Indoor Greens: The Edible Sweet Potato Vine for a Winter Harvest

The sweet potato vine is an unexpected bonus when you’re growing sweet potatoes — sweet potato leaves are edible! And even if you don’t plan to grow them in your garden, sweet potato greens can be grown inside as an edible houseplant.

Originally published March, 2014; this post has been updated.

green sweet potato vine in a glass jar.

Even if you don’t plan to grow and harvest sweet potato tubers from your garden, the leaves can be a valuable source of nutrition, especially during the cold months of winter.

Growing Sweet Potato Greens

Sweet potatoes are an herbaceous perennial vegetable. They’re drought tolerant, grow in many different climates, and in humid climates like mine, can be less prone to pests and diseases than other conventional greens. This makes them a perfect candidate for growing indoors in the off-season!

They sprout easily indoors and a happy sweet potato plant will produce leaves throughout the winter. Bonus? If you have a plant growing for the sweet potato leaves, you’ll have slips at the ready for planting in the garden!


pretty garden with tomatoes and flowers - cover of book "edible front yard garden"The 5-Gallon Garden

New to gardening? Limited on space? The 5-Gallon Garden gives you the skills you need to grow food in the space you have. Get started with your garden today!

Grow an Edible Sweet Potato Vine by Sprouting

You might remember doing this in school. It’s still just as easy. Choose an organic sweet potato at the store (non-organic potatoes are often treated with a chemical to prevent sprouting).

Insert several toothpicks around the center of the spud. Set the sweet potato inside a jar of water. The bottom of the potato should remain in water.

Alternatively, allow the tuber to sit on the bottom of a glass or jar, and add water so that the tuber is submerged halfway in water.

sweet potato vine sprouting in a wine glass

It will start sending out roots in a couple of weeks. Once there are a fair number of roots, watch for green sprouts emerging from the dry portion of the potato. These shoots will consist of a stem and leaves. They’re often called “slips” in garden-ese.


Don’t confuse sweet potatoes with your standard baked potato! Are sweet potato leaves edible? YES. But others are not.

  • Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) belong to the Convolvulaceae family. Their leaves are edible.
  • Regular Russet-type potatoes belong to the Solanaceae, or nightshade, family. Their leaves are not edible and can make you sick.

While you can use the leaves directly from a sweet potato sprouted in water, it won’t produce as long as a plant potted in soil will. Let’s talk about how to pot up your sweet potato slips so that you’ll have easy access to a fresh leafy green even when the growing season outside has passed!

CLOSE up of sweet potato leaves

How to Grow a Sweet Potato Vine in a Pot


To grow an edible sweet potato vine in a pot, you can transplant the entire sprouted sweet potato or create a number of potted plants by starting with slips.

Plant the sprouted tuber in a pot of well draining soil, as sweet potatoes are susceptible to root rot if the soil they’re in remains too wet. The entire tuber should be buried by about 2″ of soil. 

My preference is to grow from slips, since doing so means that instead of a single plant, I’ll have several. Cut 10″ to 12″ lengths of sweet potato vine from your “seed” potato.

Trim leaves from the lower portion of the stem, leaving a couple of leaves at the tip for photosynthesis.

You can either plant these directly into a pot of soil or allow them to root in water first. If you plant directly into the soil, you’ll need to maintain steady moisture. If you choose to root them in water, watch for the emerging roots, just as you did with the potato. Once the roots are a few inches long, transplant into a container of good soil in bunches of three.

This method can be used for a winter crop of greens, but it’s essentially how they should be planted out in your garden for a root crop, too.

Set the potted sweet potato by a sunny, warm window and it will produce plenty of vines. Now you have an edible houseplant! You can eat the leaves cooked or raw.


Whether you’re growing sweet potatoes inside for the greens or growing a tuber crop outside, you can harvest the leaves throughout its life cycle. 

