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Growing Sweet Potato Slips

Sweet Potato Slip

I’ve decided to create a new category for the blog – ‘Fun Projects’ – where I’ll be adding all the posts written about various fun growing/composting projects that people might want to try at home. A fair number of these will likely relate to growing various types of interesting plants since this is something I like to do for fun, but I have little doubt that there will be plenty of composting projects as well.

Our first ‘project’ was inspired by the book I recently reviewed – The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible. In all honesty, I had never heard of a ‘sweet potato slip’ before, and when I came across the little how-to tab in the book I decided it would be fun to try it out. Basically, a sweet potato slip is a sprout that is grown from a sweet potato tuber – typically, many slips will grow from a single sweet potato, as you can see in my picture above.

In some ways I really wish I had known about this earlier in the season, since it would have been fun to try growing sweet potatoes in the garden this year. But alas, here we are near the end of July and I just don’t think there are going to be enough warm days left to actually grow a crop of these tasty tubers (since they need to be harvested before first frost, and require at least a few months of growing time). Nevertheless, as I’ve discovered, the sweet potato plant is actually quite attractive so I think I will try to make a houseplant out of it and see what happens from there (perhaps I’ll still be able to use it for next year’s garden).

As I’ve discovered firsthand, growing sweet potato slips is very simple. I managed to grow a bunch (again, each little shoot is referred to as a slip) using one end of a very old (and semi-moldy) sweet potato that was hiding out at the bottom of a crisper drawer in my fridge. I suspect that had I used a recently purchased sweet potato, the growth of the shoots would have been much faster.

Getting your sweet potato ready to grow slips is about as simple a project as you can imagine – this is why I think this particular project could be a lot of fun for children. It actually reminds me a lot of the way my dad taught me to grow an avacado plant (using the pit) when I was a kid – perhaps another reason I was tempted to try it out.

Essentially, all you need to do is 1) cut off a chunk of sweet potato (an end section works best), 2) position it over a jar filled with water (using several toothpicks), leaving part of the potato immersed, and 3) place the jar in a warm, brightly lit room.
That’s it! Before you know it, you’ll find little white roots growing from the sweet potato down into the water, followed by little green sprouts springing up from the zone sitting above the water-line.

According to Ed Smith (author of the aforementioned ‘bible’), if you are planning to use the slips in the garden, you will want to wait until they are 4-6 inches long – at which time you gently twist them off and immerse them in water as well. Once the roots on each slip is an inch or two they are ready to be transplanted into a loose, rich soil bed in an area that receives a lot of sun.

So there you have it! If you are looking for a fun little plant-growing project for your kids (or your own inner child), and/or you live in a region that’s warm enough to still plant sweet potatoes (within the next month or so), I highly recommend testing out this simple technique.

[tags]sweet potato, sweet potato slips, ipomoea, tubers, potatoes, avacado, fun projects, children[/tags]

Written by Compost Guy on July 20th, 2009 with 10 comments.
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Get your own gravatar by visiting Kim from Milwaukee
#1. September 17th, 2009, at 6:11 PM.

Hey, thanks for that, Bentley! I’m reading it a bit late, but next year I’ll definitely do this for my taters.

I purchased slips from Maine online, and they finally started growing last month, so I’m hoping I can take one or two taters and ‘slip’ them for next summer. What a fun project!

Get your own gravatar by visiting red wiggler worms
#2. November 29th, 2009, at 6:07 PM.

What an easy and fun way to grow potato slips! This tip also gave me an idea on how I can make those jars under my sink really useful for my garden.

Nice posts btw! 🙂

Get your own gravatar by visiting Marlene
#3. January 31st, 2010, at 2:33 PM.

Thank you for you article

We are going to try to grow sweet potatoes in our garden this summer. Nice picture too.

Thanks again
Marlene Davelaar
Grand Bend, Ontario

Get your own gravatar by visiting Huw Crosby
#4. March 24th, 2011, at 6:43 PM.

Hi, what a great article!
We are into our second home grow season and were really keen to grow some sweet potatoes, but were quite put off by the price of a dozen slips, at about $20 (£12 over here in the England).
Gonna give your method a go and hope we get a warm enough summer!
Would you recomend any rooting compound in the initial water, or for the slips when bringing them on?
Best wishes, Huw Crosby.

Get your own gravatar by visiting Sandra Johnson
#5. February 9th, 2012, at 11:43 PM.

We’re going to try it this year. We used to buy slips for 16c apiece. No longer possible. If it’s that easy, we can grow our own. I have the very large, 2 lbs each, sweet potatoes. Don’t know if that large will work. We’ll try both ends and whole. Thanks!!

Get your own gravatar by visiting Randa
#6. February 12th, 2012, at 4:44 PM.

Hey Huw Crosby

You can also place sweet potatoes (I love Beauregards) in rotted sawdust or even light topsoil, and gobs of slips will grow from them. You just pick them off when they get to the size you want and place the ends in water where they will grow roots. When the roots are about an inch long, they are ready to plant.

Get your own gravatar by visiting Roxanne
#7. March 7th, 2012, at 2:20 AM.

What a terrific idea, I’m in Northern Ontario and will attempt to grow sweet potatoes using slips the way you have described. Hopefully I will have something to brag about soon. Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting Robin
#8. July 6th, 2012, at 7:23 PM.

You didn’t say what end of the cut off potato goes in the water. I tried this this last spring and got a rotten potato 🙁 I don’t know why it didn’t work; besides I used a whole potato with just about 2 – 3 inches in the water. Any suggestions?

Get your own gravatar by visiting Ann Warner
#9. July 26th, 2012, at 1:40 AM.

Great article, I do not think we have enough sun on the Oregon coast
for sweet potatoes but I will give it a try. Thank You

Get your own gravatar by visiting penny
#10. February 4th, 2013, at 1:01 PM.

this is very helpful im going to try it i bought some at the grocery store to see if they will sprout before i break down and buy shoots from richters online if they sprout how long will they last in the jar? until planting season?

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