Growing Sweet Potatoes

growing sweet potatoes in the garden

Sweet potato plants flourish in warm weather, providing attractive ground cover while the sweet potatoes grow. image source: iStock.com

Unlike regular potatoes, which grow best when the soil is cool, sweet potatoes like it hot! They are tropical plants that are very sensitive to cold weather. In warm climates, many gardeners plant sweet potatoes about a month after the last spring frost, when both the air and soil are dependably warm. The plants produce lush vines that make a pretty ground cover, so they are a great crop for beds that adjoin areas that are difficult or tiresome to mow.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Sweet potato plants may need to be covered for a day or so if they wilt in the heat.

Shade plants if they wilt too much after planting them in the heat. A clay pot turned over the plant will do.

Growing sweet potatoes works best in loamy, well-drained soil that is not too rich. Ideally the pH is between 5.8 and 6.2, although they will tolerate a more acid pH to 5.0. Before planting, mix in a 1-inch layer of compost and thoroughly dampen the bed. If your soil is heavy clay, try growing sweet potatoes in raised beds amended with compost and sand; potatoes in clay are sometimes thinner and oddly shaped. Good root development depends on there being plenty of air space in the soil (good aeration). They are the ideal crop for areas with sandy soil.

Sweet potatoes are so willing to grow that plants accidentally dropped on the ground will take off and grow if the soil they land on is warm and moist. Plant sweet potatoes about 12 to 18 inches apart, and allow 3 feet between rows so the vines will have plenty of room to run. When setting out sweet potatoes in very hot, sunny weather, cover the plants with upturned flower pots for 3 days after planting to shield them from baking sun.

In the North, it’s a good idea to cover the soil with black plastic or black fabric mulch about 3 weeks before planting to warm the soil.

Give your sweet potato plants lots of room to roam.

Sweet potatoes produce long vines that need plenty of space to grow.

Sweet potato vines will soon cover a large area. Thoroughly weed your sweet potatoes 2 weeks after planting by pulling them gently; if possible avoid deep digging with a hoe or other tool that disturbs the feeder roots that quickly spread throughout the bed. These give rise to your sweet potatoes. Water weekly. Water is especially important as plants grow and roots spread.

Historically, sweet potatoes have been a poor soil crop that produces a decent harvest in imperfect soil, but will do much better with a little fertilizer. About 2 weeks after planting, feed plants with a balanced organic or timed-release fertilizer that contains potassium (the third number on the fertilizer label), such as 5-10-10. Use about 2 cups 5-10-10 per 30 square feet (a 10-foot row). Gently scratch the fertilizer into the soil surface. Then mulch over the soil with an inch of grass clippings or another biodegradable mulch. Continue weeding and adding more mulch for another month. After that, sweet potatoes can usually fend for themselves, though they do benefit from weekly deep watering during serious droughts.

Or, simply feed with a liquid plant food, like Bonnie Herb, Vegetable & Flower Plant Food. Apply at planting, then every couple of weeks as the plants root and grow.

Troubleshooting

Mulch sweet potato plants to help reduce water loss in hot regions.

In climates where summer is hot, mulching before the vines get too long will help keep your sweet potato patch moist and weed-free.

Deer love to nibble tender sweet potato leaves, so you may need to deter them with floating row covers. Japanese beetles and other leaf-eating insects may cause light damage, but sweet potatoes are so vigorous that they usually outgrow foliage pest problems. More troublesome are pests that might attack the tubers. In Florida and some other southern states, sweet potato weevils are a big problem, often ruining the harvest. Wireworms and nematodes can also attack sweet potatoes.

You may have heard of a fungus disease called scurf that is very destructive to sweet potatoes. It is soil-borne and nearly impossible to get rid of once the soil is infested. Fortunately, you can avoid scurf by always planting certified, disease-free plants such as those sold by Bonnie.

In late summer, sweet potatoes often produce flowers that resemble those of morning glory, a close botanical cousin.

Harvest and Storage

Sweet potatoes need to cure to be the sweetest. Clean them dry, not wet.

After harvesting, brush soil from potatoes but don’t wash them. Sweet potatoes that cure for several weeks in cool storage will taste the sweetest.

Sweet potatoes are usually ready to harvest just as the ends of the vines begin to turn yellow, or just before frost in the North. To avoid injuring tubers, find the primary crown of the plant you want to dig, and then use a digging fork to loosen an 18-inch wide circle around the plant. Pull up the crown and use your hands to gather your sweet potatoes. To make digging easier and get the vines out of your way, you can cut some of them away before digging. Harvest before frost because cool temperatures can reduce the quality of the potatoes and their ability to keep.

The best, sweetest sweet potatoes are baked without aluminum around them.

Don’t wrap sweet potatoes in aluminum foil when cooking because that causes them to steam. If you bake them without wrapping, they will caramelize.

