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Ipomoea batatas - (L.)Poir.

Common Name Sweet Potato, Black Sweet Potato, Sweet Potato Vine
Family Convolvulaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Derived in cultivation, probably from Ipomoea trifida, this species is not known in a truly wild situation.
Range Pantropical.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Ipomoea batatas Sweet Potato, Black Sweet Potato, Sweet Potato Vine

Ipomoea batatas Sweet Potato, Black Sweet Potato, Sweet Potato Vine


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Main Bloom Time: Late summer, Mid summer. Form: Spreading or horizontal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Ipomoea batatas is a PERENNIAL CLIMBER growing to 3 m (9ft 10in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9 and is frost tender. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds; South Wall. By. West Wall. By.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Root  Shoots
Edible Uses:

Root - cooked[200]. Sweet and fleshy, it is a delicious staple food and is also very nutritious providing a rich source of vitamins and minerals[200, K]. There are cultivars with soft, moist flesh and also forms with a more dry flesh[200]. There are also less sweet cultivars, bred for industrial production of starch[200]. In order for the roots to store through the winter, they need to be cured in the sunshine at temperatures around 25°c fr about a week before being stored at around 14°c[264]. Young shoot tips[264].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

None known

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Biomass  Fuel

Landscape Uses: Alpine garden, Arbor, Container, Groundcover, Specimen. The root is a source of starch[200]. Sweet potato tubers are being examined as a valuable raw material for producing alcohol bio-fuel[418].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Ground Cover

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

An easily grown plant. Sweet potato is a plant of the tropics, but can also be grown in the subtropics and, if there is a sufficient growing season of 110 - 170 days, as an annual crop in warmer parts of the temperate zone. It is grown in the tropics at elevations up to 2,800 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 18 - 28°c, but can tolerate 10 - 38°c[418 ]. When dormant, the roots can survive temperatures down to about 1°c, but young growth can be killed by temperatures of 5°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 750 - 2,000mm, but tolerates 350 - 5,000mm[418 ]. An easily grown plant, it prefers a well-drained, sandy loam soil and requires a sunny position[200 , 264 ]. Ample potash in the soil is essential for a good crop[264 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 7, tolerating 4 - 8.7[418 ]. A low humidity as the plants reach maturity is beneficial[200 ]. Plants grow very vigorously in the tropics. They have escaped from cultivation in some areas and become invasive[296 , 305 ]. Unlike many root crops, the sweet potato begins to store starch at an early age, making early harvests possible[298 ]. It is one of the most efficient plants to capture the energy of the sun as calories[298 ]. The plant can mature a crop within 2 months in tropical areas, though at least three months are required in sub-tropical regions[264 ]. Optimum yields vary from 17.5 - 27.5 tonnes per hectare depending on the cultivar and growing conditions, while average yields are 5 tonnes per hectare in Africa, 10 tonnes in South America and 16 tonnes in Asia. The world highest production yield at 80 tonnes has been obtained in Israel[418 ]. A short-day plant, it requires less than 11 hours of sunlight per day to initiate flowering[200 ]. However, day length variation appears to have little effect upon tuber production[200 ]. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Edible.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water, or scarify the seed, and sow in individual pots in a greenhouse in early spring. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 3 weeks at 22°c. Plants are extremely resentful of root disturbance, even when they are quite small, and should be potted up almost as soon as they germinate. Grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter then plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Seedlings can be very variable and are likely to be less productive than vegetatively produced plants[200]. Stem cuttings obtained from terminal shoots[200]. Remove the lower leaves and insert the cuttings to half their depth in individual pots.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Sweet Potato, Agietu, Anago-te, Anamo, Atomo anago, Bambaira, Bath-ala, Blofo atomo, Boniato, Buteta, Camote, Chakarakilangu, Chelagada, Chokeh, Damloong chhvie, Dankali, Dinkale, Dukuma, Ekomeko, E-muna, Faan shu, Fanshu, Genasu, Hila, Hongshu, Huwi boled, Huwi matang, Imbambaila, Ji-oyibo, Kalembula wa lungu, Kamote, Kanangi, Kanda, Kaukau, Kawai-ni-vulagi, Keladi, Keledek, Ketela, Khoai lang, Klawang, Kudaku, Kukunduku, Kumala, Kumara, Lal alu, Luzu vaka, Man-thet, Mitha alu, N jowo, Ntommo, Odunkum, Petete, Phan-karo, Pilau katelo, Pot-ecok, Ranga alu, Ratalu, Sakaria, Sakarkenda, Sakarkhand, Sakkareivelleikilangu, Satsuma inno, Setilo, Shakar-kandi, Shakarkand, apichu, batat, batata, batata-da-terra, batata-doce, batate, boniato, bíme mábi, goguma, kkumara, kuumara, papa dulce, patate douce, sweet-potato, süßkartoffel, tuktuka, wild potato vine, wild potato wit, yam, zoete aardappel.

NORTHERN AMERICA: Mexico, Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Ipomoea albaMoonflower, Tropical white morning-gloryPerennial Climber10.0 7-10 FLMNM210
Ipomoea aquaticaKangkong, Swamp Morning GloryAnnual/Perennial0.5 10-12 FLMHNMWeWa422
Ipomoea jalapaJalapClimber3.0 -  LMHSNM03 
Ipomoea leptophyllaBush Moon FlowerPerennial1.2 8-11  LMHNM321
Ipomoea nilJapanese Morning Glory, Whiteedge morning-gloryAnnual5.0 8-11 FLMHNM02 
Ipomoea pandurataWild Potato Vine, Man of the earthPerennial Climber3.5 6-9 FLMHNM322
Ipomoea purpureaCommon Morning Glory, Tall morning-gloryAnnual Climber2.5 6-9 FLMHNM020
Ipomoea sagittataSaltmarsh Morning Glory, Saltmarsh morning-glory 0.0 0-0  LMHSNM01 
Ipomoea tricolorMorning Glory, GrannyvinePerennial Climber5.0 10-11 FLMHNM01 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

K. Otto   Wed Nov 9 2005

pictures would be nice to be able to varify edibility

Lily   Sun May 14 2006

I have just bought this as a plant and will be interested to see hwo it grows for me in SW France.

