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Growing and Using Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are incredibly healthy and are very easy to grow in the home vegetable garden. The plant is pretty and I’ve seen people grow sweet potatoes as low border in flower beds around their home as part of their edible landscaping.

The first time I grew sweet potatoes, friend bought some slips from the feed store and gave them to me. I later found out that they were $9…ouch. Unlike other vegetables, sweet potatoes are grown by slips not seeds.

Sweet potato slips are simply the sprouts that grow on the ends of a very mature sweet potato. If you wan to try your hand at growing your own slips, I highly recommend it. There are several ways to grow sweet potato slips and pros and cons of each way.

The first year we harvested, we didn’t do a very good job of digging them up, the soil where they were planted had a lot of clay and it was compacted down. The next spring when we tilled in some sand and compost into the area, the leftover sweet potatoes went flying!

In a few weeks we had a lot of sweet potato sprouts coming up in that area. Sweet potatoes are pretty hardy and as long as your ground doesn’t freeze you can expect any leftover sweet potato tubers to sprout the next year. I wouldn’t intentionally leave them in the ground, just be mindful to double check the area in the spring before you plant that area with something else.

SchneiderPeeps - Growing Sweet Potatoes are really easy if you have at least 100 frost free days.

How to plant sweet potatoes

  • Sweet potatoes love heat. So for our zone they are some of the last things we plant. Planting season  is April 15-May 15th
  • Sweet potatoes need at least 100 frost free days (northern climates can cover the ground with clear plastic to help warm up the soil)
  • Sweet potatoes are not the same as yams and they’re different than regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are actually related to the morning glory
  • Plant sweet potatoes in loose, well drained soil (not clay like we did the first year, or you’ll have trouble harvesting them)
  • Once established you only need to water if you notice the vine wilting
  • Plant slips 12-18″ apart and to a depth of about half its length
  • If you live in a warm climate that doesn’t freeze (zones 10-11) you might be able to grow them year round. As the vine grows you can bury it every 12″ or so and it will re-root and begin a new tuber.

If you need help figuring out how much to plant to feed your family, you can have some printable worksheets emailed to you by filling out the form below.

Pest and problems with growing sweet potatoes

  • Wireworms and grubs can be a problem for any root crop
  • We had a problem with pill bugs eating the potatoes. We’re using diatomaceous earth to help.
  • Nematodes may be a problem and you can add beneficial nematodes if you have poorly colored or deformed potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes have very few pest and problems. In fact, Teri from Homestead Honey likes to grow sweet potatoes for a winter storage crop instead of winter squash for this very reason.
harvesting sweet potatoes

Harvesting and Storing Sweet Potatoes

  • Unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes vines won’t die back when they’re ready to be harvested. They will die when the first frost hits.
  • Anytime between 100-120 days your potatoes will be ready. When you’re ready to harvest, just pull up the vines and use a digging fork to dig them up. Kids love this job!
  • Harvest before first frost (although some of ours have gone through our mild winter in the ground just fine)
  • Sweet potatoes need to be cured before storage. They need to held at 85-90°F and 80-90% humidity for 5-7 days. This will help them not dry out.
  • To store they need to be kept at 55°F or higher. They’ll begin to rot if its lower.
partial sweet potato harvest

Using Sweet Potatoes

Unlike regular potatoes, sweet potato leaves are edible (regular potato leaves are toxic so don’t eat those!) and very tasty. I like to saute them with carrots and onions just like I do broccoli and cauliflower leaves. Using the secondary harvest of the leaves helps us eat well between the seasons.

We also like to mash them or bake them just like regular potatoes. We only add butter, salt and pepper – no sweetener to them. Another favorite way to enjoy sweet potatoes is in sweet potato pie.

We’re pretty “plain Jane” eaters in our home but if you like to experiment with sweet potatoes here’s a list of 50 different recipes!

You can find information about other fruits and veggies by searching clicking on the In The Garden tab up top or in The Gardening Notebook. Any other tips? Feel free to share in the comments.

image of just harvested sweet potatoes on the bare ground.

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

Linda Naylor

Friday 29th of October 2021

first time to plant I used grow bag four section one. I had lovely leaves growing everywhere but when pulled at time I had figured all I got were plenty of roots no taters at all

Angi Schneider

Friday 5th of November 2021

I've never grown sweet potatoes in grow bag, so I can't really say what happened. It takes about 120 days for sweet potato tubers to swell so maybe they didn't have enough time?

Jessica Thompson

Thursday 12th of November 2020

I've never had success with regular potatoes since we moved to Texas (they just rot) so this year I grew white sweet potatoes. I'm about to harvest them, but is there anything I should do before harvesting? Let them dry out like onions? Harvest on a humid day? Anything?

Angi Schneider

Friday 13th of November 2020

How fun! Yes, they need to be cured for 10 days at 80-85°F and high relative humidity or they can be cured between 65-75°F for 2-3 weeks. I lay mine out on an outside table out of direct sunlight for 2-3 weeks since I don't have place that I can control the temperature.

Wu Yanni

Sunday 5th of July 2020

There is no winter in my country. It is summer all year long. Will the plant grow more sweet potatoes if I leave the leaves after digging out the sweet potatoes?

Summers Acres

Tuesday 28th of May 2013

Great information. We are growing regular potatoes, but not sweet potatoes. None of my bunch like them. Potatoes are one of those things that you'll regularly find "volunteers". I like that. LOL

Thanks for sharing!

Please join us again Thursday at:The HomeAcre Hop



Thursday 23rd of May 2013

Hi Angi, we grew sweet potatoes last year for the first time, as well. They did very well much to our surprise (Zone 5B). They also hold really well in our cellar over the winter. We are planting them again this year and my question is, do you have any recipes you've found work really well with them? They aren't sweet enough to work in yam recipes and I find that some of my regular potato recipes make them too creamy and caramelized (and dark colored) since they are sweeter than white.

Angi Schneider

Thursday 23rd of May 2013

That's so cool you have a root cellar! We live too close to the coast to have one.

As far as recipes, my families favorite is sweet potato pie. We also like them just mashed with some butter, salt and pepper and maybe a little maple syrup and bacon bits. I've also roasted them in the oven by cutting them up in cubes along with beets and onions and drizzling them with olive oil and just a small amount of maple syrup. You can also just bake them like regular white baked potatoes or make oven fries with them (I haven't done either of those but I have a friend who has). Hope that helps.