Growing Yacon

Yacon is a hardy plant that is easy to grow. It seems to tolerate most soil types pretty well, but ideally should be grown in free-draining soil rich in organic matter. They prefer direct sunlight but can grow reasonably well in the shade.

The crowns (purply, pink and white in photo) usually grow at the base of the stalk just underneath the ground, and sometimes peak above.

Each crown can be broken/cut off and planted separately, keep in mind the smaller they are the more susceptible to damage they are too.

The infant tuber (edible root) can be left intact if it is not damaged. Trim off damaged tubers to avoid rot. 

The biggest enemy for Yacon is frosts during its early stages. So best to plant when warmer or cover when frosts are due. Planting is usually best around September to November. 

Before planting the Yacon crown, loosen the soil about 400mm deep and 400mm wide to make it easy for the large Yacon tubers to grow. Plant the crown about 3cm below the surface and give it a good water. Space out multiple crowns about 700mm apart.

Sometimes the crowns will be sent with a bit of greenery. This can help them get bit of a head-start, especially if they are planted late in the season. If the greenery doesn’t bounce back after planting and watering (next day) it is best to trim back below any leaves. New leaves should still grow from the stem joints.

Keep the area well weeded initially to give the Yacon a chance to get going. Once they get taller the Yacon forms bit a canopy and doesn’t require much weeding. They can grow over 2m tall so make quite a statement in the garden!

Towards the end of the Yacon growing season, usually around June, the Yacon flowers (small yellow flowers like miniature Sunflowers). This is the best time to harvest (when FOS is optimal) but they can be harvested later also. They can stay in the ground longer also as long as the ground is free draining.

Once harvested, the tubers will keep for months kept in a cool and dark place. They are delicious raw or cooked (if using raw a bit of lemon juice can be used to stop them browning).  

The crowns will grow larger each season and can be divided for more Yacon plants. Keep the crowns in a cool dark place (covered in a bit of soil is best) and plant next season.

Have fun with this amazing plant!

40 Responses to Growing Yacon

  1. Morgan says:

    Do you have any recipes or experimentation with eating yacon?

    • ambury7 says:

      Hi Morgan, we certainly do and are in the process of refining and getting these up on WordPress. Yacon is wonderful eaten raw it is crunchy and sweet and great as a slaw, or julienned in amongst other vegetables for a stir fry. It balances out a spicy dish like a thai larb (laab) and holds its shape when cooked. The syrup makes a great low sugar gingerbread, is great on fresh yoghurt, in homemade chai, or to caramelise a pear for the cheesboard. I will get these posted in the next few weeks – I hope this gives you enough to go on in the meantime!

  2. Seneca says:

    Anybody can advise me where to get a few tuber of yacon for planting

    • ambury7 says:

      We can supply growing crowns in New Zealand. If you are overseas you would need to arrange freight and your own country entry requirements. We have found it too difficult to deal with this from here. How many Yacon growing crowns would you require? You can email us on wamtdav@gmail.com for more information. Thanks for your enquiry and kind regards, Wendy

  3. Richard says:

    Ive got a few Yacon plants in my garden but i’m wondering if there are different varieties

    • ambury7 says:

      Hi Richard, sorry for the delay in reply. We have noticed three distinct varieties from our yacon – one has a purple growing crown and tubers are ‘purple” skinned not unlike a kumara, others have a white growing crown and a white/tan skin on the tuber, the third is more yellow in the tuber and more yellow in the skin than the white/tan one…not sure of exact plant name differences if there are any… hope that helps :)

  4. Diana Moore says:

    We have planted the tubers that we bought from you and now we have wonderful 5 foot plants. Do the plants give you any signs for when they are ready to harvest?

