How to Start Sweet Potato Slips for Growing Sweet Potatoes (With Photos)

If you have ever wanted to grow sweet potatoes then learning how to grow sweet potato slips is a must. And the good news is, sweet potato slips are easy to grow! Read on for how to start sweet potato slips for growing sweet potatoes in your vegetable garden at home.

What Are Sweet Potato Slips?

Sweet Potato Slips
Sweet Potato Slips

You might be wondering what sweet potato slips are? And how they grow sweet potato plants.

The first thing you should know about sweet potatoes is that they are not grown like other types of plants or in this case, vine. Instead of using seeds, slips are used to grow a completely mature sweet potato.

Sweet potato slips are a type of sprout, and they grow from sweet potatoes. You can purchase sweet potato slips from a store or online nursery and you can easily grow your own slips following the simple directions provided below.

Sweet Potato Slips Growing From a Sweet Potato - How to Start Sweet Potato Slips
Sprouting Slips from a Sweet Potato

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips

Sweet potato slips can be grown in a few different ways. I recommend either growing them in soil or starting them in water. Either method works well.

Method One: Growing Sweet Potato Slips in Water

To grow your sweet potato slips in the water, you will need a sweet potato, a glass jar, and toothpicks or wooden skewers cut to size. I favor wooden skewers because they’re stronger than toothpicks and can more easily pierce the sweet potato.

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips in Water - Supplies Needed
How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips in Water – Supplies Needed

I also suggest getting a sweet potato that is organic to ensure it hasn’t been sprayed with a growth inhibitor. This goes for either method of growing your sweet potato slips.

Next, you want to fill up your glass jar with water and place toothpicks in around the middle to the upper third of the sweet potato. This will prevent it from fully submerging underwater in the jar.

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips in Water - Inserting Toothpicks
Inserting Toothpicks into a Sweet Potato

At this point, you may be wondering ‘which end of the sweet potato goes up when rooting in water?’ Generally, the tapered smaller end should point downwards to form roots in the water while the larger end can be positioned to point up to grow the slips.

As you can see from the harvested sweet potatoes photo below – the narrower end of the sweet potatoes has roots forming.

Harvested Sweet Potatoes Showing That Roots Form From the Narrow Tapered End of the Sweet Potato
Harvested Sweet Potatoes Showing That Roots Form From the Narrow Tapered End of the Sweet Potato

Your sweet potato should only be half-submerged in the water, allowing roots to form on the bottom part of the potato, beneath the water.  

Growing Sweet Potato Slips in Water
Growing Sweet Potato Slips in Water

Provide a warm spot and light source for the sweet potato, and let it sit in the water until the slips start to form from the top half of the sweet potato.

Growing Sweet Potato Slips in Water - Growing Sweet Potato Slips in Water - Place the Jar on a Windowsill
Growing Sweet Potato Slips in Water – Place the Jar on a Windowsill

Also, make sure to regularly change the water. This should be done every 3-4 days.

Sweet Potato Slips Growing in Water - this shows 8 weeks of growth
Sweet Potato Slips Growing In Water with 8 Weeks Growth

Method Two: Growing Sweet Potato Slips in Soil

Growing sweet potato slips in soil is a little more work. But, if you want to grow your slips faster this is an ideal method. To start, you will need a tin foil pan or a pot with good drainage, some soil, sweet potatoes, and something to poke your pan with to create drainage holes.

How to Start Sweet Potato Slips - Growing in Soil Supplies Needed
Growing Sweet Potato Slips in Soil – Supplies Needed

Poke some small holes in the bottom of the pan, then start filling the pan or pot up with nutrient-rich soil.

Using a skewer to insert drainage in a foil plan for growing sweet potato slips
Using a skewer to insert drainage in a foil plan for growing sweet potato slips.
Using a Foil Pan to Grow Sweet Potato Slips
Insert multiple drainage holes in to the pan to grow sweet potato slips.

Water the soil a little, then begin putting in the sweet potatoes. You can bury them horizontally and lightly cover the sweet potatoes with soil. Some growers prefer to only cover half the sweet potato, leaving the rest exposed to easily grow the slips. Either method works.

