want to check out the FAQ post for more information about growing sweet potatoes: Your Sweet Potato Questions: Answered!

      Reply
  15. Love this post and I have my cut SPs sitting next to my window right now (day three) in an east facing window which is facing a covered patio so no direct sunlight. I am in the high desert in CA and daytime temps are around 80-90, night temps in the high 40s to low 50s. I have a greenhouse that gets direct sun most of the day and am wondering if I should put them in there to sprout or is that too much sun and heat for them right now? Very kind regards, Toni

    Reply
    • I’m not totally sure, Toni, but I think your slips would be fine in the greenhouse. They are a tropical vine, after all…

      You might also want to check out the FAQ post for more information about growing sweet potatoes: Your Sweet Potato Questions: Answered!

      Reply
  16. Before finding this, I had seen on another blog to just stick the sweet potato in a jar of water a la avocado seed. Now there are roots in the water only from the sweet potato and the slips have no roots. Did I do something wrong? Where can I take it from here before it gets too late? I don’t want it to be all for naught :(

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    • Oh, derp. I just read what to do with the slips that have no roots, thanks!

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      • Glad you found what you needed, Shannyn! You might also want to check out the sweet potato FAQ post, from earlier this week. There’s a bit more information there about starting, growing and harvesting sweets.

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    • Snap off the shoots and stick them into the water with the “mother” sweet potato. They will root too.

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  17. Hello I love this post about the sweet potatoes and I would love to give it a try but I was wondering if it is too late it is mid May and I will not be able to start until June 1 because we are going on Vacation but I really want to do this and plant them in planters; but will that be too late?

    Thanks for sharing and I am looking forward to hearing from you
    Chiffon

    Reply
    • It can’t hurt to try! Unlike some vegetables (tomatoes, for example), sweet potatoes don’t get “ripe.” They just get bigger. So, the worst-case scenario would just be that you harvest some smaller-than-normal sweet potatoes at the end of the season.

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  18. I found your blog this morning after seeing you would be a judge in a front yard edibles contest that Suburban Stone Age posted on Facebook. I am just getting started with gardening (of any kind) this year and somehow am stumbling through it with all the right pieces coming together at the right time. Just wanted to let you know that I literally got up off the couch in the middle of reading this post to cut the already sprouting store-bought sweet potato on my kitchen counter and put it in some water. I did have to use some toothpicks, but only because they were shaped funny and I wanted to keep all the sprouts above the water line. I know it is a little late in the year, but hey, I’m in Georgia so heat won’t be an issue :) Thanks for your inspiration! I know as I have time, I am going to enjoy meandering through the richness of your blog. Now, I just have to keep my eye out for some nice containers for these little guys . . .

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    • Oh, Susan, I LOVE this! Good luck with that sweet potato (you’re right, you should have plenty of time in Georgia).

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  19. so cool! thank you!

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  20. i thought sweet potatoes were actually the same color on the outside and inside as a regular potato, but just bigger and much sweeter. i always thought yams were the orange ones you use at thanksgiving like you have pictured??

    Reply
    • You’re in good company Karie; a lot of folks would say the same thing. But, in this case, both of the vegetables you describe are sweet potatoes. Yams are a large (often very large!), starchy tuber, and are drier and less sweet than sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are moister and sweeter. This is what we use for our Thanksgiving dinners (even though sweets are often labeled as “yams” in the United States). Here’s a bit more of an explanation: What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams.

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  21. hello. my husband and i live in Italy, where you cannot get sweet potatoes. :( this makes me rather sad since i LOVE them. my question is this…if i were to get my hands on a sweet potato from the States, do you think i could have success planting them, if i followed your steps?

    Reply
    • Hi Amber –

      Well, I’ve never been to Italy, so I’m not entirely sure. But, if you can find some sweet potatoes, I imagine you could probably grow them there. They aren’t especially fussy, as long as they have enough heat. It’s at least worth a shot.

      If you do try this, please check back and let me know how it went. Good luck, and happy gardening!

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    • They sell a type of sweet potato in Vicenza, Italy that the Italians call American potatoes, (Patate americane). It is white and sweet but not as sweet as the orange sweet potatoes you find in the United States.

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  22. Hi! I just found your blog and was wondering if I could still possibly start my sweet potatoes? We are in western Kentucky and I have been wanting to start some gardening :)

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    • Hmm… It’s definitely late to begin, but there’s no harm in trying. Sweet potatoes don’t ripen like tomatoes or peppers. Instead, they just get bigger. So, you may just end up with a small harvest. But, it’s so easy and inexpensive, it’s probably worth a shot. Good luck! By the way, there are lots of crops you can start in early July. Fast-growing heat-lovers are best, like bush beans, summer squash and herbs (basil and parsley, especially). But, I’ve also been told that this is the best time to start winter squash and pumpkins, and my favorite local grower plants tomatoes every week until mid-July, to ensure they have a steady harvest from healthy plants. So, don’t be afraid to experiment!

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  23. One of my neighbors just sent me the link to your site. Yes! I am an outlaw gardener, too! I just started getting obvious with my edible lndscaping, and blogging, this year. Can I post a link to your blog on mine? I think the more people become aware of what is possible, the more neighbors will try this. And maybe the rules will get changed!
    Melanie

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    • Wonderful, Melanie! I love meeting fellow outlaws! And, yes, please do share a link on your blog. I’m about to add a list of blogs here too, and will be sure to include your blog. Because, I think you are absolutely right; the more we talk about edible landscaping and front-yard vegetable gardening, the better chance we have of inspiring our neighbors and ultimately changing the rules!

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  24. I live in Atlantic Canada. Can I start the sweet potato plants now and put them in my greenhouse? I just bought the green house and am experimenting with anything I think might grow.

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    • Gosh, Jilda, I’m not sure. Those sweets will want heat and light. If your greenhouse is heated, and you have some sort of supplemental light to help out with darker fall / winter days, you might be just fine. It’s certainly worth a shot — all you need is a single sweet potato tuber to get started.

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  25. Thanks for the great advice! I’ve been having trouble getting anything to grow this year, other than the things in my fridge and cupboards. I recently found a giant sweet potato sprouting, so I’m definitely going to follow your advice.

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    • Good luck with your sweets!

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      • the teaching is really great, will surely like to explore the world of sweet potatoes by starting to do my planting now.thanks

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  26. I must try this! I love sweet potatoes, but they seem to be getting rather expensive lately. Though I wonder if it isn’t too late to start in August- and the weather in my area is around 84 degrees by day. Any advice? 😀

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    • Unless you’re in the way way south, it’s almost certainly too late to grow sweets this year. The plants require about 90-100 days to develop those tasty edible roots. But, the next gardening season is only a few months away. If you start some slips in March, they will be big and healthy and ready for the garden by May or June. Or… You could always start some plants now. Just be prepared for a small harvest of under-sized tubers. Still edible, but small. Could be good practice for next year. :)

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      • Thanks very much! I live in Israel, not the US, and we usually have warm weather well into October. I’ll give it a shot, and keep your awesome blog bookmarked! :) Teeny tubers are better that overpriced ones, anyway.

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  27. I live in zone 4. Knowing that anything can happen in my zone with regards to temperature and growing seasons, I have my doubts about planting outdoors. I do SFG gardening. One thing that another person suggested is to plant in containers and keep them in my small greenhouse for the duration. I question that because I feel that they would do nicely on the hot days by being outdoors. Was also told that sweet potatoes do not transplant very well. Is this true? I could start them in the greenhouse and then in June – no matter the size – plant them in my garden or a large container. What say you.

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    • I’m thinking you can probably grow sweets in Zone 4, as long as you’re willing to coddle the plants. Sweets transplant fine when they are small (say, a dozen leaves or so: a seedling), but once they put on size and start developing edible tubers, they HATE to be disturbed. I’d suggest growing them outdoors, in the ground or in containers. Look for the warmest microclimate on your property, and grow the sweets there. If you have a paved driveway, that’d be a great place to grow a couple sweets in a half wine barrel or something similar. If they’re in the ground, you probably want to mulch with black plastic. Not the prettiest, but effective. And, for those too-cold nights, I think a floating row cover would probably do the trick.

      Good luck! And, if you try this next year, please report back and let me know how it goes!

      Reply
      • Thanks Christina, for your answer. I am going to try an experiment this fall/winter and attempt to make my own slips and put them in large containers in my sunroom. It is always 70 or more when the sun is coming through. I have a very small 4 shelf grow house that I can put them in and if they survive I will take them outdoors after last frost. Does that sound like a plan just to test the possibility. Also, will make some slips later on follow your advice about transplanting when they are still small. Those will go directly into my SFG (outer squares so they can go crazy :)) Will definitely come back and update and/or ask for more advice.

