What’s Happening to my Potatoes?

I wrote this question to my brother-in-law because he is quite the gardener (well, he gives all the credit to his mother).  At any rate:

“My potato plants grew up into beautiful bushes.  Now they have fallen over and have flowers coming out.  So, what does this mean?  Close to having potatoes?”

Frank’s response:  “Well the potatoes falling over is a sign that they have not been mounded enough. Not too much of a worry really unless they take away the light/space for other plants nearby. The flowers are normal. In fact when the first potatoes were brought to Europe by the Spanish, the people thought that they were to admire the flowers, nobody had told them about eating the bulbs!

The potatoes will actually still be quite small and not ripe yet. I wouldn’t think they can be harvested for a few more months yet. Usually a good sign is when the flowers have turned to seeds and the foliage starts to yellow and die-off. Then it is time to get the potatoes out. Only early varieties are harvested in summer, most will be harvested in September or even later.”


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15 Responses to What’s Happening to my Potatoes?

  1. A good news/bad news story. Your potato plants are beautiful but you have to wait 4 or 5 months to eat the buggers! Horray for lettuce, you can get quick rewards there. My personal favourite is still radishes. They almost grow while you watch them and you can see when they’re ready because the little red tops push their way out of the ground.

  2. Karen says:

    Good to know. Next year I buy radishes because I’m all about instant gratification!

  3. Lydia says:

    Thank you for the potato story… I like to see the potato leaves..makes the garden look more green and full…it’s all I really want just that and flowers but if I never take out the potatoes will they rot and smell up the garden…Maybe potato leaves are not for me…Plus I’m not much of a green-thumb.

  4. Karen says:

    They do, indeed, make the garden look green and full! Beautiful.

    And, you definitely want to dig them up later and eat the wonderful potatoes. They’re very easy to dig up as they’re very near the surface. The potatoes are so much better than what you buy in a store! If you leave them in the ground, they may rot or you may have even more potatoes come up the next year!

    By all means, plant them!

  5. Jill Brown says:

    My potato plants was doing great and about 3 feet tall but now some of them have fallen over. Will they be OK or should I try to put more dirt around them to try and stand them back up ?

  6. Jill Brown says:

    When will I know when it is time to dig my potatoes up ?

  7. Karen says:

    Yes! You should be putting dirt or mulch around them the entire time they grow. The potatoes form along their stems, so those need to be kept underground. I’ve heard of people mounding soil and planting potatoes inside an old tire. As the potatoes grow, they continue to put dirt on top and stack up more and more tires until they have a tall stack. In the fall, they use the potatoes from the top tire, remove it, dig potatoes from the next tire and so on until they’re back to ground level.

    Good luck!

  8. Karen says:

    Hi Jill:

    Your plants will flower. After the flowers are gone and the plant begins to die back, the potatoes are ready to harvest.


  9. miss joanne carter says:

    My main potatos have no flowers yet, and are just starting to fall over.? Other than that they are healthy.
    How often should I water them and should I feed them?. We live in the midlands and have loamy soil. Thank you joanne carter.

  10. Karen says:

    Hi Joanne:
    Like any plants, I water anytime the leaves start to wilt (other than afternoon heat wilting) or at least once a week if there is no rain.

    I have never fed the plants. Mine are in the ground and we have very thick clay soil which is great for holding nutrients. Thanks for asking!

  11. Sherry Boychuk says:

    if you allow the potatoes to get to high ….does the plant steel the nutrients from the potatoes ? mine are at three feet ,and I am a first time planter …Thank you Karen

  12. Karen says:

    Hi Sherry:
    You want to continue to “mound” your potatoes, rather than letting them get too high. The potatoes grow from the stem so, as it gets higher, you add more soil.
    That’s why many people plant them in deep tubs or even stacks of tires. When the potatoes grow higher than the tire, a second tire is put on top and more soil added. As the potato grows higher than the second tire, a third one is added, and so on. In the fall, potatoes are harvested in reverse – from the top tire, then that’s removed. Then potatoes are harvested from inside the next tire, and so on down the pile.

    I suggest you add more soil to the base of your potatoes so more potatoes will grow!

    Good luck and, please, let me know how it turns out!

  13. John Whitaker says:

    Thanks for the story. This was my concern. They’re doing good.

  14. my potato plants are up to my waist but have not flower what should I do zone 8

  15. Karen says:

    Hi Mary:
    You don’t really need them that high. As they grow, you add soil around the base to keep them mounded up as the potatoes grow off the stems under soil. If the stems are in the air, there will be no potatoes. Keep adding soil around the base as they grow taller and you’ll have tons of potatoes.

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