If you have never tried to grow sweet potatoes before, you are in for a treat. Starting sweet potato slips is easy to do and lots of fun.
Slips are the rooted sprouts that grow from an actual mature sweet potato. They are used to grow new sweet potato plants.
Growing sweet potato slips is a fun project to do with kids. You can buy rooted sweet potato slips, or use sweet potatoes purchased from the store to start slips that will produce dozens of sweet potatoes by the time fall arrives.
This tutorial shows how to grow sweet potato slips two ways – in water, and in potting soil.
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Sweet potatoes – ipomoea batatas – enjoy a long frost-free growing season. They are a warm weather vegetable that takes about 90 days to mature.
Sweet potatoes are a wonderful, earthy vegetable that can be used in so many ways in cooking. See this recipe for sweet potato stalks for an unusual breakfast idea.
These Italian sweet potatoes make a wonderful, one-pot, side dish that goes well with so many protein choices.
What is a sweet potato slip?
Sweet potatoes are not started by seed like some vegetables are. They get their start in life from what are called “slips.”
These potato starters are sprouts which grow on sweet potatoes and then develop roots when they come in contact with water or soil.
The slips can be used to start new sweet potato plants.
You can order bundles of sweet potato slips online or start your own slips from a sweet potato that has been purchased from a store. You can also start slips by using pieces of sweet potatoes that you have grown in your garden.Do you have some sprouted sweet potatoes? Don't throw them out. Plant them in water or in soil to make sweet potato slips. These sprouts will grow new plants! 🌿🥔🌿 Click To Tweet
Starting sweet potato slips
Sweet potato slips are easy to start. You can use both water and soil to get them going.
To start sweet potato slips, you will need several healthy, clean sweet potatoes.
Depending on the size, each sweet potato can produce dozens of slips, so just a few sweet potatoes will give you enough starters for many sweet potato plants.
Rooting sweet potato slips in water
This technique works in a similar way to that of sprouting an avocado pit in water.
Wash the sweet potato well. Inspect your sweet potato to see if you can find any tiny roots showing. This is the root end of the sweet potato. It usually tapers to a point.
Normally, one end of the sweet potato is larger and has more “eyes” on it. This is the sprouting end. Both ends of the sweet potato come into play when starting sweet potato slips.
If you cannot tell the sprouting end from the rooting end, place the sweet potato in a warm place for a few weeks. Buds will emerge and you’ll know which end goes up!
Suspend a sweet potato portion in a Mason jar filled with water. Place the sprouting end of the sweet potato above the water level and the rooting end below it.
You can use toothpicks to support the potato in the jar at the right level. Be sure there is some room for the roots to grow.a
Keep the water level mid way up the potato during the process and change the water every week to keep it fresh. I put mine in a sunny South facing window that gets a nice amount of heat and light.
In about a month, roots will form from the rooting end first, and sprouts will grow from the top sprouting area of the sweet potato.
Once you have 5-6 sprouts formed, you’ll be able to separate the sweet potato slips so that you can transplant them into soil.
Starting sweet potato slips in soil
This method of starting sweet potato slips is faster to get going. If you have a sweet potato in the cupboard that is starting to sprout, you have an even better head start!
Choose a container with drainage holes or add gravel to the container. A clean rotisserie chicken tray works great if you plan to use just one sweet potato.
Fill the container with potting soil or seed starting soil. Moisten the soil well.
Place sweet potatoes in the soil mix so that the potatoes are covered about half way up with soil. Cover the container and mist often to keep the soil moist.
Again, provide warmth. In about a week, you will see roots forming in the soil. In another week, sprouts will begin to grow from the top of the sweet potato.
When the sprouts are about 5-6 inches long, they will be ready for separating and then transplanting.
Separating the sweet potato slips
Whether you choose to start with the water or the soil method, once the sweet potatoes have sprouted and grown some roots, it is time to separate them into slips for planting.
To do this, carefully twist each sprouted area away from the sweet potato. You might even be lucky enough to get some slips with roots already growing!
Place the slips in a small Mason Jar with the bottom part of the stem area submerged in water and the sprouted leaves hanging over the edge of the bowl.
In a few days, roots will form on the bottom of each plant. Be sure to keep the water fresh by changing it daily.
The slips are ready to plant when the roots are several inches long. Any slips that don’t have roots and those that appear to be wilting can be discarded.
Note: after separating the slips from the sweet potato, you can continue trying to grow more slips on the potato to plant later! I kept having mine sprout for many weeks after I got my first slips.
How many slips will grow from each sweet potato?
The answer to this depends on whether you have a bush or vining sweet potato slip.
Normally, sweet potatoes can produce a pound for each plant. Long-season varieties produce more because their tubers continue to grow until the frost hits the region.
Bush varieties of sweet potatoes produce less, but they are easier to grow in containers.
The yield can vary, but as a rule of thumb, each sweet potato will produce about 6 slips and you will get about 3-5 potatoes from each slip.
This means that an average sweet potato is capable of giving you 18-30 new sweet potatoes. That is quite a yield!
What type of soil do sweet potato slips like?
Sweet potatoes like soil that is loose and well draining. It also likes slightly acidic soil. Coffee grounds added to the soil will help with the acidity level.
Well draining allows larger tubers to form easily. If your soil is compacted and firm, adding compost or other organic matter will make it looser and more friable.
Also be sure to keep the soil consistently moist during the growing season. They prefer a soil temperature of 70 – 80° F. This means that sweet potato slips should be started in mid-summer in most regions.
Plant the slips in an area with full sun. Partial sun or a bit of afternoon shade in the hottest climates is best.
