Can I grow sweet potatoes from a grocery store sweet potato?

Quick Answer

Yes, it is possible to grow sweet potatoes from a grocery store sweet potato. The key is choosing a healthy, fresh sweet potato that still has some growth buds intact. Remove any sprouts or roots, and place the potato in water until it sprouts slips or vines. Then plant the slips in well-drained, loose soil after any danger of frost has passed. With proper care throughout the growing season, the slips will grow into full sweet potato vines and produce potatoes.

Choosing a Sweet Potato

Not all grocery store sweet potatoes will grow well when planted. Here are some tips for picking a good candidate:

  • Select a firm, plump sweet potato without any bruises, cuts, or mold.
  • Avoid potatoes that are shriveled or have begun to sprout – the sprouts are a sign that the potato is old.
  • Choose a potato that has some slight indentations or “eyes” – these are buds where slips can emerge.
  • Organic sweet potatoes or ones labeled for “seed” may be more likely to grow.

Sweet potatoes sold for eating are often treated with growth inhibitors to prevent sprouting. But even conventional grocery store potatoes can generate slips, so long as they are fresh. Stay away from potatoes that are already sprouting roots or slips – they are past their prime for planting.

Preparing and Rooting the Sweet Potato

Once you have selected a promising sweet potato, here are the steps to prep and root it:

  1. Wash the potato thoroughly and remove any sprouts, roots or damaged areas with a knife.
  2. Place the potato in a jar, small container or water, with toothpicks holding it halfway submerged.
  3. Put it in a warm spot out of direct sunlight and change the water every 2-3 days.
  4. After 1-2 weeks, roots and slips with leaves will begin to emerge from the growth buds.
  5. Allow the slips to grow to 5-6 inches before gently twisting them off.

Proper rooting produces healthy slips for planting. Keep the potato at room temperature and out of direct sun to prevent rotting. Once the slips are several inches long, they are ready to be removed and planted.

Planting the Sweet Potato Slips

Sweet potatoes require warm soil and a long frost-free growing season. Here are some tips for successfully planting sweet potato slips:

  • Wait 2-3 weeks after the last expected frost to plant.
  • Choose a sunny spot with well-drained, loose soil. Amend clay or compacted soils.
  • Space slips 12-15 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart.
  • Plant slips deep, leaving only 2-3 leaves above the soil surface.
  • Water well after planting and provide regular water during dry periods.
  • Apply a balanced organic fertilizer or compost 1-2 weeks after planting.

Plant sweet potato slips in loose, well-drained soil for the best harvest. Dig holes or furrows so the slips can be buried with just a few leaves showing. The plants will generate more sweet potato roots if they are hilled or mounded with soil during growth.

Caring for Sweet Potato Plants

Once your slips are planted, proper care is required throughout the growing season:


  • Water slips immediately after planting and provide weekly water for the first month.
  • During growth, water plants 1-2 inches per week if rainfall is inadequate.
  • Maintain consistent moisture. Irregular water will cause growth cracks and poor development.

Sweet potatoes need consistent moisture for best growth. Allow the soil to dry slightly between watering, but do not let plants wilt. Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to maintain ideal moisture levels.


  • Apply an organic balanced fertilizer or compost tea every 3-4 weeks during growth.
  • Fish emulsion, kelp meal, and compost will provide nutrients without risk of burning plants.
  • Discontinue fertilizer 6 weeks before harvest time.

Sweet potatoes are not heavy feeders, but do require some key macronutrients for optimal yield. Use a balanced organic fertilizer to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Too much nitrogen can inhibit storage root growth.

Vine Care

  • Guide vines to grow in loose soil, moving them if they start growing onto paths or compressed areas.
  • Space plants and vines to allow air circulation and prevent fungal disease.
  • Hill or mound soil over vine joints to generate more storage roots.

Caring for the vines is key to good yields. Allow vines room to spread but avoid overcrowding. Mounding soil over the joints causes the underground nodes to produce storage roots.

