Growing sweet potatoes plants

Sweet Potato Planting Guide

You’re thinking of purchasing, or have purchased, the fantastic Sweet Potato plant slips we sell on a Pre-Order basis in bundles of 25 in our store and online. (click link to go to our Sweet Potato Ordering page!)

The slips we order for you usually come to us in April for pickup, so here’s what to do, and what you need to know, to get ready in the meantime.

Guide for Growing a Great Sweet Potato Crop from Plant Slips

Sweet Potatoes are really not fussy. They will flourish in some of the worst conditions and still give you good tubers to eat at the end of the season. Here’s what you can do to help them along and have beautiful sweet potatoes to show for it.

The Soil

Hard clay or tightly-packed limestone soils (like our infamous Florida sugar sand) will need to be loosened down to about 10 inches. Amend with Shell’s Naturals 3-3-3 Organic Fertilizer and/or your compost, so that there are nutrients readily available and the soil will hold at least some water.

How To Plant

Make a 10″ (the sweet potato guide from the grower says 8-12″ high) mounded row, and if you have multiple rows, make them about 3′ apart. You will want to make the row(s) in a place that gets full sun. When the danger of frost is over (it should be OK in April here in Florida when these come in), poke a 6″ hole in the top of the mound every 10-18″. Evenly spaced plants will produce the most consistent sized sweet potatoes. Place the slip in the hole roots first, and pour a little water on the roots in the hole. Secure firmly in the soil, being careful not to cover the bud/leaves completely. Water well when planting is done.

You will want to plant on a sunny afternoon after the sun is no longer directly overhead with very little wind.

We have seen recommendations for mulching heavily in some references, and not at all in others. Since you’ve made relatively wide mounds, mulching would be difficult in our opinion, however, you could do so if you choose. I have seen people put straw and leaves in between the rows (there is 3′ of space there!) to deter weed growth and make it easier to keep weeds away from the area. The vines themselves will choke out most weeds and grasses once they have grown into their thick mats of intertwined vines and leaves.

Delayed Planting

If you have to delay planting your slips for any reason, you must remove the slips from the carton, remove the rubber band, waxed paper and moss from the roots. Setting the root ends on wet sawdust, moss, wet burlap, or something like it, will keep them healthy for several days longer, just don’t wet the stems or leaves. According to the guide from the grower, “plants will succeed even if they are yellow, slimy, and have an odor that is almost unbearable”. That’s a mighty endorsement of their hardiness!

Vine Care

Occasionally go through and lift vines away from the ground to keep them from rooting at the joints and making small tubers there, as this will take away from the main activity at the base of the main plant. Otherwise, avoid touching the vines if possible, as any little nick or scar can easily introduce disease, being so close to the ground. You can also trellis the vines, though you will have to GENTLY guide and secure them, as they do not grab like cucumber and bean vines do.

Either way, the vines will reward you with pretty flowers, as sweet potatoes are a member of the morning glory family. The flowers do not need to be pollinated to make sweet potatoes, they are strictly ornamental, but you will find bees and other helpful insects feeding off of them.

Watering

Sweet potatoes are better with drier soil. If it has not rained, give them 1″ of water once a week. Too much water will cause the tubers to rot. Once the vines have grown into their thick mats, the vines will act like a natural mulch to keep water from evaporating as fast.

Fertilizing

We recommend working Shell’s Organic 3-3-3 into the soil along with any composted organic material you prefer (worm castings, mushroom compost, your own kitchen scrap compost, untreated raked up leaves and grass clippings, etc) before you plant. You can add more 3-3-3 during the growing season until you see the leaves start to yellow late in the growing cycle, this means that your first harvest is imminent!

Harvesting and Expected Yield

Sweet potatoes mature over a long period, 90-170 days is typical. That means you can dig up one or two plants at a time as you consume them, and leave the others to continue to mature over that approximately 3 month maturity period. You can begin to harvest as soon as the vines begin to turn yellow, and it should be done on a sunny day when the soil is dry. The longer you leave them in the ground, the more flavor and vitamins they accumulate.