    Do you have any tips for storage? I am worried they are going to rot or go mouldy.

    with thanks…

    • ambury7 says:

      Hi, wow sounds like youve done a great job with your plants. You will notice a small sunflower like flower appear (about the size of a old 50c coin), ours havent flowered yet but after flowering is the optimum time to harvest (when FOS is at its best). Its been a difficult wet season here in the Waikato with a lot more rain than usual. We are on a free draining soil so doesnt affect us too much but if your drainage isnt good I would lift the plants as soon as they start being more wet than dry. We can usually wait until the first frosts to harvest our main crops and others that grow on die back only to come away again in spring. The tubers are best kept in the ground as is with the tops cut back and a mulch layer over them during the winter (look up clamp storage for tubers)or stored in a cool dry, dark place. The longer they are stored the more sweet (FOS breaks down to simple sugars) they become. I hope this helps :)

  5. Angeleno Tuber says:

    So I just harvested my gorgeous Yacon plants as their flowers have wilted. I have a TON of pink crowns but almost no tubers. Is this common for the first year? If not, how can I increase my yield. I used fish fertilizer for the first few months and a well drained soil, never too wet. A little dismayed but mostly curious what to do next year. Thanks in advance.

  6. Angeleno Tuber says:

    I am in Southern California so we are in early winter. Based on the flowers, I thought it was just the right time to harvest. Any ideas as to why I would only get so many crowns but no tubers? Do the tubers get broken up before re-planting in the spring? Thanks in advance – hard to find much Yacon growing info online!

    • ambury7 says:

      Hi it certainly sounds like you have the right time of year to harvest then. There are a few possibilities: over fertilization with nitrogen, crowns are too crowded (planting fist size groups is ideal), or not enough water during growing. Every garden is slightly different – trial and error is the best way to learn it sounds like your on the right track for reaching out :)

  7. Angeleno Tuber says:

    Interesting, I bet I overdid it with the nitrogen as the leaves were gorgeous. Thanks for your help. Will report back next year!

  8. Pingback: Curious plants: Yacon | Sandra's Garden

  9. Brian's Experimental Garden says:

    Has anyone tried growing YACON in 50 gallon food grade plastic barrels? If so, any tips or comments? It seems to me, they would be easy to harvest that way as with potatoes. Also, being in the NW (Portland, Oregon, USA) I’m thinking it would prolong the growing season. Any thoughts or experience?

    • ambury7 says:

      Hi -We grew them ourselves to be more portable in 44 gallon plastic barrels cut in half (so two round tubs), holes for drainage and a bit of drainage material at the bottom are essential they dont like wet feet! they did well but not as well as in the ground, it really is amazing how they crop in good open ground and containers of any size can restrict this.Hope this helps – give it a go!

  10. Brian's Experimental Garden says:

    Ambury7,

    Thanks for your reply! Our soils here are fairly heavy but, fertile. Rain, except July through September is abundant (we say “Oregonian’s don’t tan, we rust!”). Would you say then for IN ground planting, the more tilled the better and perhaps adding amendments such as sand and/or pea gravel to break-up heavy soils? Perhaps adding compost? Potatoes seem to do better by adding bone meal (potassium). Do you think this would increase yield? Also, we have the pesky, elusive mole. Any similar problems or thoughts on YACON?

  11. Brian's Experimental Garden says:

    I meant to say phosphorus (and nitrogen) not potassium.

  12. Alelie says:

    Can I use the brown tuber of Yacon that I bought for planting, I don’t have those purple little tubers.

    • ambury7 says:

      Hi there, generally the tuber if planted will just rot in the ground – there is a chance it was close to a crown it could grow as weve noticed some surface tubers exhibit some growth on the connecting root between crown and tuber – sorry to say it would be a long shot :(

  13. ambury7 says:

    Hi definitely the more tilled the better and free draining, so improvements mentioned would be beneficial. Apart from a organic “Rok Solid” see http://www.agrissentials.com/ when initially planting we didnt trial anything else in terms of fertilisers or feed… root crops can be finicky where the wrong addition may encourage leaf or crown growth rather than tuber growth, weve always found experimenting the best way to determine the best results. Currently apart from following permaculture practises (chooks over spent beds, heavy mulching with compost and organic material) we dont add anything to our crops and they do exceptionally well!

  14. Brian's Experimental Garden says:

    Gads. You Kewi’s often use terms that stump me. Although I “think” I get your jist, please define “Roc Solid” and “chooks”. Otherwise, I’ll be up all night.

  15. Brian's Experimental Garden says:

    Wow. Was my thinking off. Lesson learned. Thank you!
    That’s definitly not something to be found in Funk & Wagnels. Chooks in a tractor. I like that!

  16. ambury7 says:

    you got me back – had to google Funk & Wagnels!

