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How to Grow Sweet Potatoes

Learning how to grow sweet potatoes is surprisingly easy – just a few plants provide a plentiful harvest. Sweet potatoes need a long warm growing season, are heat-tolerant and drought-resistant, and have very few pests or diseases. All of this makes them perfect for growing in the low desert of Arizona (yay!) Here are eight tips for how to plant, grow, and harvest sweet potatoes.

Learning how to grow sweet potatoes is surprisingly easy - just a few plants provide a plentiful harvest.

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8 Tips for Growing Sweet Potatoes


1. Plant sweet potatoes at the correct time

Plant sweet potatoes 2-3 weeks after the last spring frost, when the soil temperature is at least 65℉.

In the low desert of Arizona:

Sweet potatoes need well-draining slightly-acidic soil. Amend clay soils heavily with compost. Soil should be worked to a depth of at least 8-10 inches. Sweet potatoes can also be grown in raised beds or large containers. Plant in an area with full sun and/or afternoon shade in the low desert.

2. Prepare soil correctly before planting sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes need well-draining slightly-acidic soil. Amend clay soils heavily with compost. Soil should be worked to a depth of at least 8-10 inches. Sweet potatoes can also be grown in raised beds or large containers. Plant in an area with full sun and/or afternoon shade in the low desert.


3. Plant sweet potato slips

Sweet potatoes aren’t grown from seed like many other vegetables. Rather, they are started from slips – rooted sweet potato shoots grown from a mature sweet potato. Grow your slips from sweet potatoes or purchase slips. 

Sweet potatoes aren’t grown from seed like many other vegetables. Rather, they are started from slips - rooted sweet potato shoots grown from a mature sweet potato. Grow your own slips from sweet potatoes or purchase slips. 


Looking for more information about how to grow sweet potato slips? This article about how to grow sweet potato slips will help.  

Most varieties of sweet potatoes do well in the long growing season of the low desert. In higher elevations or places with shorter growing seasons, choose from quickly-maturing varieties such as ‘Beauregard’ and ‘O’Henry’. 

Most varieties of sweet potatoes do well in the long growing season of the low desert. In higher elevations or places with shorter growing seasons, choose from quickly-maturing varieties such as ‘Beauregard’ and ‘O’Henry’. 

Plant rooted slips deeply, burying slips up to top leaves. Space sweet potato plants 12-18 inches apart. Water well and feed with a starter solution high in phosphorus (if your soil lacks phosphorus) to ensure the plants root well.

Deep watering is crucial for sweet potatoes during hot dry periods. However, it is important to let soil dry out somewhat between waterings. Sweet potatoes tolerate dry conditions better than soggy ones.


4. Allow vines to grow for larger sweet potatoes

Deep watering is crucial for sweet potatoes during hot dry periods. However, it is important to let soil dry out somewhat between waterings. Sweet potatoes tolerate dry conditions better than soggy ones.

Occasional small harvests of greens to eat is fine, but do not prune back vigorous vines for the best-sized harvests. The size of the sweet potatoes is determined by the amount of sunlight the leaves receive. More sunlight and leaf surface area that receives sun means larger sweet potatoes. 

Deep watering is crucial for sweet potatoes during hot dry periods. However, it is important to let soil dry out somewhat between waterings. Sweet potatoes tolerate dry conditions better than soggy ones.

If space is an issue, consider growing vines vertically up a trellis to allow sunlight to reach the leaves and produce larger sweet potatoes. 

Check longer vines occasionally and lift them up to keep them from rooting in the soil along the vines. Additional rooting will take energy away from the main tubers and instead create many undersized tubers.


Plant Heat-Tolerant Cover Crops Instead Take the summer off!

In this article, learn more about using cover crops during summer to improve garden soil.



5. Water deeply, less often

Deep watering is crucial for sweet potatoes during hot dry periods. However, it is important to let soil dry out somewhat between waterings. Sweet potatoes tolerate dry conditions better than soggy ones.

How to Grow Sweet Potatoes #sweetpotatoes #gardening #garden #arizonagarden #gardeninginarizona #desertgarden Deep watering is crucial for sweet potatoes during hot dry periods. However, it is important to let soil dry out somewhat between waterings. Sweet potatoes tolerate dry conditions better than soggy ones.