Sweet potatoes are not very sweet when first dug, but they are fine for sweetened pies or casseroles. They need a period to sit and “cure” to bring out their sweetness. Shake off soil, and then lay the unwashed sweet potatoes in a warm (80°F to 90°F), well-ventilated place for about 10 days. A shaded table outdoors and out of the rain works well. As the sweet potatoes cure, any scratches in the skins should heal, and the flesh inside will become sweeter and more nutritious. This step is very important, as fresh, uncured potatoes do not bake as well. After 10 days, move your cured tubers to any spot that stays cool and dry, but do not refrigerate or store below 50°F. Cured sweet potatoes will keep for up to 6 months when stored at around 60°F with high humidity; a basement is ideal, though an air-conditioned storage room or pantry will do, too.

FAQs

How long a growing season do I need to raise sweet potatoes?

Sweet potatoes are a tropical vine so they need several months of warm weather. Mulching planting beds with black plastic warms soil – perfect for giving plants a touch of the tropics and reducing weeds. Many of today’s varieties are better adapted to growing in shorter seasons than varieties were years ago.

Sweet potato vines are growing beyond the garden area. Can I trim them to keep them in bounds?

The vines of sweet potatoes tend to ramble far and wide, which is why many home gardeners don’t raise them. If vines are wandering out of bounds, try turning them back into the vegetable garden. It’s best not to trim vines; they help feed the potatoes.

When can I start digging sweet potatoes?

You can harvest sweet potatoes as soon as they reach a usable size, which takes at least three months. Harvest a few tubers to see if they’re large enough before digging the entire patch. Plan to dig all sweet potatoes before frost.

How do I harvest sweet potatoes?

Clip vines and save them for the compost pile. Use a garden fork to unearth tubers, starting at the edge of the patch and working your way in toward vines. Sweet potatoes tend to grow near the surface. Dig carefully; tubers bruise easily at this point. Curing is what gives them a hardened skin. If you damage any sweet potatoes during digging, send them straight to the kitchen – they won’t cure or store. Use them as soon as possible.

My sweet potatoes are long and thin. Is there something wrong with my soil?

Too much nitrogen in the soil causes long, thin roots. When planting next season, don’t improve soil in your sweet potato patch with anything that might add nitrogen (such as compost), and don’t fertilize.

Frost is predicted and I haven’t harvested all the sweet potatoes. What should I do?

Because sweet potatoes are tropical, frost will harm vines and can also damage roots. If you absolutely cannot harvest all sweet potatoes before frost, mulch the patch heavily with straw or other cover.

119 Comments

cynthia williams

Hi Mr. Danielle Bonnie this is my very first time trying to garden I love sweet potatoes and wont to try to grow them can I built a garden bed and if so what size should it be I have 9 baby plant and what kind of soil should I use.
PS Mr. Danielle I would love other tips on growing other vegetables in flower pot.

Danielle Carroll

Hi Cynthia,
You are going to need enough room to plant the sweet potatoes about 12 inches apart, allowing 3 feet between rows so the vines can run. Sweet potatoes are not as picky about soil as other vegetables are, but if you are going work to build a raised bed, you may as well create a good soil bed – other veggies that you plant later will appreciate it. I usually do not build beds larger than 4 feet wide. That way noone has to step into to plant or harvest. There are many articles on raised beds in the Bonnie Plants library. This one has great advice for filling the raised bed. Container gardens…love it! Start with the right size pot and a good potting mix . These are great tips for Caring for Vegetables in Pots. Have a great harvest! – danielle, Bonnie Plants

Trudy K.

We are first time growers of sweet potatoes. Plants were given to us. How do you tell when they are ready to harvest?

Danielle Carroll

Hello Trudy,
It takes about 95 days after planting for the sweet potatoes to mature. They are usually ready to harvest when the tips of vines start to yellow – dig before the frost in the Northern areas. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

Woody Autumn

Do I need a raised garden bed to plant the sweet potatoes in? I have a 20′ x 25′ garden plot at a community garden. The soil has been plowed twice and ’tilled twice and is very loose. I have completely covered the lot with professional grade landscaping fabric. I was hoping to plant the slips directly in the ground.

Danielle Carroll

Hello Woody,
You can plant the potato slips directly into the ground. Note that the vines will want to take root along the ground as they grow. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

Maureen

I was given three seedlings and was wondering if I can plant them with my tomatoes. The soil is great but I don’t want to crowd my tomato roots. Tomatoes are properly spaced and caged. If I decide to pot them, can I use regular potting soil or is something else recommended? Thank you!

Danielle Carroll

Hello Maureen,
You can plant sweet potatoes near your tomatoes, but sweet potato vines will run. It’s good to have 3 feet on either side of the sweet potatoes so the vines will have plenty of room. If you decide to pot them, a good potting mix is recommended. Use a large enough container to adequately space the sweet potatoes. The vines will run over the sides, and they can take root wherever they find a good spot :) – danielle, Bonnie Plants

Liz

Do sweet potatoes need to stay away from tomatoes like other potatoes do? Can the sweet potatoes be planted in a raised bed where tomatoes grew the previous year?

