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Growing Sweet Potato Slips

June 14th, 2011

Last winter I found some ‘Hawaiian Sweet’ purple sweet potatoes at the farmer’s market. I purchased a few, some to eat and some to use for growing slips. I cooked a few for eating, they were good – much different in taste than a regular sweet potato. They have more of an earthy flavor than the regular sweet potato flavor.

This spring I put a few of them in water to start growing my slips. Starting your own sweet potato slips is quite easy. All you have to do is place sweet potatoes vertically in a jar of water and wait. You want the bottom of the potato in the water and the top out of the water. Ideally you want at least 2 inches of the potato out of the water. Use some of the nicest potatoes from the previous year’s crop, none that are shriveled. Place the jar in a warm spot, sweet potatoes prefer warmth since they’re tropical plants. Change the water occasionally to keep it fresh.
grow your own sweet potato slipsOnce the vines are about five inches long pick them off and put them in water. One potato will produce a lot of slips. You can keep pinching them off and more should form. They’ll sprout roots quickly and you can plant them in the garden when the soil warms. Around here that means around the first of July. There’s no need to hurry to get them in the soil early as they’ll languish if the temperatures are too cool, especially at night. Ideally you want to start your slips about 12 weeks before planting outside.

I didn’t think these potatoes were ever going produce slips, they sat in their jar of water for about 6 weeks. Just about the time I was going to compost them I noticed a few little buds forming. I have since read that purple sweet potatoes take much longer to sprout. I’ll be planting these along with a few other heirloom varieties that I purchase from Sand Hill Preservation. Let’s hope we can keep the voles out of them this year!

Do you grow sweet potatoes in your garden? What variety does well for you?

19 Comments to “Growing Sweet Potato Slips”
  1. Corrie on June 13, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I was disappointed with my first attempt at sweet potatoes last year, but I love to eat them, so I’m trying again. This year I’m trying the bushier types, ‘Bush ‘Porto Rico’ and ‘Beauregard’. And I’m growing them in big pots, since my garden is small.

    Reply to Corrie's comment

  2. kristin @ going country on June 13, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    We grew some last year from some slips a friend of the MiL’s gave her. Not sure what kind they were. I basically totally neglected them all summer and they got lost under the butternut squash vines, only to be recovered in the fall. I think we got maybe three usable potatoes. Enough for a couple of meals, anyway. Unless we’re given slips again, I don’t think I’d bother with them again.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  3. Donna B. on June 14, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Hm! I always thought to start it in a jar of water then move the plant into the ground, tuber and all, when the growth starts… This is a revelation! Sounds so much easier to do now… I will/MUST try this next year as it’s too late… but there’s nothing better than fire roasted sweet potatoes with a bit of grilled sage… mmmmm… so hungry!
    When you prepared the ‘Hawaiian Sweet’ purple sweet potato did it retain it’s color? It looks gorgeous on it’s own, raw, self! ♥

    Reply to Donna B.'s comment

    • Susy on June 14, 2011 at 11:48 am

      Yes, it retains and amplifies it’s color when cooked. The inside is really deep dark purple when cooked and they’re very soft and smooth. They seem to not have much fibrousness to them and they taste more earthy than sweet. Pretty good with butter and salt.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. goatpod2 on June 14, 2011 at 10:35 am

    We haven’t tried planting sweet potatoes in our garden yet.


    Reply to goatpod2's comment

  5. Sincerely, Emily on June 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Your slips look very nice and healthy. I am growing sweet potato by accident this year. I had a store bought one that sat on the counter a very long time and it started to grow slips. I put the whole things a pot in hopes of a nice vine – wasn’t thinking sweet potatoes to eat at all. Then when all my Australian Butter squash vines were all sacrificed to the squash vine borers I pulled them out and was just going to plant more southern-type peas but after talking to a neighbor decided to take my pot of sweet potato vines and plant them. So I have five vines growing. No idea what type they are. Crossing my fingers I will eat something from them. We have been sitting at 99F for weeks on end with no rain in sight. I will provide the water, hoping they will provide the sweet potato. Emily

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

    • Susy on June 14, 2011 at 10:36 pm

      With that heat you should get some nice sweet potatoes! Too bad you lost your squash to vine borers – I had those here one year.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. Patricia on June 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Hi. I found you through Ethel gloves. Your photos are beautiful!

    Reply to Patricia's comment

  7. Bill Brikiatis on July 8, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I’d like to know if heirloom sweet potatoes taste significantly different from non-heirloom varieties? I assume if the color of the sweet potato is different, the taste must be significantly different, too. I know that blue potatoes don’t even taste like potatoes sometimes.

    Reply to Bill Brikiatis's comment

    • Susy on July 8, 2011 at 10:38 am

      The folks at Sand Hill Preservation say heirloom sweet potatoes taste way better than the newer ones, but they’re smaller. I’m growing a collection of different sweet potatoes this year hoping to try to taste the difference.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Debra on October 5, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Great post. I had never heard of “Purple Sweet Potato” before reading your post. I have a fabulous potato bed of red, white and purple potatos and come this spring I am going to try my hand at the purple sweet potato. Thanks for the info on how to get the slips and grow them.

    Reply to Debra's comment

  9. Michele on September 14, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I really like the purple sweet potato (mashed with cream!!), but my very favorite is one that has a ginger flavor to it. Have you heard of this and if so, do you know where to get some to start slips with? They are the best tasting sweet potatoes I have ever had.

    Reply to Michele's comment

  10. Gloria on October 10, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    I tried to grow Okinawan purple ?? yams. When I buy them at the Hmart asian market they look different than your picture. They are very dull gray beige sand color but “oh when they are steamed they are so delicious”. The cooked color inside is royal purple, beautiful. I eat them the way my Asian friend taught me. Steamed, eat like an apple, nothing on it. I like clean eating (look it up). Only problem I encountered was purchasing slips. I was able to find the slips at Sandhill Preservation. My veg garden is only one season in and I’m thinking I didn’t prep the soil well enough. I’m in Dallas TX and when the slips finally showed up the temps were already in the 100’s. I started out shading them and not over watering as I was advised. They looked great, I was so happy, like my babies. Then I generously over watered and they rotted. So will work on my garden and try again. Would love any advice I can get. Can’t find slips earlier in the spring, still looking. Anyone else know where…? Sandhill had good advice.

    Reply to Gloria's comment

    • Susy on October 11, 2012 at 7:19 am

      Probably growing your own will be the easiest way to get them when you need them. It’s quite easy to do.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  11. Kat on April 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    You must try them with olive oil. Just pour some over right before you eat……yummy!

    Reply to Kat's comment

  12. Dodie McPhee on May 25, 2013 at 7:20 am

    if you can grow regular potatoes in a garbage pail…why not sweet potatoes? a lot easier to maintain..

    Reply to Dodie McPhee's comment

  13. Jewel Stites on June 14, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Are the sweet potato vines you buy for show in pots make potatoes?

    Reply to Jewel Stites's comment

    • Susy on June 15, 2013 at 7:59 am

      Yes, they will make potatoes.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Kim on August 23, 2013 at 9:16 pm

        Have you ever eaten the tubers from the “decorative” sweet potatoes? I have often wondered whether I could do that.

        to Kim's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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