A 10′ row of sweet potato plants will yield about 8-10 pounds of sweet potatoes on average. Since they are planted about 12″ apart, a 10′ row is about 10 plants, give or take if you chose to plant them farther apart, so about a pound of potatoes per plant is a good yield. As you’re harvesting, remember that the tubers can be over a foot away from the base of the plant, so be careful when you’re searching in the soil for the tubers. Any nicks in the tuber can cause spoilage (though, for the most part, they are pretty hardy!). Try to get all of them harvested before any danger of the first frost, because after a freeze they will rot quickly.

Since these were grown in a mounded row, you can hand-pull the soil away from the plants to unearth the tubers underneath quite easily, and after you get to the level of the ground between the rows, use a shovel or pitchfork to carefully dig for the rest that are growing deeper under ground.

Once harvested, you will want to remove the vines from the sweet potato. If the vines are disease-free you can put them in your compost bin (if they are diseased you should burn them). Once dry, gently brush the dirt off of the tubers, but do not wash them. Place them in a warm, well-ventilated, shaded area, not touching one another, to air cure for 8-10 days to dry out. This builds flavor and also will force the tuber to heal any damage from harvesting and grow a thicker skin around themselves for storage. Cardboard is my surface of choice for this process – a flattened shipping box or a produce box will do.

Storage

Sweet potatoes are ideally stored in a cool, dark space, about 55 degrees and 75% humidity. In northern states, root cellars were common for this. Here in Florida, my suggestion is a small refrigerator that you can set the exact temperature digitally, and have an open container of water inside to provide some evaporative humidity (which will be removed by the cooling process of the refrigerator). Or, if that’s not an option, keep in a dark place that is well ventilated, wrapped in newspaper, and check on it once a week to see if it is sprouting or rotting. Use them as soon as you can.

As an alternative, many health experts tell us to eat food when it is in season in our particular area, right? So, when it is harvested and cured, eat it right away! Or prepare it and freeze it, like you do when you get a mountain of squash and zucchini all at the same time. Then you won’t have to worry about storage.

Sweet Potato Pests

Sweet Potato Weevils – they have “evil” in their name – are the most destructive pests. Adults burrow into stems and tubers to lay their eggs and the larvae eat their way down the stems and into the tubers, while the adults decimate the foliage and vines. They are very hard to kill because they burrow, and if you get them, it’s probably best to pull the crop and burn infested plants, then wait 4 years to try any kind of potatoes again in that space (crop rotation is always a good idea in a garden anyway).

Black Rot, compared to a healthy tuber

Other pests include black rot and stem rot, both fungal diseases caused by insect damage, wind, and carelessness with the vines. If the plants have this the harvest will be poor. Black rot will look like dark spots on the tuber, usually kind of mushy, and deep into the flesh. Black rot can affect select tubers from the same plant, so if you find one tuber with black rot, make sure you carefully separate them from the healthy tubers as you harvest so you don’t spread the disease. Discard the

Stem rot on a sweet potato plant

affected tubers (or stems, from stem rot) by burning, or place them in the trash (don’t compost, the fungus may linger and infect other plants).

Scurf is not pretty, but it is not harmful. It looks like dark spots on the tuber, but it doesn’t affect the eating quality, it’s more on the surface only as compared to black rot.

We are here answer questions on growing, caring for, and taking care of pests in your garden. When you pick up your slips from us in April please ask for the growing guide from the grower, it has lots of good information as well. And remember, if you run into disease or pest issues, we have regular and organic solutions to all the garden problems you might have and are happy to help. Please let us know what we can do for you!

Sweet potato with scurf, cut open to show that flesh is unharmed.

Order Sweet Potato Plants Now For Shipment Beginning April 15

Since sweet potatoes require such a long growing season and are very cold-sensitive, the best way to grow them in the home garden is to order sweet potato plants or “slips,” after all danger of frost has passed, especially in northern states. “Sweet potatoes have long been a favorite in the South, but with new, earlier varieties constantly being developed, they can now be grown anywhere, even Maine, Montana and Minnesota,” says Seeds ‘n Such founder and owner J. Wayne Hilton.

“Our certified, freshly-dug and packed, sweet potato plants are shipped directly from our growing station in Tennessee,” Hilton adds, “These cold-sensitive plants cannot be shipped from Tennessee before April 15. Please do not order if you require delivery before April 15. We will ship your plants after April 15, just as soon as the weather has warmed has sufficiently warmed in your area. Similarly, we cannot ship sweet potato plants anywhere after June 5, as it is too hot. We can ship to any state except Alaska and Hawaii. All California orders require a $3 expedited shipping fee. We cannot ship to foreign countries or U.S. possessions.”

