Sweet Potatoes are delicious, nutritious, and actually fairly easy to grow. With ordinary potatoes, you cut up pieces and plant those directly in the ground. Sweet Potatoes, however, grow from “slips” or sprouts. You can order these from many online suppliers or in person at some nurseries. A much cheaper option is to start sweet potatoes at home. I have done both and found growing my own slips to be more economical and worth the extra effort. Let’s get started with how to grow your own sweet potatoes at home.
Methods to the madness
This is only my fourth season starting sweet potatoes at home and one of those was not successful at all. It absolutely works, but in my research on the topic, there are a variety of methods and processes people use. I will share the three methods I am going to try and every step, from the start to sprouting, slip development, planting, growth, and harvesting. In all honesty, how can I share the best method, when I haven’t tried a few?
I bought the sweet potatoes at our local Food Co-op. They were grown locally, so I know they will work in our area. If my sweet potatoes from last year had grown well, I would have used them but I planted them way too late and my potatoes never developed.
Method One and Two: How to Start Sweet Potatoes Slips
I have had the greatest success using whole sweet potatoes but I have read that you can cut them in half as well. I have heard that smaller sweet potatoes are better for producing larger numbers of slips however my experience is limited so we shall see how the season goes.
The picture below shows me ensuring that the sweet potatoes will fit in jars, they are upside down, and the rounded end should be pointing down for better sprouting.
Place your sweet potatoes in a container filled with water that will cover up to half the potato. If using a whole sweet potato, put the blunt end down and the pointed end up, above the water. We use jars or plastic takeout containers of water and pop the potatoes right in. If we need to, we hold them in place using toothpicks. Sweet potatoes like a warm temp, so keep them in a nice warm area between 75-85 degrees. Last year, I had them in my kitchen window which was way too cold so they took forever to sprout and then a long time to grow healthy rooted slips.
I moved some of the larger sweet potatoes to containers where I could more easily submerge them. Half of them were left whole, and then I cut the rest in half to see if it made a difference. I have mine on a windowsill near the woodstove, with lots of light and water and after 7 days, some already have roots. In another week or so, we should start to see some sprouts.
The idea is to keep them warm, their water, filled and clean, with plenty of light. Some people remove the slips straight from the sweet potatoes and plant them directly in the ground. I usually remove mine once they are around 4 inches tall and place them in water which I have found helps them develop a better root system. I will show both here, and we’ll compare root systems.
Method Three: Dark spaces
I found this method on the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Website. I put one sweet potato in a bag, in a warm location but where the humidity should be good. Will check on it once a week and provide updates on the blog too.
UPDATE: 04/14/21: Method Three did not work for me. I think because we use wood heat and need to heat well into the Spring, it was too dry. I attempted to add moisture, but that did not help and just made the sweet potatoes get wrinkled and slimy. So for me, in our area, this was a bust. However, we may attempt it again another year as I have some ideas.
We’ll see which method works best for getting the slips growing and then, how much we harvest. Who’s excited?!?! Results are in! See BIG Results makes Happy Sweet Potatoes for the final update.
I love learning and experimenting. Brings out my closet mad scientist! Has anybody seen my lab coat?