All About Growing Sweet Potatoes

Learn how to grow, harvest, cook, and store the sweet potato variety of your choice using this brilliant guide.

  • Three different varieties of sweet potatoes
    Sweet potatoes belong in the "Convolvulaceae," or morning glory family, as is evident by their morning glory-type blossoms.
    Illustration By Keith Ward
  • Sweet potato being cooked in foil
    Baked sweet potatoes slathered with butter and brown sugar are so sweetly warming that many people would consider them a dessert rather than a side dish.
    Illustration By Keith Ward

  • Three different varieties of sweet potatoes
  • Sweet potato being cooked in foil

(For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page.)

Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are productive, delicious and super-nutritious. Few staple crops keep as well as these flavorful tubers, which can be stored for months in a cool, dry place. This crop is a staple in climates with hot, muggy summers, but growing sweet potatoes is also possible in cooler climates if you adjust to meet the plants’ requirement for warm temperatures.

Types of Sweet Potatoes to Try

Sweet potato varieties differ in skin and flesh color and texture, as well as in leaf shape and vine length. The flavor and nutritional qualities of sweet potatoes vary with flesh color: Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are rich sources of fiber and vitamins A and C. White-fleshed varieties contain less vitamin A, but are a good source of minerals and B vitamins. Purple sweet potatoes contain a little vitamin A, but are loaded with antioxidants.

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are the most popular. Tried-and-true ‘Beauregard’ is productive and disease-resistant. Some short-vined varieties, such as ‘Georgia Jet,’ make good crops in areas where summers are brief. In warmer areas, grow slower-maturing heirlooms famous for flavor, such as ‘Nancy Hall.’

White-fleshed sweet potatoes are easier to grow and store in warm climates compared with regular “Irish” potatoes. Fun to use in the kitchen, white sweet potatoes are distinctly creamy, making them a favorite for soups and baby food. Varieties of this type also make excellent potato salad.

Purple-fleshed sweet potatoes need a long, warm season to produce a good crop, but the starchy, deep-purple roots of varieties such as ‘Violetta’ and ‘All Purple’ are worth the wait. The dry flesh of purple sweet potatoes makes them perfect for roasting and frying. The anthocyanin pigments that give purple sweet potatoes their color also enhance their nutritional value.

7/11/2015 4:54:35 PM

I found a sprouted,orange, sweet potato in the garage and decided to plant it. I cut off about an inch of the sweet potato with the sprouts on it and planted it in a 5 gal bucket, so I could bring it inside when the weather gets colder. I didn't fill the bucket all the way up with soil, so I could add straw or more soil when the plant emerged. The plant is up about 4 inches now and I thought that I would cover it up like hilling a regular potato, but decided to check the web for some instruction. The plant that has emerged is reddish purple, is that the color it's supposed to be? I put a little organic chicken manure fertilizer (4-3-2) in the potting soil before planting the potato. I have no idea what variety it is, but know it will take over a 100 days of heat which we don't have here in North Idaho. Do you have any ideas, think this will work, MAYBE? Thanks for your help, Violet

4/22/2014 3:20:27 PM

We want to try and grow sweet potato's in the mid west of Ireland. Is this possible?

2/2/2014 6:51:50 PM

I started my sweet potato slips today! Last year I began too late and bought my slips. I am starting the beaureguards and japanese white.

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