Do Sweet Potatoes Ever Produce Seeds? Quick Facts

Sweet potato or Ipomoea batatas is a dicotyledonous plant. It belongs to the morning glory family, Convolvulaceae. They are native to the tropical regions of the Americas. Sweet potatoes are nutritious and offer many health benefits. Do sweet potatoes develop seeds for further growth?

Sweet potatoes can bloom and produce seeds. But slip planting is the most common way of propagating sweet potatoes. Slips are the shoots that come out of a mature sweet potato. Farmers save and store roots or tubers for slip production.

The plant thrives at an average temperature of 24°C with plenty of sunshine and warm nights. It does not tolerate frost. Annual rainfall of 750-1000 mm is preferable, with 500 mm at least in the growing season. Sweet potatoes are sensitive to drought at tuber initiation 50-60 days after planting.

How Do You Get Sweet Potato Seeds?

Cross-pollination produces seeds that serve only as breeding material. Obtaining viable sweet potato seeds can be challenging. Farmers refer to slips or vine cuttings as sweet potato seeds. You can make slips from a sweet potato you bought at the store or one from your garden.

How Do You Save Sweet Potato Seeds?

Preserve around one sweet potato tuber for every ten slips. Choose plants that have a large yield and no string roots. Pick up medium-sized sweet potatoes with good shape and color from these plants. Harvest time is the ideal time to choose seed roots.

Brush and clean the roots with care. Cure them in a well-ventilated space at 27-32 0C and 90% relative humidity for 5-7 days. Store them in a dark, well-ventilated area at 16 °C and around 75% relative humidity.

If the winter is brief, propagate sweet potatoes for next year by taking vine cuttings in the fall. Dig up the tuberous roots using digging forks with care. 55-60 0F (12-16 C) and 85-90% relative humidity are the ideal storage conditions for sweet potatoes.

How Can I Grow Sweet Potatoes From Slips?

Required material and equipment

  • Sharp knife
  • Glass containers/jars for each tuber
  • Shallow dish
  • Sweet potato tubers
  • Water
  • Toothpicks
  • Potting soil
  • Planting containers

Step 1. Choose the right tuber

Choose healthy, clean sweet potatoes that are free of damage. Non-refrigerated ones are better. 

How to identify the rooting end and the sprouting end?

  • The rooting end has small thin roots.
  • The sprouting end is broad with more eyes.
  • Rooting ends taper.

Step 2. Immerse the rooting end in water

Insert three or more toothpicks into the middle of the tuber. They should penetrate between 1/2 inch and 1 inch deep into the tuber. Give toothpicks an even spacing around the tuber. The toothpicks should rest on the edge of the jar as you place the tuber in water. 

The pointed end of the tuber should be facing down when you position it. Pour enough water into the vessel to cover the bottom half of the tuber.

Alternative method

Instead of using the whole sweet potato, you can use a part of the tuber. Wash the sweet potatoes and cut them either in half or in large sections. Place each piece in a jar with the sprouting end above the water.

Step 3. Provide warmth and light to speed up the process

Place the jar on a sunny windowsill or on top of a radiator. Seedling warming mats can provide warmth, and grow lights can provide suitable lighting.

Help the water stay fresh by changing it every couple of days. Make sure to keep the tuber’s rooting end submerged in water.

The roots will develop first in a few weeks. Then leafy sprouts will start to form on the top of the tuber. You can use these individual shoots or “slips” to grow new sweet potato plants.

Step 4. Separate the slips and root them

When the tuber has sprouted and begun producing leaves, separate them into slips. The best time to separate sprouts is when they reach  5 to 6 inches in height. Take each one and twist it off of the tuber with care. Or, you can cut it off and take it out of the sweet potato. 

Lay each slip in a shallow water dish. Let the stem bottom submerged in water, and the leaves hang over the edge of the container. This video will show you how to sprout sweet potatoes in water.

Roots will form in 1-2 days. Placing the dish on a seed germination mat and under a grow light will speed up rooting. To protect the health of slips, keep the water fresh. The sprouts are ready to plant in potting soil when the roots are about 1 inch long. Discard any wilted or rotten slips.

Step 5. Plant the slips

Find a large container with drainage. Tubers prefer loose, well-drained soil to grow big. Add potting soil to the container until it reaches one inch below the rim. 

Dig a hole deep enough to cover the roots of the slip. Place one or two sprouts in the hole, and pat the soil around them to set the plants. Water the plants and keep your container moist but not soggy in a sunny indoor spot.

Step 6. Move your plants outdoors

When all threat of frost has passed, transplant your new plants outside. Plant the rooted slips about 12-18 inches (30-46 cm) apart and 4 inches (10 cm) deep. 

In early summer, sweet potatoes grow best when the weather is warm and stable. For high edibility, harvest sweet potatoes before the first frost in the fall. 

When the soil temperature exceeds 18 0C (65 0F), it is better to transplant slips into it. Sweet potatoes are ready for harvest when the foliage turns yellow and dies. 

Can I Grow Sweet Potatoes From Whole Sweet Potatoes?

In a shallow pan, drill drainage holes in the bottom. Fill the pan with potting mix and moisten it. Place sweet potatoes in the pan, burying about half of the tuber in the soil. Keep a container under the pan to catch any water that drains.

As roots and sprouts appear, keep the potting mix moist. Warmth and light can speed up this process as well. The tops of the tubers will start to grow in two to three weeks. Learn more about growing sweet potato slips in this video.

What Happens If You Plant A Sprouting Sweet Potato?

You can separate the sprouted sections into slips by twisting them off the tuber. Plant them in the ground after allowing them to grow roots in water. Or, you can cut the slip part away from the tuber and plant it.


Manganese, Vitamin A, C, and other minerals abound in sweet potatoes. They promote the immune system, heart and eye health, and brain function. Sweet potatoes also have anti-cancer properties.

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