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How to grow sweet potato: Starting sweet potato slips

If you’ve ever left a sweet potato out long enough, you may have noticed it starting to sprout. This leaves one to wonder how to grow sweet potato! In fact, as with normal potatoes, you can grow all-new sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) from just a few leftovers.

All you have to do is acquire sweet potato slips: little sprouts grown from an old potato that are the basis for new plants. And guess what? Those new plants don’t have to go in your garden, they look very decorative indoors as well!

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about growing sweet potato slips to grow indoors as houseplants or outdoors to produce your very own sweet potatoes.

What are sweet potato slips?

If a potato (and that includes sweet potatoes) grows sprouts, these are referred to as slips. As long as your store-bought sweet potato has eyes (nodes on the potato that roots or stems can grow from), it has the capability to use for starting sweet potato slips.

But do these slips actually have a function? Of course! If you find one of your sweet potatoes starting to sprout, don’t toss it. You can let the sweet potato slips grow and then separate them to pot them up or plant them in full soil. They work well as decorative vining houseplants or to grow more sweet potatoes from!

Let’s go a bit further into starting sweet potato slips and how to grow sweet potato using them.

Sweet potato vine plant | How to grow a sweet potato houseplant
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© Natalie Board on Adobe Stock

How to grow sweet potato | What do you need?

If you’re interested in growing sweet potato slips to use as houseplants or to plant in your garden to grow new sweet potatoes, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sweet potato. Duh! I recommend starting at least two or three at the same time, as not all of them will always sprout successfully. You can buy sweet potatoes to start online here.
  • Avoid potatoes with any traces of rot.
  • Vase or glass.
  • Toothpicks (optional).

That’s it!

All you have to do now to start growing your sweet potato slips is cut them in half, fill your vase or glass with water and place the pieces in there. They should be about halfway submerged. The rounded side is where baby plants will start growing, so be sure to place that side up.

If your container is a little too wide, you can use three or four toothpicks to easily suspend the sweet potato and keep it in place.

Sweet potato in water with vine growing from it | How to grow sweet potato

How to start sweet potato slips

  • After you’ve placed your sweet potatoes in water, the waiting game begins. Place the container in a warm and light location and change the water regularly.
  • Although as mentioned before, not all sweet potatoes will sprout, most will start producing roots on the underside and little stems and leaves on top. In both cases, the growth will appear from the little bumps (eyes) on the potato’s skin.
  • The growth process can be quick or slow depending on the environment, but you should be seeing some action within a few weeks. Slips take longer to appear than roots.
  • If the water turns cloudy and/or starts smelling odd, discard the potato piece. It is starting to rot, which is unfortunately something you can’t do much about.
  • If there is no rot and healthy sprouts are appearing, just wait until the stems are healthy and firm and have a few leaves before moving on to the next step.
Close-up of sweet potato vine | How to grow sweet potato

How to grow sweet potato as a houseplant

Congratulations: you’ve grown sweet potato slips!

These sprouts can now be turned into all-new sweet potato plants. The foliage is quite decorative and looks lovely grown indoors, but you can also transfer the slips to your garden to actually grow your very own sweet potatoes. If the latter is what you’re interested in, you can have a look at this article.

If you want to keep your sweet potato slips indoors and continue growing them as houseplants, you can now remove them from the ‘mother potato’. Just gently twist them off, taking care not to damage the stems too much. Then, simply place them in water again (small shot glasses might be an easy option). Leave them until they have grown some roots before transferring them to their own pots.

When potting up your baby sweet potato plants, be sure to go for well-draining soil with some added perlite and a planter with a drainage hole, such as a plastic nursery pot. Choose a sunny location and keep the soil slightly moist.

To encourage quicker growth, the best fertilizer for sweet potatoes is just a regular houseplant fertilizer. Nothing special needed here!