Danielle Carroll

Hello Liz,
Sweet potatoes are not in the same family as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes. Yes, sweet potatoes can be planted in beds where tomatoes grew previously. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

Rachel Warner

I purchased some Beauregard sweet potato plants from a local retail store and planted them into my raised bed. They seemed to be doing fine for a few weeks and now I’ve noticed that the leaves are starting to turn a dark red/puplish color. I’ve searched online for an answer but can’t seem to find one. Could you possibly give me some suggestions as to why this is happening?

Danielle Carroll

Hello Rachel,
Were the sweet potato vines fertilized prior to being planted? If not, it’s time to fertilize. Purpling leaves are a symptom of nutrient deficiencies. -danielle, Bonnie Plants

Linda

I previously asked you a question about growing sweet potatoes in a jar as house plants. What I forgot to mention was, you fill the glass container with water. Anyway, this is what I was told to do if you wanted a beautiful easy to maintain house plant. Just sounds too easy???? Thanks much, Linda

deborah

The rabbits have eaten our cauliflower and all I have left in a large bed are leeks. Will sweet potatoes grow in a bed with leeks?

Danielle Carroll

Hi Deborah,
The rabbits in my garden must have taken a break to nibble in yours :( Yes, sweet potatoes will grow in a bed with leeks, just give the sweet potato vines ample room to grow. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Jon Dowie

How deep down do the tubers grow? Is a 6″ raised bed deep enough? I heva very rocky soil.

Danielle Carroll

Hi Jon,
Most raised beds are 12″ for sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes can get large! You can try 6″, I do not like to discourage, but your sweet potato harvest may not be as large. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Linda

Can I grow my slips (next year) indoors under lights and using a heat pad for about 30 days to get a head start in order to harvest in 65 days? If so, what size container should I use.
Thank you so much for this site!
Linda

Danielle Carroll

Hi Linda,
You will want to start sweet potato slips with a sweet potato! Mother Earth News has some step by step instructinos on doing this at home. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

christian fawcett

Thank you for the great informantion Danielle. Will more than one potato grom from each slip that is planted??

Janell Richardson

When growing sweet potatoes in large containers can you run them up a trellis?

Danielle Carroll

Hi Janell,
The extension system at Washington State even mentions a trellis for sweet potatoes in their gardening publications! I would love to see them growing – send a picture to the Bonnie Plants facebook when you get them growing :) – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Charlotte

I’m new to planting sweet potatoes in garden. I have a 4×6 foot raised bed. Is this large enough to plant sweet potatoes and if it is how many potatoes should I hope for at harvest.
I just saw some Bonnie Beauregard Sweet Potatoes at Lowes and would love to plant.

Thanks for info. Charlotte

Danielle Carroll

Hello Charlotte,
It is large enough – sweet potatoes are planted about a foot apart. Their vines will run for 6 feet, so expect the vines to run over and beyond the raised bed. You will find the vines will also take root and smaller potatoes can be dug there although you will dig the main harvest where the slips were planted. You can expect 5 – 15 pounds of sweet potatoes per 10 feet of row. Variation is due to soils, weather, and pest pressures. Take a peek at what other Bonnie Plants gardeners are saying about Beauregard Sweet Potatoes, here. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Ann

Will sweet potatoes grow if planted in containers using potting soil or potting mix?

Danielle Carroll

Hi Ann,
You can successfully grow sweet potatoes in a container using a good potting mix. You will need a large container; space them about 12 inches apart. Sweet potaotes are vines so expect them to run 5 – 6 feet from the container. They will also want to root along the vine (where it touches ground). – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Hal (Southern Homesteading)

Can I use old truck tires to make a raised bed? If so how may plants do I put per tire? Tks, Hal

Danielle Carroll

Hello Hal,
Sweet potatoes are spaced about a foot apart – so it would depend on the size of the tire. They are vining plants so as they grow they will take root. They will not stay contained in the tire. They will need room to grow and spread! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Dianne

(MMMMMMM!) I love to eat white sweet potatoes. By the way, I’m from Mississippi. I would like to know when is the best time to plant (White Sweet Potatoes). What is the best method/time to plant these particular type of sweet potatoes.

Thank You very much,
Dianne from Mississippi :)

Danielle Carroll

Hello Dianne,
Yummy…I love all sweet potatoes…especially baked with one pat of butter and a scoop of vanilla ice cream :) Sweet potatoes are a tropical root crop so do not plant until all danger of cool weather is gone. They are grow throughout the warmest months….3 – 4 months. University of Mississippi Cooperative Extension has a great bulletin on growing sweet potatoes in your area. Happy Planting!
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Mariah

Thanks for the Great article! My sister and I are getting ready to plant our first batch of Sweet potatoes and this was SO helpful. :)

Mariah

Kathy

Are the sweet potato vines that you buy as a filler for hanging baskets the same as the vegetable plant?