Hilton notes, “All orders are accompanied with detailed growing instructions and prize-winning recipes! With new early varieties and the same old fabulous taste, there’s now no excuse not to grow sweet potatoes anywhere! We do suggest that if you live in the extreme North that you cover your rows 2 to 3 weeks before your plants arrive with our Red Mulch Film to warm the soil and aid growth.”

Plants are sold by variety, with a minimum of 12 plants per variety, with plants priced at 12 for $15.95, 25 for $20.95, 50 for $28.95 and 100 for $42.95. A special Northern Gardener Collection is available, which includes 12 plants each of Beauregard, Centennial and Georgia Jet varieties, a $47.85 value for $31.95, postpaid. Or, if you want our Seeds ‘n Such Sampler offering, it includes 4 plants each of Beauregard, Georgia Jet, Vardaman, Centennial and White Yam varieties, 20 plants for the special price of $29.95, postpaid.

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Growing Sweet Potatoes in Cold Climates

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America’s favorite candied root vegetable has an ancient history of warding off famine. Sweet potatoes were domesticated in South America over 5,000 years ago but other civilizations began growing sweet potatoes long before European exploration.

Captain James Cook found a variety in Polynesia and brought samples back to London; researchers have since dated the genetic makeup to about 1,000 A.D. It is believed Polynesians sailed to Peru or Ecuador and brought the plant back, a theory supported by linguistics. “Kūmara,” the Maori word for sweet potato, closely resembles “kumar” in the Peruvian native language Quechua.

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Sweet potatoes entered China in 1594 in response to crop failure. And though Europeans considered them an exotic delicacy, they took hold within cuisine before the standard “Irish” potato did. In Africa, where the fluffy white variety is most popular, health officials strive to convince locals to grow the orange strains to prevent childhood blindness. The efforts have been well received by locals and doctors, since growing a more colorful crop is easier than trekking to remote villages to distribute vitamin A capsules.

Now sweet potatoes are eaten in many forms around the world, such as a dried chips dipped in peanut sauce in Uganda, a soup in China, flour for baked goods in Kenya, as a pickle in India, noodles in Korea, served for breakfast with sambal and coconut in Sri Lanka, and as a sweet dessert in Malaysia and Singapore. Leaves and vines are eaten as a vegetable in West Africa and Taiwan. Because they grow well in the American South and were associated with survival during famine, they fell out of popularity with affluent society. After the Great Depression, per-capita consumption fell from 29 pounds per year down to 3-4 pounds. It’s most commonly eaten as French fries, in sweet potato pie, and candied for Thanksgiving dinners.

A Potato by Any Other Name

Sweet potatoes vs. potatoes. Sweet potatoes are only distantly related to commonplace starchy russets or Yukon golds, also known as “Irish” or “English” potatoes. In fact, sweet potatoes are a member of the morning glory family while standard potatoes are nightshades. True yams are rough-skinned tubers, related to lilies and sometimes toxic while young or in wild varieties. Western markets have tagged some sweet potatoes with the deceptive name “yams” to differentiate the southern crops from northern varieties. While “Irish” potatoes and true yams can be toxic, all parts of the sweet potato are edible. Orange varieties are high in beta carotene and vitamin A while purple tubers contain large amounts of cancer-fighting anthocyanins. The foliage contains more vitamin C and folate than the roots. A low-glycemic food, they are usually a good choice for diabetics who crave a little sweetness. Roots are high in fiber and contain no cholesterol until you add butter or cream.

It Grows Like a Weed…

Propagating from stem or root cuttings, or from slips (leaves sprouting from the tuber), sweet potatoes can be a continuous crop in tropical areas. A single plant flourishes and reproduces, allowing families to dig up only what they need. They grow so well that some gardeners take care not to let clippings fall on fertile soil lest they sprout and spread. Though they tolerate most soils, they prefer acidity between 4.5 and 7.0. Optimal conditions for growing sweet potatoes are sunny locations with warm nights and well-drained soil with a temperature of about 75 degrees. Poor soils should be amended with lime and natural fertilizer such as compost or manure, as sweet potatoes are extremely sensitive to aluminum toxicity. Vine cuttings easily root in water or moist soil. After the plant takes hold, leaves soon cover the ground and make most weeding unnecessary.

