Sweet Potato Houseplant, Oberlin Science Library

In Albums: Oberlin houseplants libraries

A sweet potato being grown indoors as a houseplant, in the window a library, with books, signs, and a globe

May 11th, 2003, by Alex Zorach

This photo shows a sweet potato plant being grown as a houseplant, in a window (interior-facing) of Oberlin College's science library, which at the time was brand new.

I grew this plant from a cutting, taken from outdoors, during my senior year at Oberlin. I graduated in 2002, and gave this plant to the Library, along with a papaya tree that I had also grown in my room. The library staff cared well for both plants, and they were thriving.

Most people do not realize it, but sweet potatoes make outstanding houseplants. They have a broad range of tolerances of light levels; they can withstand full sun (including outdoors) if given adequate water, but they also tolerate considerable shade and low light levels. This particular plant is thriving with no direct sunlight and only dim, indirect light. If growing them for food, the yield will be low in low lighting, but the plants will actually accumulate edible roots, just as if they are grown outdoors. As houseplants, sweet potatos are actually fairly robust too, and difficult to kill. The leaves will quickly wilt if water is scarce, but the plant rarely dies. Leaves will eventually dry up and die if neglected too long, but the plant will vigorously resprout once you begin watering it. Although it is possible to overwater these plants as well, this fate is less likely than with other houseplants as the sweet potatoes tend to use up water relatively quickly.