Growing Purple Potatoes

What are purple potatoes? They are natural varieties with deep purple skins and flesh, high in antioxidants which makes them extra healthful to eat.

How to Grow Potatoes 05:02

Joe Lamp'l shows how to plant, grow and harvest potatoes.

Purple potatoes, also known as Peruvian purple potatoes, have naturally purple or deep blue skin and flesh, and are unusually high in antioxidants which makes them super healthful. Their unique colors come from natural anthocyanin pigments; some Peruvian potatoes are naturally purple, while others are bred for deeper shades.

They come in different shapes, textures, and sizes; some are small or fingerling varieties, others can be harvested either while small as new potatoes or allowed to grow into large into baking sizes. With a lot of variation between each variety, a purple potato can taste similar to any other potato – its color does not cause any special flavor. Some varieties lose a bit of their pigment when boiled, but retain the colors when fried, broiled, baked, or mashed.   

Purple Potato Varieties

Purple Peruvian is purple throughout and produces well late in the season. Purple Fiesta is a mid-season specialty potato which retains its color when cooked. Purple Viking has a true purple skin with pink-red splashes, and snow white flesh which gets sweeter during storage. Purple Majesty is perhaps the most intense dark purple variety. The small Purple Pelisse is a fingerling potato that has been altered to produce a deep violet color.

Because there is only the slightest difference in shades of deep blue and purple, many of the best purple potatoes have blue in their name. One of the most common is Adirondack Blue, large and oblong with deep blue skin and purplish flesh. Unlike some others, it keeps its colors when boiled.

All Blue potato, also known as Russian Blue, Blue Marker, Congo, and several other names, is a heritage potato with a characteristic deep purple skin and a purple flesh streaked with white. Midnight Moon has nearly purple skin and a moist, golden yellow flesh.

Growing Purple Potatoes

Grown like other potatoes, purple strains, being original South American strains, usually thrive in harsh conditions and are often resistant to diseases. Potatoes need seven or eight hours of sunshine, well-drained moist soil, and good fertility. Apply an all-purpose fertilizer at planting and a little more when the plants are about half grown. Plant potatoes during cool weather when there is no danger of a freeze but when temperatures remain below the mid-80s which reduces tuber formation.

Find “seed” potatoes online, but order early while supplies last.  Before planting, cut seed potatoes into small pieces, each with one or two small “eyes” or leaf buds. Plant about three inches deep and a foot apart in rows, hills, raised beds, or containers.

Potato tubers sprout from short stolons on the lower stems of leafy plants, but must be kept in total darkness to avoid greening in the sun, or a poisonous plant alkaloid called solanine can build up. Prevent this by piling soil or thick mulch around young plants, repeating as needed until six or eight inches of lower stems are buried.

Harvesting Potatoes

Small or “new” purple potatoes can be harvested about three months after planting, but for larger, mature tubers wait until plants turn yellow, or cut the mature plants down about four months after planting and then dig the tubers. Dig gently to avoid cuts and bruises; do not wash, just brush off soil.

Store mature tubers in a cool, dry, dark area for up to four or five months, checking regularly for shriveling and decay.

More Potato Varieties

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Potato ‘Red Duke of York’

A vigorous first early, producing abundant, good-sized, red-skinned tubers with delicious pale yellow flesh. Perfect in salads when small, and boiled or baked when larger. Young shoots need protection from frost.

Plant: Early spring
Harvest: Early to midsummer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Mimi’

The ideal first early for containers, producing masses of small red tubers with incredibly tasty, waxy, cream-colored flesh. An excellent salad potato with good scab resistance. Protect new shoots from frost.

Plant: Early spring
Harvest: Early summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Foremost’

Harvest this useful early variety from early summer or lift as required throughout the summer. The white-skinned, white-fleshed crop has a firm texture, ideal for salads and boiling. Protect young shoots from frost.

Plant: Early spring
Harvest: Early to late summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Charlotte’

A supermarket favorite because of its long, smooth, yellow tubers, with fabulously flavored, waxy flesh.This second early is easy to grow in the garden, and one of the best salad potatoes.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: Mid- to late summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Arran Pilot’

A popular first early, excellent for gardeners eager to enjoy large yields of small potatoes with creamy, waxy flesh. Good scab resistance and tolerance of dry spells. Young shoots need protection from frost.

Plant: Early spring
Harvest: Early to midsummer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Saxon’

For baking, boiling, and french-frying, try this floury textured second early. The large, white tubers have a mild, creamy flavor, and the plants display a useful resistance to both blackleg and eelworm.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: Mid- to late summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Royal Kidney’

An old maincrop salad variety, ‘Royal Kidney’ produces delicious, yellow-fleshed salad potatoes from late summer. It is also tempting to dig up the plants earlier for crops of tender baby potatoes.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: Late summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Kerrs Pink’

This versatile and high-yielding maincrop variety is reliable in most soils. The blush pink tubers have delicious floury cream flesh that is perfect for mashing, french-frying, roasting, and baking. Stores well.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: From early fall
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Ratte’

The long, slightly knobby tubers harvested from this maincrop variety are a real treat. Their dense, waxy, yellow flesh has a strong nutty flavor, making them perfect for salads.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: Late summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Sante’

An excellent choice for organic gardeners because of its excellent pest and disease resistance, this maincrop variety yields large cream tubers that are great for baking, boiling, and roasting. Stores well.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: From late summer
Soil Preference: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Pink Fir Apple’

A curious old maincrop variety, producing long, irregular tubers with pink-tinged skin that is best left on during cooking. The waxy flesh, with its earthy flavor, is popular in salads, and the tubers store well.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: From early fall
Soil Preferences: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Potato ‘Nicola’

Resistance to eelworm and blight makes this variety a good option for maincrop salad potatoes. Large crops of long, yellow, waxy tubers are reliably produced and store well over winter.

Plant: Mid-spring
Harvest: From late summer
Soil Preferences: Well-drained soil, moist soil
Sun or Shade: Full sun

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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