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Intriguedbybonsai
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Where can I get sweet potato plants?

All of my seed catalogs prohibit shipping the plants to California. Could I start a plant from a store bought sweet potato instead?

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!potatoes!
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pretty sure sand hill would send them to CA:
https://www.sandhillpreservation.com/pages/sweetpotato_catalog.html

but i've had pretty good luck starting slips from store-boughts. a couple things to think about: some 'regular grocery' tubers are treated with something to keep them from sprouting - i suspect organic ones don't. also, sweet potatoes make slips best when kept quite warm - plant them in moist mix of some kind, and then try to keep them in the 80-90 degree (F) range. a couple weeks of that usually works well. some varieties also seem to make more slips than others in general.

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Last year kitazawaseeds had the Okinawa purple sweet potatoes I wanted to try but they wouldn't ship OUT of California.... :wink:

but I also start them from store bought, especially if they have named varieties.

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you can take a sweet potato, set it in a jar/cup whatever, but situate it so that it is half submerged in water. You will start to have shoots coming off of the potato soon....

Once the shoots are 10" long, break them off right at the potato's surface. At this point you can either plant and water in just like that, or root the vine in another cup of water. I like (and have better luck with) rooting the vine first. To do so just pull an leaves from the bottom 3-4 inches and stick them in water. They'll have roots soon. When the roots are about 4 inches long, I plant. Remember they like it hot! The new plants especially, won't react well to a chill.

You can start a little early, you usually will get about 3 or 4 shoots coming off of a potato at a time. But after you pull the shoot off it will grow back again. So if you start a little early, you could get all of your shoots from one potato. You'd just have to keep the rooted vines in water a little longer. Which is fine. Or you could pot them inside until they are ready to set out.

This worked well enough for me to get potatoes last year. I don't think it matters in this case if you buy sets or use grocery store potatoes. They're not really potatoes and you're not growing the ACTUAL potato so I don't think you need "seed potatoes". And although someone will say "grocery store potatoes are sprayed with a growth inhibitor", I have never had a problem growing shoots on a store bought potato.

Good luck!
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I always start mine from store bought. Just cut a half inch or so off one or both ends set in the top of a glass of water held in place with toothpicks. keep glass full. roots will grow into the water and then slips will grow from top.
I started with nothing and still have most of it!!!

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floridahillnursery
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Hello, steele plant co. provides sweet potato slips at a reasonable price. I have found that sticking a sweet potato in a jar of water with tooth picks works just as well.

Here is there web address https://sweetpotatoplant.com/

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GardenRN wrote:you can take a sweet potato, set it in a jar/cup whatever, but situate it so that it is half submerged in water. You will start to have shoots coming off of the potato soon....

Once the shoots are 10" long, break them off right at the potato's surface. At this point you can either plant and water in just like that, or root the vine in another cup of water. I like (and have better luck with) rooting the vine first. To do so just pull an leaves from the bottom 3-4 inches and stick them in water. They'll have roots soon. When the roots are about 4 inches long, I plant.
Thanks for the tip! I just put a big sweet potato in a jar on Saturday.

In your experience, approximately how long does it take before you get shoots, and how long before they get ~10" long? And once you break them off, how long until you get 4" roots?

I know the correct answer is always "it depends," but I always like to have some data so I know if something's gone horribly wrong.

Also, do you change out the water in the jar?

Thanks!
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Intriguedbybonsai
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TheWaterbug wrote:Also, do you change out the water in the jar?
I would suspect you would need to do this every few days, or when the water is getting clouded.

I was going to try the water jar trick, but the sweet potato I have is already sprouting several tiny leaf sets. Should I just skip that step, and place it in a pot of soil?

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I would put it in the water anyways. Because you can break them off when they are long enough and then get more.

It takes about...idk....a week to get good shoots started. And then after they are started they grow pretty quick. Maybe 10" in another 2 weeks.

Then when the slips are placed in water, they grow their roots quickly. I'd say within a week and a half they are rooted to the point I feel comfy with putting them outside.

