sweet potatoes in containers

June 12, 2005

Hello , I ordered sweet potatoe plants the first of the year,and forgot about it. A few days ago they arrived. I have no garden space for them. I would like to plant them in a container. Please can anyone give me pointers on container,soil, etc.

Comments (29)

  • Ina Plassa_travis

    regular old potting soil... they're about the least picky plant out there, really... fairly drought tolerant, and boy, do they grow! I've had mine cascade 10 feet.

    I like them in urns, hanging baskets, or window boxes, where they can cascade- actually, if you set one plant in the middle of a window box, it will put out several vines, which you can then 'staple' (use wire bent into a U) or weight the vine down with rocks along the length of the box- they will root, and send out side shoots which will then cascade over the box, and down the wall.

    I like using larger containers- at least 2 gallon, when I can. it means I don't have to water three times a day in the summer heat :)

  • skippy05

    I love them!
    Mine are in these big old cement urns that my mom has out back. They do fine!

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  • socks

    Can sweet potatoes be grown from the actual tuber, or whatever it is? I always start one in the classroom in water, and it makes a really pretty vine.

  • bonniepunch

    If you want to grow an edible sweet potato, as opposed to the ornamental verities, go for it. I've done it several times. I have no idea if it's too late, too early, or a good time for you to start them where you are. You can start the potato in water if you like, or you can bury it in a small pot. Once it starts to sprout, you can cut the vines off when they are three to four inches long, and place them in a small pot of seed starting mix (peat/vermiculite/perlite). There's no point in rooting the cuttings in water - that just wastes time, since water roots and soil roots aren't really the same. Even if it grows roots in water, it'll still have to grow new roots for the soil. Once it has warmed up enough outside (50F at night, 60F during the day), the rooted cuttings can be planted out. You can plant four or five to a five gallon pot, and fertilize with a phosphorus rich fertilizer.

    I plant my tuber in early March, see shoots some six to eight weeks later, and take cuttings a week or so after that. I cut the vines and dig up the (hopefully) tons of sweet potatoes the day before the first frost sometime in October (varies quite a bit from year to year).

    A couple of things to note - do *not* cut up the tuber like you would a regular potato. There is only one growing point on a sweet potato tuber, and if you cut it, all pieces but the one with the growing point will rot, and that one piece might rot too. Also, you can't let the vine freeze. The potatoes must be harvested before a frost or else the taste will be affected.

    If you're just growing the ornamental varity, you can harvest the tubers and keep them for next year - start them the same way as the edible varity :-)


  • socks

    Thanks, Bonnie! That's a wonderful explanation.


  • eldo1960

    The only suggestion I can add is that if the container is high, or in a hanging basket, the plant can cascade and hang down and be very pretty. If it's low on the ground, and the long runners touch the ground, you'll get caterpillars and things that will chew on the leaves and you'll be disappointed.

  • containergirl

    I love the idea of sweet potato vines, but mine seem to bunch rather than cascade. I really wanted a cascade several feet long, but it is taking far longer than I thought given these things are supposed to grow like weeds. What's up with that?

  • jenny_in_se_pa

    containergirl - give them time. Eventually they will start elongating and heading downward over the side. I noticed they will try to grow towards the light so possibly putting them in a part-sun position (perhaps against the back wall of one of your balconies) might encourage them to move out over the side and down.

  • lindaseabury

    This is my first time planting anything, I purchased sweet potato plants from "Lowe's" last week and placed them in a 2 gallon container, it was about eight of them. Can anyone tell me what size pot do I really need and how many to a container should there be. Also, when would I know they are ready to harvest? What is a tuber, is that the potato itself?
    Thanks Linda

  • jenny_in_se_pa

    Hi Linda! Do your "sweet potato plants" have colorful foliage (like lime green or dark wine or tricolor)? If they do, they aren't really the edible varieties. I ask because I have more often seen the edibles sold as "slips" (slices with sprouted eye buds) if one wanted to grow them for harvest and places like Lowes tend to sell the ornamental ones used in windowboxes or urns, etc.