Except Where it Doesn’t.

Because sweet potatoes simply cannot withstand frost, northern gardeners must be vigilant of the weather. They grow shorter-season varieties which produce in four months instead of nine. A growing season shorter than 120 days is simply not long enough for any variety. Though they are rarely grown as a staple crop above zone 9, they can still provide a unique and satisfying addition to your table.

Acquiring Plants and Cuttings

Don’t attempt to smuggle cuttings back from Hawaii. If you’re lucky, the nice lady at the agricultural inspection station will simply chastise you while confiscating your sweet potatoes. Your trip could be delayed and you could pay fines up to $1,000. If the plant makes it safely back to your home state, you could unleash parasites into your local soil.

Option #1: Buy sweet potatoes from your local grocery store. Select organic tubers, since conventionally grown stock is sprayed with chemicals to prevent sprouting. Insert skewers around the circumference of the tuber, near the middle. Suspend in a mason jar of at least a quart size and fill the jar with water. Place in a sunny window or under plant lights. Within a few weeks root buds will form under the water and slips will sprout on top. When the slips are over two inches in length, gently pluck them off and either suspend them in a small container of water or insert directly in moist soil, leaving at least half of the slip above the medium. The entire tuber may also be planted, but this usually results in growth of the original root and not as many new tubers as if you plant each separate slip.

Option #2: Obtain vine cuttings from another local gardener. This can be done just before frost, or while the gardener harvests his own sweet potatoes, and kept alive through the winter in a warm room with strong plant lights. Insert the cut end directly into a large mason jar of water, using a barrier at the lip to keep the cutting suspended. A coffee filter works well because it doesn’t disintegrate with moisture and can easily be cut away from the vine. Place the jar in a warm, sunny location. Roots should form within a couple days. Once the vines are well rooted, plant in loose, moist soil. With care, the plant will flourish and you can take cuttings from it to propagate more plants.

Option #3: Purchase from a seed company. This offers more varieties, such as the coveted Hawaiian strain Molokai Purple. Reputable companies obtain plants from tissue cultures to avoid parasites and diseases, selling a clean specimen to customers. Most sweet potato slips and plants may not be shipped until April to avoid cold damage. Be ready when the package arrives. Bring it inside and open immediately, inserting slips or roots in tepid water and setting them in a sunny location. Do not immediately plant them outside, even if you live in zone 9, because they were probably raised in a greenhouse and need to be hardened off.

Growing in Cold Climates

Articles on how to grow potatoes won’t help you here, because the crops are different from planting to harvest. But growing sweet potatoes can be done even up in Alaska. Plant in full sun. If it’s still cold outside, keep your babies in a greenhouse or a sunroom. Use strong ultraviolet lights if necessary. Introduce plants gradually to the outside to harden them off.

Maintain an ambient temperature above 60 degrees for the foliage and between 70 and 80 degrees for the roots. You can achieve this several ways. Install a greenhouse thermometer to keep the ambient temperature at 60-70, which your tomatoes will love, but use additional heating methods for small cups of soil. Use a warmer, such as a heating pad covered by a waterproof barrier, and set containers atop. Black plastic draws sunlight toward the soil. If you heat your greenhouse, give sweet potatoes the coziest spot. Transplant as necessary because the roots grow fast. If you move them outside during the day, carry them back in during cold nights. Do not set out permanently until all danger of frost has passed. In zones 5 to 8, cover soil with clear or black plastic a few weeks before planting outside. Test soil temperatures then cut x-shaped slits in the plastic and insert plants directly through the holes into the ground. Fold flaps back around the stems and tack down with rocks or landscape pins. This keeps the soil warm and moist while foliage flourishes in the cooler air. If the summer becomes a scorcher and plants wilt, spread a thin layer of light-colored straw over the plastic, beneath the foliage. Keep soil moist but not wet. Do not apply much fertilizer because this will encourage foliage growth instead of large tubers.

Cold and erratic climates may require that you use containers for growing sweet potatoes and save the ground space for growing beets. Twenty-five-gallon planters, painted dark colors and set atop concrete or blacktop, draw in heat. Cover the soil with plastic, as described above, and insert plants through slits. Is your location still too cold for growing sweet potatoes? Keep plants in a greenhouse through the entire growing season. Use large, dark containers such as plastic storage totes with drainage holes drilled in the bottom. Greenhouses can nurture your plants when snow falls outside. Whether in the ground or in containers, a stainless steel meat thermometer can gauge soil temperature. Choose the largest possible container size. Smaller containers result in small, cramped roots.

