Have you ever considered growing sweet potatoes vertically? These ground-covering vines can reach 20 feet (6 m.) in length. For gardeners with limited space, growing sweet potatoes on a trellis may be the only way to include this tasty tuber among their homegrown vegetables.
As an added bonus, these vines make attractive patio plants when planted as a vertical sweet potato garden.
How to Plant a Vertical Sweet Potato Garden
- Purchase or start sweet potato slips. Unlike most garden vegetables, sweet potatoes aren’t grown from seeds, but from seedling plants which have sprouted from the root tuber. You can start your own slips from grocery-store sweet potatoes or purchase specific varieties of sweet potato slips from gardening centers and online catalogs.
- Select a large planter or container. Sweet potato vines aren’t vivacious climbers, preferring instead to crawl along the ground. As they crawl, the vines set down roots along the length of the stem. Where these vines root in the ground, you’ll find sweet potato tubers in the fall. Although you can use any pot or planter, try planting sweet potato slips on the top of a vertical flowerpot container garden. Allow the vines to root in the various levels as they cascade downward.
- Choose the proper soil mixture. Sweet potatoes prefer a well-draining, loamy or sandy soil. Incorporate compost for added nutrients and to keep the soil loose. When growing root vegetables, it’s best to avoid heavy soils which easily compact.
- Plant the slips. After danger of frost, bury the stems of the slips in the planters with the leaves sticking above the soil line. Multiple slips can be grown in a large container by spacing the plants 12 inches (30 cm.) apart. Water thoroughly and keep the soil evenly moist during the growing season.
How to Grow a Trellised Sweet Potato Vine
A trellis can also be used for growing sweet potatoes vertically. This space-saving design can be utilized in the garden or with container-grown sweet potatoes. Since sweet potatoes tend to be creepers rather than climbers, choosing the correct trellis is essential for success.
Choose a design which is strong enough to support the trellised sweet potato. Ideally, it will also have ample room to gently weave the vines through the openings of the trellis or to tie the vines to the supports. Here are some suggestions for trellis materials to use when growing sweet potatoes vertically:
- Large tomato cages
- Livestock fence panels
- Welded wire fencing
- Reinforced wire mesh
- Discarded garden gates
- Wooden trellises
- Arbors and gazebos
Once the trellis is in place, plant the slips 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm.) from the base of the support structure. As the sweet potato plants grow, gently weave the stems back and forth through the horizontal supports. If the vine has reached the top of the trellis, allow it to cascade back to the ground.
Excess length or vines growing away from the trellis can be trimmed. When the vines begin to die back in the fall, it’s time to harvest your vertical sweet potato garden!