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Although I have a small garden, I just love to grow vegetables. They're so much tastier when home-grown with organic nutrients, but I didn't ever dream that it would be possible to grow sweet potatoes in this climate, way down south in Victoria, Australia, as I'd only ever seen them growing in the tropics.
Then I found saw a couple of unusual seedlings in my local hardware and garden store. They were labelled 'Sweet Potato.' That was a surprise; I just had to have one. I brought it home and planted it in a medium-sized container. I wasn't sure that it would grow, but it was worth a try.
How to Propagate Sweet Potatoes
The best and easiest way to grow more plants is to take cuttings of the vine.
- Look along the main stem until you find a joint that has begun to send up a small sprout, preferably the furthest from the main part of the plant.
- Cut on either side of the joint, leaving some of the stem either side. (See photos above and below.)
- Place the piece with the stem on top of the container of prepared soil (I added cow manure. Cows have two stomachs so digest seeds better; horse manure is good, but a lot of seeds of unwanted plants and weeds remain and will germinate in the container).
- Anchor the stem at each end (old-fashioned hair-pins are good) and then cover them lightly with soil.
- At first the leaves and shoot may wilt a little, but as long as it is watered well, it will soon stand straight and the shoot will begin to grow surprisingly quickly.
Another Way: Feel for the small knobs on the surface of the vegetable. These will also sprout if the potato is planted in moist soil.
The Sweet Potato Is a Creeper
Where there is space, the vine grows across the ground and can send shoots up and roots down into the soil, but where I live now space is limited, so my seedling needed to be trained to grow upwards.
I just attached some wire trellising to a wall, gave it a stake to help it begin its climb.It seems to adapt quite well to this and in a few days when it had settled, it was off!
Hints on Growing Sweet Potatoes
On occasion, some of the sweet potatoes seem to come to the top of the soil. As with other potatoes, it is said that they should not be eaten if they have turned green. Just in case, it's best to cover them with some extra soil to keep them away from the sunlight.
If the vines are kept cut back a bit the sweet potatoes grow bigger, as then they do not spend all their energy producing more leaves.
How to Harvest Sweet Potato
It's fun watching the vine grow, as it seems to do it quite quickly. At the same time the vegetables are growing underneath.
When it is time to harvest, if you do it carefully, the main part of the plant can remain in the planter and continue to produce. The photograph below is the produce from one plant, and as the container was not very large I did not wait for the sweet potatoes to grow to their full size. This meant that they were lovely and tender and cooked quite quickly.
If you are intending to eat the skin as well, make sure the potatoes are well-scrubbed. The skin is quite pleasant to eat.
Storing Sweet Potatoes
- If your harvest lasts long enough to store, make sure that the pieces are dried well.
- They need to be kept in the dark; a good way is to put them in a brown paper bag with some holes made in it so they can 'breathe.'
- Then store the bag in a dark but airy cupboard.
- Never store them in the refrigerator!
Sweet potatoes do not usually keep as long as ordinary potatoes, so it is a good idea to check fairly frequently that there are no soft spots appearing on them. Of course, if you're like me, they won't last long enough to go off.
Advantages of Growing Your Own Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potato is one of the world's healthiest foods and that's really good news considering that it also tastes good. Of course it's best and healthiest when grown organically.
- It's low in sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol
- It's a good source of dietary fibre - helps to keep us regular, to regulate digestion and our blood sugar
- Vitamins A - helps to improve eyesight, boost immunity and it's claimed that it also help in treating or preventing cancer; the orange ones are good, but I'm told that the purple are even better; the anthocyanin also protects our skin against sun damage
- Vitamin B6 - breaks down homocysteine which hardens our blood vessels and arteries
- Vitamins C and E - boost collagen growth and is good for maintaining a healthy skin
- It contains Potassium, which lowers blood pressure and is an electrolyte that regulates the heart beat
- Manganese, which boosts blood, muscle, nerve and bone health
- Iron, which is especially useful for those who do not eat red meat
The Skin: We can eat the skin as that also contains many of the above benefits, including beta-carotene, which the body changes to Vitamin A (see above)
The Leaves: These can be eaten raw in a salad, or cooked like spinach
Unlike some other starchy vegetables, sweet potatoes release their sugar slowly into the bloodstream, providing a constant flow of energy - so much better than relying on coffee, sugary drinks and other stimulants that only give a sudden, but brief boost.