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  28. Well, I know it’s super late in the season, but down south (Houston) we have a little longer summer to work with. I’m going for it! My daughter is going to have a ball with this little project (age 3). She has a gardener’s heart like her Mama. (Hopefully some day her Mama will figure out what she’s doing in the garden). =)

    Katie

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    • My nephew (also 3) LOVES his sweet potato plants, and I’m sure your daughter will too. Good luck with the sweets, and the rest of the garden!

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  29. Hello. Great blog, very helpful. I love this post on sweet potatoes. What I love most is the convience of the bushel barrels. I live in the city and don’t have much space. Can you please give me a list of easy veggies to grow in them? I’m new to gardening and this would be a starting point. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Leisa – I’m so glad to hear you’re giving gardening a try. Warning: this is a seriously addicting hobby.

      I’ve only grown sweet potatoes and regular potatoes in my bushel baskets so far, but I think you could grow most anything in them. Just a couple of caveats. First, the bushel baskets aren’t terribly deep. So, they may not be a great choice for the really big root crops, like carrots or parsnips. Second, I’ve found the bushel baskets seems to lose water faster than most other containers. So, be sure to pay attention to soil moisture, especially if you’re somewhere with really HOT summers. Finally, I’m thinking most bushel baskets have a usable lifespan of just two or three years. Mine sit directly on the ground, so the worms and other soil critters have easy access. If yours are on a balcony or porch, they may last longer. But, they are made from thin sheets of wood, and it will rot away eventually. Luckily, bushel baskets are extremely inexpensive. I found mine for about $3-4 at a local Tractor Supply store, and you might be able to find them even cheaper with some online sleuthing.

      Also, if you’re new to gardening, I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible. This is absolutely the best guide to vegetable gardening I’ve found. Great for beginners, but still packed with lots of info for the more experienced gardeners (I refer to my copy all the time).

      Good luck with the garden, and please report back on your progress!

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  30. You can eat sweet potato leaves, raw or stir fried. Good source of lutein.

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  31. What kind of soil do sweet potatoes like? I’ve heard they thrive in sandy soil. Where I live in Texas we have a lot of clay in our soil and not so much sand. I can definitely put them in a pot but want to make sure I’m giving them the good stuff!

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    • Sweets will grow in just about any type of soil, but loose and sandy is best, because it encourages big, straight roots and allows for good drainage. If you want to grow your sweets in the ground, you may try mixing a bag of construction sand into the soil where you plant each slip. Or, just go for containers, and grow in a blend of soil, sand and compost. My favorite thing about growing in containers? Super easy to harvest!

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  32. One more questions….how do you know when the sweets are ready to be dug up?

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    • There’s no “perfect” time for harvesting sweets. Unlike fruits and some other veggies, they don’t ripen. Instead, they are more like regular potatoes, or other plants you can eat at any stage of growth (greens, for example). Most sweets want about 90-120 days to fully develop. Here, in Virginia, I just let my plants grow until right before the first frost. That usually gives them about 100 or so days of growth, and gives me a nice harvest. You can harvest earlier, but the roots may be a little small (though still tasty!). Just don’t let the plants go too long past 120 days, or the tubers may start getting too big to store or cook easily.

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  33. This is exciting! I want to try this next year (too late this year). I love that sweet potatoes are beautiful yet practical! I see yours are in a container – which is excellent for those of us that live in an apartment.

    Reply
    • Yes! I have great luck with containers for my sweets. Bushel baskets work well, but only last one or two growing seasons. Whiskey barrels would be great, as would any container that offers about 12-18 inches of depth — those roots need space to develop!

      Reply
  34. great reading, I love to grow stuff anything just to see it grow.
    One ? do they take a lot of space? I don’t have a lot of space. My daughter in law had them in Georgia but she grew them for the plant not to eat. I wonder if thats the same.

    Reply
    • Hi Carmen – Thanks for the comment and the question. Sweet potatoes do ramble, although some varieties are more compact than others. If you’re short on space, you might try growing them in containers. Anything that’s about two feet across and a foot or so deep should be fine for one sweet or two sweet potatoes (I use bushel baskets). An old whiskey barrel should hold three or maybe four plants.

      The sweets we eat are different than the ornamental ones they sell at nurseries. Those plants may produce tubers too, but they don’t have the flavor we expect. It’s best to either start your own slips from a store-bought or farmers-market-bought sweet potato, or to order some slips from a gardening catalog in the spring. I hope you give them a try next year; growing sweets is lots of fun, super easy and very tasty too. Happy gardening!

      Reply
      • I tried but failed before they sprout it. About how long before they sprout?
        I WILL try again . I get little nats when I leave standing water around.

        Reply
        • I usually start seeing sprouts within a week or two. If you saw no sprouts at all, you may have been working with a bum sweet potato. Definitely worth trying again!

          If the water attracts gnats, you might want to try starting your sweets in damp sand. I haven’t tried this technique before, but I know other folks have. Same basic idea as described in this post, except you use damp sand instead of water. Good luck!

          Reply
  35. Hi there! Very nice and detailed instructions for these lovely sweet potatoes (camote as we call them here in the Philippines). You can also use the young leaves (camote tops) as viand. :)

    Reply
  36. love your post. I am going to try that next year. but probably in the greenhouse. I am at 9000 feet and we get sometimes snow even in June… sounds like an experiment worth trying.

    Reply
  37. 1 question…can you take one long runner of sweet potato vine, cut it into sections and propagate it?

    Reply
    • Probably. Sweet potato vines root readily whenever they touch the ground. You might try rooting your cuttings in a glass of water before transplanting them.

      Reply
  38. I’m happy to have found this page… I was out digging on this unusually warm Dec day here in the mid-Atlantic area… and have re-claimed some space in my front yard where this will work quite nicely… can’t wait to give it a try. Much more rewarding than just looking at mulch :)

    Reply
  39. Nice post! The image you have in this post is of a yam. Sweet potatoes are the ones that are lighter yellow in color. I expect the directions would be the same for growing both?

    Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Patty! The photo, though, is most definitely a sweet potato. It’s a tricky thing, because some marketers call some forms of sweet potatoes “yams,” but actual yams are nothing like sweet potatoes. A real yam is generally very large and very starchy, with drier and less sweet flesh. Sweet potatoes are smaller, moister and sweeter. Color isn’t a good determinant, since sweets range from white and pale yellow, through the orange spectrum. Some varieties are even purple!

      Here’s a link that provides more of an explanation: What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams.

      Reply
  40. Hi! What a GREAT blog! I’ve been veggie gardening for only a couple years, and learning as I go. My question….The spot that I have designated for the garden has VERY clay-ey , clumpy soil…which works ok for most of the stuff I plant there, (I don’t do root crops there, as my carrots were SO stunted/split, etc.)…so I wonder about sweet potatoes. I have a creek on my property, and the banks of it have some pretty silty and sandy soil. What do you think about an attempt to plant them there?

    Reply
    • Hi Karen! Clay soil sure can be a challenge, eh? The good news is that is does get better with time. Try mulching the bed with leaves to encourage earthworms. Compost helps a great deal too. In the meantime, you might try growing your root crops in deep containers. I’ve had great luck with sweet potatoes in containers, for example. Anything that’s approximately bushel basket sized or larger should work for one or two sweet potatoes.

      As for growing along the creek… I’m not sure that’d be the best spot for sweets. They prefer well-drained soil, and I’d worry about bogginess and flooding that close to a creek. Still, if the soil drains well, it just may work fine. Maybe plant one or two sweets there in the spring, just as an experiment?

      Reply
  41. After a couple of days in the container the water turned pretty murky, the potatoes look good though. Do I have to change the water from time to time?

    Reply
    • Hi Sascha –

      Sure. If the water is getting yucky, go ahead and swap it out. You won’t hurt the growing sweet potato.

      Reply
  42. There was an old-timer named Ernie who lived in Herndon a while ago. He was a local legend known for his famous sweet potatoes. His secret was turning a little bit of sand into the soil. The sand is supposed to help the tubers to better absorb nutrients from the soil. Must work, because his sweet potatoes were the biggest, sweetest around. It might be worth experimenting with.

    Reply
  43. Hi, I’m here from Pintrest. I was wondering, how many sweet potatoes will you usually get from one little sprout?

    Reply
  44. I live in Zihuatanejo Mexico so the heat factor is year round. People eat kamote (sweet potato) here all the time and there are little push steam wagons that sell hot kamote with sweetened condensed milk over it as a snack. I want to grow sweet potatoes for our Home for at risk seniors in the garden area. Will it be too hot here? I think most of our product comes from higher altitudes.

    Reply
  45. Hello, I don’t know much about sweet potatoes but from eating them these look like Yams which I like a lot better. The sweet potatoes in the store are very pale yellow and the yams are more reddish/orangeish, Or are you using sweet potato as a broad term? Are these sweet potatoes or yams? If sweet potatoes would I grow a Yam in the same manner?

    Thank you so much, very confused.