Danielle Carroll

Hi Kathy,

Not the same, but very close. The sweet potato vine, Ipomoea batatas, is a tropical ornamental used in containers. You may find similar tuberous roots if you grow the sweet potato vine. This vine is grown for its foliage, though, and not the bitter, poor flavor of the tuberous roots.

Happy Gardening,
Danielle

reelbizzy

What’s the best companion crop to grow near sweet potatoes and which should I make sure I stay clear of? I am plannning a full 3×3 ft bed of sweet potatoes, but may start a quick cooler weather veggie before I get the taters started.

Mary Beth

Try lettuces or arugula for a quick, cool-season harvest before you get the sweet potatoes in gear. They will take off quickly and want to root and vine along that space, so it will fill up in no time. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Pauline

Question, I saw somewhere on your site of someone planting sweet potatoes in a milk crate, could you tell me how that is accomplished? I have a lot of milk crates(plastic ones) and not much space in my back yard for planting, but a huge deck area. Also was wondering what other veggies I could grow in these milk crates. I want to grow tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, cabbage,greens, lettuce, and watermelon. If I could grow most of these in milk crates that would save me space for the vine ones such as watermelon and squash. I love this site and bought a lot of these bonnie plants last year, but had to move and my backyard is smaller, so I need the space. Thank you.

Mary Beth

Hi Pauline,
I’m not familiar with growing in milk crates. I wish I could help! The crates I’m picturing are very open and have large gaps/holes from which the soil would pour through. Perhaps an internet search will yield photos of other gardeners doing the same, or someone will see your comment and reply here. Thanks for your kind words about the site! Follow us on Facebook, too. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

lindag

take your milkcrates, and line them with cardboard, and or newspaper,,then fill with potting soil and water and get ready to plant—the lining will keep the soil in place until it gets used to it’s new home ,and hold it in for awhile–have fun growing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!-

Pauline

Lindag, thank you for that response, I`m going to try that when it warms up a little more, I am going to try and grow some okra this year and it says to use containers rather than the ground , so maybe it will work with these milk crates also. Again, thank you.

carmen

Hello,i went to a yard sale and one women had the most awesome cover ground on the side of her house grown with nothing but sweet potatos.I would like to say,how long can a sweet potato bed last though the summer,and if or can i cover it in the winter so it will come back in the spring or will i have to plant a new one for looks every spring.they are nice to look at in the summer.and is mulch good to put around them.thanks.

Mary Beth

Hi Carmen,
Make sure you read each tab and paragraph in this detailed “How to Grow Sweet Potatoes” article. They do not survive freezing temperatures. If you live in an area with cold winters, you will need to replant it each spring. They grow very quickly and would make a nice groundcover for your area. You can certainly mulch the plants. You’ll also see that they drop roots along the length of the vine; if you want to ensure it covers a large space, don’t prohibit the roots connecting with the soil. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Valerie

I have just harvested my sweet potatoes can you tell me the best way to preserve them my husband suggest making a potatoe bed digging a hole placeing straw in the hole first then placing the potatoes on top and then another layer of straw and then covering them with dirt do you think this will keep them through the winter months in north carolina or do you think they will the be eaten by rodents

Mary Beth

Hi Valerie,
Congratulations on your harvest. Make sure that you first read our handy tips on the tab marked “Harvest and Storage” within this article. There are important notes on curing the skins. You may also be thinking of an economical way of storing regular potatoes, although sand is needed to prevent freezing in an in-ground pit. Sweet potatoes cannot freeze and I would err on the side of caution against any rodents to store these in a cool basement or dark storage bin. After reading our tab on Storage, you might find helpful information in this LSU Extension document as well. Good luck! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Claudia

An oldtimer once told me the very best way to grow potatoes was with a tire stack, every time the plant gets tall enough you add another tire and more dirt so more potatoes will grow. I was wondering if its ok to grow sweet potatoes the same way. I havent grown any kind of potatoes, sweet or otherwise, and was really looking forward to trying it next year.

Mary Beth

Hi Claudia,
Your earlier inquiry posted the same answer a few days ago. I’m happy to answer again so you can make plans for those tires! “Sure, go right ahead. Tires are a tried-and-true way of growing vertically. Trust the “old timer” ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants”

Claudia

When I didnt see my question post, I thought it had not gone through and reposted it. Thank you for the answer :) Next time I get my tires changed Im keeping them!

Claudia

Hello,
I was wondering if its alright to grow sweet potatoes in a tire stack and as the vine grows add another tire so the smaller roots are able to make more potatoes. I havent ever grown any potatoes before but an old timer I know insists thats the best way to grow them.

crazzzybutterfly@aol.com

I just harvested the sweet potatoes, but all except for about 3 were split and looked like something was eating them (dark mud looking bugs similar to pellets). Do you have any suggestions for next year?

