What are Potato Eyes?

Feel a little creepy in the garden, like something is watching you? It may be the potato eyes! But don’t worry, eyes on potatoes are simply the growing points with little stem buds.
Related To:

How to Grow Potatoes 05:02

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

Feel a little creepy in the garden, like something is watching you? It may be potato eyes! But don’t worry, eyes on potatoes are simply the growing points on potato tubers, each with a little stem bud winking at you.

Potatoes grow on the lower stems of attractive, dark green leafy garden annuals. Planted in full sun in cool weather, the plants live for four months or so before the underground tubers can toughen up before being dug and eaten or stored.

What are Eyes on Potatoes?

When you buy a mature potato tuber, look closely at the small indentations in the skin, and you will see a small bump in each one. This is actually a stem bud from which a new plant can sprout. When these buds are exposed to warmth and moisture, they begin to swell and soon sprout into entire stems with roots growing from their bases and leaves at the tops.

By the way, grocery store potatoes sometimes fail to grow because they are often treated to prevent the eyes from sprouting on the shelf. For this reason, if you want to plant your own potatoes, it is important to look for fresh, “certified” disease-free “seed potatoes” at local garden centers, or online if you want some really unusual shaped or colorful varieties to try.

Planting Potatoes

Gardeners usually cut large potatoes into smaller chunks, each about the size of a large egg and with at least one or two eye buds. Once these “seed pieces” are allowed to dry for a day or two, they are planted, eye side up, in rows, individual hills, or containers. Each is covered with two or three inches of soil, and allowed to sprout into plants.

As the plants grow, it is important to keep piling fresh soil, mulch, or hay around them to keep the lower six or eight inches of stem in total darkness. New tubers are formed there, and if any are exposed to direct sunshine they can sunburn or turn green and bitter, and can actually be poisonous. 

Once the plants are about four months old, many will flower and start to turn yellow and die. This is when tubers are harvested. Just don’t leave them lying around for too long – or their eyes may start to sprout. Keep stored tubers in a cool, dark, dry place to retard the growth of the bud and help them last longer before sprouting or shriveling and decaying. 

Keep Reading

Next Up

Is a Potato a Vegetable?

Gardeners sometimes get needlessly fussy over technical issues, such as is a potato is a vegetable. The short answer is yes! But even though it grows underground, it is not a root.

Vegetable Garden Plans

Taking time to plan a vegetable garden before you plant can pay dividends throughout the season. Clever use of low rows and tall accent plants creates microclimates that different vegetables enjoy, as well as great visual effects.

Incorporating Vegetables Into Flower Beds

If you're limited on space for a vegetable garden, incorporate veggies into existing flower beds.

Tips for a Raised-Bed Vegetable Garden

Raised-bed vegetable gardening takes very little space and allows vegetables to be grown closer together.

Choosing a Site for Your Vegetable Garden

Growing vegetables in ideal conditions is not always possible, particularly if you have limited space, but it pays to find a sunny spot that is sheltered from the wind and easily accessible for watering and weeding.

Growing Vegetables Under Cover

Vegetable plants often need protection from cold weather and persistent pests, particularly when they are young and most vulnerable. Being prepared with the appropriate equipment and protective covers is the best way to avoid losses.

Combining Vegetables and Flowers in Your Garden

Small gardens need to look their best year round and usually have no room for a separate vegetable garden, but with a little imagination, vegetables can look striking alongside flowers and produce a tasty harvest, too.

10 Essential Steps for Getting Your Vegetable Garden Prepped for a New Season

Get your veggie garden ready for the new growing season with these 10 easy tips.

Quick-Growing Spring and Fall Vegetables

From seed to dinner table in one month? These quick-growing vegetables give the garden a good start and a lingering end.

Potato Plant Basics

Potato plants are attractive vegetables that grow in cool weather. Though all above-ground parts are poisonous, they form perfectly safe, delicious and nutritious edible tubers on the lower stems.


Get Social With Us

We love to DIY. You love to DIY. Let's get together.

Consult Our A-Z Guide

Everything You Need to Know

Browse a full list of topics found on the site, from accessories to mudrooms to wreaths.  

How-To Advice and Videos

Get video instructions about kitchens, bathrooms, remodeling, flooring, painting and more.

Watch DIY Downloads Now

Watch DIY Network LIVE

Don't miss your favorite shows in real time online.