    Dyann

    Reply
    • It’s a common point of confusion, Dyann. Sweet potatoes and those sweet-potato-look-alikes called yams are actually both sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are, well, sweet potato sized, thin skinned and vary in color from white to yellow to orange to purple, with semi-sweet to very-sweet flesh. Actual yams are a large (sometimes HUGE) root crop from Africa with very thick skin and dense, starchy, non-sweet flesh. You can rest assured, if it looks like a sweet potato, it’s a sweet potato (even if your grocery store calls it a yam).

      Reply
  46. My neighbors grew potatoes just by burying store bought potatoes and letting new ones grow from those. Why can’t that be done with sweet potatoes? Or can it?

    Reply
    • Technically, this will work for sweets too. The problem is that most sweet potatoes need a longer growing season than most gardeners can offer. By starting slips indoors and transplanting them outside when the weather is truly warm, we get a 1-2 month jump on the season. Starting sweets as you suggest would probably work fine for folks in very warm climates, but it wouldn’t work here in Virginia — just wouldn’t allow enough time for full-size tubers to form.

      By the way, this method works for regular potatoes because they actually LOVE cool weather and mature faster than sweets. No need to worry about running out of growing season with those guys.

      Reply
  47. Wow what a lovely post full of amazing information! Thanks so much I will surely be starting off my slips soon!

    Reply
  48. I L-O-V-E sweet potatoes! Thanks so much for all the great info……I’m headed to the kitchen now, to cut up the sweetest little organic sweet potatoes to start in water to grow a bunch of plants this summer. I’ve found the smaller potatoes are so sweet.

    Reply
  49. I am wanting to grow my own veggies and a novice. I live in Florida. With the heat won’t this draw insects to the potatoes while they are soaking in the water to sprout? Any solutions. I have tries to start seeds in starters and the moist caused me to get a house full of gnats. Also I have used the cutoffs from green onions and put in water and they are regrowing. I am very excited about that,

    Reply
  50. This is an awesome tutorial. We are going to try growing sweet potatoes this year. I bought both sweet potatoes and yams from Azure Standard to see which we like better. I can’t wait!!

    Reply
  51. Awesome. Thanks for the post! I can’t wait to have lovely garden pots AND a harvest of sweet potatoes.

    Reply
  52. Thank you so much for this post, it’s brilliant
    I have been looking for slips for ages and haven’t found any.
    I have 1 sweet in my cupboard and once I’ve finished this message I’m going to follow your advice.
    I live in the UK, I was thinking maybe they would be best kept in the green house as we seem to have nothing but rain.
    I’m oddly very excited

    Reply
  53. After discovering this on Pinterest , I went to store purchased a potatoe!!
    Also reading everyone’s post in reallynexcitednto getting started as well. I will keep up with you all, thanks eveyone, also just planted strawberries hoping I succeed at those also! Noticing I missed out on the previous blog on strawberries , that’s ok I can catch up! Really excited for my Sweet Potatoes to get started. Thanks again

    Reply
  54. Sweet potato leaves, unlike potato leaves are edible, so you get a bonus there!
    Also, you can take the vines, wind them into tight bundles, let them dry, and then use them as fire logs.

    Reply
  55. Thank you so much. I am in a community garden and two of our gardeners taught me how to grow sweet potatoes and peanuts, from their slips. They are moving back to North & South Carolina and I want to keep up with this growing tradition here in Boston.

    Reply
  56. This information is really exciting. I work with disabled adults here in Walla Walla WA These are adults who love to see the results of their handiwork. We also produce jewelery and other art work for sale. We also run a recycling program that pays our folks wages out of the money received from the recycling station. Thanksfor the wonderful gardening idea. Margaret Ogilvie

    Reply
  57. Hi Cristina,
    I was just wandering if I can use the potato barrel method with growing the sweet potatoes? I am a new gardener and I am building me a potato barrel to try for the first time. Do you think this will work with Sweet Potatoes as well?
    Thank you for this great article.

    Charles

    Reply
    • Good question, Charles. How tall will your potato barrel be? Sweet potatoes don’t need a lot of depth (two feet is more than enough). And, unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes don’t want to be hilled during the growing season. So, if you’re building a tall potato barrel, it might be better to save the potato barrels for your potatoes, and then grow your sweets in a regular container that’s ideally 18-inches or larger in diameter, and at least 12 inches deep. I’ve had success with bushel baskets, for example: http://www.outlawgarden.com/2011/10/11/sweet-potatoes/

      Reply
  58. First time sweet potato grower here. Just put my halved potatoes on the window sill as you suggested. Crossing my fingers that this works! Looove sweet potatos! I’ve already lost my green beans to the weather and planting the seedlings too early

    Reply
  59. Hi. What type of soil is best when planting in containers? What about fertilizers, what type and how much?

    Reply
  60. In northern Virginia are sweet potatoes a perennial? Can I pick a spot and let them self-propagate?

    Reply
  61. Do you think the large plastic black flower pots like plants from the store come in would work instead of the bushel baskets ? They would last a lot longer and be more economical.

    Reply
    • Absolutely, Dee. You’ll want to use the big ones to allow enough space for tubers. But, sure, no reason why they shouldn’t work.

      Reply
  62. I did 18 sweet potatoes with my class and they all molded and turned to mush. So disappointing.

    Reply
    • Aw, what a bummer. I’m not sure why some sweet potatoes turn to mush with this technique, but I have a hunch the problem may be the transport and/or storage of the roots before we’d buy them at the grocery store. Cold storage, in particular, can cause big (but relatively invisible) problems, essentially killing the root. I’ve started many sweet potatoes this way, and have only had one go mushy and icky on me. I hope you’ll try again. When shopping for sweets, look for roots that are firm and wrinkle-free and without sunken spots on their skin. Good luck!

      Reply
      • Actually even easier is simply putting the whole sweet potato 1/2 -3/4 in water. Not cutting the potato would seem to be better for it. I have done them both inside on a window sill and outside in a giant bowl. At some point, sprouts should come out – usually from an eye at about water level, or near the upper tip. Wait for the sprouts to be about 6″ long, then twist the ready ones off the growth location. If there are small sprouts, try to just take the larger ones off. Then I drop the sprouts right back in that bowl of water or in their own cups of water for a few days until they have enough roots, and because I’m too lazy to plant one at a time. I wait to have a few plants, then plant those all at once. A potato this way seems to put out slips right up until it gets too cold to have sprouts. Sometimes I add compost tea to my water, since my potato is in that bowl a very long time. I have not had insect problems in that water and I do not change the water for months. Once in awhile though, since I am in the high desert. the water can get really low in the summer heat. Also, since the bowl usually sits in window sun or gets some sun on a patio, the water can get lots of algae. That does not bother the potato or its slips, though too long w/o water can dry out the roots. As long the potato is intact though, just add water and keep going. Usually I end up with way more sprouts than I need and end up using the bowl as a leafy plant. I prefer the leaves anyways – my mom always had sweet potato vines around so she could always have sauteed greens just by going outside and chopping off a few vine stems. All the leaves and leaf stems can be used when cooking. One would probably only use the very tender tips to eat raw.

        Reply
        • Thanks for the great advice, Vic! You’re absolutely correct that there are several ways to start sweets. Some folks even start them in trays of damp sand.

          Reply
  63. FYI. You called the regular potatoes ‘Irish’. The potato came from America. The Native Americans introduced the potatoes to them and they took the potatoes from the New World back to Ireland. So the potato is actually American, not Irish. Thanks!

    Reply
    • I am trying to start slip a know I’m late but in northern az so we are almost always warm and I was too excited to wait. Had to move them to the porch because my cat was messing with them and I think may have been knocking roots off /: My question is if these end up taking off for me and I get too many could I leave the slips in water for early planting next year or would that not work?? We have so many warm days I feel like maybe you could do back to back crops here… I really want this to work

      Reply
      • I’m not sure how long the slips would keep in water, Tonia, but you could always try. Or, if you really do end up with too many plants, you could grow some in smaller containers for the leaves — they can be cooked just like spinach. Good luck, and enjoy your sweet potatoes!

        Reply
  64. Wonderful post!! I recently noticed an organic sweet potato of mine start to sprout..I was so intrigued and instantly wondered if I could plant it. Well, this is how I stumbled upon your site. Great information – Thank you! I have already put my potato in water and I’m ordering bushel baskets today (another great idea!)

    Reply
  65. how many slips do you put in a bushel basket?

    Reply
    • One or two slips per bushel basket seems to be the way to go. You’ll harvest more from the bushel basket with two slips, but each slip will be individually more productive if grown in its own basket.

      Reply
  66. If growing Sweet Potatoes in containers, can you use a trellis for the vines or does the vines need to be on the ground to keep producing roots and such?
    I have been growing slips from a single sweet potato and some are getting over a foot long, am I waiting too long to get them to root and planted? This past week-end we had frost warnings in Upstate NY so nothing is outside yet :-(

    Reply
    • Sweet potatoes don’t need a trellis. In fact, they don’t really want one. Sweets are rambling vines rather than climbing vines. Some people do grow sweets on trellises, but they need to tie them up. I generally just let them ramble around the garden as a ground cover.

