How to make sweet potato slips

Sweet potatoes aren’t grown from a seed – they are grown from slips. A slip is a rooted sprout from a mature sweet potato. You can order sweet potato slips online or you can grow your own. If you’re wondering how to grow sweet potato slips, you’ve come to the right place.

Begin the process about 4 – 8 weeks before your planting date for sweet potatoes. Here in the low desert of Arizona our planting window for sweet potatoes is from MarchJune

Once you’ve planted your sweet potato slips, read this article to learn how to grow sweet potatoes.
Sweet potato slips ready to plant

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How to grow sweet potato slips

There are a few methods for growing sweet potato slips. I’m sharing two successful methods I’ve used.

1. The traditional method of suspending the sweet potato in water. This method works, but often takes a 6-8 weeks (or more) to produce slips. 

How to make sweet potato slips

2. The soil method of making sweet potato slips. In my experience this method is a much faster way to make sweet potato slips. This method usually takes around 4-6 weeks. 

How to make sweet potato slips

The first step for both methods is to choose a healthy organic sweet potato. Organic potatoes are less likely to be treated with a sprout inhibitor. 

Do you have a sweet potato beginning to sprout in the cupboard? Perfect! Now you have a head start in whichever method for sprouting sweet potato slips you choose.

Traditional "water method" of making sweet potato slips

Once you’ve planted your sweet potato slips, read this article to learn how to grow sweet potatoes.

Suspend half the sweet potato in a jar of water using toothpicks.

Does it matter which half of the potato is submerged in water when making sweet potato slips? Yes, the rooting end should go in the water. Here are a few ways to determine the difference between the rooting end and the sprouting end:

  • Look for small thin roots on one end. This is the rooting end.
  • One end may be larger with more eyes. This is the sprouting end.
  • The end of the sweet potato that tapers is typically the rooting end. 

You want the bottom (rooting) half to be immersed in water and the top (sprouting) half above the jar. Roots will form in the water, and sprouts will form in the top part of the potato. 

Providing warmth (a seedling warming mat or on top of the refrigerator) and light (a grow light or sunny window) will speed up the process considerably

Keep the water level up in the jar and keep water fresh by replacing it every week or so. Within a few weeks, roots will develop first and then sprouts will start to form on the suspended potato.  Once several 5-6 inch sprouts have formed, see the rest of the directions below.

Once you’ve planted your sweet potato slips, read this article to learn how to grow sweet potatoes.

Faster "soil method" of making sweet potato slips

How to make sweet potato slips
How to make sweet potato slips
  • Poke holes in the bottom of a foil pan
  • Fill foil pan with potting soil or seed starting mix.
  • Moisten soil. 
  • Nestle sweet potatoes in soil, covering about half the potato with soil.
  • Place the lid under the pan to catch any excess water coming out the holes.
  • Keep soil moist as roots and sprouts form.

Once again, providing warmth (a seedling warming mat or on top of the refrigerator) and light (a grow light or sunny window) will speed up the process considerably

In about a week, if you wiggle the sweet potato you will feel that roots are forming in the soil. Within another week or two, small sprouts will begin to grow from top of sweet potato. Once several sprouts have grown to 5-6 inches long, you are ready for the next step.

How to make sweet potato slips
How to make sweet potato slips

Whichever method you choose for making sweet potato slips (the water method or the soil method), the next steps are the same:

  • When sprouts are about 5-6 inches tall, remove sprouts from sweet potato by carefully twisting off or cutting off at soil level.
  • Remove lower leaves from sprouts and let “root” in a jar of water. Roots will develop quickly; you should begin to see roots in 1-2 days. 
  • Placing jar on a seed germination mat for warmth and under a grow light will speed up the process of developing roots. 
  • Keep the water level high in the jar. Switch out the water about once a week to keep water fresh. Discard wilted or rotten slips. 
  • Once roots are fully formed and several inches long, it’s time to plant
  • Plant rooted sweet potato slips about 12-18 inches apart and 4 inches deep. 
  • Water newly-planted slips well and feed with a starter solution high in phosphorus to ensure the plants continue rooting.
How to make sweet potato slips
How to make sweet potato slips
How to make sweet potato slips
How to make sweet potato slips

One sweet potato will produce a dozen or more sprouts. Allow sweet potato to continue rooting and producing slips until you have as many as you (and your neighbors) need.

Once you’ve planted your sweet potato slips, read this article to learn how to grow sweet potatoes.

