The definitive guide on How to Grow SWEET POTATO SLIPS

Most developed countries consider sweet potatoes to be an important root vegetable due to their pleasant flavor and richness in nutrients. These adaptable veggies, which have become a fundamental component of 90% of the diet in Europe, Asia, and Africa, can trace their roots back to the tropical areas of the Americas and are part of the morning glory (Convolvulaceae) family.

What are sweet potato slips?

What are sweet potato slips? They are the sprouting shoots that grow out of the sweet potato tubers. Sweet potatoes do not grow from seed; you need to produce slips from a tuber and then develop these to propagate a sweet potato plant.

What do sweet potato slips look like?

Slips are large shoots that grow from a sweet potato tuber. They grow upright like any other vine and have elongated heart-shaped leaves along this vine. They vary from bright green to shades of purple or can be variegated.

growing sweet potato slips in a tray

How to grow sweet potato slips

As already mentioned, sweet potatoes are not grown from seed. They must be grown from slips. These slips originate from tubers of sweet potatoes. There are various ways to grow slips from sweet potatoes, and two of the most popular are below:

  • Toothpick method (In water)
  • Soil Method

How to grow sweet potato slips in water?

This method of growing sweet potatoes can be a much longer drawn-out process than the soil method. I have used both ways yearly for the past ten years and ALWAYS have better and faster results with the soil method. But to ensure I provide you with all the information possible, I also include this method as it does work.

For the toothpick method, you stick 3 or 4 cocktail sticks into a sweet potato approximately halfway up the length of the tuber. Place this into a glass jar and fill it with clean tepid water until about 2 inches of the bottom of the tuber is covered. This is placed on a south-facing windowsill or in a heated lit propagator like the Vitopod I use here.

It is essential to provide good light and heat for the tuber to start to root. This will send roots into the water and eventually will sprout some shoots. These will begin to grow slowly at first.

As the plant grows a more extensive root system, these shoots will grow quicker and more prolific. It may become necessary to ensure water levels do not drop. You may also require to change the water intermittently to prevent the tuber from rotting.

sweet potato toothpick method

How to grow sweet potato slips in soil

The soil method, for me, is a much more reliable way of growing sweet potato slips. Fill a seed tray with compost and lay the tuber on its side, burying it between a third and half its depth. Water the compost well and place it in a warm south-facing windowsill or propagator.

Providing bottom heat with this method will speed up results. Although you will not see the root system created due to the compost, it will grow much quicker than the toothpick method. Keep the soil moist, allowing the shoots to grow to around 6 inches high. Like the toothpick method, the sweet potato tuber becomes more prolific as the root system develops.

What to do with the sweet potato slips as they grow?

With both the methods above, it is essential to remove the slips from the potato; this has a few benefits for the potato. It allows it to keep producing new slips and prevents the potato from becoming exhausted. 

Remove slips from the potato when they reach a size of around 6 inches high. Snap them from the point where they join to the tuber. Please DO NOT CUT the slips; they must be torn from the tuber.

This will leave a slight heel on the slip. Place these into a glass of water to start to root. Over about 7-10 days, a root system appears. This is when you can pot them up like any other seed start.

Do sweet potato slips need to be rooted before planting?

Alternatively, you could skip this process and pot up immediately after breaking them off the mother tuber. I prefer to see them rooting before potting them up. It lets me know a sound root system is being formed before using resources and time on a plant that might not make it.

sweet potato slip in a pot

Is it worth using rooting hormone for sweet potato slips?

Unlike many other cuttings, sweet potato slips do not require a rooting hormone. They readily root along the length of their vine at each nodule. You can create a much larger root system with long slips by removing their leaves and burying the stem on its side. This will root from each junction node.

Water and feeding

Carry on raising the plants watering and feeding as required. Use a high nitrogen feed to start with; something like a tomato or seaweed feed would be an idea later switching to a high nitrogen, potassium and calcium feed. This will help when forming its tubers.

