National Department of Agriculture
Directorate Communication

Vegetable production: sweet potatoes

The sweet potato plant is grown for its roots which
are eaten cooked.

When to plant

Sweet potatoes are grown in the warm season.

In the growing season the plant requires hot days and warm nights and an average summer temperature of 20 C as it is easily damaged by low temperatures. 

There must be enough sunlight and very few cold, cloudy days.

It has a growing season of 3 to 5 months, depending on the cultivar. Planting should preferably take place from October to December, although plantings up to about March can be made in frost-free areas.

Where to plant

Planting sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are usually propagated by means of rooted shoots or vine cuttings.

It is essential that the material used must be disease free because the sweet potato plant is very susceptible to viral diseases.

Rooted shoots

The small-scale farmer can use a few well-shaped, disease-free tubers from his previous crop or bought from the store.

It is expensive to buy from registered nurseries, but their material is guaranteed to be disease free.



Increase watering when the shoots appear

Vine cuttings

If runners or vines are used, cut them into 30 to 40 cm lengths.

• Plant the cuttings up to half their length in the soil, 30 cm apart in ridged
rows 90 cm apart.

• Press down the soil firmly to ensure that they will grow well.

   Plant the cuttings up to half their length in the soil

With both methods (rooted shoots and vine cuttings) it is possible to plant the crop successfully on level soil, but a better yield is obtained with flattened ridges.

On sandy soils the ridges should be 30 cm high and on heavier soils 40 cm high.

Plant the shoots or cuttings 20 to 40 cm apart. The closer the spacing, the smaller the tubers will be.

Water the plants immediately after planting. It is important to keep the soil moist at least until the plants are well established.

 It is better to plant crops on flattened ground

Caring for the plants

Although sweet potato plants are fairly drought resistant, water them regularly
to ensure a good yield.

Draw up soil to the main stem


For further information contact your nearest extension officer


We wish to thank LONGMAN NAMIBIA for the use of:

Vegetable cultivation a practical handbook by E G van Antwerpen
LONGMAN NAMIBIA, Third edition 1993
Represented in the RSA by Maskew Miller Longman
P O Box 396, Cape Town 8000, South Africa


Compiled by Directorate Communication, National Department of Agriculture
in cooperation with the Fertilizer Society of South Africa
Printed and published by the National Department of Agriculture      
and obtainable from Resource Centre, Directorate Communication                          
Private Bag X144, Pretoria, 0001 South Africa