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Growing Sweet Potato Slips from a Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are easy to grow in most climates and growing sweet potato slips from a sweet potato is a simple process that gives you lots of free plants. They are full of nutrients and store well for winter meals. Most people know that sweet potatoes are grown for the root, but many people don't know that you can also harvest the greens all summer to add to salads or cook like spinach. They are also a mild summer green that can be added to smoothies. 

Starting Sweet Potatoes

You can start sweet potatoes anytime between January and early March to get slips to plant in May. There are two steps to getting sweet potatoes started: Growing the slips and rooting the slips.

Sweet potatoes are available from various seed companies, but I just purchased mine from the local natural food store and rooted them the first year. Now I use potatoes rooted from the previous year's harvests to grow slips. It is unlikely you will have much luck rooting conventionally grown sweet potatoes as they are often sprayed with an anti-sprouting chemical.

Growing Slips

  1. Place the sweet potato, pointy side up, in a glass of water, securing it with toothpicks. (see photo). Keep the rounded bottom of the potato submerged in at least 1 inch of water.
  2. Very soon the sweet potatoes will grow roots.
  3. Shortly after the potatoes have grown their roots, they will start putting up stems and leaves. Those are your slips! Each eye will produce several slips.
  4. Once the slips grow about 6 inches tall, snap them off at the base and put them in a glass of water. The slips will grow roots. 

Planting Sweet Potatoes

Once the roots are at least 1 inch long, they are ready to plant in the garden in May, or when the soil temperature reaches 70° to 80°. Just leave them indoors in water until it’s warm enough to plant outside.

Plant rooted sweet potato slips 12 inches apart in a bed prepared with compost and loosed with a spade. The looser your soil is, the more room your roots have to grow.

Harvesting Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Potato Leaves

Harvest sweet potato leaves as needed, never removing more than 1/3 of the plant at any time. Sweet potatoes can be harvested in mid to late fall, right around the first frost. You can harvest them before or after the first frost, although many people say they have the best flavor if you harvest after the first frost. Use a spading fork to loosen the area around the roots and dig up your sweet potatoes!

Growing sweet potato slips from a sweet potato is a great project to do with the kids. Since the plants are growing indoors in water, the kiddos can see every aspect of growth daily. They might even be more likely to eat their sweet potatoes if they are involved in growing them from the very beginning!

What is your favorite way to eat sweet potatoes?



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