Mary Beth

Hi Crazzzybutterfly,
:) Nice name. But, I’m sorry to hear about your sweet potatoes. For a proper diagnosis of what you’ve encountered, I recommend you email our Ask An Expert service to correspond with a Cooperative Extension agent. Be sure to include a photo if you can, and your zip code. You want to make sure that you identify the pest and it’s most favorable conditions so that you can avoid it next year. Keep trying! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Elaine

I noted your advice not to cut the long rambling vines–As these root along their length, are these rootlets providing plant nourishment and would the plant be deprived of nourishment if the vines are up a trellis? Also, are the tubers produced only at the base of the plant and not along these runners?– thks

Mary Beth

Hi Elaine,
The foliage itself is providing nourishment for production of your main root crop, not these extra rootlets. Those little rootlets should be discouraged from planting themselves. They will begin to form undersized tubers and steal nourishment from your established potato crop if let alone. You can gently sweep them around and out of the soil occasionally. Trellising is also favored by some growers, or growing in raised boxes or window planters and letting the vines drape downward. They are quite ornamental and only differ from the ornamental sweet potato vines sold in nurseries in that they also provide you with food! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Jay

I just harvested my sweet potatoes today. I had a number of large ones that I am accustomed to, however there was a large number of potatoes small in diameter and anywhere between 3″ and 8″ long. I’m not sure if these are worth eating or if I should try to do something else with them. Any suggestions or thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Mary Beth

Hi Jay,
The sweet potatoes of any size will be edible, though suitable for different preparation. Maybe save the largest ones for baking and use the smallest ones for cubing or mashing. The longer you leave them in the ground until frost, the larger they get. Nothing’s wrong with the small ones, so enjoy. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Mrs. Terry Claxton

I live in Bridgewater, Va. and love to grow sweet potatoes. I am having a problem of slugs eating the tubers. When I dig them up, the slugs are actually down in the hole they have chewed, in some of the tubers. What are some suggestions on remedying this problem? And also, can you plant sweet potatoes in the same spot year after year or do I need to change it up?
Thanks so much….

Mary Beth

Hi Mrs. Claxton,
Are they most definitely slugs burrowing under the soil? Could it possibly be earwings, as shown here? Slugs do love the foliage of sweet potato vine and are (simply put) just gross to see in your garden. You can choose a natural slug remedy, such as putting out a low saucer of beer overnight. They creep into the brew to stew in their own demise. Or you can put out Sluggo, a natural slug killer.This overview by Ohio State Extension service outlines other options and identification. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Amy

Hello! I planted about 6 sweet potato plants and I was getting ready to pull the first couple up to see if they are ready since their vines are starting to yellow and some of the sweet potatoes are growing above the dirt now. I read that regular potatoes should not be exposed to sunlight while growing, are sweet potatoes the same? Will they still be okay to eat if they have been exposed to sunlight while on the vine?

Mary Beth

Hi Amy,
You should be fine. Go ahead and dig up your potato treasures, as it sounds like it’s time. Sweet potatoes *can* get sunscald sitting in direct sun. Prevent sunscald by removing or protecting harvested potatoes from direct sunlight if possible. Even a 30-minute exposure to the sun can cause sunscald, which reduces potato quality. Our Cooperative Extension agents assures you that they are still edible, just cut out the suncald spots. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Alicia Warner

My mom had a sweet potato just lying around the kitchen, and when it started to sprout and we still hadn’t eaten it for dinner I decided to plant it. It’s only been a few days (the vine sprouted quite quickly) and I know I have a while yet, but how do I know when they are ready to harvest? I know nothing about gardening besides watering, and weeding.

Mary Beth

Hi Alicia,
Experiments and curiosity are fun ways to get you hooked on gardening. This page will tell you everything you need to know about growing sweet potatoes from our transplants (or slips, as we refer to them). You don’t have to plant the entire sweet potato; a cutting from the sprouted vine that has several leaves and allowed to grow roots will take hold quickly in garden soil. Make sure you click on the tabs here for our planting, growing and harvesting information. You should know first, though, that sweet potatoes grow in warm weather; the foliage will die after a chilling frost. If you are not in a mild winter zone (such as Florida), try again after danger of frost passes next spring! Join our Facebook page for lots of garden advice and inspiration, and sign up for our e-newsletter. Happy growing. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Gail

Great site! I have a question. We just harvested our Beauregard sweet potato hills. the first one, harvested about a week or two ago, was nice and orange…the other six all produced whitish-light yellow ones…almost like yukon gold potatoes. In Iowa it has been extremely dry and record 80 and 90+ degree days. Plus, there was a heavy frost the night before the yellow-produced hills were dug. Can you shed any light as to why the color difference? Thank you!

