How To Plant Sweet Potatoes In Florida

How To Plant Sweet Potatoes In Florida

Florida’s hot, humid climate is perfect for growing bountiful crops of sweet potatoes. Gardeners across the state can enjoy harvests of tasty homegrown spuds with the right cultivation methods. Follow these tips for successfully planting sweet potatoes in Florida.

Pick Heat-Tolerant Varieties

Select sweet potato cultivars suited to Florida’s long, intense growing season:

  • Beauregard – classic orange-fleshed sweet potato, high yielding
  • White Yam – white-skinned, moist, nutty flavor
  • Centennial – orange flesh, adapts well to varying soil types
  • Bonita – disease-resistant, reddish-orange skin and flesh
  • Southern Delite – vigorous vines, rose-colored skin, moist texture

Avoid short-season varieties better suited for northern climates. Stick with heat-loving types.

Use Disease-Free Slips

Sweet potatoes are grown using slips or sprouts from existing tubers, not from actual seeds. Buy certified disease-free slips from reputable nurseries.

Choose strong, 8-10 inch long slips with several leaves. Avoid spindly or dried out slips.

Keep slips hydrated prior to planting. Remove any leaves or roots that emerge during transport.

Prepare Soil Deeply

Sweet potatoes thrive in loose, well-drained soil. Prepare beds 4-6 weeks before planting season.

Work 3-4 inches of compost into the top 8 inches of soil to enrich with nutrients and organic matter.

Break up any compacted areas using a shovel or garden fork. Sweet potatoes form long tuberous roots that need room.

Elevate garden rows into ridges 6-8 inches tall to improve drainage and soil warming.

Time Planting Correctly

Sweet potatoes need warm soil to grow well. Plant slips after daytime temperatures reach 70-80°F and the danger of frost is past.

In North and Central Florida aim for early to mid April. South Florida gardens can plant slips in March.

Cover young plants if any late cold snaps occur. Use row covers overnight.

Plant Slips Properly

Space slips 12-15 inches apart in rows atop the soil ridges. Plant slips deep, leaving just 2-3 leaves exposed.

Press slips gently into the loose soil. Water slips immediately after planting and as needed the first week to establish roots.

Use Black Plastic Mulch

Lay down black plastic mulch after planting to retain moisture and heat. Cut an X in the plastic at each plant site.

The black plastic suppresses weeds, keeps soil evenly warm and reduces evaporation. Drip irrigation tubes can run underneath.

Fertilize Lightly

Avoid heavy nitrogen fertilization which causes excessive vine growth. Use an organic balanced fertilizer or compost tea monthly.

If leaves become pale, indicate nitrogen deficiency. Side dress plants sparingly with worm castings or organic nitrogen amendments.

Water Regularly

Sweet potatoes need consistent moisture for best growth and to avoid misshapen tubers. Water when the top 1 inch becomes dry.

Provide 1-2 inches per week from rain or irrigation. More watering is needed in sandy soils. Use drip irrigation to target roots.

Harvest Before Frost

Sweet potatoes mature in 90-170 days depending on the variety. Begin checking roots around 3-4 months after planting.

Dig around a test hill to check tuber size and maturity when vines start yellowing.

Harvest all tubers before cold weather arrives. Cure harvested potatoes for 7-10 days in warm conditions before storing.


With well-drained soil and plenty of heat and moisture, Florida gardeners can achieve impressive sweet potato harvests. Pick zone-adapted varieties, use disease-free slips, and maximize tuber growth by providing consistent warmth and irrigation. Timely planting, fertilizing, and harvesting will reward you with bountiful crops of homegrown sweet potatoes.

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