      If your slips are getting too big, you can go ahead and pot them up on four- or six-inch pots. Then, when it’s warm enough outside, just transplant them into their permanent home. Best bet is to wait until after nighttime temperatures are staying above fifty degrees. Around here (Virginia) that’s generally early June.

      Reply
  67. I’m in South Africa and one day thought to put the whole sweet potato in the ground with the sprouts above ground. Never thought they would actually grow. Much to my surprise it was not long before my small little garden was over take by the now growing wild sweet potato! i did not know how long before harvest or if it would actually projuice anything.Well after about 5 months i decided its time to clear out the potato because my other plants was not getting enough sun and water. was I surprised to find sweet potato under the ground! Now I know the right way to plant and care for them and thanks to you i’m growing carrots , tomatoes and other veggies too! Thanks so much from a sunny SA for your interesting articles.

    Reply
    • Hi! You have sweet potatoes?! I have been searching everywhere for them. Have you seen them in any stores here in SA? Thanksgiving is next week and would love to have some.

      Reply
      • We most definitely do. Did you manage to find some? Try a veggie market. Or one of the organic outdoor markets on weekends, we have loads of them in Cpt.

        Reply
  68. THANKS :) Awesome and supportive guide for those (me, lol) who are new to this!

    Reply
  69. Is it too late to start for this year? I’m in New England & weather did drop a bit this past week.

    Reply
    • It’s later than ideal, but that’s no reason not to try. :) Worst case scenario, you will harvest smaller-than-normal sweet potatoes. They will still be edible (sweet potatoes don’t ripen like some veggies), just smaller.

      Good luck, and happy gardening!

      Reply
  70. Hi Christina – I love your tutorial – its so helpful and the pictures are wonderful! My husband and I have had many spinal surgeries so digging is not an option so we bought 6 “tuff tubs” we use one for a watering tub for our mini mule :-) I know I am late but we ordered slips by mail order and the first ones came in poor shape – now we have the new ones and we put them in planters mix with rotted manure and compost. We are planning to grow them in the tubs after we drill out some drain holes -how many should we drill & how big should they be? And how many slips could we plant in each one? We have quite a few slips – our tubs are 19″ diameter & 16″ deep -we also have a couple of storage bins we could use. Thanks much – I’m excited to get them planted ASAP so they have enough time to grow. We live north of Banning, CA in the low mountains at close to 4,000ft elevation. Usually there is no frost until November. Blessings, Mark & Susie

    Reply
    • Hi Susie –

      With containers that size, I’d drill a half-dozen or so good-sized drainage holes. Maybe half-inch in diameter? You want to be sure water can escape fairly easily since sweet potatoes do not like growing in wet or boggy soil.

      As for the number of sweets… I’d think two or three slips per contain should work. Space them out a bit from one another to give their tubers space to grow large. You can always crowd them more than that, but be aware that you will probably harvest smaller tubers in that scenario.

      Good luck with your sweets, and happy gardening!

      Reply
  71. Hi Christina,

    Thanks for the sweet potato info! They are one of my favorite things to eat, and because I currently only have room for a container garden on my upper deck, didn’t think I could grow them . I know it’s late in the season, but I will be planting them this week in a couple of old whiskey barrels. I currently grow blueberries and blackberries, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, all in containers. I am looking for a good bush bean for a container, and am wondering if I can grow pumpkins in one, also? I live on the Missouri side of the SW Missouri/Arkansas line, and it is hot and humid here throughout September. Thanks for your help! Rebecca

    Reply
    • Hi Rebecca —

      I’d think just about any bush bean variety should grow fine in a container. As for pumpkins, you might have success with a smaller type of pumpkin planted in a large container, such as a whiskey barrel. Pumpkins have large root systems, so you’ll need a container that can accommodate them.

      Good luck with your container garden!

      Reply
  72. The sweet potatoes in the picture looks soo delicious. You did a really great job. In my country, you can also eat sweet potatoes leaves, just boil them with water for about 10 minutes or sooo, and then eat the leaves. Looking at your pictures make me want to plant sweet potatoes, I will probably go to a nearby super market, buy one, and plant one ^^.

    Reply
  73. A very well put together and executed article about growing sweet potatoes in a HOA restriction situation. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and loved the pictures. I just found your blog today and I am looking forward to your future posts.

    Reply
  74. Hi Cristina, a couple of months ago I followed your method for growing sweet potatoes. The plants are looking great! I’m wondering, do the plants need to flower in order for us to get sweet potatoes? We haven’t gotten any flowers, so not sure if it’s working or not. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Flowers are totally not necessary. In fact, some sweet potato varieties don’t flower, or only rarely flower. The important thing is time — give your plants 100-120 days to grow (or as long as your season allows), and you should have a tasty harvest waiting for you.

      Reply
  75. Hi…Its amazing what you do with the way you started planting the sweet potato because here in the Philippines, we do it the other way around. I started planting sweet potato with a store bought “camote” tops(our name for sweet potato in the Philippines) and a bunch of it will just cost you here around Php10.00. For two (2) weeks already, it has been growing bunch of leaves so I am force to make a trellis or bamboo stairway so they can climb up instead of crawling in the ground as our female rottie (a herbivours too) eats all the leaves. She is the first one who harvested it instead of me thats the funny thing. But I will try your ways maybe it will reap me really the fruits of the potatoes as of now, all we got were the leaves but also good for the anemic me..

    Reply
  76. I am from Egypt and my heart aches for all the trouble brewing in my country. Your article on sweet potatoes has greatly sweetened my day. Thank you!

    Reply
  77. Hi Cristina,

    I stumbled upon your site while looking for pictures of sweet potato plants. My wife picked up sweet potatoes for me from the organic grocer so that I could sprout them. However, she didn’t notice the variety at the store. The resulting plants that I have look JUST LIKE THE ONES ABOVE that you have growing out of the bushels – thinly lobed leaves, usually 5 points per leaf. Do you happen to know what variety these are in particular?

    Reply
    • Hi Sam — I wish I knew the variety! I’ve been growing this particular variety for several years now (saving a few roots over the winter to start more slips in the spring). I can tell you that they are not Beauregarde, which is one of the more popular varieties but does not have those heavily lobed leaves. I can also tell you that they are tasty! :)

      Reply
  78. Happened upon your website while looking for an answer about sweet potatoes. I planted a few slips.
    some evidently are the vine type a few are growing stalks and now are about seven feet tall. What is the difference?

    Reply
    • I suspect you’re growing two different varieties. Some grow in a more compact bush (like summer squash) while others ramble further (like most winter squashes).

      Reply
  79. Hi Cristina,
    On April 2, 2013 I planted four sweet potato vines in a huge container. The vines are still a vibrant green and still thriving. How long before I am able to check if I have any potatoes?

    Reply
    • Hi Toinette — Most sweet potatoes want to grow for about 100-120 days. For those of us in more northerly climes, this generally means we harvest right before the very first frost (this is what I do, and I’m in Zone 7a). Folks further south often don’t need to wait for the first frost (or, don’t have a frost!), and can harvest after 100-120 days of growth. Since sweets don’t “ripen” like many other crops, the roots will still taste fine if you harvest them earlier or later than ideal.

      Reply
  80. What is the particular variety of the SP you have pictured on your blog? I am trying to find a purple skin/dark orange flesh variety…tasted them once long ago and they were very good. Here in East Texas we have SP farms everywhere but they all seem to grow the standard orange skinned potatoes. Thanks for your help. Your blog is awesome!

    REPLY

    Reply
    • Hi Melanie — I’m honestly not sure of the exact varieties I’m growing. All of my sweets were started from store-bought roots, and aren’t identified by variety at the store. You might have some luck finding the variety you want through Sand Hill Preservation Center, which grows an incredible variety of sweet potatoes (http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/catalog/sweet_potatoes.html). Warning — I’ve heard they sell out early.

      Reply
  81. I’m in Texas and I tried starting slips by the method you mentioned, and being impatient, also ordered some slips. The one I started in the window, sprouted and I planted it out when I planted the slips… shortly after, the one I started died. The ones from slips are going strong. Then, about a month ago I bought some sweet potatoes with the intention of eating them but left them in the plastic bag from the store and set them on a shelf under the counter. A week or so later, I decided I wanted to cook one of the taters and when I pulled it out, all 4 had sprouted and were covered with little sprouts – lots of them…I took one potato with the longest slips out to the garden and planted them right in the garden. They are growing FANTASTIC and are running and can barely tell them from the ones planted a month before. When I planted my original ones back in June, I also planted some in bags. This morning as I was checking my plants, I noticed the side of one of the bags has split open and the dirt had spilled out exposing 2 finger sized sweet potatoes.. :)

    Reply
  82. Sweet potato vines are growing all over. Some have touched the soil and have rooted. Will sweet potatoes grow where the vines have rooted as well as where the slips were planted?