  17. chris price says:

    well first year, plant is over 6ft tall and boy has it spread, got 1 flower and 5 buds, in the garden. One in a pot has done nothing and one in another patch is only 3 ft tall, so it looks like the garden is the best place, Mind heaps of homemade compost in there, the first frost is not hit yet,should I wait till then?I am in Pamly north.

    • ambury7 says:

      Hi there yup garden with good compost is always a good combination! We leave ours in until the first frost or after the flowers (which ever comes first) keep the ground well mulched to stop the frost getting the tubers and harvest straight away so rot from stems doesnt effect tubers too :)

  18. chris price says:

    well A mass of flowers at the moment 5-6 on each stalk, must be about 20 stalks and it has started to raise the ground around the base so that could be a good sign? just waiting for the flowers to die, it looks like that will be the time. We have not had any frosts yet. love to post a piccy??

  19. ambury7 says:

    that’s awesome Chris – don’t know how to configure it so you can add a pic here – wonder if you could post it or message it to us on the facebook page? be great to see them – Wendy

  20. chris price says:

    ok Il take some new ones tomorrow if the rain stops

  21. chris price says:

    Posted this morning

  22. Anthony says:

    Hi there. I’m in the Far North near Kaitaia in a frost-free spot. I heard that yacon is photoperiod insensitive so having just harvested a crop can I divide and plant the crowns straight away? Also – do you have any stock of yacon that has coloured tubers? All mine are white.

    • ambury7 says:

      Hi there, the true color difference can be seen in crowns as tubers will all tend to change over time….we have mostly purple, some white and not sure if we have yellow left. You sure can plant again although it doesn’t frost their growth will be slower in the cooler months potentially bringing flowering and harvest forward?..let us know how it goes were on the move to tutukaka so keen to see difference there!

  23. chris price says:

    Well the leaves all died so we dug the plant up wow must be 20kg of fruit. we could not wait to clean a couple and try them well crunchy yes, but no flavour we could not believe it,even steamed some and no difference So have put them in the garage to see if they “ripen” The crown had new shoots on it too

  24. Jackie Davidson says:

    Grown a couple of yacon crowns each year for a few years now in North Hokianga, with mixed results. By far the best crop was the season I dug a couple of dead possums into the ground about 40cms below the planting. That crop was many kilos of big crunchy roots.
    A query – eating yacon, raw or cooked, has a stunning effect on me, and those I’ve shared it with! Makes us fart like the Trump of Doom! Do you other yacon-eaters share this too? Anyone know a way of avoiding this? Otherwise I must restrict yacon-eating to times when I’m going to be alone for a day or two – and especially NOT before the days I go off to be a music teacher . . . .

  25. Jackie Davidson says:

    Another query – what does FOS stand for?

    • ambury7 says:

      Hi Jackie -thanks for the feedback…gave us a giggle! The FOS is a longer chain sugar(longer than sugar) called fructo-oligo-saccharide …its what makes eating yacon highly beneficial for us but depending on the balance of resident bacteria in your digestive system can give you …errrhmmm wind. We dont tend to have this at embarrassing levels as it tends to regulate itself when used consistently. Our advice is to start slowly with a little at a time to build the right balance!

  26. Wayne says:

    Just dug up the last of the Yacons yesterday, this is our 2nd season growing them. We put 1 in the vege garden & 2 in a tub. Vege plant yielded 2.4 kilos but we dug them up at the end of April because I couldn’t wait any longer. The 2 in the tub gave a total of 3.3 kilos & we are using their crowns for next year which we have already planted in the herb garden under cut off juice bottles as they thrive well. My wife is a diabetic so she is loving them cooked but not so much raw although she will nibble them. Next season all will be going into our vege patch which has lousy soil by the way mostly Tawawera river silt which takes a lot of work. We found they love the slow release Nitrogen pellets & worm pee on a regular bases. Was so glad to find this site & its info Thxs.

  27. Alice says:

    I’m nearing the last of my second season of Yacon, we harvested around 80 kilo this year and aiming for more next season. Loving this veg!! We still have about 5 plants in the ground and although the odd one’s starting to rot there’s still plenty of good food, and they’re trying to sprout again. We’re in Hokitika, and it’s been a wet season so they can handle a bit of damp….

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