    The ornamental types do come from the edible species and they will form tubers (which is the potato) by the end of the season, but I understand the taste leaves alot ot be desired. The edibles usually need a good size container and if you do have the regular edible type, I would probably stick a couple in the Rubbermaid totes (14 or 18 gallon or higher size) to get a good amount at harvest. The prevailing planting suggestion would be to put some thin layer of growing media at the bottom (make sure there are plenty of drainage holes at the bottom and along the sides), and then as the vine grows, continue to add more and more container mix or other growing media to keep just a small part of the vine exposed at the top. The plant will root along its buried stems and will eventually produce a network of tubers.

    I've been threatening to grow some edible sweet potatoes one of these days but haven't gotten around to it! LOL

  • lindaseabury

    Hi Jenny-in-se-pa
    you mean all I have are decorations! The leaves are not lime green may be a little darker. How do you know if they are the eatable kind? So these will not give any tubers? What a bummer. I have not seen any sweet potato seeds at the stores here in Georgia. Wow! I was really excited to grow sweet potato's, oh well, I will try to find some next season. Oh, Yeah, I saw your web page, at least I think it was yours, I clicked on your name and it brought up these beautiful pages of flowers, and blue berries. Wow! you are really good at gardening.
    Thank for the info.

  • citrusnut


    Go to your grocery store, buy a sweet potato, and follow
    Bonniepunch's great instructions and you will be feasting on sweet potatoes this fall.

  • lindaseabury

    Hi citrus nut,
    That's it? That's all I need to do? I have some store bought potato I will follow Bonnie's instructions, but, I do not understand what she means whe she says (quote)"A couple of things to note - do *not* cut up the tuber like you would a regular potato. There is only one growing point on a sweet potato tuber, and if you cut it, all pieces but the one with the growing point will rot, and that one piece might rot too. Also, you can't let the vine freeze. The potatoes must be harvested before a frost or else the taste will be affected."

    What does she mean when she says do not cut it like a regular potato? I do not know what they look like onces it is time to harvest. I assume that they would be attached to a vine and I would just break or pull one potato at a time off. Is that the right way?

  • lindaseabury

    Hi Jennie,
    Thank you for letting me know what I really had growing in my garden. You were a big help.
    Thanks Linda.

  • lindaseabury

    Hello everyone,
    I have another question, I also purchased some better boy, and Heirloom tomato's. The Heirloom I started from seeds, the better boy I purchased from "Ace Hardware". They are both doing find I think. The Heirloom has not put fourth tomato's yet, I have lots of little yellow flowers blooming. The Better Boy has put fourth 11 little tomatos about the size of a silver dollar.
    I've notice that a few have turned black on the bottoms, what does that mean? The leaves on both plants are big, healthy green leaves, I keep them watered, there are no bugs that I can see. am I doing something wrong or are they Diseased?

  • 1fullhouse

    I've been reading through the post here, because now is the time to plant sweet potatoes for my area. I just wanted to clarify something if someone could help?

    I want to grow the edible variety. Will a 2 gal container be big enough for a suitable harvest? Or do I really need bigger? I'm not sure how I feel about using a rubbermaid for asthetics. I'll be placing the container near a wall, with a trellice for the vines. (I want the look of the vines, along with the harvest)

    I already have my potatos in water, waiting for them to sprout a bit more before I plant them.


  • jenny_in_se_pa

    Linda - sorry I didn't get back to this thread! Got tied up with work and other things. The black on the bottom of the tomatoes is usually associated with "Blossom End Rot" ("BER") which is caused by the young plant being unable to move calcium to the actual tomatoes and that is often due to uneven or inconsistent watering when the plant is young (ie., the soil goes too dry and then is drenched, etc). The plants usually grow out of it later in the season, although there are certain varieties like the paste tomatoes that are more susceptible. Wish you luck with your plants!

    seraki - if you look at the size of what you might want to eat for a harvest, consider that you might get a couple in a 2 gallon pot. The vines can get pretty huge and the more "root system" you can provide for the vine (i.e., by burying it as it grows), the more tubers (the sweet potatoes) you can get. If you don't want to use a Rubbermaid tote or equivalent, you might try a large trough container (running the vine along the length and burying portions) or perhaps a half-barrel. You want to get as many roots as you can unless you just want to grow it for the vines and in that case, you will need to attach them to the trellis as they have no way to attach on their own (they run along the ground normally).