Mary Beth

Hi Gail,
I shared your question with our “Ask An Expert” service, as I am not personally familiar with this problem. The Cooperative Extension agent has a few suggestions. There are varieties that are intentionally yellow or white, though we do not sell those at Bonnie Plants. Another possibility is that if sweet potatoes experience a frost and the leaves are not removed right away, the roots can take on a bitter taste. Since all those harvested were yellow and after a heavy frost, while one hill was normal pre-frost, it sounds like this caused the reaction. Of course, with nature, there is always the chance that plants sport new characteristics or create a new trait. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Mary Beth

Hi Allison,
Where are you located? In most areas of the country, sweet potatoes are best grown in spring to fall. In the deep South, such as Florida, gardeners have a slightly different schedule, while the rest of the country is harvesting their crops now. If you would like to locate certain plants or inventory at your local garden center at any time, you can directly call them to see what arrived on store shelves this week (varies by market/season) by locating their number here, or you can email our customer service with your zip code and what you are seeking. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Allison

Where can I buy sweet potato plants to grow in my garden in Naples, Fl.

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Allison,

Sweet potatoes love hot weather and don’t grow as well in the cooler seasons, so we only sell sweet potato plants for summer gardens. Look for these plants next spring wherever you already purchase your Bonnie plants. If you need help finding a retailer, use our Find Our Plants page. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

pt

i’m wondering if plants need to flower in order for them to produce sweet potatoes. i suspect i might not be getting anything this year because the weather here in burgundy (france) was and continues to be loopy, very hot some days, very cold other days. the vines didn’t grow or spread much at all despite being planted around the end of may and i definitely didn’t get any flowers :( i’m afraid i need a greenhouse if i want to grow these.

Mary Beth

Hi pt,
Your sweet potato plants do not need to flower to produce potatoes; you are in the clear there. However, they do need 100 days of warm weather to perform well. Sweet potatoes, whether edible or ornamental, do not appreciate cool nights and low temperatures. That may be stunting the growth of yours. They despise cool soil and do better if the evening temps stay above high 60s or 70s. Sounds like your greenhouse idea might be the way next trial if the nights are “very cold” in Burgandy. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

KATRINA

hi i just wanted to know when will i see them grow my sweetpotato i put them in a milk crate

Mary Beth

Hi Katrina,
Sweet Potatoes require about 95-100 days of growing in warm temperatures before maturity. You can gently dig down a few inches into the soil to see what is developing, if you avoid puncturing or damaging the roots and potatoes. I use my hands at first, to avoid puncturing with a trowel. If you are growing in a crate, you can simply turn it over to harvest very easily after the 100 days of summer growing time. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Mary

I planted 6 plants of the beauregard variety in May. Used a wire box off the ground lined with landscape fabric. I just harvested 13 big sweet potatoes! They are curing now for use at Thanks Giving dinner. I think the some of the plants will stay alive as I live is Southwest Fla. This is my first kind of large harvest and my first sweet potatoes! I am so siked!!! They were Bonnie plants. So easy to care for! Thanks for the info on the site – that’s how I knew it was time to harvest and cure.

Janet

Great info on growing sweet potatoes. Planted 3 sweet potato plants in late May/early June. Don’t know the variety. Vines seem to be growing long and strong. One vine, however, has paler colored leaves with light black/brown mottling. I believe it’s being attacked by whiteflies. How do I control the whiteflies? Or should I just pull the plant? Thank you for your help.
BTW..I live in Minnesota.

Mary Beth

Hi Janet,
You are probably near the point at which you are ready to harvest, so hopefully most of the plants have not been affected. Since you see whiteflies, it sounds like you have already diagnosed and we won’t send you to our “Ask An Expert” service! Here’s a very helpful management guide from UC Davis on what you can do about them. I might suggest cutting off the affected foliage and removing it from your property, since sweet potatoes can pop out new growth pretty quickly. If you have unaffected foliage, leave a few stems and leaves to make it easier to do so. That way you might eradicate them without having to spray, if they are on only one vine. Be sure to post photos of your harvest on our Facebook page and join the Dirty Fingernail Club (with bragging rights and helpful tips!) every Sunday. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Timothy

Hello Bonnie!

This was my first time growing sweet potatoes the Beauregard variety I bought them out of wal mart and they did not look to healthy! I purchased a Jack Daniels Wishky Barrel from home depot that was cut in half i planted 5 vines and my sisters dog bit the top off one vine, so I stuck it in the dirt and and it grew so theres 6 plants total! I used half a bag of cow manure which sat for 6 years I used half a bag of peat moss about 2 gallons of field sand and some organic dirt to top it off. Today is Aug 21, 2012 I just took a picture for everyone to enjoy! Im only 25 and I have been planting in my moms back yard since I was 10! I love gardening

Almost forgot I planted these early june/late may i actually forgot the exact date.