Planting Sweet Potatoes for Growing Slips
Planting Sweet Potatoes for Growing Slips

Place your tray or pot near in a warm spot with plenty of good light and keep the soil moist but not soggy. If you are growing indoors you will also need to place something under the pan or pot to catch the water.

Growing Roots on Sweet Potato Slips

To grow roots on your sweet potato slips, first make sure they are big enough. You will know that they are ready when they are 4-6 inches (10-15cm) long.

Slips on a Sweet Potato
Slips on a Sweet Potato

Once they are ready, you can go ahead and detach the slips from the sweet potato. This can be done by cutting them off at their base or you can gently twist them off the sweet potato with your hands. During this time, also remove a few of the leaves on the lower portion of your slips.

Holding a Sweet Potato Slip
Holding a Sweet Potato Slip

After you have your slips gathered up, you want to get a newly prepared jar filled with water. Put your slips into the water, and let them stay in the water until roots start to form. This process will help the slips grow roots, and help them grow properly when you plant your sweet potatoes out in the garden.

Rooting Sweet Potato Slips in Water
Rooting Sweet Potato Slips in Water

To assist the roots to form, make sure there is plenty of water in the jar and change out the water every 3-4 days. Your slips should be submerged to just below the leaves. And, make sure to give them plenty of light and warmth. After the roots are 1-2 inches long, then you ready to plant your sweet potato slips.

Rooted Sweet Potato Slip
Rooted Sweet Potato Slip

Ideal Growing Conditions for Sweet Potato Slips

In the sub-tropics, sweet potatoes can be grown all year round. And in cooler climates, they can be grown after all chance of frost has passed. Sweet potatoes prefer temperatures above 75°F (24°C) so you can plan to grow slips indoors to get a head start on the growing season.

Make sure that your sweet potato slips have enough warmth and light. You can even put them near a radiator to give them extra warmth.

Also, if you are using the soil method for growing slips, make sure the soil remains moist enough and is watered regularly. Fertile, free-draining soil is ideal for growing sweet potato slips.

How Long Does it Take to Grow Sweet Potato Slips?

When growing sweet potato slips, you can expect your slips to sprout within 4-8 weeks. This seems like a long time but just when you are wondering where your sweet potato slips are, they will surprise you with new shoots and your slips will start growing.

If you grow your sweet potato slips with the water method, it will take a little longer to grow them. You can expect them to grow in 6-8 weeks.

When you use the soil method for growing sweet potato slips, it will take less time. And you can expect your slips to grow in about 4-6 weeks.

You can choose the method which is best for you, but if you want to speed up the growth process, then you might prefer growing your sweet potato slips in the soil.

How to Plant Sweet Potato Slips Properly

To plant your sweet potato slips, have your soil prepared. It should be moist, and you want to dig in holes at an angle of around 45 degrees.

Planting a Sweet Potato Slip
Planting a Sweet Potato Slip

Place the rooted slips into the holes, and bury them. The leaves of your slips should be sticking out.

Planting a Sweet Potato Slip in the Garden
Planting a Sweet Potato Slip in the Garden

Don’t plant the sweet potato slips too close to each other either. They should be a good 12-18 inches (30-45cm) away from each other for the best results. The vines will spread along the ground and form roots where they touch the earth. You can also train them up a structure if space is limited though you will reduce the harvest size.

In warm climates, sweet potatoes will mature in 16-18 weeks and longer in colder climates.

By the way, leaves from the sweet potato vine are edible and delicious! Cook them up as you would other leafy greens such as Swiss Chard. They are quick and easy to use in a stir-fry.

Sweet Potato Plant - the Leaves are Edible
Sweet Potato Plant – the Leaves are Edible

Conclusion

Growing sweet potato slips is easy to do at home and in a few short weeks, you can be planting out your new slips to grow your own sweet potatoes. So whether you choose to grow your slips in water or soil you will soon be rewarded with new sweet potato plant to grow in your garden.

Some Favorite Gardening Products

AeroGarden Bounty Indoor Hydroponic Herb Garden

King Bird Raised Garden Bed

Felco Garden Pruners

Sloggers Waterproof Garden Gum Boots

Further Reading:

Vegetables You Can Regrow From Kitchen Scraps

Growing Bulb Onions: 20 Things You Should Know

How to Start Sweet Potato Slips