How to Grow Kumara Shoots

Mother kumara

The journey to a boomer crop of kumara begins with shoots or tipu. Start them growing now, in early spring. Shoots are grown on a kumara, and this kumara is so special its called the mother.

Choose your mother with care. Select a firm, organically grown kumara with no rots. She doesn’t need to be huge, middle sized is perfect.

Lay the mother kumara in a sandbox

Spread river sand on the bottom of a pot or box and reverently lay in mother kumara. Cover her over with sand and gently moisten. She needs to be kept toasty warm about 20 degrees. I sit her on the heatpad in the greenhouse with the tomatoes and peppers.

Sandbox with mother kumara n a heatpad at Ediblebackyard

Keep the box moist (not wet), and shoots will soon appear.

kumara shoots

Keep on keeping them moist and when they reach about 15cm add a thin layer of compost or vermicastings on top of the sand so they dont go hungry. You could also feed them with a very dilute herbal or seaweed or worm liquid feed.

Kumara mother with shoots ready to peel off and plant

When the shoots are 20cm or so its time for them to leave mum, and go forth and make their own babies. Get ready with a small bucket of weak liquid feed.

Tip the sandbox carefully so as not to break any shoots.

a kumara shoot newly peeled off the mother kumara

Hold the mother and gently peel the shoots off. If a bit of the mother kumara sticks to the shoot, break it off – a safe guard against disease carrying over.

Put the shoots in the liquid feed as you go – it’ll stop them drying out. They’ll hold in this container in a warm spot, for a few days until you are ready to plant them out.

If you run out of time to grow your own, no worries you’ll find them at various garden centres mid-spring. Choose healthy ones, with verdant, robust stems and foliage.


  1. HI Kath,
    thank you so much for the information you generously continue to give out! I find it invaluable.
    Regarding the river sand, if I can’t get this, do you think a mixture of pumice and woodshavings might work ok? Plus, I don’t have a greenhouse, so was thinking of keeping Mother Kumara in my kitchen above the fire. What are your thoughts?

    • Good point – yes of course not everyone can get to this! You can buy propoagating sand and if by pumice you mean the bought stuff for propogating – yes! Wood shavings depends on what type of wood and the thickness of the shavings. My experience is sawdust and it works if well rotted – fresh is no good for new green shoots. The end goal is a warm, free draining fabric doesn’t need food – the food is in the kumara. You can grow them in the ground if your soil is 18 degrees and free draining. So many options!
      Anywhere warm is key. Above the fire is perfect although once sprouting begins there needs to be light on.

  2. can you grow kamara from ground that you have just had spuds in ?

  3. Hi, I had a bag of kumara that I forgot about and they have grown shoots in the dark in my cupboard. Will they be good to plant?

  4. Christine Sabin says

    I have my shoots growing, can you please tell me how early you can plant them out and how best to prepare the bed? Thanks

  5. Hi
    Intresseting reading about Kumara, this is a new crop for me.
    It looks a lot like sweet potatoes. What is the difference between the two?

    Jenny from Sweden

  6. Hi,
    Where do I get the mother kumara from?

  7. A warm place is on top of fridge, over the back so as to catch the warm up draught.

  8. Derek Graham says

    How long does it take to have shoots that are ready to plant?

    • A bit of a sliding scale depending on conditions but lets say 8 weeks. The warmer it is the faster they grow, as long as they dont dry out or conversely get too wet.

  9. Hi Kath
    I have been meaning to try kumara this year but have left it a bit late and now the price not organic kumara I can find is quite small, due to the flood damage. Is it worth trying with one of those, or shall I wait and just get seedlings?

    • If I were you I’d do both and hedge my bets! Find the best ‘mother’ you can and give it a go. I’ve been getting good sized organic kumara online lately as I cant buy any where we are parked up at the mo – just another option for you. If you want shoots – order them in I reckon, they’re really popular so put your name down to be sure. Too many shoots is probably better than none! K

  10. Hi Kath, thanks for all the awesome info. How do you prepare the bed for planting the slips? I wonder if we dug too deep last year to loosen the soil, as I have since heard they need a hard base to hit to create tubers….What depth do you recommend for loose soil? Thanks!

  11. Hiya Kath,
    For warm soil I’ve heard of using a black plastic mussel buoy cut in half. But it would need to be filled with fresh dug soil aka too loose? What do you reckon? Cheers,
    Lee, Kapiti

    • Thats a fab idea Lee – the kumara would hit the hard bottom and tuber up! Loose soil is only a problem if the roots can run for miles unimpeded. You need loose soil to establish the shoots, but some thing to limit their spread once established.