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How to make sweet potato slips
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22 Comments on A Fast and Easy Way to Make Sweet Potato Slips

  1. Hi! Thank you for the tutorial! I am starting sweet potatoes for the first time this year, and they look healthy, but I have a question. I put the tapered end of the sweet potato, which was showing little roots already, down into the water and suspended the tuber with toothpicks. More roots showed up at the bottom and a few slips showed up above the water line. However, most of the slips grew up from beneath the water line, with the roots. Is that normal? Are the slips that grew up from underwater just as usable as the ones growing above the waterline? Did I have the potato upside down? What should I do about all that? Thanks for your help.

    • Glad it’s working. Yep, any of the slips are fine to use. If they already have roots, even better. Best of luck to you.

  2. Thank you SO MUCH for this wonderfully well written and illustrated guide!

    Question: I have a sweet potato vine, purchased as an ornamental (I eat the leaves in salads). I harvested the leaves nearer the dirt level, leaving a barren space on the stalk of About 6 inches – so I pulled it up, including the root, and placed it in water – covering the 6” of stalk. I’m happy to report the stalk has re-rooted. I now have about 6 inches of stalk with roots. Can I plant this rooted stalk horizontally? And are there pros/cons to planting the stalk horizontally vs vertically? Thank you again for your expert help!

    • You can plant either way. Sweet potato vine is one of those plants that is so hardy it will root wherever it can. Deeper roots will need watered less often than roots along the top that are more shallow, but either way would work fine.

  3. Thank you so much for your tutorial I grow potatoes but I wanted to try sweet potato next year. My question is doing the soil method do you have to water and if so how many times a week or just when the soil is dry.

    • Keep the soil moist, but not overly wet. You can let the top dry out a little, but don’t let it dry out too much.

  4. How long before planting slips outside should I start the growing process of the slips if I grow them with the soil method? Thanks so much.

    • Good question. It could take as little as 4 weeks, but I would give yourself 6-8 weeks to be sure you get some good slips. Some potatoes take longer to sprout than others.

  5. Hi , I have rooted several clippings from my summer plants in water. They are well rooted, however, now the leaves are dying off. It is too cold to plant ( Missouri), so how do I salvage what I have left? Should I pot them in small 4” containers until warm enough? Buying in the spring is difficult to find them at the nursery’ & I need them earlier to enhance my planters for the sale of my home. Help would be much appreciated! Thank you!
    Sherry

    • Good idea to use plants 🙂 I would try planting them in soil and giving them plenty of light and warmth until it’s warm enough to plant them out in your planters. Best of luck to you.

  6. in setting up the pan, you write, “Place on top of foil pan lid for drainage.” I
    think you meant to write, “Place the lid under the pan to catch any excess water coming out the holes.” This is what your video showed, anyway.

    Thanks,

  7. I did the soil method and they are growing like mad. I had to snip some and place in water. They are developing roots. My question is, I wont be able to plant them outside until May. How do I keep them? Just in water or plant inside then transplant when frost. Is over?

    • Nice. You can keep the potato growing more slips in the soil and root them closer to your planting date or yes just let the slips develop roots. They will be really long by then for sure.

  8. Hi Angela! Great tutorial – slips are getting ridiculously expensive to order! I never tried to do it before as the whole water jar method seemed such a pain. I LOVE the idea of growing them in the soil. Question: Does it matter if you use the nicest potatoes you have or not? I know with seed saving they always say to let one of the healthiest plants go to set seed for quality of future plantings; wasn’t sure if the same principle holds true for sweet potatoes? I saw a couple gnarly taters in your soil start photo (lol) and wondered what your experience has been in that regard?

    • Probably a good idea to use the nicest ones you have. That being said, the gnarly ones I planted sprouted just fine. Best of luck to you.

  9. Good Morning Angela,
    I need some help.
    I purchased organic sweet potatoes from the store as an article suggested. Burried three of them halfway in growing soil. this was three weeks or so ago. No buds No slips nothing. And the potatoes in the damp soil are hard too. I expected them to start softening.
    I’m afraid I won’t get any slips in time to plant.
    What do I need to do to make these potatoes grow slips?
    Thank you, Mike

    • Are you providing heat and light? That helps speed up the process. The potatoes don’t necessarily soften, they just sprout. Here’s hoping they sprout soon.

  10. I have sweet potatoes in my pantry that have been sprouting for a while now and the sprouts are 4-5 inches long but the leaves are dead on them. Should I pluck off this sprouts and then place my potato in the dirt to start new ones growing? Or leave them and they will still turn out fine? Thanks!

    • I’d leave the sprouts on and place it in the soil. Those will probably come back to life first.

  11. I am easily getting sprouts off my sweet potatoes using the soil method, but when I transfer them to water they rot. Some get a small <1/2 bit of roots but then those stop growing & the slip loses health. Any thoughts? I have changed the water regularly. Thank you!

    • Are you using soft water? Try to get as much of the slip off the potato as possible by pulling it off rather than cutting it.

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