Botanical Names: Ipomoea batatas
Growing sweet potatoes can require a lot of space however, with the use of containers and compact varieties any gardener is able to grow their own. Here are the necessary steps to grow sweet potatoes in containers:
Step One: Select a variety of sweet potato that is ideal for growing in containers. Many gardeners reference ‘Portio Rico’ (also referred to as ‘Bush’ or ‘Vineless’) as an ideal variety for smaller gardens or containers. Sweet potatoes are known for their sprawling habit, but this cultivar has short and compact vines.
‘Vardaman’ named after a famous sweet potato town in Mississippi is also ideal for its bush habit and reined in vines.
Sweet potato slips can be purchased from online garden sources, local garden centers or hardware stores. Purchasing sweet potatoes from the grocery store and sprouting can be unsuccessful as many are treated to reduce sprouts. Also it is important to have a specific variety for this type of project and that isn’t always known with those purchased from the grocery.
Step Two: It is important to select the right container as all are not created equal. For growing potatoes, containers created specifically for potatoes work wonderfully and are quite inexpensive compared to plastic or ceramic. Many online garden sources and garden centers sell Potato Grow Bags that come in a range of colors to select from. These bags are designed specifically to provide aeration to the roots, adequate drainage and even side pockets to sneak a small spud here and there. When your sweet potatoes are ready to harvest, you simply lift the bag and dump the contents into a wheelbarrow making the harvest extremely easy. The Grow Bags are easy to store in the winter because of their collapsible nature. Many gardeners have also had great success when using whiskey barrels as well as clay containers.
Step Three: Location, Location, Location. Sweet potatoes are very picky on their location. They want to be warm at all times; during the day and night (above 60 degrees F). Picking a location that has full sun throughout the day is ideal after all threat of frost is gone. Thankfully in a container you are able to control the water and drainage as sweet potatoes want to remain moist, but with good draining soil so that rot does not occur.
Step Four: Sweet potatoes love to remain moist, but not to sit in water. It is important to have a good soil mix when planting in your containers. Using a container mix amended with compost, sand and a fertilizer high in potash is ideal. Place about four inches of soil in your container, then place your sweet potato slips on top and then add about three more inches of soil to secure them.
Once planted, make sure to water. Water frequency depends upon the type of container selected. If using a Grow Bag, it is necessary to check the soil daily and water if dry. Since the bag is porous, it causes the soil mix to dry out quicker than a clay or wooden container would. If fertilizer was not included in your original mixture, two weeks after planting fertilize following the instructions onthe package. As the stems grow upward, continue to add more of your soil mix until the level reaches the top of the container. Sweet potatoes are ready to harvest typically four to five months after planting.