Bonnie if you could let me know what you think about my vines i would greatly appreciate it!

direct link just copy and paste it

http://i97.photobucket.com/albums/l225/CiviCBoy95/95c8e534.jpg

Mary Beth

Hi Timothy,
Congratulations! It looks like you have a happy pot of potatoes growing. It’s inspiring to hear how much you enjoy gardening and how you started at a young age. I think you’ll soon be rewarded with a sweet potato harvest to enjoy. Be sure to share that photo with us, too! You may also like to join our online community on Facebook and sign up for our e-newsletter. Happy growing. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Susan

I started a sweet potato in water and just transferred to a pot. I’m only growing it for the vines only and not to harvest potatoes later. I’m wondering if they can be planted outside and in a window box and survive the winter (in Kentucky)? Or would I need to bring them in? Or are these plants short lived? Or should I have left them in water? Lots of questions, but can’t seem to find any answers anywhere. Thanks!

Mary Beth

Hi Susan,
Sweet potato vine, whether the ornamental kind you see in window boxes or the type grown to produce edible potatoes, will not survive frost. They root easily as you found; you should be fine having transplanted it in a pot. However, you’ll have to keep it in a temperate (60s and higher to flourish) environment to keep it happy! Fun experiment. Let us know how it grows, ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Jerry Meyer

Planting sweet potatoes in a raised 4′ wide bed seemed like a great thing to do. All was going quite well until Mr. Ground Hog decided that he wanted my sweet potatoes and other veggies as well. He really did a number on the growing plants that had grown quite nicely devouring all the visible leaves leaving only the stems. To discourage his access to my garden, I encased the garden with a 4′ high 1″ opening chicken wire about a month ago. His antics took place during the first part of July. The fence did the job. However, what effects will it have on the sweet potatoes, as they are growing quite nicely again. I have, to date, seen no flowers. Thanks for your help.

Mary Beth

Hi Jerry,
The good news is that it sounds like you are not experiencing “Groundhog Day,” in that he’s coming back again and again! The key to growing potatoes lies within healthy leaves aboveground. The source of energy collected in these leaves is necessary for growth cycle. If you once again have stems full of healthy leaves that are trailing and vining, you should be in good shape. Wait until the foliage begins yellowing for your signs to harvest and peek under the soil. We have full details in the “Harvest” tab above. Happy growing! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

john

will it hurt to leave sweet potatoes in ground after the maturing date?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi John, It’s best to harvest sweet potatoes when at their peak. Leaving them in the ground could increase the risk of them rotting, and why would you want that? Click above in the Harvest & Storage tab for tips on (1) knowing when your sweet potatoes are ready to harvest and (2) how to harvest and cure them for best flavor. Happy harvesting! Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Katie

Hi, today we discovered that a store bought sweet-potato has sprouted and actually even has leaves (I know, it’s terrible that I didn’t notice haha). I read your posts about not planting store-bought potatoes but I was thinking about planting it for fun for my kids. We live in WA state and it’s pretty hot out right now and should be through Sept. Do you think it’s too late to plant it?

Katie

(We had a REALLY late spring and subsequently really late starting summer).

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Katie,

Sweet potatoes usually take about 3 months to mature, and they love hot weather. The deck may be stacked against you starting this late in Washington, but what’s the harm in trying? Read this article from the University of New Hampshire Extension, including how to create slips from store-bought potatoes as well as the drawbacks of doing this. Let us know how it grows!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Jane

What does it mean when a sweet potato plant blooms? I read when the white potato blooms, it then starts to produce potatoes, but leave them until harvest time. I know the 2 plants are not related.

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Jane,

Sweet potatoes often bloom in late summer. The pretty purple flowers resemble morning glory, a cousin to sweet potato. It doesn’t mean anything special…just a little smile for your garden!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Mark

I am growing organic tropical fruit and vegetables in my garden in Naples, Florida. Since we seldom have a frost and never a freeze do you think I can grow sweet potatoes year round? If so, is there a particular cultivar (s) you recommend?

thank you.

Mary Beth

Hi Mark,
Sweet potato planting times in your area are different than most. Planting dates for south Florida for the orange flesh type are December to September and year-round for the boniato/batatas types (so I think you can grow most of them year round). Recommended varieties include Beauregard, Covington, Hernandez, Jewel, and Picadito (Boniato). Here’s a link from the University of Florida Extension Service on sweet potato production. You may discover that some of those varieties are difficult to find. We provide the Beauregard slips. Why not try it and see what happens? Keep us posted. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Curt Arthurs

Hi I got some sweet potatoes at store one started too sprout
so I cut it in three and planted for fun I have vines all over
I live in MN can I start another plant from the vines in the
house if so how would I do that thank you Curt

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Curt,

You sound like a very industrious gardener! Congrats on a successful experiment. My only concern is that sweet potato is one crop highly monitored for disease problems. Our sweet potato plants are certified as disease-free before they’re able to be sold in your local store. By starting plants from store potatoes, you can’t guarantee they won’t carry diseases. You can read more about this and more sweet potato growing info in this article from the University of Illinois. I know this isn’t exactly the answer you were looking for, but I hope it helps!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

criswany

I happened to find some sweet potatoe plants at my local home depot store last night, and was wondering is it too late to plant?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Criswany,

It depends on where you live and your expected first frost date. Sweet potato plants needs about 90 days before you can harvest. If you’ll have enough time before frost, then yes, you should be able to plant and harvest sweet potatoes. They love hot summer weather!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Leslie

How does one know when the sweet potatoes are ready to harvest.

