How to Grow Sweet Potatoes in Containers
Short on garden space? You'll be happy to know sweet potatoes can be grown in flower pots.
You may think that growing sweet potatoes requires a lot of space, but think again. With the use of containers and compact varieties, any gardener is able to grow sweet potatoes on their patio or balcony.
Here are the necessary steps to grow sweet potatoes (Botanical Name: Ipomoea batatas) in containers:
1. Select the Right Variety
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 another variety known for its bush habit and reined-in vines.
Sweet potato slips can be purchased from online garden sources, garden centers or hardware stores. Purchasing sweet potatoes from the grocery store and sprouting them may not work because they are often 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 supermarket sweet potatoes.
There are hundreds of varieties of sweet potatoes grown around the world; we've narrowed the list down to the top performers for your backyard.
2. Select the Right Container
It is important to select the right container. Containers created specifically for potatoes work wonderfully and are quite inexpensive compared to plastic or ceramic pots. Many online garden sources and garden centers sell Potato Grow Bags that come in a range of colors. 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, simply lift the bag and pour the contents into a wheelbarrow making the harvest extremely easy. The Grow Bags are easy to store in the winter because they are collapsible. Many gardeners have also had great success when using whiskey barrels, clay containers even black plastic garbage bags.
3. Pick the Right Location
Sweet potatoes are very picky about where you set them. They want to be warm at all times of the day and night, they prefer temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. 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.
4. Use the Right Soil
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 the 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 it is dry. Since the bag is porous, it causes the soil mix to dry out quicker than a clay or wooden container. If fertilizer was not included in your original mixture, two weeks after planting, add fertilizer. As the stems grow upward, continue to add more soil mix until the level reaches the top of the container. Sweet potatoes are ready to harvest typically four to five months after planting.
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