How to Grow Sweet Potato Slips in Water

A handful of sweet potato slips

Sweet potato plants aren't grown from seeds, they are grown from "slips." Did you know that you can grow your own sweet potato slips? 

One sweet potato can supply up to a dozen or more slips, which you can plant and grow even more of these popular vegetables. Learn how to grow your own sweet potato slips in a jar of water on your kitchen windowsill.

How to grow sweet potato slips in water

Sweet potatoes are a root vegetable, and technically not a tuber like regular potatoes. In fact, sweet potatoes aren't  potatoes at all. Actually, they are related to bindweed and morning glories. 

Since they aren't related to potatoes, they aren't grown the same way either. In many ways, I think sweet potatoes are even easier to grow than regular potatoes.

Woman's hand holding a sweet potato

Start with a sweet potato

Sweet potatoes are grown from "slips" which you can buy online or from a garden center, or you can grow your own sweet potato slips.

Many garden websites will tell you not to grow potatoes or sweet potatoes from grocery store potatoes, because they are often treated with something to keep them from sprouting. 

Seriously? I don't think I've ever had a potato NOT sprout in my cupboard. How about you?

I do, however, start my slips from organic sweet potatoes, because I want to grow the healthiest, most nutritious food possible. 

Of course, if sweet potatoes are out of season, or if you didn't grow your own last year, you can buy slips online instead. Be sure you save some of your sweet potato harvest so you can grow your own slips next year. 

When you're ready to plant your sweet potato slips, learn how to grow, harvest and store your sweet potatoes here..


Woman's hand holding two sweet potatoes.

What are sweet potato slips?

Slips are sprouts that grow from the parent sweet potato.

Sweet potatoes often begin sprouting in your cupboard in late winter or early spring. If you run your fingers along the side of a sweet potato, you might feel small "points" that are the first signs of new growth. On closer inspection, you might notice that those points are actually tiny sprouts.

However, you can still grow slips even if your sweet potatoes haven't yet started to sprout.

Sweet potato slips can be started in the ground or in water. Because sweet potato plants prefer warm weather - in fact, they are frost tender and cannot be planted outside until after all danger of frost is past - I grow my sweet potato slips indoors.

How to start sweet potato slips

Choose a sweet potato. The pointed end is the bottom. 

Place 3 or 4 toothpicks in the middle of the sweet potato, about halfway up the potato. The toothpicks hold up the sweet potato in a jar or glass of water, leaving about half of the potato above the water.

Sweet potato in a jar of water

The rounded end of the sweet potato should face up. The roots will grow from the pointy end so put that end in the jar and add enough water to keep the bottom of the potato submerged.

Sweet potatoes like warmth and light, so put your jar in a sunny windowsill. Keep an eye on the water level, and change the water every week or so. 

Learn how to build your own raised beds with my plans and materials list.


How long does it take to grow sweet potato slips?

After a few days you might notice small white roots emerging from the bottom of the sweet potato.

In a week or so (or maybe a little longer) you'll have some little plants growing from the top of the potato.

Remember to keep an eye on them and make sure there is enough water in the jar so the bottom of the potato is below the water level.

When the slips are a couple of inches tall, you can carefully twist them from the potato and put them in another glass of water to root. You don't need a jar for every slip, they will grow happily in a jar together.

The slips will begin to grow roots very quickly; it only takes a couple of days.

Sweet potato slips

Grow a second crop of slips, and a third...

The potato will continue to grow "babies" where you removed the first slips, so leave it in the jar of water and grow a few more.

Sweet potato slips growing in water in plastic cups

The sweet potato will also grow roots in the jar of water. When you're ready to plant your slips, you can plant the rooted potato too.

It takes about six weeks for sweet potato slips to reach planting size.

Learn how to build your own raised beds with my plans and materials list.


When to plant your sweet potato slips

Wait until there's no chance of frost before planting your sweet potato slips outside. They like warm soil (50°F or warmer soil temperature) and can't tolerate frost. 

(Click here for more warm-weather vegetables you can grow in your summer garden.)

Plant your slips deep in the soil, with just the top leaves above the soil level.

Woman's hand holding sweet potato slips

Because sweet potatoes grow down and develop from the roots, plant your slips in a deep container, raised bed or in deeply-tilled soil. 

Sweet potatoes like a loose, fertile, well-drained soil. If your soil is heavy, you can add organic matter and sand to the soil, mixing it well before planting your slips.

Related posts:
How to Start a Raised Bed Garden
Four Reasons You Should Be Composting
Vegetable Gardening in a Small Space

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Sweet potato slips. Text: How to grow sweet potato slips in water


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