If you’re looking for a unique gardening project look no further than sweet potatoes. These veggies are a joy to grow, and do quite well indoors and in containers. In this article we’ll break down everything you need to know to start growing sweet potatoes indoors.
What is a Tuber?
Before we jump into planting, when working with potatoes you’ll probably see the term tuber used a lot. Simply put, the tuber is the large part of the plant that is used to store nutrients. For a sweet potato, it’s the part that is edible and what you’d typically buy at the store. When you see the term tuber, remember that it’s just the part of the plant minus and sprouts or leaves.
Soil and Planting
Unlike traditional plants, sweet potatoes are not grown from seeds but instead from “slips” which are vine-like growths that come out of the tuber. This acts as a seedling, and eventually you’ll plant this into a container, but the start is a bit different.
First, you’ll need to acquire an appropriate tuber to grow from. These can be store bought, but make sure you go with an organic one that hasn’t been treated. Many sweet potatoes are treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting.
You’ll start by having the tuber rest in a jar of water. Take the tuber, and insert several toothpicks into it so that they can rest on the edge of your chosen jar. Then, fill the jar so that roughly half of the tuber is submerged in water.
Place the jar in a location that gets lots of sun and make sure to switch out the water every few days. It can take upwards of a month, but eventually you’ll see little green sprouts begin to form. These are the slips mentioned above, and what you’ll use to grow new potatoes from.
Once your stems reach 2-3” in length carefully remove them from the tuber and place the bottom half of them in a small dish of water. After a few days you should start to see roots form at the bottom of the stems.
At this point you can plant them into their home container. Look for a larger container, at least 12” in diameter, and plant a few slips per container to increase the chances of survival. You can always cut them back later if it feels a bit crowded. Use a high quality potting soil, and make sure both the container and soil are well draining.
You’ll want to place your newly planted seedlings in a spot that is warm and gets a lot of bright light. Aim for 8+ hours of light per day, but try not to give your plants too intense of light right from the start. The seedlings are fragile, so look for in-direct light, at least until they mature for a few weeks.
Sweet potatoes are also warm loving plants, so make sure they are in an area that stays warm year round. Keep them away from any drafty windows, or areas that experience significant cool downs. If you’re growing outdoors you should always avoid any frost as this will quickly kill the plant.
Sweet potatoes enjoy moist but not overly wet soil. They are susceptible to root rot, so avoid overwatering them. Check the top inch of soil before watering, and only do so if it’s dry. This will prevent overwatering, while still keeping the soil slightly moist.
Sweet potatoes are not heavy feeders, and therefore don’t need to be regularly fertilized. In fact, fertilizing will often lead to small tubers with lots of leaf growth. This is the opposite most people want when growing sweet potatoes. If you use fresh soil when planting, the nutrients in the soil should be enough to last until harvest.
While you can harvest anytime, the optimal time is roughly 90-120 days after planting. Be on the lookout for the ends of the stems to start turning yellow as this is a sign that they are ready to harvest. If you planted at the traditional time of early spring, then this will usually be a few weeks before the first frost of the season.
Carefully dig a small hole around the stem and gently loosen the tuber from the soil. Work slowly and dislodge the soil as you go to avoid harming the tuber. Unlike other potatoes, every part of the sweet potato is edible. Save one of the tubers to begin regrowing anew.
Growing Sweet Potatoes Indoors
Sweet potatoes are an excellent indoor plant to grow, and their unique growing style makes them a lot of fun. While they do take quite a while to mature, the amount of effort needed is minimal and well worth it. Have you grown sweet potatoes or any other type of potatoes indoors? Let us know, we’d love to hear how it went.
Growing Sweet Potatoes Indoors FAQ
Can You Grow Sweet Potatoes In Containers?
Yes! Just make sure that the container is large enough to hold the mature vegetable. You can use a smaller container to just grow the vines which look great on their own.
How Long Do Sweet Potatoes Take To Grow?
They take roughly 90-120 days to fully mature and be ready to harvest, but you can always harvest the immature vegetable sooner.
Do You Grow Sweet Potatoes From Seeds?
While you can grow sweet potatoes from seeds, the usual way is to use an untreated tuber and start from there.