When to plant sweet potato slips into the final growing site?

Move the slips from one size pot to another and protect them from frosts. Keep moving on until the last frost date has passed. Then, you can plant them into their final growing areas. Depending on where you live will depend on the way you need to grow your sweet potatoes. They prefer hot growing conditions.

What growing methods are the for sweet potato slips?

Final growing areas may be ground in warmer climates, but if you live in places that don’t see crazy heat like the UK, you may wish to consider growing in a greenhouse or high tunnel. The three options you have are:

  • Growing in the ground
  • Growing in raised beds
  • Growing in containers

Growing in the ground

As mentioned above, you need the tropical heat of America or Australia to grow outside in the ground. This will provide ideal conditions to be able to grow in the ground. In colder climates, tuber formation will be sparse, and the tubers that do form will be tiny with no bulk.

Growing in raised beds.

In colder climates, this is a good idea. Providing it is undercover as this not only provides the space required for the vines to sprawl and grow but also the soil in the raised bed warms much faster than the ground. Therefore, you can start your crop earlier, giving them a longer growing season.

planting sweet potato

Growing in containers

Again, for colder climates, this is a good idea. I use 30-liter tree containers with handles to grow mine. These are ideal as they are black, the vines are required to take up the nutrients as the root zone is constricted, and vines can be trained up a trellis which helps to save valuable space in a greenhouse or high tunnel.  

So now we have a good idea of what we need to grow sweet potato slips at home and how to grow them throughout the season. Let’s take a look at some of the details.

Check out my video below to see all this in action and get more tips and tricks.

When to start sweet potato slips indoors

The earlier you can start to produce sweet potatoes, the better. Aim for around three months before your first frost date if you live in a cooler climate. I start mine at the beginning of February. This allows me to get good-sized plants by May, the last frost date, and get good slips to produce the desired crops I am after.

Living in the UK means I would have to start early, but the list below may help you better decide when to sow yours.

When to start sweet potato slips in your country or zone? From zone 7a, you could wait until later in the year as frost dates are relatively soon in the growing year.

Zone 2a / 2bFeb 28th
Zone 3a / 3bFeb 28th
Zone 4a / 4bFeb 20th
Zone 5a / 5b Feb 1st
Zone 6a / 6bJan 26thth
Zone 7a / 7bJan 29th
Zone 8a / 8b  Jan 14th
Zone 9a / 9bDec 18th
UK SouthNov 22nd
UK NorthFeb 14th

Zones 7, 8 and 9 could get away with not planting so early as their last frost date is early enough in the growing season to catch up and put the slips straight out to the growing spaces.

When are sweet potato slips ready to plant

You can put slips into their containers when a root system appears. Keep them under lights until warm enough to transplant them into their final growing spaces. This could be sped up if your greenhouse or high tunnel is heated.

sweet potato slips

How many sweet potato slips per container?

As I mentioned above, I use 30-liter containers. One slip per container would be an ideal amount to use. Placing more in a container could affect the crop.

How many sweet potato slips per square foot?

When you only have a square foot of space, you must plant just one sweet potato slip per square foot. An 8 x 4 bed could hold 32 slips. However, this rule can be broken the deeper the bed, pushing it to around 9″ per plant due to the volume.

How many sweet potatoes slip per grow bag?

Grow bags are usually around 3 ft x 1 ft, and therefore it’s possible to grow 3 per bag; however, due to the depth of the soil, I would consider growing just 2 per grow bag.

When to harvest sweet potato slips?

The longer you can leave it to harvest your sweet potatoes, the better. However, typically this takes around four months for a good crop. If you live in cooler climates, grow until the foliage dies. The leaves will turn yellow like regular potatoes. If growing indoors in a greenhouse, you can leave them in the ground, but ensure you harvest before the first frost.

harvesting sweet potatoes

Why grow your sweet potato slips?

