Australia is home to a plethora of types of sweet potato, here are seven of the most common varieties.
- Beauregard - also known as Bonita or Bellevue has orange flesh and red/brown skin. The most common sweet potato variety in Australia.
- Centennial - grows fast and has a high yield. It has copper skin and dark orange flesh.
- Kestle - has pale flesh and pale skin. Perfect for roasting and mashing.
- Northern Star - accounting for almost 10 per cent of Australian sweet potato sales. Northern star has reddish-purple skin.
- Stokes - is the purple sweet potato and a bit of a wildcard.
- WSPF - white skin purple flesh, yes that’s really their name.
Sweet potatoes are relatively easy to grow but the one thing that they won’t tolerate is frost. This is why most of the sweet potatoes grown in Australia are grown in Queensland but home gardeners shouldn’t have any trouble growing sweet potatoes as far south as Melbourne, just be wary in winter.
Most of Australia has optimal growing conditions for sweet potatoes year-round, so there is no real best time to plant sweet potato. The only exception to this rule is if you’re in an area that is prone to frost.
When it comes to growing sweet potatoes they like full sun. Sweet potatoes are generally quite resilient and don’t mind rough sandy soil but keep in mind if anything they’d prefer to be more dry than wet.
How to grow
Growing sweet potatoes in water is easier than you think. Simply buy a small organic sweet potato from your local grocer and place the tip in water. Leave in a sunny spot and watch it grow roots and leaves. The sweet potato propagation process takes a couple of weeks but your yam plant will make a spectacular centrepiece in your home.
How to plant
You can follow the process above and then plant the tuber in the ground or you can grow sweet potatoes from a seedling. Grab a seedling from your local hardware or Bunnings and plant in wholes 15cm deep and around 30cm apart.
You can also grow sweet potatoes in big pots just make sure there is enough room for the vines to grow so we wouldn’t recommend more than one seedling per 50cm pot.
Generally speaking, you’ll get between five and ten sweet potatoes per plant.
How to harvest
It will take sweet potatoes between 90 and 170 days to grow depending on the variety.
You’ll know when your sweet potatoes are ready to harvest when the leaves start to turn yellow. Keeping in mind that the longer you keep them in the ground the more vitamins they’ll absorb and the bigger they’ll grow. Dig tubers up, being careful not to pierce the skin and leave in the sun for a couple of hours to partially cure.
Don’t forget you can eat sweet potato leaves! They are delicious and packed with nutrients.
Plant Care & Troubleshooting
We can’t mention it enough. Sweet potatoes don’t need a lot of water. If the leaves are starting to wilt this is a sign that they need more water. Overwatering can cause root rot and encourage unwanted pest guests.
Be on the lookout for sweet potato weevils, they will lay eggs in the stems and tubers if they’re left for too long. If you see weevils act quickly as they can multiply within a couple of days. Destroy the infected plants and spray the rest with a natural bug repellant.
The best companion plants for sweet potatoes are other root vegetables like parsnips and beets. Thyme is also a good herb to plant nearby as its strong smell keeps pests away.
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