    Reply
    • Yep. Sweet potatoes can grow tubers anywhere they form roots. Some people encourage the stems to root, because they want more sweets. But, most people try to prevent the stems from rooting, because more sweet potatoes means smaller sweet potatoes. It’s entirely up to you, and depends upon what sort of harvest you want.

      Reply
      • So, that makes me wonder if I “prune” back some of the vines, will I get bigger/more sweet potatoes? (Even tho they are not rooting)

        Reply
        • Probably not, MaryLou. The important thing to remember is that sweet potatoes (and all plants) get their energy from their leaves. Thus: more leaves = more energy to produce a harvest. That’s simplified a little, of course, but is essentially how it works. So… rather than pruning back those longer vines, you really just want to prevent them from rooting (which may cause the plant to develop more tubers, robbing the main crop of energy). The easiest way to do this is to simply gently lift the vines off the ground once a week or so, breaking their contact with the ground for a moment. Or, you can just let them be and accept the fact that you may have smaller (but more) tubers than otherwise. Honestly, that’s usually what I do — it’s hard enough to keep up with the weeding sometimes. :)

          Reply
          • Thanks, Cristina. I am going to learn to plant food yet!

          • I’ve got no doubt! :) Good luck, and happy gardening!

  83. How on earth do you keep sweet potatoes in containers? I planted one small row and the vines have taken over three separate adjoining raised beds. They even reach across the path from one bed to another.

    Reply
    • Haha. That is the trouble with most varieties of sweet potatoes; when they are happy, oh boy do they sprawl! You have a couple options. First, you can simply prune your plants back. This will keep them better contained, but may rob them of a bit of energy, potentially reducing your harvest a bit. Second, you can plant them somewhere that allows them space to sprawl. At the edge of the garden, perhaps. Finally, some varieties of sweet potatoes are less space-hungry than others. ‘Bush Porto Rico’ is a popular variety that stays fairly contained, but there are others. Try searching online for “bush sweet potatoes.”

      Good luck, and enjoy that harvest!

      Reply
  84. Thank you for your great play by play on growing sweet potatoes!!!
    I was wondering if you’d ever grown potatoes in a “potato cage?” if so would you consider featuring this????

    thanks again,

    Susie

    Reply
    • Potato cages? Are those the potato towers made of wire, and stuffed with growing media? I haven’t tried one of those — I suspect they might dry out too quickly here in drought-prone Virginia. Might be a great choice for wetter climates, however!

      Reply
  85. Question: Do you cure your sweet potatoes before cooking? I have been reading up on sweet potatoes and I have read you must cure them at one temperature for 2 weeks and then store them at another temperature for a few weeks. Do you do this process? If so, would you tell me how you do this?
    Thank you.
    ws

    Reply
    • Hi Wanda — I’ve cured my sweets some years, and skipped it other years. I do think curing makes the roots a bit sweeter, but it’s not a huge difference (at least, in my experience). If you want to give curing a try, easiest way to do it is to store your sweets in a spare closet with the light left on. A classic 60 Watt bulb will kick off enough heat to bring the temperature up in the closet. Add a shallow pan of water to introduce some humidity, and let the sweets rest there for about a week. Then, remove the water and turn of the light, and you can store them there all winter.

      Good luck, and enjoy your harvest!

      Reply
  86. How far in advance do you start your sweet potatoes before they are planted? I understand it takes 4-6 weeks to start the slips. How long can they stay in the 4 inch pots before they have to be transplanted into the garden? I am about to harvest my first crop from straw bales. I will let you know how they turned out.

    Reply
    • My best crop came from slips that I started in late March, potted in late April or early May, and then planted in the garden in early June. If you allow a month for the slips to start, and then another month for them to bulk up in the 4-inch pots, you should be in good shape. Plan on putting them out in your garden when nighttime temperatures are staying above 50°F (or protect them with plastic for their first few weeks in you’re in a colder zone).

      Good luck with your harvest! Definitely, please let me know how it goes — you can post a photo on the Outlaw Garden Facebook page if you feel like bragging a bit. 😉

      Reply
  87. Hi,

    Great Blog, thank you so much!

    What sort of soil mix do you use in your containers?

    Sincerely,

    Douglas

    Reply
    • I’ve experimented with several types of planting mixes, and have had the best luck with a blend of well-matured compost and soil from the garden.

      Reply
  88. Hi Christina
    David from Queensland Australian asked previously about cutting sweets up with an eye and planting direct.
    Planted a heap 3 weeks ago.
    I can report that about half of the pieces have hair like roots.
    Am hopefuls of slips emanating in a while.
    One must be patient.
    Love your site.
    Cheers..

    Reply
  89. Hey, how about carrots? in the ground or containers? We live on the Gulf Coast in TX.

    Reply
    • Absolutely, Ron! You’ll want to make sure your containers are deep enough for carrots, but no reason it can’t work. You can honestly grow just about anything in containers, just so long as you provide enough space for the roots and proper soil / water / etc. Good luck!

      Reply
      • Thanks!

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  90. Thanks for the information. In Russia we have little information about sweet potatoes. I was interested to read your article.

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  91. So sweet information. Thanks.

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  92. Wondering how many slips you plant per container?

    Reply
    • Hi Lisa — It depends upon the container. Big containers, like halved whiskey barrels, can support three or four sweet potato plants (I’d probably do three, leaving more space for bigger roots). Smaller containers offer less space for harvest-worthy roots, and thus should be planted with less slips. I’ve found that about a cubic foot of container space per plant works pretty well. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  93. Hello,
    So I put my sweet potatoes in water about 20 days ago…I saw that you said it takes about 4 weeks…so should I not be worried yet?

    I posted about my attempt on my blog, and you can see pictures of the two baby roots that grew after about a week and a half.

    But now, more than a week later, the roots look exactly the same. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • As long as the sweet potatoes aren’t rotting, you’re in good shape (some do rot — I’m guessing those are ones that had been injured in storage). Those roots are a very good sign! Sounds like your sweets just need a boost to get growing. I saw on your post that you have the sweet potatoes on a screened-in patio? My guess is that it’s a bit cool for them, which is why they’re growing slowly. Is there a warmer spot you can put them? A dose of extra heat will often kickstart slow-to-grow sweets.

      Good luck and happy gardening!

      Reply
  94. So I am just as interested in the potato vines as I am the potato. what kind of potato do you use to grow the darker colored vines? Do you start them the same way?

    Reply
    • I’m with you — the pretty vines are a huge part of why I’m such a sweet potato fan. There’s a wide range of vine and leaf variation among edible sweet potatoes (not even counting those not-very-tasty ornamental varieties). Unfortunately, I don’t know what variety I’m growing because I started the original plants from some roots I bought at a local grocery store. Luckily, most sweet potato suppliers provide a bit of information about the leaves as well as the roots. For example, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (one of my favorite sources) includes photos of the leaves with their sweet potato descriptions: http://www.southernexposure.com/sweet-potatoes-c-229.html?zenid=8nalbtoab88bphq57sltmdf477. I’m thinking I might order some ‘Ginseng’ from them this spring — such attractive leaves!

      Whatever variety you choose, you’d start and grow them the same way. Good luck, and happy gardening!

      Reply
  95. How far apart in the tubs or in ground do you plant the slips?

    Reply
    • I generally go with a 12-18 inch spacing, both in containers and in the ground. More space (24 inches) might encourage larger tubers, but I harvest plenty of fine sized tubers from plants grown at 12-18 inches.

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  96. The day before yesterday I discovered your blog after googling “grow sweet potatoes”. Yesterday I went shopping for organic sweet potatoes, found some and cut up the two ends of a big long one (ate the middle part!) and put them in a plastic container with water about halfway up. The container is sitting next to a window and not far from the fireplace, so they’re getting light and warmth.
    I live in western France and I eat a lot of sweet potatoes but always thought you couldn’t grow them in mild, oceanic climates. So I’m thrilled by the prospect of growing my own!
    Oh, another thing, your pictures of the different stages of the growth of sweet potatoes are fantastic. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Wonderful! Good luck with your sweet potatoes!

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  97. Stumbled on your post looking up making my own slips. Bought some organic purple sweets & they were so fun & tasty, I saved a couple to sprout. I’m gonna sprout a “white” sweet this year, too. Little will the neighborhood know that my food garden has escaped my back yard & migrated to the front! Thanks for the tutorial, it had been since childhood that I started my own slips & wanted a little updated reminder.

    Reply
    • Fantastic! Good luck with those sweets, and with the migration of your garden to the front yard.

      Reply
  98. The stupid pin it, Facebook it, tweet it box is BLOCKING MY VIEW OF THE TEXT so I can’t read the blog…arrrgggg!! What do I do?

