Sweet potato

This page has information about growing sweet potato in the Northern Territory (NT).

Sweet potato 

About sweet potato

Name: sweet potato, ipomea batatas (convolvulaceae).

Origin: tropical Central America.

Distribution: sweet potato is grown mainly in tropical and sub-tropical Asia.

Australian distribution: sweet potato is grown in the NT, tropical Queensland and northern New South Wales.


Sweet potato is a perennial herb cultivated as an annual, meaning it can last a long time but is normally farmed for less than a year.

It has trailing or twining stems up to 4m long. 

Large edible roots called tubers form underground. Latex occurs in all parts of the plant.

Preferred climate and soil

Sweet potato prefers temperatures at or above 24 degrees Celsius. Temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius can affect growth. 

Sweet potato thrives in sandy loam soils with good drainage and high organic matter. Avoid heavy clay soils.


There are two main types of sweet potato, which are staple and dessert.


The staple variety has white flesh and white or purple skin. They are high in starch and dry matter.


The dessert variety has orange flesh and skin. They are high in sugar and B-carotene. 


Sweet potato can be grown from cuttings planted in raised beds. 

Pests and diseases

There are several pests and diseases that affect sweet potato, including weevils, termites, fungal disease and viruses.

You will need to look after your sweet potato to reduce crop loss or damage. 

Fruit season

Sweet potato grows well all year in the NT.


Sweet potato tubers can be dug from the ground at around 18 to 22 weeks, depending on variety. 

Test for ripeness by cutting the tuber. If the sap dries white, it is ready to eat. If it dries dark or green, it is not ready. 


Tubers should be washed and stored between 13 and 16 degrees Celsius at 85% to 95% relative humidity.


Sweet potatoes are generally cooked before eating. The leaves and shoot tips can be picked and eaten as vegetables.

Last updated: 26 February 2016

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