Harvest leaves once the stems are at least a foot long, a month or two after planting. If you’re using leaves from a crop intended for root harvest, limit harvesting to a couple times a month. If you’re growing the plant specifically for the greens, you can harvest more often. 

Harvest by using scissors or snips to cut off lengths of the vine. Choose a couple of the longest vines from each plant and be sure to leave several inches remaining so the plant will continue to grow.

Watch for Pests

While pests like flea beetles and aphids are problematic in outdoor sweet potato crops, indoor plants can be plagued by whiteflies. 

White flies lay eggs on plants, stunting growth. White flies rising in a cloud will be the first indication that you have a problem.

These tiny flies hide well and are so tiny you may not notice them until there are dozens of them laying their eggs on the leaves of your plants.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) sprinkled on the soil surface will take care of the larvae and stop their cycle. Replenish the DE once a month, or anytime you see adult white flies on your plants. Vacuum up the adult flies when you see them. 

Using the Leaves

As a vegetable, sweet potato greens may be a bit obscure, but there’s plenty to love about the nutrition they offer. They contain vitamins A, C, K, B1, B2, B3, B9 and minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, manganese, copper. 

Use the leaves as a replacement for fresh spinach in any of your favorite recipes or try one of these recipes:

For another unexpected edible green, get to know purslane!

green sweet potato vine on a white board table

Source on nutrition:

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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. Read more about Kris and how she got started with this site here. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

45 comments… add one
  • Inge Feb 28, 2024 @ 7:43

    I’m confused…the photo shows what we call yams (red skin, orange flesh). Our sweet potatoes are long and really hard to cut. I don’t want to poison myself so should I use a yam or a sweet potato for the edible leaves?

  • Deb May 25, 2023 @ 11:45

    I grew a sweet potato plant all winter in the house just in a northern exposure window (I had micro dwarf tomatoes fruiting in all the southern exposure windows!)
    In early spring, I needed all the window space I could get, so decided to pull up the sweet potato plant to see if it had produced any tubers. We had 2 sweet potatoes for dinner that night!!! And later I grew myriads of sweet potato slips that I rooted & potted up for the garden, & still had plenty to share!

    • AttainableSustainable Jun 1, 2023 @ 11:58

      That’s awesome!

  • Eileen Atkinson Feb 1, 2023 @ 14:53

    I planted sweet potatoes last year and dug up some really huge sized ones. Now some are sprouting and I was thinking of cutting off the sprout end, put it in some water to root and eat the rest [cooked of course]. I don’t want to waste such a beaut but want slips for next season. Can I cut off the sprouting end, put in on a saucer, checking for root nubs and later maybe brace it in a container? Being very ignorant in my much younger days, I put a tuber in water [toothpicked as it is supposed to be] and put it in the bathroom and it near took over that room. It loved the murky light and bath humidity.

    • AttainableSustainable Jul 26, 2023 @ 8:00

      That should work!

  • YX Mar 3, 2022 @ 23:00

    Hi! My sweet potatoes are sitting in water as I type this comment. I’m curious though, as I plan to plant the slips later on, what should I be doing with the whole “seed potato” after I’ve planted all the slips?

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 10, 2022 @ 9:08

      It may continue to throw off more new growth/slips. Or it may just rot. Compost it. 🙂