And I just change the water as needed. If it looks at all cloudy or slimy, or anything, change it. You don't want mold to start growing on the potato. That smells horrible! Actually the problem is usually keep up with refilling the jar, not changing the water. That gets to be quite a thirtsy potato when it gets roots and shoots. So be more aware of adding water as needed.
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I grew a sweet potato last year but got the dark leaves. I want the bright green leaves. What up with that? Also the yam will it grow like the seeet potato and what kind of leaves?
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!potatoes!
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pretty sure those lime-green leaves are just on a cultivar intended for bedding. doubt you're going to get them out of a grocery-store sweet. don't know what you mean by 'yam.' assuming not a true yam (Dioscorea), but another kind of sweet potato (Ipomoea)?

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TheWaterbug wrote:Thanks for the tip! I just put a big sweet potato in a jar on Saturday.
Well, that was nearly 3 weeks ago, and I have no shoots :(

I must have one of those growth-inhibited sweet potatoes.

I might stop by Whole Foods or Trader Joe's today and spend too much on one that hasn't been neutered.

Or is there a vendor who will ship slips to CA and ship them now?
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In my experience, purple skinned sweets grew darker colored leaves tinged with purple underneath; Red skinned orange fleshed sweets grew bright green leaves; and White/pale skinned yellow fleshed sweets grew almost chartreuse colored leaves.

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TheWaterbug
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TheWaterbug wrote:
TheWaterbug wrote:Thanks for the tip! I just put a big sweet potato in a jar on Saturday.
Well, that was nearly 3 weeks ago, and I have no shoots :(
Hmm. I dumped the water out and was ready to throw it into the trash, and then I looked closer. Shoots! And tiny roots.

The weird thing is that the shoots are growing well below the waterline. Some are level with or even below where the roots are growing.

So I put it back in the water, but I'm not sure what to do next. I'm pretty sure the shoots aren't going to like being underwater, but if I bring the 'tater up too shallow, the little rootlings will dry out. Does that matter?
Last edited by TheWaterbug on Thu Mar 29, 2012 9:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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They won't dry out. The skin of the potato wicks the moisture a bit, and roots will grow down. Keep them in a warm humid place 80+°F if possible and bright light as you can for optimum growth. My potatoes are laying sideways in a takeout tray partly on a heating mat inside a plastic tent.

They are going nuts and I'm concerned they are growing too fast. :roll:

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First post!

Hey there...I agree with other statements already made. The easiest way to do it is to buy a sweet potato at the market and place the bottom third of the tuber into water while the rest is out of water (think mason jar). I've heard it can take a couple weeks to a couple months to do this...

Otherwise cut the tuber in half and plant. Make sure the soil is above 65 degrees.

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Yeah the sweet potato that I got at the grocery store almost 2 months ago has a lot of sprouts. Bright green leaves w/purple stems.

[img]https://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y134/Skeletor619/DSC01754.jpg[/img]
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Intriguedbybonsai wrote:Yeah the sweet potato that I got at the grocery store almost 2 months ago has a lot of sprouts. Bright green leaves w/purple stems.

[img]https://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y134/Skeletor619/DSC01754.jpg[/img]
Excellent! Looks like all you have to do to grow sweet potato vine is just wait!

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I lay potatoes starting to grow like that side ways in a deeper take out tray -- I like the ones that whole roasted chickens come in because they have the molded channels on the bottom. Keep about 1/2" of water. My tray is sitting on the seed mat inside a "greenhouse" tent. It gets up to mid-70's to mid-80's in there. With the fluorescent lights on them, the shoots are going bonkers. I clip off the longer spots and root them separately in water.

By the time it's time to plant them out, I'll have more shoots than garden beds to plant them in.

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TheWaterbug wrote:So I put it back in the water, but I'm not sure what to do next. I'm pretty sure the shoots aren't going to like being underwater, but if I bring the 'tater up too shallow, the little rootlings will dry out. Does that matter?
So I turned that potato upside down to bring the shoots out into the air, and they dried out. The rest of the potato rotted. Meantime, I bought another few from the store and put those in water. They molded and then rotted. :x

I threw it all in the trash on Monday.