  • 1fullhouse

    I like the idea of a half-barrel. I can get those pretty cheap too. And thanks for the info Jenny! :-)

    So basically just bury the new vines as they appear to create more root systems.

    One more question if I may? All three varieties I have are in water, and have little 'rootlets' at the bottom. Can I just plant them like that, or do I have to wait to put them in the soil until the vines appear?

    Also, one of them has a TON of roots at the bottom, but looks as though it may be rotting on top. It is very soft and mushy above the water line. Should I toss that one, or is it still OK to plant?


  • caffenol

    My slips are now about ten to 11 inches tall and I still have not finished completely with the bed for them. Can I plant the whole potato as it is with the slips on them as there are zillions of roots on the potato. Will it produce tubers for me this way or must I remove the slips? I really owuld like to plant it just like it is but not sure if this method will produce new tubers.

  • patweston

    The leaves of the sweet potato plant are edible as well as the root, in or out of containers. During the time the Japanese were interred, they lived off of the roots for a vegetable.

    Just stir fry or steam like spinach. Tastes a lot like spinach.


  • honeybunchy

    the leaves are tastier than spinach ! eat the vine tips too, plus pinching them back helps grow side shoots. that's nice if you don't have room for sprawling vines.

  • weetoots

    So let me get this right. I can buy an edible SP, at the store, bring it home and stick it in a bucket of potting mix. Water and pretty soon little "slips" come out of the sweet potato. I wait until those "slips" are 3-5", cut they off and place them into potting mix, I would imagine cut end down. When those slips have rooted, I take them to the garden and plant them a foot apart and watch them grow. Now they get big, send out vines and I cover a section of vine to make it grow a new sweet potato. How often do I do that?

    Please correct me if I am wrong. Can't wait to get started, frost?? what is that?


  • sldeal

    I just planted white potatoes in a trash bag and I'm told as the foliage grows I'm to cover or mount soil around it because that's how the potatoes grow.

    Now with sweet potatoes it's just the opposite. If I'm using a container add enough soil at least 15" high container. As the vine grows I don't have to worry about mounting soil around the vine because the sweet potatoes are growing below. I can just let the vine hang over the container.

    Is this right or am I confused?

  • sb158

    Yes, you are right. Sweet potatoes grow very differently than so regular potatoes.

  • cuddliewitch

    i purchased some sweet potatoe plant from a garden centre and after rading up about them, i think it is to late to plant them now as the summer season is over can anyone tell me how to keep them until i can plant them out in the new year or will they be ok to plant and leave through the winter, i have never grown them before.
    thanks sheila

  • lumarose_yahoo_com

    any one heard of growing sweet potatoes in 55 gallon drums?

  • bmalikalu_hotmail_com

    I rooted an organic sweet potato I'd purchased from Whole Food here in Raleigh and I'm noticing several leaves turning different colors. Does that mean I won't get edible product from these plants?

  • edweather USDA 9a, HZ 9, Sunset 28

    Sweet potatoes grow from slips. If you rooted a sweet potato, I'm assuming that it's starting to grow shoots (slips) off of it. Don't worry about leaf color yet. Just wait until the slips get about 8" long, then snip them off and plant them. Just stick the end you snipped off into the ground a few inches, and it will grow. I grew sweet potatoes 2 years ago. I was excited when I read about growing them and it said that they like poor soil. I had plenty of that! From about 10 slips, we got more potatoes than we could handle.

  • grandmato2

    I planted a sweet potato in a container that had started to grow. It now has leaves growing. Will I get sweet potatoes from this or do I need to do something more?

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