6. Harvest sweet potatoes at the right time

Here are a few things to look for before harvesting sweet potatoes:

Sweet potatoes may be ready to harvest between 90-120 days after planting.
  • The longer a crop is left in the ground, the higher the yield.
  • Sweet potatoes may be ready to harvest between 90-120 days after planting.
  • Harvest when tubers are at least 3 inches in diameter.
Harvest sweet potatoes before the first fall frost.
  • Harvest sweet potatoes before the first fall frost.
  • When the leaves and vines begin turning yellow, production is slowing down. Leave them in the ground a little longer for the largest tubers.
  • Once the top growth has died down, remove foliage and harvest.
When the leaves and vines begin turning yellow, production is slowing down. Leave them in the ground a little longer for the largest tubers.

7. Harvest sweet potatoes correctly

Once you have decided to harvest the sweet potatoes, cut back vines and loosen soil around the plant with a spade fork. Carefully find the primary crown of each plant, and use your hands to dig up the tubers. Shake off any excess dirt, and handle tubers carefully to prevent bruising. Keep harvested sweet potatoes out of direct sunlight. Do not wash sweet potatoes until ready to use for longest storage life.


8. Cure and store sweet potatoes correctly for the longest storage life

To cure sweet potatoes, set potatoes in a single layer (not touching) in a warm (about 80℉) humid area for 10-14 days. Curing allows cuts and bruises to heal and helps the starches inside the sweet potatoes convert to sugars.

To cure sweet potatoes, set potatoes in a single layer (not touching) in a warm (about 80℉) humid area for 10-14 days. Curing allows cuts and bruises to heal and helps the starches inside the sweet potatoes convert to sugars.
To cure sweet potatoes, set potatoes in a single layer (not touching) in a warm (about 80℉) humid area for 10-14 days. Curing allows cuts and bruises to heal and helps the starches inside the sweet potatoes convert to sugars.

HOT CLIMATE SWEET POTATO CURING TIP:

Put the sweet potatoes in a single layer in a plastic grocery sack (cut a couple of holes in the bag for ventilation) to trap moisture in a warm spot INSIDE your house. Outside temperatures may not be the right temperature for sweet potatoes to cure properly.

The curing process is complete if the skin remains intact when the sweet potatoes are rubbed together. Sprouting will occur if potatoes are cured too long. After curing, throw out or immediately use any bruised potatoes.


Store cured sweet potatoes in a cool (about 55-65℉ if possible) dry area for the longest storage.

Store cured sweet potatoes in a cool (about 55-65℉ if possible) dry area for the longest storage.

HOT CLIMATE SWEET POTATO STORAGE TIP:

If stored above 70°F, the storage life of sweet potatoes is shortened considerably. When outside temperatures are cool, store sweet potatoes in the garage in a box with individual potatoes wrapped in newspaper. Once temperatures heat up, bring the box inside to your coolest room. Check potatoes often and use any right away that show signs of sprouting or rotting.

Store cured sweet potatoes in a cool (about 55-65℉ if possible) dry area for the longest storage.

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Dawn Schroeder

Saturday 20th of January 2024

I’ve been growing sweet potato slips. Some are quite large and are starting to vine while still in the jars of water. Is there anything I can do to slow the growth. Or can they be temporarily put in pots and transplanted outside when it gets warmer. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Dawn Schroeder

Friday 19th of January 2024

Hi I’ve been growing sweet potato slips. They have gotten very large. Some of them have started to vine while still in the jars with water. Is there a way to slow their growth. Or can I temporarily plant them on pots and transplant in February or March. Please help. Thanks so much.

Dawn Schroeder

Thursday 18th of January 2024

Hi. My sweet potato slips are very large and starting to vine while still in the jars? Is there anything I can do to slow the growth or can I plant in temporary pot until I can plant outside in my garden beds. Help please!

Angela Judd

Thursday 18th of January 2024

You can cut them in half and make two slips if you want or just trim. You could also plant in a pot while you wait. Good problem to have :)

Dell

Sunday 16th of July 2023

Hello, I've removed the slips from the sweet potato and have placed them in water to root. If it's warm enough, can I leave the glasses of slips outside? Or is it best to complete the rooting process inside? Thanks so much for your help!

Angela Judd

Monday 17th of July 2023

You can do it outside, I would avoid full sun areas if it's really hot. Keep an eye on the water level, it could dry out more quickly outside.

Bruce Vivers

Sunday 21st of May 2023

First time growing sweet potatoes in the Deer Valley section of North Phoenix. I ordered 10 slips that I expect any day. Does it make sense to successive plant or all at once. If successive planting is the route I go, how do I keep the slips not planted viable. I plan to put one each in 10 gallon potato grow bags.

Angela Judd

Tuesday 23rd of May 2023

They are a long season crop - its best to get them all in the ground right away.