Questions & Answers
Question: How long from planting should I start looking for potatoes?
Answer: It depends on the season. When sweet potatoes are ready to harvest, the leaves usually change colour; however, as I'm sometimes an impatient gardener, I will often gently remove some of the soil (and later replace it) just so I can see how they are progressing!
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on February 08, 2018:
Donna: The climate here is more temperate than where you are, but I'd still give it a try. When we lived in the UK for a couple of years our children even managed to grow peanuts, but we were in Kent. I'd love to know if it works out for you.
Thelma Alberts: I'm sure it's worth a try. I was really unsure that it would work here, but I was glad I gave it a go, it was such fun.
Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on February 06, 2018:
I have not thought that I could plant a sweet potato in a container. I will give it a try when I am in my tropical garden again this year. Thanks for sharing.
Donna from East Yorkshire, UK on January 22, 2018:
I am going to give this a bash in the UK. I will check the climate where you are first.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on November 06, 2017:
Gretchen: How lovely! I wish you every success - and a great harvest. Yes, the container needs to be a reasonable size. As you can see from my photos, the sweet potatoes that I grow are not very big. It's possible that if I used a larger container the harvest would be bigger in size, too. It would be interesting to try and see what result it brings. The problem is that my garden area is small.
Gretchen on November 05, 2017:
I never thought I could grow them in a container but I'm going too this very week! Very excited about this! Thanks so much. I did not see any mention as to the size of container needed but would imagine a fairly large, deep one. We love sweet potatoes!! Can't wait!!
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on August 22, 2017:
Pauline Kavanagh: Oh, that's just great! I hope you enjoy many rewards when you harvest. Thank you for your comment.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on November 06, 2016:
Nadine May: Thank you! I'm so sorry I didn't see your comment before. Yes, it is similar, so I hope it grows well for you.
MarleneB: I'm glad it was helpful. I wish you lots of success, sweet potatoes are so nice to eat, and also healthy at the same time. They were so productive, I was delighted with the venture.
Marlene Bertrand from USA on November 05, 2016:
This is very informative. Your sweet potatoes look so vibrant and healthy. I never knew the skin and foliage were edible. I really like sweet potatoes, and now that I see how to grow sweet potatoes, I will try it.
BlossomSB on October 13, 2016:
Nadine May: I'm so glad you enjoyed reading it. Yes, our climates are similar. I'd love to know how you go if you do try to grow them.
Nadine May on October 10, 2016:
Great post. Our climate in Cape Town is similar than yours so I will try that.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on August 20, 2016:
Lucygirl11: That's great that yours are doing so well. It's winter here now, and all the leaves have fallen off. I had no idea that they were deciduous, as I'd only seen them growing in the tropics before. No, mine did not produce flowers. I wonder if the ones with white flowers have white sweet potatoes and the purple produce purple ones? Interesting. There's always so much to learn with a garden, isn't there?
teaches12345: Well, it didn't seem so difficult and if we grow them ourselves we know they are truly organic, apart from the fun it is to be able to grow some of our own produce, even in a small garden, especially when it is something that is healthy and tastes good.
teaches12345 on August 17, 2016:
You make it look so easy! I do love sweet potatoes and growing them would certainly be a benefit to our bodies.
Lucygirl11 on August 14, 2016:
Mine are in containers about a foot deep and a foot across. Never grew them this is my first year. Bought the plants from local farm store. Planted in mid May. They are growing great, up out of the pots and running on the ground three to four feet already. No one has mentioned the beautiful purple and white flowers blooming from the vines. Does anyone else get them?
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on August 10, 2016:
pstraubie48: How did I miss this lovely comment! Thank you for the angels, some to you, too. I wonder if you have begun to try it out yet. Mine are dormant at the moment as it's winter here. I had no idea that they would lose their leaves in winter, so I'm still learning!
norlawrence: Thank you. I hope you do and that they're a great success.
norlawrence on August 03, 2016:
Loved your article. Going to try to grow sweet potatoes in a container. Thanks
pstraubie48 on July 05, 2016:
Hi Blossom I will have to try this. I love the way the vines look as they trail this way and that. I have not grown them in a container so will have to do so very soon.
