How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips

Sweet potatoes are super easy to grow and starting your own sweet potato slips is even easier! Unlike most vegetables, sweet potatoes are not started from seed, but rather are grown from cuttings (called "slips")  taken off a mature "mother" sweet potato.

When I first starting growing sweet potatoes, I ordered slips from a mail order company.  While it's true that I did this mostly because I wanted to know the variety of sweet potato that I would be growing, I really didn't know just how easy it was to start the slips myself, or I would've started my own.

Sweet potatoes are probably the easiest vegetables to start yourself!

Yes, you could just order some slips from a mail order company like I did years ago, but what's the fun in that? Unless you want a particular variety, it's much cheaper and you'll probably end up with more and much healthier slips if you start them yourself too. The slips I received by mail order years ago were in pretty bad shape when they arrived, but they did spring back. I planted them and harvested a few that year and I've used what I harvest each year to start new slips the following spring, so that initial purchase has been the basis for all of the sweet potatoes I've grown since!

If you want to try to start your own slips, you can use some of the sweet potatoes you harvested last fall as mother plants (that's what I do each year!), but don't worry if you don't have extra sweet potatoes on hand. You don't need to use a "special" mother sweet potato and can grow your own sweet potato slips from a sweet potato that you buy in the grocery store (although you'll want to splurge a bit and get an organic sweet potato if you go this route to ensure that the mother sweet potato hasn't been treated with chemicals to keep it from sprouting).

Here's the "step by step" to starting your own sweet potato slips ...

Start with a clean, healthy sweet potato and cut it in half.

Actually, you don't have to cut it in half if you don't want to -- I've started sweet potatoes using the entire sweet potato before, but cutting it in half gives you 2 mother sweet potatoes to start from and 2 is better than 1, right? You know, twice the slips from a single potato (duh!), so I would suggest cutting it in half.

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips

Grab a clean mason jar or a glass that one of the sweet potato halves will fit into.

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips

Take 3 or 4 toothpicks and insert them an inch or 2 up from the cut side of the sweet potato (the cut side will go into the water in the jar). The toothpicks will support the sweet potato in the jar and keep a few inches of it in water, so you'll want to insert the toothpicks at the same distance from the bottom of the sweet potato and at equal distance around the sweet potato.  Clear as mud?

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips

Fill the glass or mason jar with water and place your skewered sweet potato into the water. You only need to have a couple of inches of the sweet potato in water, the majority of the sweet potato will remain out of the water.

On a side note, I don't know why this sweet potato has a big "vein" in it ... looks kind of creepy, huh?

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips

Then, place the sweet potato jar in a bright, warm spot and sit back and wait ... it takes a few weeks, but you'll soon see little slip nubbins start to appear on the part of the sweet potato that is out of the water. Be sure to keep the water in the jars clean and fill it as needed to keep the water at the same level. I usually completely replace the water at least once a week throughout the slip growing process and top off the jars every few days.

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips

The slips will grow and grow and grow! You know, just like in Jumanji .... well, maybe not like that, but they will grow fast!

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips

When the slips are at least 3 or 4 inches long (or longer), you can pull them from the mother plant. Just hold the slips with your thumb and forefinger as closely to the mother potato as possible as gently pull them off. They might already have roots on them, but if they don't, it's ok -- they'll sprout roots in no time!

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips

Place the liberated slips into a glass or jar with some clean water in the bottom.

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips

You don't need much -- just an inch or two of water (you don't want the leaves in the water, just the bottom of the stems).

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips

After a day or two, you'll start seeing some serious roots sprouting on the slips. Once they have pretty big roots, you can plant them in your garden or in pots. I prefer to put them in pots for a few weeks to give them an extra boost before going to the garden. This also allows me to bring them inside if we get a cold night ... sweet potatoes don't like cold weather and won't do well if you plant them out too early.

And that's it! The whole process takes about 6 weeks from start to finish, so you'll want to plan to start your slips about 3 or 4 weeks before your last frost date. Then you can spend the rest of your summer dreaming of sweet potatoes!

Apr 01 2014

Join the Conversation!

December 11, 2015

Hi, Caryl -- many thankeeeew for the detailed clear explanation about Sweet Potato seed to plant process. Definitely i will start it today only & share my experience shortly,


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