If you grow sweet potatoes in containers, consider the “bunch” varieties from Steele Plant Company: Vardaman and Porto Rico. And if you’ve never grown sweet potatoes before, try a few of these in your garden this year.
I talked to Ken Sanders at Steele Plant, and he says the bunch types will do well in large containers, such as a washtub or a whisky barrel. I bet they’ll also thrive in the Jumbo Potato Grow Bag. Unlike traditional sweet potatoes, the bunch types don’t have long vines; plants remain compact.
Porto Rico (also called Puerto Rico and Porto Rica) has copper-colored skin and light red flesh — good for baking. Matures in 110 days. Vardaman is a better choice for nothern gardeners because it matures a bit faster: 100 days. The golden yellow skin darkens after digging. “It’s a pretty plant, because it has a darker leaf,” Ken says. When planted in rows, plants are spaced 10″ apart; in containers, two or three plants are sufficient.
Like regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are starchy tubers that form underground. However, sweet potatoes require a longer growing season (100 to 140 days), making them challenging for gardeners in colder parts of the country. Now, with short-season varieties, such as Georgia Jet, gardeners everywhere can enjoy growing this easy and delicious crop.
When you plant regular potatoes, you bury pieces of potato from last year’s crop (seed potatoes). Sweet potatoes are grown from “slips,” which are rooted sprouts from mature tubers. These tender, rooted sprouts can be purchased by mail or sometimes as potted plants at a garden center. The Steele Plant Company is a good mail-order source for slips.
If you’re ready to try this easy-care crop, learn more in How to Grow Sweet Potatoes.