Thursday, February 10, 2011

Starting sweet potatoes

Start sweet potato slips for planting by placing a sweet potato in a jar of water.  The bottom of the potato will start to root and the top will form bunches of leaves (slips).  The slips are small vines that can eventually be planted in the ground.

From everything I have heard, sweet potatoes are some of the hardiest, most easily grown, most versatal garden plants in the south.  While I have grown sweet potato vines before I have never grown them for food.  From my experience, the vines are extremely tough, so tough in-fact it can be difficult to kill them.  The only thing that can kill them is a hard frost, which here in Phoenix only happens every three years or so.  Late this spring I will be planting some sweet potato slips in hopes of producing some potatoes for next fall.  Sweet potato slips simply are short vines that sprout off of a sweet potato.  You can buy them through seed catalogs but they are also extremely easy to produce on your own.  All you need is a sweet potato.

1. Set a sweet potato in a jar of water such as in the picture above.

2. The sweet potato will start to root in the water and form bunches of leaves at the top.  These bunches of leaves will eventually lengthen and turn into vines.  These short vines are the slips.  The sweet potato can be left in the water and used as a house plant if you don't want to grow potatoes.

3. Once a slip is about 8 inches or longer, cut it off and plant it in soil.  This slip will root in moist soil and form tubers.  Tubers simply are roots a plant uses to store its food, in this case the tuber is a sweet potato.

4. It will take at least 100 days to form sweet potato tubers and after that time you can dig them up and eat them.

A possibly easier way to do this is to simply partially bury a sweet potato in moist soil.  Eventually a plant will take off from this buried potato.


  1. Hi Matt, I tried this and it turned to a rotted mess in about three days. I read that most of the sweet potatoes we get in the stores are sprayed to keep from sprouting. Did you get yours from somewhere other than the local supermarket? Also, I would love to hear if yours actually produced potatoes. Cheers!

    1. I have produced sweet potatoes using this method. I have never experienced the potato turning into a rotten mess in only three days though. Normally it takes weeks before the potato turns rotten. One thing that often helps is changing the water every day. I also have heard about grocery stores spraying potatoes to keep them from sprouting but have never had a problem with it. My guess is the potato was probably rotten to begin with. If sweet potatoes are refrigerated they will go rotten quickly and I do know that it is becoming more common for grocery stores that don't know what they are doing to refrigerate them for short periods of time. Try again, maybe this time with a different type of sweet potato or from a different store. I would love to know if it works or not for you. Thanks!