Pest and Disease Prevention

  • Use crop rotation to prevent disease. Avoid planting in the same spot for 3-4 years.
  • Remove weeds and clear vines away from foliage to promote airflow.
  • Inspect for pests like wireworms, root knot nematodes, sweet potato weevils.
  • Apply organic pest deterrents like neem oil or insecticidal soap if pests are found.
  • Treat fungal issues like black rot with fungicidal products.

Good growing practices prevent most pest and disease issues. Control weeds, allow spacing between plants, and use organic sprays if needed. Catch problems early before they spread.

Vine Removal

  • Timely vine removal concentrates energy into the storage roots for better yield.
  • Remove vines when about half the leaves have turned yellow – typically 90-110 days after planting.
  • Cut vines off about 6 inches above the soil using pruning shears.
  • Leave vines on soil surface for a few days to further cure skins.

Removing sweet potato vines at the right time allows the potatoes to size up. Cut back yellowing vines but leave roots undisturbed until harvest.

Harvesting and Storing Sweet Potatoes


  • Dig up potatoes 3-4 weeks after vine removal.
  • Gently loosen soil with a fork, taking care not to pierce potatoes.
  • Use hands to uncover and collect potatoes, brushing off excess dirt.
  • Harvest before heavy frost for best flavor and texture.

Use care when digging sweet potatoes, as the skins bruise easily. Search through the soil to collect all the potatoes. Cure freshly dug potatoes for optimal flavor and storage.


  • Cure freshly dug potatoes for 7-10 days in a warm, humid location.
  • Maintain 80-85°F and 80-90% humidity during curing.
  • The curing process helps heal scrapes, develop flavor, and seal wounds against rot.
  • Place potatoes in a single layer on racks or trays, avoiding direct sunlight.

Proper curing improves flavor and prepares the potatoes for storage. A basement or heated garage can provide ideal curing conditions. Turn the potatoes periodically while curing.


  • Store cured sweet potatoes in a cool, dry location around 55-60°F.
  • High humidity around 85% prevents shriveling during storage.
  • Avoid temperatures below 50°F, as cold damages potato flavor and texture.
  • Check potatoes occasionally and remove any that are spoiled.

With proper curing, sweet potatoes will keep for several months. A cellar, insulated garage, or cool closet makes an ideal long term storage spot. Pack potatoes loosely in crates, nets, or baskets.


Growing sweet potatoes from a store bought potato is certainly possible. With the right starting potato, proper care throughout the season, and successful harvesting and curing, home gardeners can enjoy tasty homegrown sweet potatoes. Pay close attention to sweet potato needs for warmth, consistent moisture, and vine management. Dig, cure, and store the potatoes properly for best flavor and nutrition. With some patience and care, you can generate a bountiful sweet potato harvest from just one grocery store spud.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of sweet potatoes can I grow from store bought?

Most orange-fleshed sweet potato varieties sold for eating will grow true from slips. Popular heirlooms like Jewel, Garnet, and Beauregard produce well. Avoid ornamental purple or white fleshed potatoes, as they are less consistent.

How long does it take to grow sweet potatoes?

The entire process takes 4-6 months. Plan on 1-2 months to root the potato and generate slips. After transplanting, vines grow for 3-4 months before harvesting roots. Factor in your climate and growing season length.

What size container do I need to root a sweet potato?

Root sweet potatoes in a small jar, glasses, or other container just big enough to submerge half the potato. Make sure it has room for roots and slips to emerge. You only need the container for 1-2 months during rooting.

How much space do sweet potato plants need?

Space sweet potato plants 12-15 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart. Vines will spread out 3 feet or more from the plant. Allow enough room between rows for vines to grow and access for hilling soil.

How do I know when sweet potatoes are ready to harvest?

Dig roots around 100-120 days after transplanting slips. Time harvest about 1 month after removing vines. The potatoes are ready once vines die back and before exposure to heavy frost.

Sweet Potato Plant Stages Timing
Rooting potato and generating slips 1-2 months
Planting and vine establishment 1 month after transplant
Vine growth and root bulking 2-3 months
Vine removal 90-110 days after transplant
Curing 7-10 days after harvest
Storage 2+ months in proper conditions

Leave a Comment