How to grow dozens of sweet potatoes from one

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Hawaiian purple sweet potato with shoots
Cheryl Harris grows various kinds of sweet potatoes, including ‘Hawaiian Purple’. Notice the “slips” or shoots. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

From one sweet potato, you can sprout several plants, and you can get as many as six to 10 potatoes from one plant.

You can eat the leaves, too!

Cheryl Harris, a gardener who grows an amazing variety and amount of vegetables on her double lot in Buffalo, tells us how to grow these tasty and nutritious vegetables.

sweet potato with sprouts
This is a closeup of a shoot or “slip” on a sweet potato. Notice that it is starting to get some wispy roots. Wait until the shoot gets at least three or four inches tall. Then pull the shoot off the sweet potato and place it in a glass of water to develop more roots. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

You’ll be able to visit her this year during two events: the East Side Garden Walk and Urban Farm Day.

How to start

You need a sweet potato to start, but ones from a supermarket may not work, Harris said. They may have been kiln dried or treated to make them last longer in your cupboard, but that inhibits growth. It’s best to start with an organic sweet potato.

Place the potato in a shallow container of water. You want half of the potato sticking out of the water; don’t submerge the sweet potato completely. Place the container in a window.

What you’re trying to do is to get the sweet potato to send up “slips” or shoots. These aren’t the eyes that white potatoes get; they look more like seedlings. See the closeup photo.

When you get a shoot on the sweet potato that is at least three or four inches tall, pull it off the plant and stick it in a glass of water.

“It will make tons of roots,” Harris said.

The plants have lovely leaves, so enjoy them as houseplants while they are still in the water, she said.

sweet potato plant with roots
This is the sweet potato plant with roots. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


Starting sweet potatoes is something to do at the beginning of April.

It takes about two months for the plants to be ready to be transplanted outside, and, depending on where in Western New York you live, you’ll plant them outside around June 1.

container with sweet potato plant
Planting sweet potatoes in containers will make harvesting easier. Just tip the soil out of the container to find the tubers. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


Take your plants from the glass of water and plant them outside. Use soft soil.

Harris recommends planting them in containers because that makes harvesting much easier. Your new sweet potatoes will be deep in the soil, so instead of having to dig them up, you can just tip the soil out of the pot to find the potatoes.

Place the container in direct sun.

Eating the leaves

While sweet potatoes are good for your health, Harris said that the leaves are even more nutritious.

They taste a little sweet, like a sweet potato, she said. You can julienne the leaves and use them in a salad. You can also use them in stir fry or a smoothie.

If you are aiming to harvest the tubers, eat no more than half of the leaves, she said.

6 Comments on “How to grow dozens of sweet potatoes from one

  1. I have very healthy peony stems and leaves, but not one bud! I’ve carefully not applied any mulch to their side of the garden. (Someone mentioned that idea the last time I wrote about this issue.)

  2. Hi David, there are health food stores that sell produce. Some supermarkets carry organic vegetables, so you might be able to get organic sweet potatoes. Hope you’re doing well!

  3. Wow!!! I can’t wait to try this, I’ve always loved the look of ornamental sweet potato vines but this looks so much better, anything fresh to throw into a salad or stir-fry is always welcome

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