Sweet potatoes are grown from “slips”, which are like little lengths of sweet potato vine that have also grown roots. Growing sweet potato slips is easy, and this is the second year I’ve grown my own in preparation for the growing season. It was really cool to harvest sweet potatoes that I had grown from my own slips that I had also grown! The kids really like helping and watching them grow, so this is a great thing to do with them. Plus, I like having plants in the house. Even if you’re not going to root the slips and use them to grow sweet potatoes, they do make an attractive and easy to grow houseplant.
You can grow slips from sweet potatoes that you buy from the store. This is what I have done. If your store carries different varieties you can experiment. I did that this year, with some mixed results which I’ll discuss later. You can also order slips from catalogs, but I really like growing my own.
How to grow the slips
I chose three different varieties of sweet potatoes that they had in stock at a local produce market- white sweet potato, a standard variety, and a variety they called “Japanese purple”. You’ll need your sweet potatoes, toothpicks, and jars. I labeled the jars, too.
You will be suspending the sweet potato, half in water, at the top of the jar. To do this, you’ll be piercing it with the toothpicks all around in the middle, like this. I guess you could trim your toothpicks; mine stuck out quite a bit. I didn’t because I like to live dangerously.
Fill the jar(s) with water to the top. Then, I placed mine by our kitchen window.
Stay patient! It takes a few weeks for the sweet potatoes to begin to grow. Both times I have done this I thought that nothing was going to happen because it was taking so long! I live in the midwest, so I usually wait until the beginning of May to plant anything outside. I started my sweet potato slips in January both times I’ve grown them.
After several weeks, the potatoes will grow little white roots down in to the water. On the top (the part not in the water) they’ll begin to grow leaves and vines. You can see the beginnings of vines and white roots from my Japanese purple potato here.
After several more weeks, the vines on the top will have grown long enough that you can pull them off, and begin to root those. These are your “slips”. Gently pull off some of the longer ones, then place these in another jar of water. They will grow roots of their own.
Here are the slips, in their own jar, to the left of the original potato.
You can continue to force vines from your original sweet potato. Just one potato should yield you plenty of slips.
Wait! Didn’t I start out with three different varieties?? Yes. Here’s what happened:
My Japanese purple did very well. The white sweet potato didn’t do anything for a long time, but finally began to force out some roots and vines. The standard variety did nothing. Why? I think it’s probably because the white and standard potatoes were treated with something that discouraged them from growing. Next year, I’ll make sure to buy organic sweet potatoes. I’m not 100% sure, but I have a hunch that these will be untreated.
I can’t wait to grow my sweet potatoes again this year!