If you wish to continue a rare variety next year, take cuttings before the frost hits and propagate roots as described above. Ignore advice about leaves dying back, because these are not “Irish” potatoes. Leaves will not die unless frost hits or soil becomes inadequate. Judge tuber maturity by the variety you planted and time spent in the ground. Some gardeners claim a nip of frost sweetens the roots as it converts starch to sugar. Whether harvesting before frost or after, pull back plastic and gently loosen the soil with a spading fork or a shovel, digging at least eighteen inches away from the plant to avoid cutting the tubers. Pull the plant straight up. Sift through the soil and remove both large and small sweet potatoes, as both sizes cook up well. Lay roots on the ground for a few hours to dry then cure them in a warm location for up to two weeks. Similar to food preservation methods for onions and squash, store in a cool, dry location and enjoy!

Varieties to Try

Beauregard: A heavy yielder in a short time, this popular orange variety has short vines and tubers that grow close to the stem, making them a good choice for growing sweet potatoes in colder climates and containers. Slips are available through many online seed suppliers.

O’Henry: This one is lightly sweet and dense, cream-colored inside and out. Developed from a mutation of Beauregard, it bears the same benefits of heavy yields within short seasons.

Toka Toka Gold: Also known as Golden Kumara, this New Zealand variety has yellow skin and yellow flesh streaked with orange. Expect small yields of large, sweet, dry tubers. Locating slips may be difficult. Search for specialty companies online.

Okinawan: Tubers can be found in Asian markets, but it’s debatable whether those are organic. This variety is white-skinned, with lavender flesh streaked with stunning purple. Not the best choice for growing sweet potatoes in containers, Okinawan has long roots that intertwine and bind up. Delicious and impressive if you have the space.

Molokai Purple: Good luck finding this one in a grocery store. Plants must be ordered from rare seed companies or obtained from dedicated gardeners. Deep purple stems sprout leaves of dark green tinged with an aubergine hue. Royal purple tubers grow long and thin without becoming rootbound. Whether you live in zone 9 or below, or way up in zone 4, you can learn about growing sweet potatoes and enjoy this nutritious treat within your own little homestead.

Quick Guide to Growing Sweet Potatoes

  • Plant sweet potatoes in warm soil about a month after the last spring frost.
  • Space sweet potato plants 12 to 18 inches apart in damp, loamy soil with a pH of 5.8 to 6.2.
  • Before planting, improve your native soil by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter.
  • Protect young potato plants from weeds by inspecting your garden bed often and gently removing any weeds by hand.
  • To maximize your potato growing efforts, keep plants fed with a continuous-release plant food.
  • Harvest sweet potatoes when the ends of the vines start to yellow.
  • Before cooking, let unwashed sweet potatoes cure in a warm, well-ventilated area for 10 days.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Growing sweet potatoes works best in loamy, well-drained soil. Ideally, the pH should be between 5.8 and 6.2, although they will tolerate a more acidic pH (down to 5.0). Before planting, thoroughly dampen the bed. If your soil is heavy clay, try growing sweet potatoes in raised beds filled with soil designed for that growing environment. 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. 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.

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.

Sweet potato seedlings in containers have a tendency to become root-bound. When the roots — which turn into the actual sweet potatoes — begin to grow in the pot, they will often circle around the inside of the pot. Once that happens, there’s a chance they won’t fill out properly. To remedy that, before planting, cut each plant off just above the soil line in the container, then plant it (without roots) straight into your garden bed. The slip will form new roots in just 2 to 3 days, and those roots will eventually become fine, well-formed sweet potatoes. Be sure to keep the slips watered well, especially during the first week.

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 better when planted in good soil and given regular doses of fertilizer. Feed plants with a continuous-release fertilizer that contains potassium (the third number on the fertilizer label), such as Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition Granules. Gently mix the fertilizer into the soil, following label directions. 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 water-soluble plant food, like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition, every week or two. Again, be sure to read the label.

Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet Potato Vine

Gardeners turn to the sweet potato vine for its ability to power through just about anything while bringing interesting shapes, sizes, and colors to a pot or plot. A vigorous annual or a tender perennial, it takes off in summer heat. Typically used as spillers in containers, they also make fantastic groundcovers, typically spreading 4 to 6 feet.

genus name
  • Ipomoea batatas
light
  • Part Sun,
  • Sun
plant type
  • Annual
height
  • Under 6 inches
width
  • 3 to 6 feet wide
flower color
  • Purple
foliage color
  • Blue/Green,
  • Purple/Burgundy,
  • Chartreuse/Gold,
  • Gray/Silver
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Good for Containers
propagation
  • Stem Cuttings

Garden Plans For Sweet Potato Vine

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Sweet Potato Vine Care Must-Knows

Sweet potato vine loves the sun and does best in full heat. The plant is grown primarily for its wonderful foliage and tropical feel. Some of the older varieties may grace your garden with a few sporadic lavender blooms, but this is fairly uncommon. If they do, they may remind you of a slightly more tubular morning glory, and for good reason—sweet potato vine is a close cousin to this common annual vine.

Po-tAY-to, Po-tAH-to

As the name would imply, these plants produce small tubers that can be eaten like common sweet potatoes or yams. However, they will not be nearly as tasty. Because sweet potato vines are bred to have such unique and colorful foliage, the traits for tubers (the storage roots) has slowly died out. This means the plants will spend more time focusing on growing vigorous, healthy foliage that it does storing nutrients in a root for later use.

New Innovations

New varieties of sweet potato vine are created almost every year. Some are compact, have denser leaves, and are less likely to vigorously spread. This makes them great for container gardens, as they won’t overtake companion plants.

You might notice that the foliage options have increased. The standard chartreuse and purple has expanded to mottled brown, bronze, variegated pink and white, and even almost black. The dark varieties look best in intense sun. In part shade, the nearly black fades to muddled purple and the golds and chartreuse to muted greens. Leaf shapes range from thin, fingerlike to heart shapes. Disease resistance has also been improved.

Sweet Potato Vine Propagation

If you can’t bear to give up your plant after the season ends, you can either save the plant or propagate it for next year. Dig up the tuber in fall, before the first freeze, and store it in a cool, dry place. Come late winter/early spring, when the tuber begins to sprout, cut it into pieces, making sure each piece has at least one “eye.” Plant the pieces. Cuttings can also be stuck in moist potting soil until rooted then planted.

More Varieties of Sweet Potato Vine

‘Blackie’ Sweet Potato Vine

Ipomoea batatas ‘Blackie’ offers purple hand-shape foliage on a vigorous plant.

Illusion Emerald Lace Sweet Potato Vine

Illusion Emerald Lace Ipomoea batatas is a compact selection with bright lime-green foliage and a mounding/trailing habit. It grows 10 inches tall and spreads 4 feet across.

Illusion Midnight Lace Sweet Potato Vine

Illusion Midnight Lace Ipomoea batatas presents gardeners with a compact, mounding/trailing habit and rich purple foliage. It grows 10 inches tall and spreads 4 feet across.

‘Marguerite’ Sweet Potato Vine

Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’ is an especially attractive selection with golden-chartreuse foliage.

‘Sweet Caroline’ Sweet Potato Vine

Ipomoea batatas ‘Sweet Caroline’ offers hand-shape foliage in an intriguing shade of coppery bronze.

Plant Sweet Potato Vine With:

Angelonia is also called summer snapdragon, and once you get a good look at it, you’ll know why. It has salvia-like flower spires that reach a foot or 2 high, but they’re studded with fascinating snapdragon-like flowers with beautiful colorations in purple, white, or pink. It’s the perfect plant for adding bright color to hot, sunny spaces. This tough plant blooms all summer long with spirelike spikes of blooms. While all varieties are beautiful, keep an eye out for the sweetly scented selections. While most gardeners treat angelonia as an annual, it is a tough perennial in Zones 9-10. Or, if you have a bright, sunny spot indoors, you can even keep it flowering all winter.

There’s nothing subtle about an African marigold, and thank goodness for that! It’s a big, flamboyant, colorful punch of color for the sunny bed, border, or large container. Most are yellow, orange, or cream. Plants get up to 3 feet tall and produce huge 3-inch puffball blooms while dwarf varieties get just 1 foot tall. The mounded dark green foliage is always clean, fresh, and tidy. Grow them in a warm, sunny spot with moist, well-drained soil all summer long.