Sweet potato slips are expensive to buy. Typical pricing in the UK is around £2.50 per slip; in the USA, they are less costly and can purchase for around $1.75 per slip. In Australia, the price is approximately 6.95 per slip.

Growing your slips can save you a lot of money. It allows you also to grow whatever varieties you wish rather than being tied to what is available. One other added benefit is you get to start your slips off when you are ready and not when you are told to be prepared by the plant distributors.

Where to buy sweet potato slips?

You can purchase them online on many websites if you decide you would instead buy sweet potato slips overgrowing your own. Garden centers and big box stores will also offer them for sale.

If you want to purchase sweet potatoes to create your slips, you can use store-bought sweet potatoes, provided they are organic. Avoid using those not organic, as these will have been sprayed with a sprout inhibitor. Consider other gardeners or gardening groups, as these can be a great way to source and swap varieties that you may not be able to get commercially.

Can you eat sweet potato slips?

The great thing about sweet potato slips is that even the foliage is edible. It’s great to be used raw in a salad, stir-fry, or as an ingredient in other dishes. They can be prepared like spinach but, like most greens, can be somewhat bitter.

sweet potato slips in a mug of water

What to do if your sweet potato has roots but no slips?

This usually happens when you are using the toothpick and water method. To get the potato to produce slips, you need to remove the potato from the water and plant it in the soil, leaving the surface of the potato above the soil. Within a week, you should start seeing the first slips forming.

How long do sweet potato slips take to grow?

Usually, you will see roots and slips starting to grow from the tuber within 2 to 3 weeks. It can be sooner, but sometimes it takes this time for the potato to realize it has ideal conditions to start growing.

How to store sweet potato slips before planting?

As mentioned above, slips must be potted on and kept above 15˚C or 59˚F in good light until they are planted into their final growing space. Soil should be kept damp but not sodden.

How to harvest and store sweet potatoes

Dig your potatoes out of the ground or container when the foliage has turned yellow. It is ok to leave them in the ground but remove this foliage. They must be harvested before the first frost. When harvesting, leave the tubers on the soil surface in the sunshine for a few hours to cure.

Once they completely cure, you can store them the same as potatoes. Although I have not made a video for storing sweet potatoes, the video below shows many ways to cure and store regular potatoes. These methods will allow you to keep your potatoes long-term throughout winter.

Varieties of sweet potato to grow at home

So now we know all there is to grow sweet potato slips at home. Now, what varieties are there that you could grow? Below are some types available for gardeners like us to grow at home.

List of sweet potato varieties

AcadianGold Rush
All GoldGolden Belle
AmericanaGold Mar
ApacheGrand Asia
Australian CannerHannah Sweet
AyamurasakiHayman White
BakerHeartGold
BeaureguardHerandez
BonaraHiDry
CampeonHoolehugold
CanbakeHoolehured
Caro-GoldJersey Red
Carolina BunchJersey Yellow
Carolina NuggetJewel
Carolina RubyKandee
CaromexKona B
CarverNancy Gold
CentennialNorthern Star
ChipperOrlis
CovingtonPapota
Coastal redPope
Copper GoldRanger
CordnerRapozer
CreoleRed Diane
DerbyRed Glow
Don JuanRegal
EarlyportRuddy
Early sweetScarlet
EurekaSumor
EvangelineTango
ExcelTopaz
GarnetTravis
Georgia JetVardaman
Georgia RedWhite Delite
White StarYellow Yam

With so many varieties above, you have plenty of options of flavors and colors to choose from. Pick your cultivar and get growing.

Conclusion

That’s it. Everything you need to know to produce sweet potato slips at home and do it without the headaches that so many people struggle with. Knowing these tips and rules should help you with getting a great harvest.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post about the definitive guide on How to Grow SWEET POTATO SLIPS? I trust it answers your question fully. If this interests you, why not consider checking out some of my other blog posts and subscribing so you don’t miss future content?

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Remember, folks, You Reap What You Sow!

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