Growing Nagaimo - Oriental Yams - Knowledgebase Question

Milpitas, CA
Question by jcarson0
April 9, 1999
I would like to grow Nagaimo, sometimes called Chinese or Japanese Yam. I have started some little plants from the eyes of a yam in my greenhouse, and would like to know what kind of soil and environment they need to successfully produce. I've seen the yams as long as 2 1/2 feet in Oriental markets and would like to know if they can be grown in large containers or raised beds. I would also like to know to what diseases and insects they are susceptible.

Answer from NGA
April 9, 1999


The Chinese Yam (Dioscorea batatas) is a perennial vine with fragrant, cinnamon scented flowers and tubers that over-winter to be harvested at any time. The shiny green heart shaped leaves hang on vines that twine rapidly to 20'. The tubers grow as long as three feet and may be left in the ground for several seasons without losing quality. They just get bigger and bigger! The tubers may grow as deep as three feet. The tops of the plants may die down in November, but will resprout when the weather warms up in the spring. Dioscorea batatas is hardy to zone 4, and should grow reliably well in your region in an outdoor garden. Since you have a greenhouse, you might want to grow a plant indoors, as well. There are no particular insects or diseases on record. I'd suspect that the ideal culture would be the same as the more familiar yam or sweet potato; plenty of sunshine, very deep, reasonably rich soil (heavy clay or very sandy soil produces misshapen or stringy tubers), and about one-inch of water per week throughout the growing season. Standard yams or sweet potatoes are generally grown from slips (root sprouts), rather than eyes (like regular potatoes), but your way of propagation may very well work for the Chinese Yam. Good luck with your venture!

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