Then, today, I looked in the vegetable basket for the few remaining sweet potatoes that I'd ignored for the last month. Behold:
[img]https://dl.dropbox.com/u/3552590/SweetPotatoShoot.jpg[/img]
:roll:

Should I bring them out into the light? Or should I leave them where they've been? Obviously I should take my first instinct and do the exact opposite :D
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I twisted the sprouts off of my sweet potato, and placed them in a cup of water. Two days later there's roots galore! And here I am all out of potting soil... :P

I left my sweet potato directly in front of a window for sunlight. It seems to have encouraged the sprouts to grow. I can't wait to get these guys planted!
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Waterbug, warmth and humidity are the key. See my post above yours.

Once it's warm enough outside (at least 50's at night), I'll do what I did a couple of years go and fill a window box with sandy soil mix (1/2 sand), Plant the rooted slips and cover with a black trash bag and a clear trash bag. The plastic bags cover the planter at all times and get closed up during the night or if it's too cold.

If you have the space, you could set up a low tunnel where you plant to grow the sweet potatoes with black plastic on the ground to warm the soil. Then you could just plant early. I was originally going to do that this year (I would have removed the black plastic unless I'd bought the cornstarch-based biodegradable black film mulch), but I'm succession planting with broadbeans instead to see if I can get the soil fertility up first.

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What is the key to grow sweet potatoes? I know nothing about them, so if any experts on sweet potatoes could tell me I would appreciate it because I hear they are hard to grow. Do they grow in Central Illinois, special soil requirements, light requirements, etc. Do you do them like regular potatoes, because I read this and keep hearing about slips instead of seed potatoes.

I would love to try some next year because I love eating them, but I just hear they are hard to do.
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applestar wrote:Waterbug, warmth and humidity are the key. See my post above yours.
Thanks! I put them in a takeout thingy like you did. It's not a chicken container, but it's black plastic on the bottom and mostly clear on top, so it should have a greenhouse effect.

Now I just have to watch out for rot and mold.

Once I pinch off the shoots, how do I suspend them in water without them falling over?
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TheWaterbug wrote:Now I just have to watch out for rot and mold.
And now one of those potatoes is rotting. :roll:

I only had a few drops of water in there to raise the humidity. So they weren't standing or soaking in water; their skins were just damp from the wicking action.

I think maybe my potatoes are cursed.

I cut off the soft parts and put it back in the tray; I'll see how they're doing when I get back into town on Monday.

If I lose this batch I may as well just wait until I can buy commercially-grown slips, which is frustrating because a big motivation to start my own was that commercial slips aren't available until late, and in Los Angeles it gets warm very early.
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On a semi-related topic, if nearly all sweet potatoes are propagated from slips, doesn't this mean that the population of sweet potato plants is a massive monoculture? Or at least a very limited set of monocultures?
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Eh. I found another few potatoes in the bottom of the basket that had tiny little sprouts starting up. My wife refused to let me keep them in the kitchen, so I just put them outside. Now one of those is rotting, too.

I give up. I ordered some slips from Sand Hill.
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When you harvest your sweet potatoes this fall after frost kills the plants you will have a variety of different sizes and shapes of sweet potatoes. Save all the small finger size potatoes they are perfect for planting your garden next spring. Poke a hole in the garden with a broom handle and drop in the little potatos. 6 plants will make a bushel basket of potatoes.

I am growing 12 plants this year in a 30' x 60' spot dedicated just for sweet potatoes. I marked the location of the mother plants because that is where most of the potatoes will be so they will be easy to find and dig up in the fall. There are lots of satellite potatoes every place the vines touch the soil and grow roots. Vines have the ability to crowd out all the grass and weeds. Any vine that gets out of the dedicated spot gets mowed off with the lawn mower.

I don't care much for eating sweet potatoes. I hope to have 250 lbs to donate to the homeless shelter a few weeks before Thanksgiving.
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in the tropics where sweet potatoes are perennial they bloom. and there are many many many types out there.

you being in southern california might be able to grow them year around.
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TheWaterbug
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Gary350 wrote:I am growing 12 plants this year in a 30' x 60' spot dedicated just for sweet potatoes.
That's 150 sf/plant, which seems extremely sparse. Most planting guides I've googled for sweets recommend 3-6 sf/plant.

