The Q&A Archives: Propagating Ornamental Sweet Potatoes

Question: This summer I grew several ornamental sweet potato vines in containers. I've replaced them with fall annuals, and now have a couple of beautiful, large potatoes. Can I save them for next year? How do I propagate more plants from them?

Answer: A freshly harvested sweet potato has a tender skin that bruises easily. Damaged roots will decay in storage. Allow the harvested potatoes to dry for a few hours and then spread them on a tray lined with newspaper, hay or sawdust.

Place them in a dry, warm area (about 80-85 degrees for 10-14 days). This will "cure" them and set the skins so they store better. They should be stored in a cool (55-60 degrees) dry place. Sweet potatoes treated this way will store for several months. Remove any roots that show signs of deterioration or decay.

Next spring, lay the sweet potatoes on their sides in a hotbed about a month before the nighttime temperatures stay above 60 degrees F. Cover the sweet potato roots with 2 inches of moist sand and keep the hotbed between 75 degrees and 80 degrees F. When the sprout develop, remove them with a twisting tug and pot them up for rooting and growing into new plants. Additional transplants (slips) will form from the bedded sweet potatoes if you leave it in place. The vine segments can also be rooted if you wish to make more plants than the above method provides.

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