Although sweet potatoes can make a crop in relatively poor soil, you’ll get more and bigger tubers by meeting their basic needs. These tropical perennial vines need a long growing season (USDA Zones 8 though 11 are just right) and are sensitive to frost. The soil should be at least moderately fertile, loose and friable, with good drainage. Grow them in full sun and water well about once a week.
You have plenty of choices. Tubers can be red, orange, white or purple and range in size from six inches to 18 inches. These are readily available:
- Acadian – semi-bush
- Allgold – standard size vine
- Centennial – semi-bush
- Jewel – standard size vine
- Korean Purple – standard size vine
- Porto Rico – true bush.
Container Sweet Potatoes
If you grow sweet potatoes in containers, spacing isn’t really an issue – it’s generally one plant per container. Bush and semi-bush varieties are the best choice for container growing unless you just want something ornamental. Your container should be about three feet square and the same deep to provide adequate room for roots and tubers, and it should drain well. Tip it over to harvest.
Regular Sweet Potato Spacing
Vining sweet potatoes take up a lot of room. However, most of the growth is in the vines themselves. Commercial growers typically space the plants about 18 inches apart and grow them in rows three feet apart. Consider planting another quick-growing crop in the area where the vines will eventually spread to give you maximum production from your garden. Bush beans would be a good choice.
In commercial plantings, growers use the same spacing for both vining and semi-bush sweet potatoes. You can do the same, as the roots will take up about the same amount of space in both cases. You might want to give them a little more room if you have it to ensure they won’t be competing for water and nutrients.
Although sweet potatoes are vines, they don’t climb as readily as something like a pole bean. You can guide them onto a chain link fence or trellis by weaving the tips through the support. You may also want to tie them at strategic spots. If space is really at a premium, grow the true bush varieties. They’ll still give you a reasonable crop.