    Reply
    • Ugh. Sorry, Shawna. Isn’t that frustrating!? I’ve found that this happens to me any time I’m logged into Facebook as my page rather than myself. Is that the case for you here? If so, just switch your Facebook back to your personal page. Annoying, I know. I’m looking for a new sharing solution that doesn’t cause this problem — must be a glitch with the code (or so I hope). If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

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  99. I have found this very interesting. I tried to start plants last year and knew after they died I did something wrong. I planted the whole potato and it rotted and died. I do have a question though do you have to have full sunlight all day or can it be half the day? I live in central Indiana the average summer temperature is 87 degrees.

    Reply
    • Hi Angie — I hope you try again this year! Your plants will grow in part sun. Your harvest will probably be smaller, but that’s no reason not to give it a try! :) Good luck!

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  100. I am going to be planting in a very large flower pot. Because I know that Minnesota can throw a curve ball in a second, I am not going to set it outdoors permanently until I know we are staying above 50 for sure. So, would it be okay to set the pot outdoors during the day and bring it in to my sunroom overnight?

    Reply
    • I think you’ll be fine, Carole. That’s basically what I do with my slips — I’ll move them to 4-inch pots and shuttle them outside for sun bathing during the day until it’s warm enough at night. You’re just using a large pot. :)

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      • Thanks, Cristina. I can’t believe the weather we are having here. It’s just not a good spring so far. Raining almost every day and very few warm days.

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  101. Hello there!

    Last year I had a sweet potato that was sprouting, so I thought I’d plant it and get some pretty leaf color for the garden. In early fall I tried to pull out what looked like a sweet potato growing near the surface. It wouldn’t budge. Had to have a neighbor pull them out of the pot. I could hardly believe that he pulled SEVEN large to medium potatoes out of a small 9″ pot! they were all twisted around each other and anywhere from 1″ to 3″ across. Is it worth trying that again?

    Reply
    • Wow! I’m seriously impressed with the harvest you got from a little 9-inch pot! Definitely try it again this year. But, er, maybe in a bigger container. 😉 Give them a little more space, and you should have less twists and more roots. Good luck!

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  102. Thank you so much for a FANTASTIC blog! I found this sweet potato article about a month ago, and promptly told my boyfriend to bring me home an organic sweet potato that day. My sweets are sitting in water, and have sprouted their first sprouts over the last week. I realize that I had them in very SHALLOW water. :( Since they’ve sprouted, though, I hope they will be okay…?

    Thank you for this blog. I’m in Alexandria, and look forward to getting more and more advice as I continue to learn a lot more about seedlings and growing good food — your blog is a wonderful start!

    Reply
    • Hi Tammy — I’m so glad you’re finding the blog helpful! Sounds like your sweets are doing great. Once they start sprouting, they can grow pretty darned fast. You may want to give them some more water, and move them somewhere that gets good light (if they aren’t already). Good luck with your garden this summer, and give a shout with any questions.

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  103. Hi, I found your blog to be very helpful. I bought two sweet potatoes from the market for consumption. One of them has begun to sprout, so I am going to try your suggestion and see what happens. I do have one question though. I will be growing on my deck in a pot. What is the smallest depth pot you think I can plant in and still be able to harvest a couple of potatoes? Also, do you recommend regular potting soil or some other type? I think the soil I have is for flowers or vegetables and it contains fertilizer. Thanks for your helpful information.

    Reply
    • Hi Marilyn — So glad you’re going to give sweet potatoes a try! They are among my favorites for the garden (if it isn’t obvious). I’d suggest looking for containers that hold at least 12 inches of soil. In fact, I pretty much try to give each plant a cubic foot of space — one foot deep, and one foot apart in all directions. A half whiskey barrel seems to work for three plants, but a smaller pot might only work for one or two.

      As for the soil, I personally avoid the stuff that’s sold with fertilizer added because I garden organically. A blend of nice top soil (non fertilized) and compost would be perfect for your sweets. You should be able to find both at any local nursery or garden center.

      Good luck with the sweets!

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  104. Hi! My sweet potato finally formed some great slips, which haven’t rooted yet, so I will probably end up putting them in water to move that process along. My question is how many slips should I plant per 5 gallon bucket? Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    • Hooray for slips! Once the sweets form their slips, there’s really no stopping them — these guys LOVE to grow. :) I generally aim for about a foot between plants, so I’d think just one slip per 5-gallon bucket. You could try two, but you will probably get smaller tubers that way. If you have enough buckets and slips, maybe try a couple with one slip and a couple with two or more? Good luck with your sweets!

      Reply
  105. Howdy! I found this site after doing some research on plants that will grow well in water, because frankly I can’t keep anything alive in soil. I was doing some research so I could keep a living plant in my dorm room at college(Gulf Coast Texas) and came across sweet potato vines. I was wondering if the vines of the slip would grow without growing a SP if left in the water?
    After seeing this post, I kinda want to grow some SPs at home(NE Texas) if it seems this easy to grow them.

    Reply
  106. Thanks! This is very informative! What happens if you plant the entire sweet potato? We found a sweet potato in our pantry that was growing slips so we planted the whole thing in the ground but I am not quite sure what to expect. The vines are growing nicely as the average temperatures here are 90 degrees F. Thanks for your tips!!

    Reply
    • I’m not sure what to expect either. :) I always break the slips off and plant them separately — I get more plants that way. But, this will probably work just as well. Here’s hoping you get a good harvest!

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  107. I just dug a hole in garden bed and the in 1/2 sweet potato and forgot about it. .. was suprised to see garden bed covered in vines within a month and when I dug it up there were heaps of sweet potatoes months down the track. Some were huge.

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  108. It was declared in a statement above that Sweet Potatoes were in the Night Shade family. That statement is not accurate. Please click on the following link http://www.nightshadefree.com/are-sweet-potatoes-in-the-nightshade-family/. Dr. Jon Allen, professor of food science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, North Carolina State University released a report that sweet potatoes are not from the same family.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Ginger. You are absolutely right. Regular potatoes are in the nightshade family, but sweet potatoes are not (they are related to morning glories). I couldn’t find the statement you referenced. Can you point me toward it so I can correct or clarify? Thanks!

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  109. I have a terrific harvest of sweet potatoes and want to know how to save all of the wonderful slips that I have. Do you have any suggestions on how to store and save them for spring harvest?

    Reply
    • Hi Deborah — Congrats on that terrific harvest! Are you trying to save the roots, or the actual green leaves and stems? The roots store very well in shallow boxes kept at room temperature (I use a spare closet). No special care required. As for the leaves and vines, you could try bringing some indoors and treating them as a houseplant during the winter. I generally just start fresh in the spring, growing new slips off some of my stored roots.

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  110. So many comments/questions to read!! My problem is I just got back to Turkey from the States with a sweet potato hiding in my bag.(no sweets here!.before it started to shrivel up I did what you said, cut them in half and put them in water hopefully to grow them in containers later. I am on the Aegean side, with good weather and sun, but right now it’s November and cool..Did I start at the wrong time? PLEASE give me good news because that was the ONLY potato I had! You were wonderful in providing pictures and information..Congratulations!

    Reply
    • So glad you found the photos helpful, Oya! I think you’re probably fine, even if you are a little early with your sweet potato. You want to wait to plant it outside when nighttime temperatures are staying about 50°F or warmer. I’m not sure when that is for your climate, but that’s generally late May or early June for me. If that’s the same for you, then you’re definitely starting things earlier than necessary. But I don’t think that’s anything to worry about — you can keep your sweets going in water or pot them up and treat them like a houseplant. Then, when spring arrives, you can either plant the whole thing outside, or take cuttings from some of the longer vines to plant separately.

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  111. Hello sir! My name’s Channak, I’m 23 years old, Now I start to make a thesis for my graduate in high school. but I don’t know more information about this plant. Can I ask you! How many type of Ipomoea batatas? Sorry I can speak English a little. How can I find more information about it?

    Reply
    • Hello, Channak. I’m sorry, but I don’t have an answer for you. I know that Ipomoea batatas is a species, but I would guess there are hundreds of varieties within that species. You might want to check the Sand Hill Preservation Center (http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/catalog/sweet_potatoes.html). They grow many, many varieties of sweet potatoes, and might be able to give you a better answer. Good luck!

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  112. I’m going to try to keep this long story brief.. I’m getting ready to toss in the metaphorical potato here. It gets hot here fast like over night fast. I started slips on a whim in oct ( I tried before in june-ish and it was too warm they rotted, yes in the house) it grew great tons of slips. They haven’t been turning into the trailing house plant some people mention they have basically stayed slips. Recently they started to look like they were struggling a few have died as an experiment I planted a few in stater pots and they have been dying one by one. I’m at a loss here! I figured I’d plant end of March beginning of April ( still have plenty of slips) .. I don’t know what’s going on here.. I keep saying I won’t give up but nothing seems to be working for me.. Any thoughts??