  • Gloria Oct 6, 2021 @ 9:22

    I live in Mesa Arizona. The beginning of June I bought an organic sweet potato and cut it into chunks with an Eye or two in each chunk. I planted the hunks of sweet potato in 4 inches of raised bed potting mix which was spread over my native hard clay soil. I installed drip irrigation which would water 15 minutes every other day. I hoped the vines would grow, spread, and keep the ground cool around my newly planted citrus trees. Then I put a sunshade over the area and left town for two months. I came back to an entirely green yard! The sweet potatoes had not only sprouted, they were growing everywhere and I have been eating them ever since. They are the cheapest no input greens I could ever imagine and delicious. I sauté lots of garlic With onion, celery, And sometimes colored sweet peppers. Once those veggies are soft I add in the chopped leaves and leaf stems (but not the main vine which has a tough skin). As I Fold the sautéed vegetables over the chopped leaves, The leaves will thin shrink so I can add more into my large fry pan. Then I had a couple tablespoons of water, turn the burner down to low and cover to steam the fresh greens, folding the mixture now and then to mix. Once the greens Are cooked I uncover The pan to let the excess water evaporate as I continue to cook on low. I had a few tablespoons of organic cocoa amino‘s and salt and pepper to taste. Everybody loves these greens so far. When I cook for Nonvegetarians, I start out by browning chopped ham, or bacon In the skillet with the chopped vegetables.

  • Anne Kimberly Aug 10, 2021 @ 15:56

    Another edible green leaf is celosia; my friends from Sierra Leone told me about it after she saw the flowered plant I had purchased to brighten up my garden! I am hoping to get some more growing along with the sweet potato leaves. Sweet potato leaves are darker green in Sierra Leone and are a commonly used green in sauces over rice (cooked with palm oil, a bit of peanut butter, onion and hot pepper!)


    • Kris Bordessa Aug 14, 2021 @ 7:29

      I had no idea!

  • Liz Aug 3, 2021 @ 0:43

    My decorative sweet potato started out great by roots, then a green vine started and then the sweet potato became mushy and the vine died, what happened?

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 14, 2021 @ 7:32

      The tuber rotted. Too much water, maybe?

  • Maria Apr 25, 2021 @ 1:51

    I have a question, please advise.
    Its our first time growing sweet potatoes
    Hub thinks that if I snip off the leaves ( for my salad ) the sweet potatoes won’t grow… is that true ?
    To give you a graphic idea, our veggie bed (60cm x 3meters) is covered in leaves!

    • Kris Bordessa Jul 16, 2021 @ 16:47

      It’s perfectly fine to use some of the greens as the tubers are growing!

  • Steven Aug 5, 2020 @ 8:25

    Hi, are the greens edible for any kind of sweet potato? I have Covington and Murasaki! Thank you!

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 6, 2020 @ 15:22

      Any variety should be edible. Irish/Russet potato leaves are NOT edible.

  • Jim Nov 4, 2018 @ 22:06

    Sweer potato leaves are called kamote in the Phillipines. My favorite is using it in sinigang which is like a pork soup. Growing up I used to pour it over my rice.

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 7, 2018 @ 12:01

      Kamote — I’ve learned something new!

      • Orlando Aug 19, 2019 @ 10:05

        Kamote tops we call it, in the Philippines.

        • Kris Bordessa Aug 23, 2019 @ 14:36

          Love hearing regional names of plants!

          • D Smith Aug 26, 2023 @ 18:23

            What’s interesting is I think sweet potatos are called camote in Mexico.

  • Mary Lemieux Sep 24, 2018 @ 4:44

    I feed my dogs natural food. I have all the sweet potato leaves and vines from my sweet potato beds saved. It appears the leaves are edible for dogs and humans and, in fact, very good for you. I would assume the vine would be edible too , but can’t find any info. on it. All the online info. relates to the decorative sweet potato vine only. Are there any dangers to it?

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 17, 2018 @ 9:42

      You mean the stem between the leaves? That should be edible, too, yes.

  • Annie Sep 3, 2018 @ 5:31

    Can the potatoes still grow if you eat the leaves? And how much /when can you eat them and still have the tubers grow?

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 7, 2018 @ 7:34

      They will grow some, but they do need some leaves. If I had to wager a guess, I’d say you could safely remove 1/3 of the leaves without impacting the growth of the tuber. But that’s just a guess.

  • Joy Sep 18, 2017 @ 19:22

    Are the younger softer leaves and stems preferable for consumption than the tougher older larger leaves and stems?