Is there any reason why you plant so sparsely? Do you get massively higher yield/plant that way?
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Gary350 wrote:Save all the small finger size potatoes they are perfect for planting your garden next spring. Poke a hole in the garden with a broom handle and drop in the little potatos. 6 plants will make a bushel basket of potatoes.
soil wrote:you being in southern california might be able to grow them year around.
Hmm. If I just leave the fingerling potatoes in the ground, will they start growing again when the conditions are right?

We don't get any frost where I live, ever. It just gets colder in the fall/winter. Daytime temps [url=https://www.wunderground.com/NORMS/DisplayNORMS.asp?AirportCode=KTOA&SafeCityName=Palos_Verdes_Estates&StateCode=CA&Units=none&IATA=LAX]seldom go below 55, and nighttime temps seldom below 45[/url].
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soil
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Hmm. If I just leave the fingerling potatoes in the ground, will they start growing again when the conditions are right?
im pretty sure the way its done in the tropics is you leave your sweet potato patch, and go through selectively harvesting the big tubers every few weeks, leaving the others to gain size, and youll have an endless supply of sweet potatoes.
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soil wrote:
Hmm. If I just leave the fingerling potatoes in the ground, will they start growing again when the conditions are right?
im pretty sure the way its done in the tropics is you leave your sweet potato patch, and go through selectively harvesting the big tubers every few weeks, leaving the others to gain size, and youll have an endless supply of sweet potatoes.
I'm digging :D the "endless supply" part. I'm not exactly in the tropics, but we almost never get anywhere close to freezing here, and according to the [url=https://www.ehow.com/facts_7795113_sweet-grow-back-next-spring.html]infallible Internet[/url], the tubers are hardy down to 20 F, so they should be fine in the ground. The vines may even survive the winter.

Do sweet potatoes exhaust their soil in any way? I keep reading that they don't need much (if any) fertilizing; if I just keep a perennial bed of these, would I need to feed them much?
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down to twenty degrees, i didnt know that. i wonder if some varieties have better cold tolerance than others.

i would just toss some nutrient rich compost onto the patch every few months to help replenish any harvesting you have done. otherwise i think they will make the soil better over time.

don't forget the greens are eatable too, search for recipes because there are a lot.
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Assuming this all works (and that they actually grow), all I need now is a [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ground-penetrating_radar]way to find the harvestable spuds[/url] without digging up the whole thing.

I'm sure the gophers will have no trouble finding them; maybe I can train them. :P
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soil
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they are far easier to find that regular potatoes.
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TheWaterbug wrote:Eh. I found another few potatoes in the bottom of the basket that had tiny little sprouts starting up. My wife refused to let me keep them in the kitchen, so I just put them outside. Now one of those is rotting, too.

I give up. I ordered some slips from Sand Hill.
Aha! These _finally_ arrived from Sand Hill last week, while the forum was down:

Image

I'd ordered 6 Korean Purple, 3 Uala, and 6 Caro Gold. They ran out of Uala (misspelled as Yala on the web page), so they substituted Purple Delight instead:

Image

Once I separated them out I found that I had 9 plantable Korean Purples, 9 plantable Purple Delights, and 18 plantable Caro Golds, so Sand Hill over-shipped by quite a bit.

I put them all in the ground the following evening, and it was really hot and dry for the next week. Of the 33 plants I put in (I ran out of space due to mis-measuring/miscalculating) about 9 of them have withered, and I expect some more loss due to weather and/or predation.

I should have put them all in some water for 24 hours before planting them, as they were already pretty stressed when I took them out of the shipping box. I'll remember that for next year.

The 3 leftovers that I put in water are doing very well, with new roots and new leaves, so I'm going to plug them in in place of the dead ones as soon as I have time.

So I expect to have ~20+ viable plants, which should give me lots of sweets to eat!
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^^
That was two weeks ago. They sorta sat in the ground and did a whole lotta nothing for about 10 days, and then this week they finally started growing a bit:

Image

Of the 8-9 slips each I planted of Purple Delight and Korean Purple I've probably got 4-5 viable plants of each variety, and of the 18 Caro Golds I've got ~15 viable. So not too bad, though I think I can do better next time if I "refresh" the slips a bit before putting them in the ground and exposing them to hot weather. Some of the slips didn't have a lot of root on them, either, and a few days in the water might have helped them in that regard as well.
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