Angels are on the way to you this afternoon. ps
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on June 23, 2016:
Peggy W:Thank you! It's so good being able to grow useful plants like this in a small garden.
koffeelatchgals: I hope you do try, it's such fun and rewarding as well.
RTalloni: They do grow quickly, so we don't need to wait long for results - and the leaves can be eaten as well. Definitely worth a try and I'm so glad that I did!
RTalloni on June 16, 2016:
Thanks for this look at container grown sweet potatoes. I love sweet potato vines because they are pretty and grow quickly, but are an invasive summer vine. To have potatoes in the end is just icing on the cake!
koffeeklatchgals on June 15, 2016:
I haven't tried growing sweet potatoes before. The vines are pretty, they would add a decorative provide a food that I love to eat.touch to my fence and
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 15, 2016:
I would never have thought to grow them in a container with the foliage growing upright as you have shown here in this hub. What a great idea! Sharing this hub of yours! :)
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on May 30, 2016:
Patkay: Yes, it's not difficult and good fun as well. Do try - I wish you every success.
Patrick Kamau from Nairobi, Kenya on May 29, 2016:
This is lovely, and easy to accomplish. I think I will have to try this.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on May 29, 2016:
Larry Rankin: Thank you! Delighted with the results.
Larry Rankin on May 28, 2016:
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on May 21, 2016:
Deb Hirt: That sounds great! I hope you have lots of success with growing them - and a very rewarding harvest, too. Thank you for your comment.
Deb Hirt on May 21, 2016:
I eat a lot of sweet potatoes and am so pleased that you found the seeds and had such good luck with yours. I have been preparing my soil in the back yard with an assortment of compost for about three years now, and I think the soil is about ready to use. Oklahoma soil is generally quite red and clay-like.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on April 27, 2016:
FlourishAnyway: I'd never even dreamed it was possible before, so it was such fun to find that they actually produced.
btrbell: I'm really surprised that they grow in this climate, so it's certainly worth a try.
MsDora: And as we grow them ourselves we can be sure that they're grown organically, too.
Always exploring: I'd seen them growing in the tropics and they just spread all over the ground, but growing upward as a vine is ideal in my tiny garden. Do try to grow them, I'd love to know how you go.
AliciaC: These ones are the orange fleshed and they're so sweet. Maybe I should try and get some purple ones and try them, too. Do yield to that temptation - and I hope that it will be very successful.
lrdl3535: Thank you for your comment. That's great that you've had success growing them this way, too.
Mel Carriere: It really is fun, especially when I had such surprising results in this climate. Sorry you don't like them, they're really lots more nutritious than regular potatoes and taste really good if sliced and fried as well as cooked in other ways.
Frank Atanacio: Well, some were a good size and I have a suspicion that if I'd waited longer they would have been bigger, but the bigger ones were more than ample for one person. What's more, I burrowed underneath when I harvested them and left the vine. It wilted for a day, but is now looking quite happy again, so perhaps it will produce even more!
Frank Atanacio from Shelton on April 27, 2016:
very interesting.. do they still come out normal size or are they smaller.. I know dumb question, but I am curious
Mel Carriere from San Diego California on April 25, 2016:
I really wish I liked sweet potatoes, because this looks like fun. I'm more of a regular potatoes kind of guy, for better or worse. Great growing tips nonetheless.
Richard Lindsay from California on April 25, 2016:
Great post, I have grown these myself from cuttings. They are really easy to grow and do work very well in containers.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 24, 2016:
I love sweet potatoes, especially the ones with orange flesh. Thanks for sharing the tips. Like others have said, I'm very tempted to try growing the plants by following your instructions!
Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on April 24, 2016:
I have never grown sweet potatoes, and I didn't know they vined like that. I love sweet potatoes. I can remember my mother cooking them and they were delicious. Thanks for your instruction's. I might try growing them..
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 24, 2016:
This is good news and also surprising. Yes, I am tempted to try it. Thanks for sharing your experience and all the information on planting, growing and storing. The gluten-free me won't have them long enough to store either.
Randi Benlulu from Mesa, AZ on April 24, 2016:
Thank you! You have definitely inspired me to try this. Not sure where in thisthis clumate but we're working on that! Great informative hub!
FlourishAnyway from USA on April 24, 2016:
Sweet potatoes are one thing I have never considered growing, especially in a container garden so thanks for the tips. Like that you tried something new in your garden.