Sweet potato slips

I’ve had a couple of sweet potatoes sitting in water for a while and despite all the youtube videos of them sprouting vigoursly all that I get is either rotting or mold. Is this because of a germination inhibitor or am I doing something wrong?

Some sweet potatoes don’t have buds under the skin to grow from. Others may be an inhibitor though I don’t know of any being used commercially. Don’t read too much into this, I have not dug into commercial sweet potatoes that much.

IMO, you are far better off to order sweet potato slips for planting than to grow a commercially produced variety. The flavor range is dramatically different. Most of the varieties in stores are Beauregard or similar. Sandhill carries quite a few varieties. Bradshaw is one that I particularly like. https://www.sandhillpreservation.com/sweet-potato

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The jar on the windowsill has indeed worked…I’ve not documented the % of successes.
Ethelene gas or some inhibitor could have been used to stop sprouting while in warehouses or on the grocer’s shelf. But drafty windowpanes and other things could also be an issue.
Try a plastic or cloth covered outdoor cold frame/seed bed…with a little manure down under the potatoes you want to produce slips from…in zone 10 it might be safe …here not before April or May.

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I start my own slips each year using a water method and they grow just fine. I simply lay organic sweet potatoes on their side in a pan of water. The potatoes are half way in the water and half way out and I try to keep the water at the same level. I also change the water every so often. For the record, I am on well water, so I don’t know if using treated tap water would make a difference or not. I make my own because it is WAY less expensive then ordering slips (or drawers, depending on where you live).

I have also grown them in sand. For this method, you can cover the whole potato, at least I did. Another way that I grow them out sometimes is in a hotbed outside in a hoop house. It’s a little more work up front but once you get it established it’s less work. As a matter of fact, I’m glad that you brought this up, I think I will do a hot bed this year. Don’t give up, keep trying. :slight_smile:

Edited to say: I just followed the link that @Fusion_power posted and they have quite the collection. I may buy some slips to try some new varieties. If I like what I buy, I will save a few of the best potatoes to start my own slips next year.

Also, just to let you know, in case you didn’t, sweet potato leaves are edible. I like to salute young leaves with a little oil, onion, sweet pepper, a little salt, and some herbs for seasoning. Give it a try. :slight_smile:

Auto-correct turns Saute into Salute. :slight_smile:

Sweet potatoes accumulate diseases like scurf and several viruses that eventually make them unproductive. Commercial producers use Meristem culture to clean up the diseases. It is not something that can be done by a home grower. One thing that helps is to cut the slips loose from the sweet potato when they are about 8 inches tall by leaving an inch of the stem nearest the sweet potato they grew from. This has an added benefit that the short stems have buds that break to produce additional sprouts a few weeks later.

It is generally best to replace with purchased slips every 3 or 4 years.


I always sprout my own successfully. I just put them in a glass of tap water and fill so the potato is about half covered. You don’t need to put them in the window until they have sprouted. In fact it’s best not to since the window is cold. Maybe put them on the top back of the refrigerator so they get some heat.

My mother was growing Nancy Hall white sweet potatoes at my earliest recollection, and still growing them from saving the same seed potatoes when I went away to college.

It does seem that I recall a potato here and there…maybe 2 or 3 out of a bushel…would have black streaks or something in the potato.

I know she’d love one fresh baked today if I had one I could take her.

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I think many crops are treated with sprout inhibitors .
Garlic , potatoes, onions, ginger others…
Store bought examples of these will often not sprout , even given ideal conditions.
Where as organic or home sourced ones will.
I don’t like the water method, have seen many try this , just to have them rot in the water.
The method I use for sweet potatoes is…
I put the potatoes in a container, and cover with ~ 4-6 inches of sand or potting soil. Put this in a warm place , ~ 80 deg F.
When the slips are a ft. Or so long , I pull the slips.
They have a nice developed root system , that transplants well.
If started early enough, I can get several pulling of slips.
I have been growing the same strain for over 30 yrs.
Still doing great !

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Not trying to go against what you are saying, but friends of ours have saved their best sweet potatoes and made their own slips for many years. They don’t have a commercial operation and are very successful growers.


It can be done for a number of years, but eventually viruses build up in the plants and they become unproductive. Viruses are insidious. They may only take away 10% of production but that 10% is a huge cut off the top for making a profit. There are some steps that help prevent buildup of external disease such as scurf. My suggestion would be for your friends to look up the literature on propagating sweet potatoes in ways that limit disease spread.

There are some fairly simple ways to index sweet potatoes to see if they are virus infected. Look up Brazilian Morning Glory if interested. Also, if someone is seriously interested, there is a meristem culture kit available for about $5000 the last time I looked.

On a different note, what is the very best way to order from Sand Hill? I see that they have a Sweep Potato Order form, but I don’t see an order form for seeds.

It is on the main page as Seed, Root, and Book order form. Glenn is currently backlogged about 2 weeks with orders. Sweet potatoes will usually be shipped sometime in May or June.

I don’t know how I missed that. :roll_eyes: Thanks!