How Potatoes Grow

This article focuses on the growth of “white” potatoes – your standard every day potato which is a member of the Solanaceae family which includes tomatoes, eggplants and capsicums.  Sweet potatoes are a different family than white potatoes.  The sweet potato is a member of the morning-glory family, Convolvulaceae.  Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are not actually a tuber, but a storage root. 

Stage II - vegetative growth


Knowing the growth stages for potatoes and other tubers will help you track your potato plant’s development and know when to check the plant’s “vital signs.”  

Potatoes Have 5 Growth Stages 

There are five  stages for White potatoes, similar for other tubers like Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes):  

I           Sprout development  

II         Vegetative growth  

III        Tuber initiation  

IV        Tuber bulking  

V         Maturation  

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Stage I: Sprout Development

In Growth Stage I, the eyes on the tuber piece that you’ll plant develop sprouts and push through the soil.  These sprouts then develop roots at their base.  

Stage II: Vegetative growth

Growth Stage II is the vegetative growth stage, when leaves and branch stems grow from nodes along the potato sprouts.  Underneath the ground, roots and stolons develop.  Photosynthesis begins—the process which will ultimately produce the excess starch that will be stored in your potatoes.  

Growth stages I and II last between 30-70 days, depending on the environment and cultivar.  

Growth Stage III occurs at the start of flowering in many cultivars.


Stage III: Tuber Initiation

In Growth Stage III, new tubers form at the tips of the stolons. Tubers are not enlarging at this stage, which occurs at the same time as the start of flowering in many cultivars. It is especially critical at this stage that your potato plants receive a steady water supply.   

Stage IV: Tuber bulking

Tubers begin enlarging in Growth Stage IV, the stage known as tuber bulking. During this stage, the potato plant accumulates water, nutrients, and carbohydrates. These are deposited in the tubers, usually 5-15 which grow to larger size. Tuber bulking can last up to three months.  

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Stage V: Maturation

In the maturation stage, the potato vines turn yellow, lose their leaves, and eventually die. Photosynthesis decreases and tuber growth slows. The dry matter contained in the tubers reach its maximum, and tuber skins “set,” or become less fragile (Skin set has not yet occurred in “new potatoes” that are preferred by so many gardeners, when potato skins are fragile, even papery.)  

Our new book “How to Grow Perfect Potatoes” is currently in the final editing stage and will be released soon.

Annette (58 Posts)

Annette Welsford has a partial degree in Horticulture and a Post Graduate Certificate in marketing. Having lived in the cold, temperate and hot parts of Australia and the UK, she has gained experience over the years with gardening in a variety of climates. Annette also worked for a fertilizer company where she was responsible for developing, editing and publishing a range of technical manuals on nutrition and fungal diseases for a wide range of horticultural crops including tomatoes. Annette is Managing Director of Commonsense Marketing Pty Ltd, a publishing and marketing company, responsible for the editing, design and worldwide marketing of the How to Grow books, and other products. Commonsense Marketing also provides expert offline and online marketing consulting and design services to a variety of small to medium sized businesses.


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2 Responses to “How Potatoes Grow”

  1. Anamaria says:

    I tried to start potato plants, but did not work. Do I just put a potato in the soil? How much water do they need? At least a month after I planted my potatoes in the soil, I did not see anything, so I decided to “check” my potatoes – they looked and felt like cooked potatoes (soft and the peel was loose). What did I do wrong?
    Thanks

  2. Lucia says:

    The easiest way to get the spuds started is to sprout them before putting them in the ground.

    If you don’t do this and just put the potatoes in the ground which are not close to sprouting and water them – they will rot, particularly if the temperatures are high.

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