    Reply
    • Hi, Tonia — It’s difficult to tell what’s going on based on your description. Here’s what I’d suggest trying (and just ignore the stuff that doesn’t apply). First, make sure the slips are getting enough light. The unsprouted roots don’t need much light at all, but the slips are little plants. They need light to thrive. I also wonder about temperature. Are you in the northern hemisphere? If so, your slips might be suffering from a draft. I know my house gets crazy drafty this time of year! Be sure your slips are kept snug and warm. Finally, be sure you aren’t overwatering them. It seems counterintuitive since you start the slips in water. But, they might suffer if their soil is too wet after you transplant them. If none of that works, I’d suggest starting over with a whole new sweet potato in a new container (to prevent contamination). It’s always possible that you started with a not-so-healthy root, and that the slips are struggling because of that. You still have plenty of time to start fresh before spring. Good luck!

      Reply
  113. I really hope my many slips aren’t lost ): I’m in Tucson AZ that’s why I started them so early. I’m thinking I should plant the end of March so they get established before our crazy heat kicks in last year my purchased slip hardly grew and I think that was why, and also why it’s hard to purchase slips because most places can’t get them to me early enough. My house is pretty chilly in the winter I have the slips on a heating pad unfortunately it has a short auto off. Oddly the one suffering slip I gently pulled it out of the pot and stuck it back in the jar of water and it perked up.. The slips on the potato itself seem to be going crazy think I’ll leave them there they are growing much more than the ones rooting in water .

    Reply
    • I’m glad you’re sticking with it, Tonia!

      That heating pad might actually be the issue. Are your potted slips sitting on it too? If so, try moving them to an unheated spot that’s also away from drafts. Heating pads can quickly dry out soil and even kill young roots. They’re great for starting seeds, for example, but no so good once the seeds are started.

      If that doesn’t help, maybe try different potting soil? The fact that your slip perked up once it was added to water makes me think something is going on with those pots… Good luck!!

      Reply
      • No my pots weren’t on the heating pad… I just don’t get these slips../: since we are getting warmer my slips still attached to my purple sweet have started to vine., I do think they are thrilled with my chilly house.. I put everyone outside today for some sun ( it was around 73 today) I decided to plant the healthiest looking slips in my starter pots and they almost instantly wilted… /: I’m hoping they will rally.. I’m getting really frustrated.. I’m not pulling any slips off my potatoes because they seem to be thriving there the best. And I also have an order in for some slips and hopefully they arrive before it’s too hot.. Have you ever had slips seem unhappy to be planted?? I want so much too be successful at this..

        Reply
        • I have started slips for several years and when they start to have several roots off the slip and several leaves I clipped them from the sweet potato and put them in water in a sunny location and they did fine for a month till the weather was right. just like other transplants it takes them time to start looking good, the roots have to start picking up moisture from the soil keep them wet and they should start to purke up they will look bad for awhile but will start growing.

          Reply
        • Such a bummer, Tonia. It sounds like whatever is going wrong is happening when the slips are being removed from the original sweet potato and planted into pots. Couple thoughts for you (just guessing here)… When you break the slips off the root, are you removing the entire slip? It should snap right at the surface of the “mother” sweet potato, keeping any roots attached to the actual slip. The trick, I find, is to put your thumb right against the top of the slip where it meets the sweet potato, and push down. Should pop right off. If you’re leaving the base of your slips still on the sweet potato, that might explain the wilting.

          If that’s not the case, I suspect there may be something going on with your potting soil. Perhaps get yourself a new mix of potting soil, and see if that makes a difference? And, definitely keep that soil nice and moist for the first week or so while the slips are establishing.

          You can definitely leave the slips attached to the potato for quite a while. In fact, I usually leave them on their “mother” until the slips are at least six inches long, with several large leaves and a nice growth of roots. Those seem to make the strongest transplants.

          The chilly house can’t help, but it certainly shouldn’t cause wilting. My house stays cool in the winter too, and the slips kinda just “rest” until things get warmer in the early spring.

          Good luck!

          Reply
          • Thank you Jim and Cristina.. These were slips that had been removed and hanging out rooting in water. They still look really ruff all the leaves are crapped out but stem seems ok so we’ll see. What Jim said makes me wonder if the roots should be trimmed back before planting they did have a lot of roots so maybe that contributed to the shock. The chill is starting to ease up so hopefully it will get better (sadly we typically go from chill too hotter that heck). I won’t start slips that early again. In a few weeks it should be safe to plant and hopefully they will thrive….. Fingers crossed…

  114. Hi Cristina, your site is read in the Netherlands as well. I am going to try sweet potatoes for the first time this year (2015), they indeed look pretty, tnx for your Explanation.

    Reply
    • Wonderful, and good luck!

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  115. Hi, I just found your site. I have started my sweet potatoes in december.
    So far 4 are sprouting nice. 1 rooted, 2 have a few slips that have not grown for a few weeks but are still looking to be healthy. My question is: I am growing them to tranfer in pots outside in June. Should I plant them I dividually in 4 inch pots until June because now I put them all in one large pot but not deep. I am looking more for ther nice vine than the potatoes.
    Hope I am clear because I am french speaking. I love your post and I will continue reading it. Thanks to your good advice. Monique Canada, Quebec

    Reply
    • Monique — Yes, I’d suggest planting them in separate pots. Sweet potatoes put out a lot of roots, and if they were all planted in the same container those roots would get all tangled together. Separating the individual plants for transplanting would be very difficult or impossible. Much easier to just grow them separately until it’s time to transplant them. Good luck!

      Reply
  116. You mentioned growing sweet potatoes in bushel baskets, did you line the basket with anything before you added soil? Wouldn’t the basket rot & fall apart? I want to try this.

    Reply
    • I’ve had mixed success with bushel baskets. The first set that I bought lasted two years (they do rot fast), and grew some fantastic sweet potatoes (Read more in It’s Time to Harvest Sweet Potatoes). The second set I bought (to replace the rotted first set) looked identical to the first set, but must have been treated with some sort of chemical — the sweet potatoes were small and sad that year (Read more in No More Bushel Baskets). I threw out those bushel baskets, and haven’t used any since then (there’s no way to know if they are treated with chemicals or not). I now use large pots and whiskey barrels, both of which work great!

      Reply
  117. In the past 2 years of growing Sweets, I’ve learned, they do not produce tubers when the soil has been fertilized with manure. This year I spared an area from added manure. It is the area where the corn grew last year. Would it be expected that this area is now low enough in nitrogen to support the growth of the tubers? Should I plant somewhere else in ‘virgin’ soil?

    Reply
    • I’ve also noticed that sweets produce better in nutrient-sparse soil. Corn is such a heavy feeder that you’re probably fine. If you’re concerned, a simple nitrogen test should tell you the approximate nitrogen levels for your soil.

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  118. I water most everything in my house with the waste water from my fish tank. It’s not quite aquaponics, but it’s what I’ve got. Would the sweets benefit from the added nutrients, or would it burn them?

    Reply
    • It all depends on your goals for your sweets. If you’re growing sweet potatoes for their roots, you actually want to keep their soil fertility a little on the low side. Too much fertility encourages them to put out more leaves.

      Reply
  119. I planted mine a month ago and all I have is one really measly root growing from one of the halves. I change the water frequently too, but it looks cloudy all around the potatoes, like they are getting moldy. Any ideas? Thanks!

    Reply
    • yes, this is happening to me as well! I have three measly roots, but no leaves like I did last year. :(

      Reply
    • I have had that happen too and ended cutting off the bottom bad part off and then it did real well sprouting shoots. I had 8 half’s going and had 2 that I had to cut the bottom off they take awhile to start setting roots and shoots make sure the bottom is still hard u can tell if it is becoming soft and is bad then go above it to cut it off.

      Reply
    • I found it takes patience to start sweet potato slips. Here in VT in a southern facing window, I put the sweet potato halves in water in late January. In mid-March the first visible growth of a slip was seen. They look like black dots on the surface. Now the longest is about 1/2 inch and has clearly visible leaves. I keep adding water but have not changed it… but I’m thinking about changing it. My opinion is if the potato itself looks like the potato (not darker or clearly moldy), keep going.

      Reply
    • This does happen sometimes. Lots of reasons for it. Sometimes we just start with a bum sweet potato. But, I think (guessing here) the most common reason for slow sprouting and/or rotting is lack of warmth. Sweets are tropical plants, and don’t appreciate the cooler temperatures of many homes in the winter. Mine tend to hold steady until about now, when rising temperatures outdoors brings my indoors temps up to the 70s. If you want to speed things up, try placing your sweets somewhere warmer.

      Also, honestly, a month of non-action isn’t too uncommon. Sweets can be slow to start. I suspect this is because of cooler temperatures, but maybe they just like to take their time.

      You’ve been given some great advice here. Take a look at your tubers and trim off any soft spots. If the sweets are too rotted (uncommon, but this does happen sometimes — nothing in gardening is 100%), then I’d suggest starting over with new sweet potatoes. Plenty of time to get them going before it’s warm enough to move them outdoors. Good luck!

      Reply
    • thanks everyone! i’m hoping that even though we get tons of sunlight, it’s still just a bit too cold for them. also going to try the suggestion of cutting off the bottom yucky part. i will persevere!!