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Leslie,

Click above in our Harvest & Storage tab for info on harvesting and using your sweet potatoes. I think this will give you the info you’re looking for. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

John Scott

How do you know when to harvest the sweet potatoes?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi John,

Click above in the Harvest & Storage tab. I think this info should help. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Karen,

Peat moss actually wicks moisture away from soil when used as a mulch, so it’s not the best option. Read our article on organic mulch to find some better options. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Allan Spurr

I planted a batch last year and used plants kept alive during the winter to start a whole new batch from. I had a great crop last year but never saw any flowers, this year my plants are covered with them and it is the end of June. Is this unusual and does it mean anything. We live in eastern PA just north of Philly and it has been a hot month.

Thanks, Al

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Allan,

Congrats on saving your plants for another year. It’s not unusual for your sweet potato plants to flower. Sweet potatoes often produce pretty flowers that resemble those of morning glory, a close botanical cousin, in late summer. Perhaps yours are blooming a little early because of the hot summer you’re experiencing. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Benedetta

How did you manage to keep them alive during the winter?
If they finally sprout in August (because they are great storage variety) and do not plant untill May 30th or even later like in the middle of June — What is the best way to keep them alive?

helen

How many sweet potatoes will grow from one plant……….this is our first year growing them

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Helen,

Sweet potato vines usually produce a few big potatoes and more smaller ones. Younger, smaller ones will continue to enlarge as long as the weather is warm, so you could end up with 10 or so large potatoes and more smaller ones from each plant. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Alison

I planted 6 sweet potato plants in a earth box. I’m thinking I planted too many. They are growing beautifully, though, the vines. My first time growing sweet potatos. I’d like to see what happens. What do you think?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Alison,

We typically recommend that you plant our sweet potato plants 12 inches apart. I am not sure how big your Earth Box is, but I am guessing you’ve planted closer than that. You could sacrifice a few plants to give the others space, or your could just grow them as is and see what happens. I’d love to hear about the results!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Julie

I just got my slips last night. Then we had a heavy rain. My other veggies loved the rain, but do you suppose it is too wet to plant my slips today? I garden in a community garden and there is no shade out there at all. It is mostly cloudy w/some sun peeking through today. Temp is suppose to be around 90 today. My plot is amended very well with all organic material, manure, leaves, etc. Everything else looks good, just want to know if the ground is to wet to plant my sweet potatoes. And it was very sandy ground before I amended it.

Kelly Smith

Hi Julie,

That’s awesome about your community garden plot! It sounds like you’d be fine to plant today given your soil conditions. If you had clay soil, you might need to wait. A rule of thumb is that if you pick up a handful of soil and it forms a ball, it’s too wet to plant. If it crumbles, you’re okay. Also, it sounds like you’ve taken all the right step to build your soil, but if you want more info, check out our Soil & Soil Building section. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

jeanine

Has anyone tried growing sweet potatoes in a fabric pot? It worked with regular potatoes for me and wondering if I can do the same with these? Thanks

Bob

I planted sweet potatoes in a barrel with hole and panted the slips in it I used composted leaves as a medium I wasn’t sure ho it would work. I was told by a local of this way to grow them but we didn’t discuss the medium. my plants are growing and they are getting new growth but the leaves are purple is this normal most of the pictures for the Beauregard sweet potatoes look all green.

Kelly Smith

Hi Bob,

Yes, some of our sweet potato plants’ (an improved Beauregard variety) have leaves with a purple tint. Glad to hear your plants are doing well in the barrel. Composted leaves should be a good medium, especially because sweet potatoes like slightly acidic soil, but just be sure to water weekly as leaves can dry out quickly.

Happy growing!
Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Marianne

I had to change my mind about where to plant as there was not enough room. Oh well, guess I’ll have to do more soil prep.

Kelly Smith

Hi Marianne,

Yes, sweet potatoes do need room to roam, though you could plant them near a trellis and train the vine up the trellis to save space. I hope this helps.

Happy growing!
Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Stevie

Thank you so much for this info! I was wondering if I should build something around my sweet potato vines for them to climb? This is our very first time growing them and they are really taking off! Any suggestions would be greatlyb appreciated!!

Kelly Smith

Hi Stevie,

Yes, you can plant sweet potato near a trellis and train the vine up the support. The vine won’t grab onto the trellis on its own like a cucumber vine would, so you’ll need to get it started by winding it around or through the trellis a bit. This is a great practice for growing sweet potatoes when you have limited space.

Happy growing!
Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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