How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips for Beginners (2024)

sweet potato slips

Would you like to learn how to grow sweet potato slips quickly and easily? It’s not that hard, but it helps to know some basics if you’ve never grown them before. Growing plants from slips is an easy process and does not require any special equipment.

Sweet potatoes are not grown from seeds, nor can you grow them from eyes like regular potatoes. They are root vegetables rather than tubers, and they are propagated through growing new plants from the root itself. Their health benefits make them a great addition to your vegetable garden.

The best way to grow sweet potato slips is to place a mature sweet potato in soil or water and give it the warm environment it needs to sprout. Each sprout, or slip as they are usually called, can root and become a separate sweet potato plant. 

You can start growing sweet potato slips, inside, six to eight weeks before your last frost date. Read on below to learn the details of how, when, and where to start your sweet potato slips to ensure the best and healthiest crop possible.

You’ll be harvesting your own sweet potatoes in no time!

When to Start Sweet Potato Slips 

So how far in advance of the planting date should you start your sweet potato slips? 

There are two important considerations–your growing zone (which can predict your last frost date for the spring), and outdoor temperature.

Choose a variety of sweet potatoes that are right for your growing zone and other space needs.

In warm climates sweet potatoes can be extremely vigorous, even potentially taking over everything around them because each node on the vine will root where it touches the ground. 

▶ In cooler climates choose a variety that was bred for a shorter season.

You can also select a bush variety if you’re growing in containers or a small space.  Bush varieties like Porto Rico grow short vines, have orange flesh, and high production.

Sweet potato plants are extremely cold sensitive, and can die if exposed to a few days of 40-degree weather, so they should never be planted outside until it is very warm and at least two to three weeks after your last frost date.

You can also extend your growing season by growing your sweet potatoes indoors.

Sweet potatoes grow best when the daytime temperatures are between 80-90 degrees, and the nighttime temperatures are 60 degrees or above. 

Warming the soil ahead of planting time is a good idea. This can be done by spreading clear plastic sheeting over the beds where you intend to plant. You can also use black plastic row covers to warm the bed, but clear plastic works quicker. 

RECAP:

1 |  Check your growing zone

2 |  Choose the correct variety for your zone and space

3 |  Wait 3-4 weeks until after last frost

4 |  Warm the soil before planting  


How to Start Sweet Potato Slips 

First, it may help to understand that slips are actually sprouts. Other plants can be propagated by clipping a piece of the vine, rooting it in water, and growing another plant from that cutting.

With sweet potatoes, if you grow another plant from a cutting, there will not be any delicious roots to harvest. To get more sweet potatoes, you must sprout a mature sweet potato and grow a new plant from that sprout.

Many people make the mistake of planting the whole sweet potato, however that won’t work.

sweet potato slips

Your sprouting medium can be soil or water, or using the baggie method. You decide which one works best in your particular situation. Each method is pretty easy.

Sprouting in soil is usually faster, but you may prefer to sprout in water if you don’t like to clean up a mess after dealing with soil inside your home.

Below are simple steps to start your slips in either water or soil.

Most experienced growers will tell you that the soil method is much better than the water method. For one thing, there is more surface area for the potato to both root and sprout, when it is lying on its side and has its entire length to take up moisture.

Also, you must use an organic potato since it will not have been treated with a sprouting inhibitor. 

Four Steps to Start Sweet Potato Slips in Soil

1 |  Slice sweet potatoes lengthwise and place each piece, cut-side facing down, in a container with moist potting soil. Press the pieces down firmly until they are at least half-covered with soil.

2 |  Place the container on a heat mat or in a warm spot like on top of the refrigerator.

3 |  Slips will appear within a few days. Place in a warm, sunny window to grow. The sunlight will greatly speed their growth.

4 |  When the slips are a few inches long, remove them from the plant and place them in water until roots form.

What type of soil should you use for sweet potato slips?

Using the correct type of soil for your sweet potato slips will help them grow into a strong and healthy plant, which then produces a strong and healthy yield of sweet potatoes.

Your soil for the slips should be soft and well-drained soil. A light, sandy loam is ideal.

Sweet potatoes prefer a pH level of 5.5-6.5, so slightly acidic. You can add coffee grounds to your soil to help with the acidity.

While your sweet potato slips are growing, the soil should be slightly moist. You will have to check daily to make sure you are watering properly.

Four Steps to Start Sweet Potato Slips in Water

1 |  Cut your sweet potato into two pieces and partially submerge each one in water. (use a shallow dish with an inch of water where the bottom of the sweet potato can rest and root, or use toothpicks to suspend the potato halves on the rim of a glass of water).

2 |  Place the submerged sweet potatoes in a warm place in your house. It does not have to have light at this point but if you’re in a hurry, heat and light will speed the process.

3 |  Watch for the slips to emerge, then allow them to grow to about 3-5 inches. Change the water every two to three days.

