Sweet potatoes are frequently associated with growing in the southern parts of the USA, but they may grow wherever. The tuberous root of this warm-weather perennial vining plant is what we consume.
Although the phrases sweet potato and yam are sometimes used interchangeably, they are two different vegetables. They have no relation to regular potatoes.
Sweet potatoes with orange flesh are the most common, although they can also be white, yellow, or even purple.
Sweet potatoes are a slow-growing crop that should be planted in the spring because they require four months of warm weather to mature into full-size tubers.
There’s nothing like growing your own sweet potatoes, so check out our guide to find the best way to grow sweet potatoes in your garden.(Learn About Growing Potatoes Indoors)
Can I Grow Sweet Potatoes from a Sweet Potato?
Sweet potatoes can be grown in many locations as long hot summers are ideal for growing sweet potatoes, which require at least four months of warm weather to mature.
The easy way to grow sweet potatoes is through slips, which are the sprouts from an existing sweet potato.
Typically, you purchase “seed” sweet potatoes from your nursery, yet you can start slips from any grocery store tubers you purchase. However, you need to be careful as some sweet potatoes get treated to prevent sprouting.
What Month Do You Plant Sweet Potatoes?
If you wonder, can you grow sweet potatoes anywhere? They are a warm-season perennial that is grown as an annual plant.
- Plant sweet potatoes outdoors so they can enjoy the warm growing season of around 4 months of frost-free weather. You set sweet potato slips in the garden once there is no sign of frost, and usually four weeks after the last frost date during the early summer.
- Sweet potatoes grow best in an air growing temperature of 75° to 95°F during the growing season. You typically start planted sweet potatoes indoors as early as 12 weeks before they are placed in the garden, where they take 100 to 150 days to reach harvest and after any last spring frost.
- Grow sweet potatoes in loose sandy soil that offers good drainage. Sweet potatoes like a pH of 5.0 to 6.5.
- Add aged compost, grass clippings, and aged manure in the planting bed, and turn soil 12 inches deep. Foliage grows faster than the tubers when the soil has too much nitrogen.
- Remove any soil lumps, rocks, or other obstructions from the planting bed; tubers can distort if they come into contact with an object with active root development.
Sweet potato slips can be started indoors as early as 12 weeks before they are transplanted into the garden. (Read Can You Eat Potatoes with Sprouts)
It is easy for starting sweet potato sprouts or sweet potato slips in two ways.
- Place the sweet potato in a jar of water that’s half full.
- Submerge one-third of the tuber.
- Leave in a warm sunny location to sprout.
- When sprouts are 6 inches long, pull them from the tuber and set them in water or damp sand
- In a few days, they will sprout. Do this for 12 weeks before you plant root sprouts into your garden.
- Place cut pieces of a tuber moist potting soil or sand. Ensure the temp is about 80°F
- Each piece needs one or more eyes or sprouts.
- Set each piece 2 to 4 inches deep in sand or warm soil. You’ll see shoots appear in around three weeks.
- As shoots appear, add an inch of sand or light potting soil. Ensure the growing medium doesn’t dry.
- When sprouts reach 3 to 4 inches tall, reduce your soil temperature to 70°F and grow for another three weeks.
- Protect young sweet potato leaves from direct sun for five days minimum after planting.
- Position the rooted slips in your garden planting beds on mounded rows 12 inches wide and 8 inches high
- Space your rows 3 feet apart and plant slips at 12 to 18-inch intervals.
- When you plant slips, face the seed potatoes sprouting toward the sky and covering the roots and ½ inch of the stem.
They tolerate dry soil after they are established for the best cultivation of sweet potato after they are established, yet they thrive better when they are in moist sand or soil and evenly moist with an inch of water each week. It is easy to train a sweet potato vine onto a trellis, lattice, or wires strung between poles.
For lush vines, keep weeds away from your young plants, and the best way is to mulch with loose straw or chopped, dried leaves to control weeds and avoid moisture evaporation.
In northern regions, you won’t find insects attack sweet potatoes, although, in the southern areas, sweet potato weevils and wireworms are common.
Sweet potato diseases are root rot and a fungus disease called scurf. Scurf grows on the skin of sweet potatoes, where the skin develops purple or gray to brown lesions. (Learn How To Store Potatoes After Harvest)
Lift sweet potato tubers with a garden fork when they have reached full size and leaves and vines yellow and wither. Complete the harvest before any frost in the fall, as your tubers can be damaged by cold weather.
Cure sweet potato tubers for between 10 and 15 days after harvest. Keep them in a warm spot at around 80 F but out of direct sunlight. Curing helps heal and cuts dents hardens the skin and improve the sweetness of the tuber.
Sweet potatoes will store at 55 to 60 F in a dry, cool, well-ventilated area for 4 to 6 months. Keep them unwashed and wrap the tubers in a newspaper, so they don’t touch each other to help stop them from rotting.