How to plant sweet potato slips
Sweet potato slips are ready to be planted as soon as all chance of frost is over and the ground has warmed sufficiently.
Plant the slips about 12 – 18 inches apart with rows about 4 inches deep. Sweet potatoes can take a lot of room when growing, so you don’t want to crowd them.
Soak the soil thoroughly after planting, making sure the area around the slips is very wet. Water the slips every day for the first week and 3 times during the second week.
Gradually make the time between each watering a bit longer until you are giving the slips water about once a week.
If your soil is very dry, (or if you have had a lot of rain) you may need to adjust the watering cycle slightly.
Even though sweet potatoes can withstand dry conditions, they don’t produce as well , so be sure to keep the watering up, especially in the hottest part of the summer.
It takes about 3 months for the sweet potato slips to produce sweet potatoes for harvesting.
Can you plant a whole sweet potato in the ground?
If you want to forego the task of producing the slips, it is possible to plant the whole sweet potato in the ground and partially cover it with soil. Each sweet potato will produce dozens of sprouts.
The problem with taking this short cut is that the sprouts will not be spaced out, so the plants (and sweet potato tubers) will be crowded. This will result in smaller sweet potatoes.
For best results, using slips will allow you to space the plants well.
Can you grow sweet potatoes indoors?
Sweet potatoes need lots of sunlight and are ideally suited for growing outside.
However, if you have the right conditions, you can grow sweet potatoes from slips as indoor plants in a container.
You can use the technique above shown for growing slips in water and just let the sprouts develop and the vines grow will eventually grow.
Alternatively, choose a larger container filled with good quality potting soil and plant the root end down so that the vines will grow from the top. The sprouting end of the sweet potato is left above the soil line.
How to grow sweet potatoes in a decorative cup
Sweet potatoes are very versatile. You can even grow them as a decorative potato plant in a cup!
Fill the cup about half full with water. Place the sweet potato into the cup making sure that the end having the most eyes is above the water.
Place the cup in front of a warm, sunny window. Check the water daily, making sure that the bottom part of the sweet potato remains covered, so roots will develop.
Change the water every few days. In about three weeks, roots will start to appear. After roots have formed, the top of the potato will send off leaves and a vine will eventually develop.
You will need to keep changing the water unless you move the potato to soil.
Where to buy sweet potato slips
What if you are not in the mood to start your own sweet potato slips? Never worry – sweet potato slips can be purchased! Early spring is the best time to order. Later in the year, you may find that they are out of stock because of the long growing season needed for sweet potatoes.
Here are some places with sweet potato slips for sale:
- Sweet potato slips on Etsy
- Sweet potato slips at Sand Hill Preservation Center
- Sweet potato slips from Country Farm & Home
- Sweet potato slips from Amazon
Critters and sweet potato plants
It is not just humans that love sweet potatoes, many animals do, as well.
Deer will love to chew on sweet potato vines and leaves. Rabbits especially love them and will often slice the shoots entirely off the plant. Voles and moles love the tubers.
If you cannot fence for rabbits and deer, row covers will help to deter them from feeding on the plants. Install mesh fencing under the soil around the plantings of sweet potatoes as an aid to help keep voles away.
Other vegetables that will re-grow from pieces
Sweet potatoes are just one vegetable that can be used to grow more vegetables. There are many others.
Some are cut and come again vegetables which will keep growing after you harvest them each time.
Others are vegetables that you can use to grow entire new plants from a part of piece of the vegetable. See my post on re-growing food from kitchen scraps here.
Pin this post for starting sweet potato slips for later
Would you like a reminder of this tutorial for growing sweet potatoes from slips? Pin this image to one of your vegetable gardening boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.
Admin note: This post first appeared on the blog in April of 2013. I have updated the post to add all new materials, a tutorial, a project card and a video for you to enjoy.
- Sweet potato
- Potting soil
- Rotisserie Chicken container
- Mason Jar
- Garden spade
To start sweet potato slips in water
- Wash the sweet potato well.
- Suspend a sweet potato in a Mason jar filled with water. Place the sprouting end of the sweet potato above the water level and the rooting end below it. You can use toothpicks to support the potato in the jar.
- Keep in a warm location.
- Be sure the water stays half way up the jar and change it each week to keep it fresh.
- Roots will form in about a month and then sprouts will form.
- When 5-6 sprouts have formed, separate the slips and transplant in soil.
To start sweet potatoes in soil
- Add soil to a clean rotisserie chicken tray lined with pebbles.
- Place a sweet potato in the soil and cover half way up with soil..
- Cover the container and keep the soil moist.
- Keep warm.
- In about a week, you will see roots forming in the soil. In another week, sprouts will begin to grow from the top of the sweet potato.
- When the sprouts are about 5-6 inches long, they will be ready for separating and then transplanting.
Separating the sweet potato slips
- Once the sweet potatoes have sprouted and grown some roots, it is time to separate them into slips for planting.
- Twist each sprouted area away from the sweet potato.
- Lay the slip in a Mason Jar with the bottom part of the stem area submerged in water and the sprouted leaves hanging over the edge of the bowl.
- In a few days, roots will form on the bottom of each plant.
- Keep the water fresh by changing daily.
- The slips are ready to plant when the roots are several inches long.
- Discard any slips that don't have roots and those that appear to be wilting.
- Plant the slips in soil in a sunny location in well draining soil when soil is warmed to 70 -80 degrees F.
- Space 12-18 inches and plant 4 inches deep. Keep well watered.
- Sweet potatoes will be ready to harvest in 3 months.