Guide to Growing Sweet Potatoes in a Container

Updated on August 2, 2017
Gina Welds-Hulse profile image

In addition to being a certified herbalist and aromatherapy consultant, Gina finds the unrelenting allure of gardening very strong.

Growing Sweet Potatoes in a Container
Growing Sweet Potatoes in a Container | Source

Sweet Potatoes: A Super food

The sweet potato is often considered a staple food at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and has been referred to as a "super food" due to the large number of vitamins and antioxidants it contains. Packed with both nutrients and a sweet flavor, sweet potatoes are:

  • one of the most versatile and healthful vegetables available,
  • chock-full of disease-preventing, cancer-fighting, and immune-boosting benefits,
  • good sources of the anti-inflammatory nutrients vitamins A and C, making them an excellent food choice for those suffering from arthritis or asthma,
  • great for people with diabetes because it ranks low on the glycemic index and has less of an effect on blood glucose levels.

If you don't have room for a full garden but want to grow sweet potatoes, you might consider container gardening as an option. They grow well in containers, and the container offers additional protection against slugs and other pests that might damage the plants in a standard garden.

What You Will Need

  • Large container. Avoid metal containers. Clay is great and a whiskey barrel makes a fine choice.
  • Potting soil or homemade potting medium
  • 15-30-15 fertilizer (eventually) I also use Moringa liquid fertilizer.
  • Sweet potato slips

Sweet Potato Slips (Cuttings)

Whether grown in the garden or as container grown sweet potatoes, these vegetables:

  • love warm days and nights
  • are planted from slips (cuttings)

These slips may be purchased from the local nursery or ordered online, or you can grow them yourself, like I show you here.

Step 1: Be sure the pot has four or more holes for drainage. I also drilled the sides of the container.

The black helps to retain heat, which sweet potatoes love.
The black helps to retain heat, which sweet potatoes love. | Source

Step 2: Choose a sunny area.

Sweet potatoes are very picky about their location. They want to be warm at all times; during the day and night (above 60 degrees F). Pick a location that has full sun.
Sweet potatoes are very picky about their location. They want to be warm at all times; during the day and night (above 60 degrees F). Pick a location that has full sun. | Source

Plan Ahead

Sweet potatoes are a vine and want to grow horizontally across the ground. If you don't want them growing all over your yard, try to build some sort of trellis for them to grow vertically on. However, they are not natural climbers. They are runners, so you have to train them to climb, but encouraging the runners to go toward the trellis. Don't prune them, or trim the, as they will be feeding the tubers.

Step 3: Fill the pot with soil.

  • Potted sweet potatoes prefer well-draining, sandy soil with added compost.
  • Fill the container and create a raised area on one side of the container with the soil.
  • Lay down the slips across the mound with the roots at the lowest end of the 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.
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.

Step 4: Cover the slips with soil, then water to prevent transplant shock.

Source

One Week Later:

Source

3 Months Later:

I didn't really tie my vines or train them up the trellis, as I found I did not have much of a problem with them running.
I didn't really tie my vines or train them up the trellis, as I found I did not have much of a problem with them running. | Source

4 Months Later:

Keep them watered. Sweet potatoes love the heat. When they start to yellow, you'll know it's almost time to harvest.
Keep them watered. Sweet potatoes love the heat. When they start to yellow, you'll know it's almost time to harvest. | Source

When Do You Harvest Sweet Potatoes?

When to harvest sweet potatoes depends largely on the seasonal growing. In order to grow a good crop, you need:

  • adequate water
  • sunshine (hot weather)
  • to wait 100-150 days after planting, depending on the variety

A good rule of thumb is to watch for the first signs of yellowing leaves. Usually this occurs in late September or early October before the first frost.

Is It Harvest Day Yet?

Once I have determined that they are ready to be harvested, I simply cut away the vines.
Once I have determined that they are ready to be harvested, I simply cut away the vines. | Source
I searched around in the soil for stray sweet potatoes.
I searched around in the soil for stray sweet potatoes. | Source
When I flipped the container over, I could see even more sweet potatoes at the bottom.
When I flipped the container over, I could see even more sweet potatoes at the bottom. | Source
Sifting through all the roots and soil, I discovered even more.
Sifting through all the roots and soil, I discovered even more. | Source

How to Harvest Sweet Potatoes

How to harvest them is every bit as important as when:

  • Sweet potatoes have delicate skin that is easily bruised or broken. Don't toss them around after harvesting.
  • If you are using a garden fork, be sure you sink it far enough out from the plants to avoid hitting and damaging the tender roots.
  • Don’t toss the freed potatoes into your carrying container. Place them carefully.
  • If you do happen to damage any, set those deeply-cut roots aside to be eaten first.
  • Washing the newly dug roots is another common mistake made by many home gardeners. Leave the dirt on during the curing process. Newly dug roots should be handled as little as possible and moisture should never be added.

The Harvest

Now, that's a beauty!
Now, that's a beauty! | Source
Overall, I was quite pleased with the harvest from this container.
Overall, I was quite pleased with the harvest from this container. | Source

Did you know that you can eat the sweet potato leaves?

How to Store and Cure Sweet Potatoes

You can have homegrown tubers for months past the growing season if you know how to store them. Sweet potato storage requires careful curing to prevent mildew and trigger the formation of sugar-producing enzymes.

For curing, you need:

  • about 10 days
  • an area with a temperature of 80-85 F (27-29 C) and with high relative humidity

For storing, you need:

  • a cool, dry place between 55-60 F(13-16 C).

You may also freeze or can, if desired.

Pros and Cons of Container Gardening

Pros:

  • Great for small, limited spaces
  • Good option when in-ground soil is poor quality
  • Can be inexpensive
  • Easy

Cons:

  • Soil can dry out faster, so you may need to water every day
  • Can yield a smaller harvest or smaller potatoes
  • Plants can become root-bound

This is one of my favorite recipes.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Gina Welds Hulse

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Jennifer Cork 

        4 months ago

        Thank you for the information. Can you tell me why metal containers should be avoided? If an old washtub has drainage holes drilled into it, what kinds of problems would the metal create?

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        15 months ago from The Caribbean

        No, I did not know that I can eat the sweet potato leaves. I do know that I like sweet potato pudding. There are several other facts to be gleaned from this article. Thanks also for the clear instructions and pictures.

      • Gina Welds-Hulse profile imageAUTHOR

        Gina Welds Hulse 

        15 months ago from Rockledge, Florida

        Hi BlossomSB. Thank you. I just took a look at your hub. I have saved some pieces of the vine, and they are already rooting. I'm excited to see if they make sweet potatoes as well.

      • BlossomSB profile image

        Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

        15 months ago from Victoria, Australia

        Some really good photos accompanying this article. Have you seen my hub: 'How to grow sweet potatoes in a container', published in April last year?

      • Gina Welds-Hulse profile imageAUTHOR

        Gina Welds Hulse 

        15 months ago from Rockledge, Florida

        Thank you, Martha and Chitrangada Sharan. I am so glad you found the article helpful. It certainly was an exciting journey in growing the sweet potatoes. Thanks for stopping by.

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        15 months ago from New Delhi, India

        Excellent hub about growing sweet potatoes!

        You have explained all that is needed to know to do it yourself and in such a simple way.

        Thanks for sharing the pictures and the precautions one must keep in mind .

      • profile image

        Martha Bienert 

        15 months ago

        This article covers each phase of growing the sweet potatoes and offers great information. It is very helpful. Thank you.

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