    Thanks so much!!

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 14, 2017 @ 8:26

      They’re all edible, but the younger ones will be more tender.

  • Sheryl Jan 6, 2017 @ 16:03

    Something that I didn’t know but am so will to try but my question is….what do they actually taste like? Should they be sauted or steamed, like swiss chard or spinach?

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 7, 2017 @ 13:11

      They’re actually pretty mild. They have kind of a light fragrant flavor at first bite (raw), but then just taste like…greens. (That’s so hard to explain!)

  • Traveler in Thyme Jan 5, 2017 @ 8:28

    slice sweet potatoes, rub them with butter, grill on the fire. My family can eat a whole griddle full in minutes, but they are good, cold, in lunch boxes, too. My husband made a sandwich with a mini-burger in between 2 slices of yam, it was yummy.

  • Almas.Nathoo Feb 18, 2016 @ 10:51

    I have sweet potatoe in glass jar in water. It is already one month but nothing is coming out of the tuber. It is near window whereby sun shine everyday. Please can you let me know how long it takes to grow. Last year I had some luck and then I plants the tuber out in the garden but the rabbits ate all the leaves so the plant dyed.

    • Kris Bordessa Feb 18, 2016 @ 14:56

      My first question is this: Was the sweet potato organic? Sometimes they’re treated with a chemical to prevent sprouting. I would think that you’d have sprouts at least starting to emerge after this much time.

    • Ker Feb 10, 2019 @ 20:01

      Mine is organic from sprouts market, and it took almost 2 months. Now it’s really growing each day

    • Rachel C. Oct 9, 2019 @ 3:22

      Giving this a try before I harvest my tubers!

  • JoAnne Dec 28, 2014 @ 7:03

    My mother would put a sweet potato partially in water and it would sprout a vine. She used it as an ornamental plant in the house. Do you think this would work as well? I have not read your links yet for growing.

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 28, 2014 @ 7:53

      Yes, but it won’t last as long that way as in soil.

  • Coffee to Compost Mar 24, 2014 @ 16:57

    We loved eating sweet potato leaves last summer. I sauteed some minced garlic in olive oil, added the leaves, then sprinkled with kosher salt once they were wilted. They’re now one of my favorite greens!

  • Sandra bigtree Mar 22, 2014 @ 5:43

    Is this the same for yams? I cannot tell them apart.

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 22, 2014 @ 8:31

      That’s a good question! Yams and sweet potatoes are different plants, but we often interchange the names.

      Here’s this:

      And I found this:

      • Lester Martin Jr. Nov 4, 2018 @ 17:46

        I read an article about one gardener who had a Japanese neighbor who was always asking him if he could pick the young leaves from his sweet potato vines, the Japanese man assured him it wouldn’t harm the plants . He asked the Japanese man what he used them for and he replied stir-frying them . One day the Japanese neighbor picked some leaves and invited his neighbor over for dinner where he had a chance to sample them, he said they were very delicious and started using them in the same manner . When it came time to harvest the sweet potatoes he said he had a bumper crop of them, he guessed it was due to pruning the vines .

        • Kris Bordessa Nov 4, 2018 @ 18:04

          Interesting — I’ll have to pay attention to the size of the tubers if I’ve been harvesting the leaves!

        • nona Jul 16, 2022 @ 5:09

          Cutting the vines more and even the leaves will allow the plant to put its energy into growing larger Sweet potatoes. Yes Cutting the vines and rooting in water or replanting and water enough to make roots grow more greens to harvest…
          I grow mainly for the nutritious greens since the potatoes are carbs I am cutting back on

          • AttainableSustainable Jul 19, 2022 @ 3:20

            That makes sense, and the greens are so delicious.

  • Missy Homemaker Mar 19, 2014 @ 11:26

    I’m really excited to read this! We’re always looking for new things to eat and new ways to provide. Thank you for the info!

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