Growing Waxy Potatoes

Waxy potatoes can be any shape, size, or color, but tend to be relatively low in starch, which causes them to retain their shape when cooked, making them ideal for boiling and chopping, not for mashing or baking.

How to Grow Potatoes 05:02

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

Of the thousands of varieties of potatoes in every shape, size, and flavor, many are categorized by cooks by the level of starch in their mature tubers. Those with low starch (called amylopectin) are known as waxy, while those with more starch (amylose) are called floury.

Waxy potatoes stay together better when cooked, and are best when roasted or boiled and used in soups, stews, casseroles, and potato salads, but tend to make lumpy mashed potatoes. Floury potatoes such as russets fall apart when boiled, making them better for baking or mashing.

Waxy Potato Varieties

Though red round potatoes are the most common, waxy potatoes can be long or round, large or small, or any color, but they all tend to have thin, smooth skin. Most fingerling potatoes are waxy, as are nearly all “new” potatoes which are harvested while small and immature before their natural sugars convert to starch.

The most popular waxy or boiling potatoes include Red Norland, La Soda, Red La Rouge, Yellow Finn, Pontiac, and Red Bliss. The early, heavy-cropping Maris Bard, very popular in Ireland and the UK, is a smooth white skinned waxy tuber with white flesh and a traditional new potato taste.

Some potatoes are partly waxy, partly floury, in an in-between "all-purpose" category, and can be used in recipes like waxy potatoes. They include Superior, Kennebec, and colorful Yukon Gold and Peruvian Blue.

Growing Waxy Potatoes

All potato plants need three to four months of cool weather, neither freezing nor consistently above the mid-80s, to produce well. They require at least six or eight hours of direct sunshine and moist, well-drained soils, and moderate fertilizers at planting and again a month or so later.

Because supermarket potatoes may be treated to reduce sprouting, buy certified disease-free “seed” potatoes in local garden centers or online. Cut seed potatoes into small pieces, each with one or two small leaf bud “eyes” and allow the cut pieces to dry a few days before planting. Dust with sulfur to reduce disease problems.

Plant the cut seed pieces about three inches deep and a foot or so apart in rows, hills, raised beds, or containers. Water as needed, especially after flowering when tubers form, but don’t keep plants wet.

As potato plants grow, they produce tubers on short stolons on lower stems. If the tubers are exposed to sunlight they can turn green and bitter, and even develop a poisonous natural alkaloid called solanine. Avoid this by piling soil thick mulch around small plants, repeating as needed until six or eight inches of lower stems are buried.

Harvesting Potatoes

You can harvest tender small early potatoes within about three months by feeling around gently with your hands. Or let mature tubers form by waiting until plants begin to turn yellow, or after about four months when you can cut the plants down and allow the tubers to dry a few days before digging. While digging, avoid cuts and bruises, and only gently brush off soil instead of washing which can lead to decay during storage.

Store potato tubers in a cool, dry, dark area for a few weeks to three or four months, checking regularly for shriveling and decay. 

Next Up

Growing White Potatoes

White potatoes are classics with light tan skin and pure white flesh, and are indispensable for using in nearly any recipe but are superb when boiled or fried.

Growing Blue Potatoes

Blue potatoes are not just fun-to-grow, interestingly-colored for cooking, but also often have subtle flavors and are very high in antioxidants, making them extra nutritious.

Growing Small Potatoes

Many gardeners love hand-harvesting small, immature potato tubers early in the season from beneath still-growing plants. They tend to be extra sweet and tender.

Growing Fingerling Potatoes

A fingerling potato is grown to maturity like most other potatoes, but comes from a special variety known to produce unusual tubers which are small and long, shaped much like fingers.

Growing Organic Potatoes

Growing organic potatoes requires careful attention to soil preparation, choosing early-producing disease-resistant potato varieties, and following good cultural practices, and using natural fertilizers, crop rotation, row covers, and if necessary, the careful application of organic pesticides.

Growing Yellow Potatoes

Easy-to-grow yellow flesh potatoes are a bit sweeter and have more antioxidants than America’s more popular white fleshed potatoes.

Growing Heirloom Potatoes

Heirloom potatoes have been passed down, year after year, for many decades, and offer unique shapes, colors, and cooking qualities worth trying in the home garden.

Growing New Potatoes

Many gardeners harvest a few small, immature potato tubers early in the season, because they are extra tender and sweet.

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.

Growing Red Potatoes

Red potatoes are generally easy-to-grow small potatoes with thin, edible red skins and white flesh, and are the most common potatoes used for boiling and steaming.

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