How to Start Sweet Potato Slips

How to Start Sweet Potato Slips

Sweet potato slips are the starts for growing sweet potatoes in your garden!  Growing your own, right in your kitchen window, is easy, fun and something you should start soon after the holidays in January.

Growing sweet potatoes in my garden every year is a must!  I bake and cook with them in the fall and winter and I can’t imagine not having them around!  They’re very simple to grow, let me show you “How to Start Sweet Potato Slips”!

Sweet potatoes are thought to have been domesticated from Central and South America.  Actually, it is said that Christopher Columbus took sweet potatoes back to Europe with him after his first voyage to the Americas.

I absolutely LOVE sweet potatoes!

They are not only incredibly healthy for you, but studies ranked the sweet potato #1 vegetable in overall nutrition.

Sweet potatoes are a good source of fiber and Vitamin A, but they also boast of Vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and B6.

They can be enjoyed so many ways!

I love them as a side dish with loads of butter and salt, but you can make quick breads, pies, casseroles and even stir-fry!

Common Misconception

Sweet potatoes are a member of the bindweed, or morning glory family.  This explains the gorgeous vinery and flowers that they produce, so beautiful to look at!

Yams are an entirely different root crop.  They are from the yam plant family of Dioscoreaceae, and are dry and starchy.

The term “yams” has been used synonymously with “sweet potatoes” in the southern US, but this isn’t accurate.  They are a completely different plant species.

NOW you know!

Growing Sweet Potato Slips

growing sweet potatoes with tubers

Sweet potatoes aren’t grown from seeds, but rather “slips”.

(You can order sweet potatoes slips here!)

Slips are sprouts from another sweet potato.

Slips are super easy to grow!!   (This might remind you of an experiment you did in the first grade!)

In order to grow sweet potato slips in water, you will need….

  • -An organic sweet potato (tuber) from last years crop, the grocery store or health food store (make sure that the potatoes haven’t been treated against sprouting)
  • -A jar with mouth large enough to allow for each sweet potato
  • -A dozen or so toothpicks (4 per potato)

sweet potatoes with toothpicks

Wash your potato with a mild soap to get off any dirt or bacteria.  Dry well.

In a “T” shape, insert your toothpicks into the top half of the sweet potato.

Next, fill your mason jar about 1/2 way with water and slowly place your sweet potato in there.  If the water is a little too high, pour some out.  The bottom fourth of the potato should be immersed.

How to Grow Amazing Blueberries

sweet potatoes sprouting in jars

Every few days, replace the water.  After a week or so, you should start to see little sprouts (or sweet potato slips!) coming out of your potatoes!

Alternative Way to Grow Sweet Potato Slips

You can just as easily lay the seed sweet potato in a shallow pan of water, like a re-purposed aluminum pan and accomplish the same results.  Make sure the sweet potato is 1/2 way covered with water.

Growing Green Beans

growing sweet potatoes with slips

Exciting!  So when the sweet potato slips look something like this, pluck them off gently and put them in a jar of water by themselves, so that they can root.

rooted slips


slips rooting in water

Once the sweet potato slips have a good root system, you should plant them in small pots or containers, which will give them a good start.  Keep them on a sunny window sill.

Once the chance of frost has past, you can plant them outside in your garden.

tubors growing in ground

Sweet Potato Growing Conditions

They are very sensitive to frost so wait to plant until 4 weeks or so after the last frost.

Always add well-rotted compost to your soil, your plants need it to feed off of.

Sweet potatoes prefer well-drained soil in a sunny spot with warm conditions.  Loamy soil with a pH from 5.0-7.5 will grow your best sweet potatoes!

vines growing in garden

Create hills that are about 8″ tall to plant your sweet potato slips in.  Plant all the way up to the leaves and then press the soil firmly.

Space your plants about 18″ apart to give them room to spread out.  The vines will grow vigorously and produce a beautiful foliage.

Be sure to mulch around your plants to reduce weeds but to also keep the soil as warm as possible.

Water at least 1″ per week but take any rainfall into consideration.

When to Harvest Sweet Potatoes

Nature has it’s way of letting us know when the mother plant is finished producing.

The sweet potato leaves will begin to turn brown and die back.  If you want more well-developed flavor and nutritional value, wait to harvest until just before the first frost.  Past this point, your tubers will rot very quickly.

Use a large garden pitchfork to harvest your sweet potatoes.  Be careful to dig at least 12-18″ around the plant so that you don’t accidentally pierce your tubers.

Sweet potatoes need to be cured in 80-90 degree temperatures for 10-15 days, in a dry place.

cooked yams

Recipes for Sweet Potatoes

Maple Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes


Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins

Sweet Potato Hash Browns

pie recipe

Finally, everyone favorite pie recipe for Thanksgiving, Sweet Potato Pie!

Enjoy and grow your own sweet potatoes  this year for all of your recipes!

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This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. candy

    I am so going to try this for my garden this year. Found you on Simple Homestead Blog Hop.

    1. Kelly

      Candy, good luck! Let me know how you do with it!

  2. Leah Lynch

    This is so cool! My inlaws said they couldn’t grow them well and they are pretty big gardeners so I took their word for it. Definitely trying it this spring.

    1. Kelly

      Hi Leah! This works really well, mine are just sprouting some roots out of the bottom of the potato, I expect the slips to appear next week! Good luck!

  3. Leilani

    My sweet potatoes from the grocery sprouted in the compost and I just planted the whole thing. Removing the slips seems like a better way to get a bigger harvest! Thanks for the info. Found you on the blog hop.

    1. Kelly

      Leilani, That’s awesome! Thanks for letting me know about your success!

  4. Ann @ Live The Old Way

    This is one of the clearest sweet potato slip tutorials .I’ve seen! Thanks for sharing it with us at the Homestead Blog Hop!

  5. Deborah Davis

    Hi Kelly, I hopped by from Homestead Blog Hop to check out your tips for growing sweet potatoes.This method reminds me of my public school sweet potato science project so I can’t wait to do this again! I’m sharing this post on social media. All the best, Deborah

  6. Amora

    Hey 🙂
    I’ve done it the exact same way as you said and they’ve grown quite many roots so far but unfortunately the top seems to be drying out and is far away from growing any leaves like in your pictures, do you think they will develop when I put them in soil?

    1. Kelly

      Hi Amora! Are you keeping the water level consistent in your jar? This is important, especially if they’re drying out. Also, the jar may need a warmer place, do you have a radiator or a warmer window to put them? I don’t know what gardening zone you’re in but yes, they should produce slips from the soil as well, but in my zone 5, the last frost isn’t until late April. Check out this YouTube video and see how to do the soil method. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Diana

    I’ve had a sweet potato in water a couple of weeks and roots are growing on the bottom, nothing on top. What’s up?

    1. Kelly

      Hi Diana! Don’t lose heart! A couple of tips- Keep the water level consistent and change the water every couple of weeks. Also, your potato might need more heat, can you place it near a heating vent or radiator? Hang in there, I think you’re on the verge of slips!

  8. Lacey

    I’m going to have to try this with my little girls! We LOVE sweet potatoes around here!

    I found you through the Homestead Blog Hop. Love your site, and I’ll be coming back for more!

    1. Kelly

      Hi Lacey! Kids love doing this! Thanks for reading and commenting!!

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