4 |  Remove slips from the plant and place them in water until roots form. 

sweet potato slips

How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips in a Baggie

You will need:

– A few fresh, organic sweet potatoes from your local grocery store

– Clear plastic sandwich baggies (gallon size) or zip lock bags

Instructions:

1 | Cut a few inches off of your sweet potatoes to make them easier to handle. Be sure to always keep at least one root on the sweet potato as this is how your slips will grow.

2 | Once you have successfully removed all of the roots off of your potatoes, place each slip in its own sandwich bag (or zip lock bag). Leave an inch or two below the opening, so the sweet potato can have plenty of room.

3 | Place your newly-grown slips in a warm, sunny location and wait for them to grow! It usually takes about two weeks (or longer) before you start seeing new growth on your slips. Once this occurs, open up each baggie or zip lock bag slightly until there is more ventilation.

4 | Once your slips have reached about six inches high, it is time to plant them! Fill a pot with moist soil and gently separate the slip from its plastic baggie (or zip lock). Plant each slip two-three inches down in the soil, covering any exposed roots. Water thoroughly after planting so there aren’t any dry spots.

How to Cut or Remove Sweet Potato Slips for Rooting  

Once the sprouts are several inches long, separate them from the sweet potato. To do this, gently grasp them near the base and pull or twist them loose, or use sharp scissors to snip them off.

Now that you’ve removed the sprouts, place them into a fresh jar of water, and you’ll see roots growing from the slips pretty quickly, starting usually within a couple of days. After at least a week to ten days in water, the sweet potato slips should be well-rooted.   

When Are Sweet Potato Slips Ready to Plant?

Sweet potato slips are ready to plant once they have roots an inch long.

Be sure to wait two to three weeks after your last frost before you plant them outside.

Until the temperatures outside are ideal, the slips can continue to grow inside in the water or in small pots of soil. If they stay in water, change the water often so it’s fresh.

How to Plant Sweet Potato Slips in 5 Steps

1 |  Prepare a growing bed or container with nice loose soil, since the growing roots will need plenty of room to expand.

2 |  Make a hole deep enough to bury the slip up to its first set of leaves.

3 |  Place the slips into the ground with the roots in the soil and the leaves in the air. Pack the dirt gently around them.

4 |  Apply mulch around the plant to keep moisture in the soil. Straw works well for this or compost.

5 |  Water the seedlings well once planted and each day for the first week or so if conditions are dry.

sweet potato slips

Once the plants take off, they will not need much from you. They are robust and not often bothered by disease or insects.

These plants are some of the easiest ones you can grow, and will produce highly nutritious and great tasting food for you.

You can harvest them when the leaves start to turn yellow and die. If your growing conditions are particularly hot and dry, you can gently remove some of the soil and check on their progress after 90-100 days depending on the variety. 

Sweet Potato Slips FAQs

How many sweet potatoes per slip?

If you are growing in a warm climate you may get eight to ten sweet potatoes per plant. In a cooler climate, you can expect to get one to four per plant.

How many sweet potato slips per container?

You can easily grow three slips in a ten-gallon container and six in a 20-gallon container. And take into consideration that each plant will produce about a pound of sweet potatoes, so plan accordingly!

Do sweet potato slips need sunlight?

During the sprouting phase, they can be placed in a low light environment. But as soon as the slips are removed from the sweet potato and placed into water to root, they need sunlight. And they should certainly be planted in a sunny location.

How long will sweet potato slips last?

I’ve seen slips last for months in a small container of soil when they were forgotten.

They are hardy plants, and long-time growers say to go ahead and plant them if you have plenty of room, even if they don’t look like they’ll make it.

The slips almost always survive given enough hot weather and growing days.

When can you harvest sweet potatoes?

Sweet potatoes are ready to harvest 90-125 days after they are planted in your garden. When the sweet potato vine starts to turn yellow-brown, it is about time to harvest them.

When the plant has died down, usually due to frost, you can begin harvesting the sweet potatoes.

Can you save sweet potato slips?

You can save the sweet potato itself to create more slips. Store the sweet potatoes in the dark at 50-60 degrees. Root cellars were designed especially for this type of storage. 

Where can I order sweet potato slips?

Many seed companies and local big box stores sell sweet potato slips in the spring. For instance, Johnny’s Selected Seeds offers Mahon, Covington, and Murasaki varieties.

Sow True Seeds sells the all-time favorite and widely grown Beauregard variety, which is good for colder climates, as it requires fewer days to harvest.

However, after you look at the prices, you may decide to start your own slips. It’s a very doable thing even for newbies.

Final thoughts on sweet potato slips

If you’re ready to get your sweet potato slips growing, keep in mind your growing zones and time frame you will need to plant.  It’s pretty simple to grow sweet potatoes, they just need the right preparation and care.

Nothing tastes better than a homegrown sweet potato in your favorite recipe.