Valerie   Sun Jun 25 2006

I have been told by my Vietnamese friends that they eat the leaves as a vegetable. This site doesn't say anything about eating the leaves; mentions only the root.

   Thu Jun 21 2007

I have just conducted a survey in South Africa and according to that the Zulu people, living in the eastern province eat Sweet Potato leaves as a relish with their traditional mealie meal (maize porridge). But also in many other african countries ipomoea batatas leaves are considered as a delicious vegetable (leafy indigenous vegetables)

Cavan Mejias   Wed Dec 26 2007

You should investigate promotion of the consumption of the leaves of this plant in the west indies, in light of rising food prices

Ann Lamb   Thu Aug 30 2007

I have never heard of sweet potato seeds before, although I have seen the blooms on my plants. All the sweet potato references in my library cite vegetative propagation. Where would one get sweet potato seed?

anne geddes shalit   Tue Feb 19 2008

I thinkk Ipomea is useful for diabetes. I thought it wasgood for diabetics because it has inulin instead of starch but the first site I looked at had another reason http://care.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/content/full/27/2/436 and other sites I looked at inulin and diabetes. The Wikepedia entry on inulin seems to confirm that Ipomoea is used to treat diabetes because of the inulin. There is a list at the end of the article of several other plants containing inulin

Efficacy of Ipomoea batatas (Caiapo) on Diabetes Control in Type 2 Diabetic Subjects Treated With Diet 2) wikepedia there are lots of articles, search words ipomea diabetes

AMUL CHAHAR   Fri Feb 20 2009

what r dose and rout ofadminstriation in mice for prevent diabetis ?

   Sun Mar 1 2009

Ipomoea aquatica - great food plant not included in your db

patty   Sat Jun 6 2009

i have eaten leaves and petioles up to 2 feet back from the growing tips. they are delicious just sauteed or boiled a few minutes. i have read to eat only the newly opening leaves. does anyone know why older leaves cannot be eaten, even if they have to be cooked longer? i am in new england and have only a 140 day growing season. why not harvest all those leaves before digging up the roots?

David (volunteer)   Sat Jun 6 2009

Can't give a conclusive answer, I was reading about the leaves being edible in "Organic New Zealand" magazine, they just sat say leaves are edible, no mention of young leaves, they recommend simmering in coconut cream. Usually young leaves are recommended simply because older leaves are judged too tough, boiling etc msay reduce that. I've never heard of a plant with leaves that become poisonous as they mature, I suppose it's remotely possible in this case,but I'd eat them.

David   Sat Jun 6 2009

I've just noticed the same source quoted above says in regard to Sweet potato leaves "as with any greens, the young leaves tend to be tastier and tenderer than the mature leaves"

   Sat Jul 18 2009

Ann Lamb asked "Where would one get sweet potato seed?" I believe that this is the same as true seed from regular potato. when the plant flowers it will produce a 'fruit' if it is pollinated (regular potatoes look like tomato fruit inedible and full of seeds)

Melissa   Thu Nov 19 2009

Is this the white fleshed tropical variety, or the orange fleshed 'thanksgiving' sweet potato or yam? Is there any info about eating either raw? Someone just told me they should be cooked, always.

David   Thu Nov 19 2009

www.healthy.net/scr/mmedica.asp?Id=138&MTId=8 - , a site on raw food, says Ipmoea batatas can be eaten raw, aside from this all my references say it is cooked, possibly just because it is not that palatable raw, I can't find any references to it being toxic, except when rotten. I understand at least 2 different tubers are called Yams in America, the other one, Dioscorea, is definitely bitter and toxic raw, so make certain you know which is which! I expect there are good photos on the net.

   May 6 2011 12:00AM

I eat the older leaves as well as the younger. You don't have to cook them that long--I just stir-fry. The Wikipedia page makes reference to an African use of dehydrated crushed sweet potato root, so I assume this means they are eating them raw (but dried). Both the orange and the white-fleshed types of sweet potato sold in the USA are Ipomoea batatas. The other type is of African descent, and is not generally available in the US. I grow them from the root here in the North Bay Area of California. You can sprout the roots in a mason jar like an avocado pit (with toothpicks stuck in the sides, to hold the top half out of the water), or, like me, just stick it in a jar that's half full. If you start them in the winter or early spring they will be ready to plant out after frosts have passed. Or you can do what I do, which is to use the central tuber from the fall harvest for the next year's plant. It will happily sprout leaves and roots all winter long, given adequate water and a sunny window. Then, when you plant these out, they will have long vines already grown. Strip off some leaves at various locations along the vine and bury the stripped part. It will take root. Okay, my question: I would like to know an effective way of making sweet potato flour--preferably raw, so I can use it as a thickener. I've found that dehydrated pieces of sweet potato turn harder than PVC, and I can't get them through my grinder like that. Is there a way to pulverize the wet flesh before drying them, so that the dried bits are small/soft enough to grind (without actually having to pound them with a rock or something)? Thanks!

Toxic substances and antinutritional factors   May 6 2011 12:00AM

Okay, I just found this, from FAO, which suggests raw sweet potato might not be such a good thing to eat, because it contains a high amount of an anti-nutritional factor.
FAO -- Roots, tubers, plantains and bananas in human nutrition

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