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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.


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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:


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.

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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 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’. 

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 is lacking in phosphorus) to ensure the plants root well.


4. Allow vines to grow for larger sweet potatoes

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. 

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 main tubers and instead create many undersized tubers.


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.

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6. Harvest sweet potatoes at the right time

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

  • 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.
  • Sweet potatoes are usually ready to harvest when the leaves and vines begin turning yellow.

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 sweet potatoes before storing

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 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.


If you enjoyed this post about how to grow sweet potatoes, please share it:


Hannah

Wednesday 3rd of August 2022

I'm in mesa, New to gardening, and I just want to say your blog will help me so much. I feel like you just saves me 5 years of trial and error. Thanks so so so much

Angela Judd

Wednesday 3rd of August 2022

You're so welcome! Best of luck to you.

Shawna

Wednesday 22nd of June 2022

Good morning, I planted my slips in April, and this morning I found two big potatoes pushing up out of the ground. I wasn't expecting to harvest until the fall. This is my first time growing sweet potatoes. Should I cover the potatoes with dirt? Leave them alone? Seems to soon to harvest. I wonder if I planted the slips too shallow. Thanks!

Angela Judd

Wednesday 29th of June 2022

I'd cover them up if you don't want to harvest right now.

Cyndi

Sunday 5th of June 2022

do you need, or should you use a trellis for sweet potatoe vines?

Angela Judd

Tuesday 7th of June 2022

I usually let mine tumble on the ground. I have seen people use a trellis for them with success.

Jennifer

Monday 14th of March 2022

Hi there, I'm in Gilbert, AZ! I do not have anysweet potato slips. Is there any where I can buy slips or speed up the process of making them so I can get something in th ground?

Christin Hegreness

Monday 21st of March 2022

@Angela Judd,

Angela Judd

Tuesday 15th of March 2022

I haven't seen any for sale. I would try using the soil method of starting slips and look for sweet potatoes at the store that are beginning to sprout - that would speed it up a bit for you.

Margaret Vermeulen

Tuesday 1st of March 2022

Hi. I have been loving your videos and information you have presented. I’ve successfully grown sweet potatoes but I’m stumped as to how to store them at 55 to 60° in Arizona. The fridge is too cold, the garage varies in temperature too much and my house is at 70°. Where do you store yours? What options do I have for storing at the required temperature for long term? I also want to grow potatoes and some more squash this year which will also need to be stored. Thank you for any help you may offer.

Angela Judd

Sunday 13th of March 2022

Hi Margaret. It's true - it can be tough. I added some storage tips to the article. We usually store ours in the garage and use them up before temperatures warm up in the spring. Storage is definitely tricky here in the low desert.