Do Potatoes Have Flowers?

A lot of new gardeners are surprised to discover clusters of potato flowers atop their garden plants. The small but pretty potato blossoms are usually purple, but may also be white, pink, red, or blue, all with bright yellow stamen.
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How to Grow Potatoes 05:02

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

A lot of new gardeners are surprised to discover mid-summer clusters of potato flowers atop their garden plants. The small but pretty potato blossoms, usually purple, are signs of well-grown potato plants nearing maturity and harvest.  

How It Happens

Potatoes are annual plants grown in garden rows, hills, and containers for their tasty, nutritious tubers which are produced on lower stems. Like most other annuals, potato plants produce flowers, followed by inedible tomato-like fruits filled with seeds. However, gardeners do not plant the seeds; instead, small pieces of cut-up mature tubers – called “seed potatoes” – with small “eyes” or stem buds are planted in sunny gardens during cool weather.

The cut potato pieces quickly sprout leafy shoots from “eyes” or buds which grow into a small, multiple-stem herbaceous shrub. After a few weeks stolons begin to emerge from the lower stems, which grow downward into the soil and swell into the edible tubers. Soon afterwards, the plants begin to mature, followed by potato plant flowers and small fruits.

The small but pretty potato blossoms are usually purple, but depending on the variety may also be white, pink, red, blue, or purple, all with bright yellow stamen. Potato varieties with white-skinned tubers tend to have white flowers; those with reddish skins often have more colorful flowers.

Potato flowers can pollinate themselves, but are enhanced by bees and other pollinating insects; this only affects seeds in the fruits, not the quality or color of the underground tubers.

It is pretty obvious after a potato flowers that it is related to tomatoes, as the small berries look just like green cherry tomatoes. Each berry can have about 300 seeds, which are sometimes planted by researchers who cross-pollinate different varieties and strains while hybridizing

improved new potato varieties. The new varieties can then be propagated from tubers which will remain “true” to the variety.

Caution: All parts of potato plants, except the tubers, contain a toxic substance called solanine, and can cause serious illness if eaten. This includes the little tomato-like berries.

Time to Harvest

To many gardeners, potato plants flowering means it’s almost time to begin harvesting the tubers; however, the plants can continue to produce for several weeks, until the plants begin to turn yellow. Some gardeners with long cool growing seasons actually have to cut the plants down after about four months to force tubers to mature and harden their skins.

So don’t worry if your potato plants are beginning to flower - blooming potatoes are happy plants! 

Keep Reading

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Early potatoes, varieties that grow quickly and are harvested while small and tender, save money and time in gardens while providing unique growing and eating experiences. “First earlies” are the cream of the crop.

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Potatoes make seeds - but they are not what you plant. Potato seed is what gardeners call small pieces of cut-up whole potato tubers, each with a growing bud that will form a new potato plant.

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