You can store your sweet potatoes by freezing, canning, or drying. Sweet potato tubers are typically dry and moist when eaten. The moist, sweet potatoes are most often called yams, yet this can vary from a tropical plant variety to a more northern plant variety.
Can I Just Plant a Whole Sweet Potato?
Planting sweet potatoes as a whole potato shouldn’t but done, yet you can use the sprouts called slips.
Here is the 1,2,3 of growing and planting sweet potatoes. You can use store-bought sweet potatoes, yet it is better to have grown sweet potatoes from a farmers’ market as they won’t have been treated.
Start Your Slips
- You can start slips from a sweet potato you bought at the store or one from your garden, or you can order slips via mail order/ Internet. When you buy a potato from the store, ensure to ask if it’s a bush or the type that grows on sweet potato vines. Bush varieties are vining yet considerably shorter than vining types.
- Several healthy, clean sweet potatoes need to start your slips. Up to 50 slip sprouts can be produced from a single sweet potato. Clean your potatoes thoroughly, then cut them in half or into large chunks.
- Begin by placing portions of ripe sweet potato in a jar or glass of water, with half of the potato submerged and the other half above the water. To hold the sweet potato in place, use toothpicks.
- Put the slips on the windowsill or a radiator to keep them warm. Your sweet should be covered with leafy sprouts on the top and roots on the bottom in several weeks.
Root Your Slips
- Once your sweet potatoes have sprouted, you need to divide them into something suitable for a sweet potato plant. Take each sprout and carefully twist it from the sweet potato.
- Lay each sprout in your shallow bowl of water with the bottom half of the stem submerged and the leaves hanging over the rim of the bowl.
- Within a few days, they develop roots a few inches long from the bottom of the new plant. Your new slips are ready to plant when the roots are an inch long.
Prepare Soil for the Slips
You’ll need to carry out some preparation before planting sweet potato slips. To grow large tubers, sweet potatoes require loose, well-drained soil. When roots spread in the soil, you don’t want them to face resistance. For the cultivation of sweet potato, loose soil is more important than anything else.
Plant Your Slips
With roots pointing down, plant slips in your prepared soil. Place the slip so that the bottom half is covered in soil and the top half containing new leaves of the sweet potato plant is visible.
Make sure the new plant isn’t bruised, as sweet potatoes are sensitive to damage. Start your sweet potatoes growing, set the plant, and remove large air pockets by gently pushing the surrounding soil.
Sweet potato plants will swiftly spread over an area and root into each leaf node’s soil. Bush sweet potato varieties grow to 3 feet long, while vining types grow 20 feet long. Space plants appropriately to a distance of 12-18 inches apart in your garden or raised beds.
Water the slips every day for the first week and every other day from the second week onward. Each week the sweet potatoes watering’s can occur further apart until you just give one watering each week. If the ground is dry or you’ve had a lot of rain, adjust the watering schedule.
Sweet potatoes can withstand drought, though in these conditions with full sun, they’ll produce less. Ensure you water them during the hottest part of the summer. Keep weeds at bay and retain moisture with mulch or black plastic. The only issue with black plastic is it stops rain from getting to the roots.
Harvesting sweet potatoes will be based on the tropical plants types. Most varieties take three to four months to get a mature sweet potato.
It is vital to harvesting sweet potatoes before early fall frost. Your potatoes can be smaller if you have a shorter growing season, but they still have the same taste as the dark orange flesh varieties most individuals enjoy. (Learn When to Plant Seed Potatoes)
Digging a sweet potato up is pretty easy, yet it can take some heavy lifting. Wait for a couple of days for dry soil, and using a pitchfork, gently lift the soil and avoid deep digging in your garden bed to prevent damage. Use your hands and gently pull them from the loose soil or knock off any large clumps that come with them.
Cure Your Sweet Potatoes for Storage
Once you harvest all your sweet potatoes, it will be time to think about how to store sweet potatoes if you have a generous harvest.
Leave newly dug potatoes to dry as your sweet potatoes need to sit in the sun and fresh air for several hours. The term “cool” does not imply refrigerated.
During the fall and winter months, typical home basement temperatures might range from 70 to 65 degrees with the heat on. The cure time will be between 15 and 35 days. The sweet potatoes will gain a more distinct, highly sweet taste during the curing process.
It’s critical to cure potatoes for only a short time so that they don’t sprout and actively grow.
After curing, store your sweet potatoes in a cool, humid place to preserve and keep them fresh throughout the winter. To save storage, many people like to place sweet potatoes in brown paper bags. The maximum storage of time they can be stored is four to six months.
Important: Do not store sweet potatoes near other veggies since the sweet potatoes will cause them to ripen faster than desired.