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Solanum tuberosum is often confused with:
Solanum lycopersicum Solanum lycopersicum
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Solanum lycopersicum Solanum lycopersicum
Allium Alllium
Pisum sativum Peas in a pod
Solanum tuberosum has some common insect problems:
Potato Leafhopper
Solanum tuberosum has some common disease problems:
Potato Late Blight

Solanum tuberosum

Phonetic Spelling
so-LAN-num too-ber-OH-sum
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Solanum tuberosum is the common cultivated potato known for its starchy tubers.  While they are herbaceous perennials by nature, they are grown as annuals for harvesting.  Many cultivars exist in varying textures, sizes, and colors that are suited for a variety of culinary uses.  Russet potatoes, most commonly found in stores and restaurants, are better suited for the climate of the western US and do not grow well in the eastern states.  For North Carolina's climate and soil, some of the most reliable cultivars include thinner skinned potatoes such as ‘Yukon Gold’, ‘Kennebec’, and ‘Red Pontiac’.

Potatoes grow best in full sun and well-drained, sandy, acidic soil.  Optimal pH is between 4.8 and 5.4.  Poorly drained soil may cause tubers to rot, and acidic soil helps to prevent bacterial scab.  Light soil, if consistently moist, can help the plant grow large, evenly-shaped potatoes.

Potatoes are most often grown from "seed potatoes"– small tubers or pieces of tubers that sprout into a new plant.  Buying certified disease-free seed can help prevent problems such as Potato late blight; grocery potatoes are often treated with sprout inhibitors and therefore may not be reliable for growing.  Before planting, cut seed potatoes so each piece has at least two eyes and let sit outside for a day to let the cut end scab over.  Plant seed pieces 5-6 in apart with the eyes facing up.  Raised beds provide good drainage and containers or grow bags can be suitable for growth so long as they are at least 2 ft deep and hold at least 30 gallons.  As they grow, pile soil or mulch up around the base of the plant– this encourages the growth of more tubers along the submerged parts of the stem.  Do this once the plants are one foot tall and once or twice more throughout the season.  Potatoes may be grown in trenches to make the process of hilling easier.  Tubers will turn green and produce toxic compounds if not sufficiently covered. 

In NC, try to have potatoes planted sometime between mid-February and the end of March; they can tolerate a bit of frost.  Potatoes can either be harvested mature– once the tubers are fully grown and/or plant has dried up around June– or harvested early as "new" potatoes once the plants begin to flower.  These young potatoes still have thin, delicate skins and are considered a delicacy.  New potatoes can be harvested about 7-8 weeks after planting.  Mature potatoes can take 3-4 months before they are ready for harvest.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Problems:  Potato late blight will rot tubers and render them inedible.  Colorado potato beetles lay masses of yellow eggs and the larvae defoliate plants.

 

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Edibles, Bulbs, and Houseplants" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Vegetable Garden- Reynolda Gardens
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • ‘Kennebec’
    Light skin and flesh, high yields; good for frying
  • ‘Red Pontiac’
    Red skin and white flesh with deep eyes
  • 'Yukon Gold'
    Gold skin and flesh; creamy flesh
‘Kennebec’, ‘Red Pontiac’, 'Yukon Gold'
Tags:
#purple#red#white#sun#poisonous#full sun#small spaces#blue#white flowers#container plant#purple flowers#pink flowers#red flowers#blue flowers#tuberous#vegetable garden#edible roots#vegetable#edible garden#edible#container vegetable garden#pink#problem for cats#ebh-vh#ebh#potatoes#problem for dogs#problem for horses
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • ‘Kennebec’
    Light skin and flesh, high yields; good for frying
  • ‘Red Pontiac’
    Red skin and white flesh with deep eyes
  • 'Yukon Gold'
    Gold skin and flesh; creamy flesh
‘Kennebec’, ‘Red Pontiac’, 'Yukon Gold'
Tags:
#purple#red#white#sun#poisonous#full sun#small spaces#blue#white flowers#container plant#purple flowers#pink flowers#red flowers#blue flowers#tuberous#vegetable garden#edible roots#vegetable#edible garden#edible#container vegetable garden#pink#problem for cats#ebh-vh#ebh#potatoes#problem for dogs#problem for horses
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Solanum
    Species:
    tuberosum
    Family:
    Solanaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Important historical food staple
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Western South America
    Distribution:
    Landscape in vegetable gardens
    Edibility:
    EDIBLE PARTS: Tubers edible but discard sprouts and never eat tubers if they look spoiled or green below the skin. Potatoes can be stored in a cool, dry, dark place for three to four months.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 1 ft. 6 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Edible
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Poisonous
    Vegetable
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Spreading
    Maintenance:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Green
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Potato plants will sometimes produce green, cherry tomato-like fruits in cool weather filled with many seeds. EXTREMELY TOXIC, DO NOT EAT.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Blue
    Gold/Yellow
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Flowers have yellow stamens and may be white to reds, pinks, purples, or blues. Flower color has a tendency to correlate with the color of the skins on the potatoes the plant produces.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Alternate, pinnately-compound leaves with varyingly shaped leaflets. Whole leaves grow up to 10 in long and leaflets 3 in long. Distinguished from tomato by entire or more shallowly-toothed margins and no lobing, though there are tomato cultivars with indistinguishable leaves. The leaves die back after the tubers have finished maturing.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Yes
    Stem Cross Section:
    Square
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    Square-shaped stems, sometimes with wings on the edges.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Landscape Theme:
    Edible Garden
    Problems:
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    High
    Poison Symptoms:
    Nausea, vomiting, salivation, drowsiness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, weakness, respiratory depression; may be fatal
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Solanine and other alkaloids
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Fruits