Like their more common cousins, New Guinea impatiens provide hard-to-find brilliant color in shade. And it’s not just the flowers. The foliage is often brilliantly, exotically colorful as well. These tropical plants really shine in containers, where they thrive in the perfect soil and drainage, but they also do well in the ground as long as you take the time to improve the soil and work in plenty of compost. Note that they’re a bit more sun-tolerant than common impatiens.Plant established plants in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Keep soil moist and fertilize lightly but regularly.

How to Grow Great Sweet Potatoes

The trick to growing great sweet potatoes is to plan before you plant. Follow these recommendations for success in planting and harvesting sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are nutritious, starchy root vegetables. Sweet potato plants are in the same family as morning glories (Convolvulaceae), and are only distantly related to potatoes. Since they are not in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) with potatoes, sweet potatoes are a dietary alternative for people who are sensitive to nightshades. Sweet potato plants are heat-loving, low-maintenance garden vegetables. They have a vining growth habit and the plants establish quickly. They enjoy full sun (at least 6-8 hours during the growing season) and thrive in loose, well-drained, nutrient-rich soils – although they will tolerate almost any planting site. Select and prepare the planting site for the benefit of your sweet potato plants so that, come harvest, you get a bountiful crop! Here’s what we recommend.

Planting Sweet Potato Plants

The best time to plant sweet potato plants is after the ground is thawed and after the last spring frost date has passed. If the ground doesn’t freeze in your location, then the best time to plant is usually a month after your last spring frost date. Prepare the soil. Sweet potatoes grow well in nutrient-rich soil, so prepare the sunny, well-drained planting site with compost or well-aged manure prior to planting. If your soil has water-retention issues, you may need to amend with coir, or coco-fiber growing medium. If your soil is compact or composed of heavy clay, it is recommended that you build raised beds or large mounds of top soil (amended if needed) to plant and grow sweet potatoes. Building up 10-12 inches above the native soil should work fine. If you can’t plant your sweet potatoes when they arrive, due to adverse weather conditions, keep sweet potato plants’ roots damp and put them in a shaded place until conditions improve. Plant. Space planting holes at least 12 inches apart and space planting rows about 36 inches apart. This allows space for vigorous vines to grow and avoids light or nutrient competition, while also giving you room to move easily through your planting site to mulch, water, and eventually harvest. Mulch. Sweet potato plants don’t like water-logged soil, but dry soil is just as stressful. Be sure to keep the planting area watered as needed (you shouldn’t need to water if there is rain in the near forecast). Apply a few inches of mulch to help retain moisture while also discouraging the development of problematic weeds.

Maintaining the Planting Site

  • Remove weeds as soon as they appear to keep the task manageable.
  • Apply additional fertilizer or soil conditioners as needed about a month after planting.
  • Avoid overwatering, but irrigate as needed to keep planting site from drying out.
  • Pruning is not needed and often not recommended. Let it grow!

Harvesting Sweet Potatoes

Most varieties of sweet potato will mature within 3-5 months, so, if your location is known for having short growing seasons, be sure to choose varieties with an appropriate maturity time. Sweet Potato Varieties at Stark Bro’s

  • Beauregard: Matures in approximately 90 days
  • Georgia Jet: Matures in approximately 100 days
  • Vardaman: Matures in approximately 95 days

Harvest-sized sweet potatoes may be found several inches below the soil surface. Carefully remove the soil from around the plant’s roots and examine the tuber size. If they are a couple inches across or larger, they are ready to be harvested. You can selectively remove the sizable sweet potatoes and re-cover the plant’s roots to allow continued development of smaller ones. Be careful not to bruise, scrape, or puncture the skin of the sweet potatoes as this can cause quality issues like rotting, especially in storage. Remove any excess dirt from your harvest. To fully enjoy your harvested sweet potatoes, they will likely need a curing period to develop the sugars for the sweetness you are familiar with. This curing process is also necessary if you plan to store your sweet potato harvest for several months. For your convenience, here are some useful sweet potato curing tips. Sweet potatoes are truly easy garden vegetables to plant and harvest. And, if you follow these recommendations, you will grow your own great sweet potatoes in no time!

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