      Reply
  120. This was very helpful thank you! How many sweet potatoes do you start with to get a 67lb crop?

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  121. Hello Christina! It is mid-May 2015 and my sweet potato starter-spuds are still sitting in water. I have about three good-sized slips, but the majority of them are TINY. Is it going to be too late to let them bask in potting soil for a couple weeks? Would you still recommend that in-between step for the laggards? Based on last years’ sweets, which had lovely, robust slips and leaves, this year’s slips are tiny little things. I want to give them the best start I can, but I’m worried about running out of time!

    Reply
    • You can definitely skip the step of potting them up before setting them out in the garden. Or, you can pot them up when tiny too. Either should work, just be sure to keep them well-watered for that first week or so when they’re growing roots. Good luck!

      Reply
  122. Hello! I’m a brand new gardener and bought a community garden plot on a whim. I really want to grow sweet potatoes. I think I want to order slips since it’s almost the end of May already. But the smallest number I see for sale says “12 bareroots.” Does that mean 12 plants? Isn’t that, like, a ton of sweet potatoes?! It’s just me and my boyfriend, and I don’t want my little garden to be nothing but sweet potato! So I guess my first question is: Is a “bareroot” the same as a plant, and am I buying more than I need? Also, how much space is appropriate per plant? I have about an 10×10 foot area, and I wouldn’t mind having a couple other plants in the mix.

    Thank you so much. I’m not an outlaw gardener, but this has been the most informative source of sweet potato gardening I have found on the whole web!

    Reply
    • Hi, Hannah — Welcoming to the wonderful world of gardening! Your hunch is correct: 12 bareroot slips = 12 plants. And, yep, that’s a lot for a 10×10 plot. Depending on how much space you want to give them, you probably only want a few sweets. I’ve sometimes split orders with friends. You can also buy them from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in quantities of 6: http://www.southernexposure.com/sweet-potatoes-c-229.html?zenid=9klnf4u12e48slqbv5m9m7l1l7 They’re one of my favorite sources for seeds and sweets. Good luck!

      Reply
  123. I’ve never grown sweet potatoes before, I just happened to have two good sized ones turn into plants in my pantry so I just planted the 2 whole ones in my garden. I didn’t read about cutting the sprouts off til just now. What can I expect, because a,week ago they were buried and now it looks like I have a bush coming in

    Reply
    • You should be fine, Gabriel. You’ll just have two BIG plants, since all your “slips” are growing from the same place. You could also try to move some of the vines to a new location if you’re gentle with the roots.

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  124. I am in Australia so when would I start doing my slips, we are in our winter at the moment,

    Reply
    • I’m guessing you’d want to start your sweets about six months off from when I start mine here in the northern hemisphere. I usually start in March (about three months before I plant them in May or June). So, perhaps September for you? The best thing may be to count backwards from when your nighttime low temperatures are staying around 50°F (10°C). That’s usually late May or early June for me, and I like to start my sweets about 8-12 weeks earlier. It can take a few weeks for the slips to sprout, and then you want to give them a few more weeks to grow before planting them out in the garden. Good luck!

      Reply
    • This year the slips I’m using were started on January 20th. we are at 43.3667° N, 73.0500° W. I’m planning on starting them around New Years next year. Our last frost date is about June 10. They were in a south facing bay window so the water they were in might have been a bit cool to their liking. I might try a seed starting heat pad next year also. At any rate, depending on your southern latitude and when you can plant the slips (about 1-2 week after the last frost), it might be time to start them now.

      Reply
  125. The shoots on my sweet potato starts are 9″ high but they haven’t shown any sign of producing the small red nodules with roots seen in the photos. Will these simply die if I just cut them off and plant them before that happens? It’s getting a bit late in the season to try and give them another couple of weeks (Southwest Idaho).

    Reply
    • Hi, Don — Sometimes the slips are a little slow to start putting out roots while still on their parent root. If you want, you can snap them off where they meet the original tuber, and put them in a cup of water for a few days. That usually does the trick.

      Reply
  126. I didn’t see this question so I hope its not a repeat…living in Central Texas we have a long growing season so what would be the latest you would suggest getting sweet potatoes started in the ground/container?

    Reply
    • I’d suggest counting back from your first frost date. Most sweets need 90-110 days, depending upon variety, so you’d want to plant your sweets in your garden about 90-110 (or more) days before your average first frost. If you’re starting your own slips, you’ll probably want to get those going about 4-8 weeks before you plan on planting them out into the garden.

      Reply
  127. Hi! Im in nys and we don’t have sweet potatoes in our stores…only yams!!! .they try to convince us that they are the same thing.they arent at all. its too late to get slips this year because its july.will i have enough time next year in nys to grow sweets b4 it gets cold? we stay in the 80s -90s until september and then 70s until october…then it gets cold. i dont think they ship my slips until june…or id start them inside sooner. i wish i could order whole sweet potatoes and start my own in april inside.thanks for your help.

    Reply
    • Hi, Shawna — Despite the sign, those “yams” are almost certainly sweet potatoes. Do they look like sweet potatoes in size and shape, with an orangish or reddish-brown skin? If so, those are sweets. Actual yams are an African tuber and are very uncommon in most North American grocery stores. They are also huge — occasionally as large as a watermelon — with think brown skin. Here’s a brief explanation from the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/sweetpotato.html

      So, you should be able to use those “yams” to start your own sweets. Or, you can order some slips (or do both!) — just look for faster-growing varieties that mature in about 90 days.

      I hope that helps! :)

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 6 vegetables that are super easy to hide from the HOA :: Outlaw Garden - [...] an edible variety. You can order sweet potato slips (the “seedlings) from most seed catalogs. Or, start your own. …
  2. Spring is blooming in the Outlaw Garden :: Outlaw Garden - [...] for those sweet potatoes, I’ll be posting some tips about starting your own sweet potato seedlings (aka. slips), and …
  3. What do you want to know about sweet potatoes? :: Outlaw Garden - [...] Well, apparently I’m not the only one who loves sweet potatoes. Last week’s post about starting your own …
  4. Monday morning garden stroll: #1 :: Outlaw Garden - [...] they haven’t been planted into the garden yet, the sweet potato seedlings are spending a lot of time outside. …
  5. Your sweet potato questions: Answered! :: Outlaw Garden - [...] [Note: If you are just joining us, you might also want to check out my posts about last year's …
  6. Growing the Outlaw Garden blog… :: Outlaw Garden - [...] Information about growing crops (like that sweet potato post that so many people on Pinterest seem to like). Book …
  7. It’s time to harvest sweet potatoes!! :: Outlaw Garden - [...] sweet potato slips this spring, all started from two tubers I’d saved from my 2011 harvest. [click here to …
  8. Anne Arundel gardener on starting sweet potatoesbeyond back creek - [...] into pots until the time is right.  Perhaps you’d just prefer to keep them in containers?  A secret weapon …
  9. E-books and experiments :: Outlaw Garden - [...] been almost a year since I wrote what’s become the most popular post on this blog: Grow Your Own …
  10. Sustainable Marion, Ohio Sustainable living in the 43302 » Trial & Error: Sweet Potatoes - [...] few months ago I ran across this post on how to grow your own sweet potatoes. Everything looked easy …
  11. Sweetening the pot(ato) | The Dew Abides - [...] sixty organic, locally-grown spuds to enjoy all winter long. And we’ll be able to start our own slips next …
  12. The Sweet Potato Project - Kimversations - [...] Pinterest. Don’t you just love Pinterest? Well, anyway, someone pinned a guide for growing your own sweet potatoes. This …
  13. Sweet Potato Harvest - Kimversations - [...] Sweet Potato HarvestSeptember 24, 2013 by Kimberly Hickokgarden, veggies0 CommentThe sweet potatoes are harvested! Yay!!! I posted about the …
  14. The Garden | From PhD to Farm - [...] I decided to start some sweet potato slips (awesome tutorial here), and to put a few seeds into cardboard …
  15. How to Grow, Harvest and Store Sweet Potatoes - The Free Range Life - [...] purchase your slips you can start them at home from a purchased organic sweet potato (Here is a nice …
  16. Birds and sweet potatoes | Plot42 - [...] or in the soil,fingers crossed these grown and do well. The site I found the information out was sweet …
  17. Crop Rotation | Kirabug's Garden - […] sweet potatoes are NOT in the tomato family and need to be a summer crop.  Here’s a good guide …
  18. It's Sweet Potato Time! - Outlaw Garden :: Outlaw Garden - […] This blog post will walk you through how to start your own slips: Grow your own sweet potatoes […]
  19. 12 Weekend Projects for the Last Weekend of Winter - Outlaw Garden - […] start some sweet potatoes […]
  20. Life lessons on a kitchen windowsill | - […] scrolling through Pinterest for garden tips, I came across this article on how to grow sweet potatoes. Over the …

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