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Solanum tuberosum is often confused with:
Solanum lycopersicum Solanum lycopersicum
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Solanum lycopersicum Solanum lycopersicum
Phaseolus vulgaris beans
Solanum carolinense Solanum carolinense
Solanum tuberosum has some common insect problems:
Potato Leafhopper
Solanum tuberosum has some common disease problems:
Potato Late Blight

Irish Potatoes Solanum tuberosum

Previously known as:

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

Potatoes are herbaceous perennials by nature, they are grown as annuals for harvesting. They can grow up 2 feet tall and maybe erect or sprawling with branching stems. The plant produces stolon's that bear edible underground tubers. All green parts of the potato plant are inedible because they contain a toxin known as solanine. This toxin can be found in the sprouts, stems, leaves, berries, and the green skin of the tuber. Potatoes are cultivated for their starchy tubers and are the fourth most important food crop.

Potatoes are native to South America in parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. It is now widely cultivated and major producers include China, Germany, India, Russia, and the United States. 

The genus name, Solanum, is the Latin word, solamen, which means "comforting or soothing." The species name, tuberosum, means "tuber."

Thousands of cultivars exist in varying textures, sizes, and colors that are suited for a variety of culinary uses.  Russet potatoes are most commonly found in stores and restaurants. They are better suited for the climate of the western United States 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, and acidic soil.  The optimal pH is between 4.8 and 5.4.  Poorly drained soil may cause tubers to rot, and acidic soil helps to prevent bacterial scabs.  Light soil, if consistently moist, can help the plant grow large, evenly shaped potatoes.

The plant's underground tubers may be round, oblate, or elliptic and the colors range from white, red, or purple. They may measure 1 to 4 inches in diameter. The leaves have 6 to 8 pairs of leaflets. The flowers may bloom in colors of white, pink, purple, or blue during the summer and fall. The yellow-green to green berries are also sometimes produced and contain many seeds.

Potatoes are most often grown from "seed potatoes"– small tubers or pieces of tubers that sprout into a new plant.  Buying certified disease-free seeds can help prevent problems such as Potato late blight. The 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 with 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 when the tubers are fully grown and/or the plant has dried up around June. They may also be 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.

Seasons of interest:

Blooms:  Summer and Fall   Fruits:  Summer and Fall     Tubers: Summer, Fall, and Early Winter

Quick ID Hints:

  • underground edible tubers
  • green erect, branching, smooth to sparsely hairy stems
  • dark green leaves, pinnately compound, 6 to 8 leaflets, sparsely to densely hairy
  • white, pink, purple, or blue flower blooms with yellow stamens
  • green or yellowish-green berries about 0.5 inches in diameter sometimes appear

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Potatoes are susceptible to the Colorado potato beetles, flea beetles, wireworms, and leafhoppers which can result in poor crop yields. Colorado potato beetles lay masses of yellow eggs and the larvae defoliate plants.

 Potato late blight will rot tubers and render them inedible. Viral, bacterial, and fungal diseases potential problems. If this occurs, it is best to remove and destroy the diseased plants.

Proper crop rotation, clean garden tools, and using disease-resistant cultivars will reduce pests and diseases which ultimately improves crop yields. 

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Nuts" 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:
  • 'Bintje'
    Small to medium size tuber with golden skin and yellow flesh
  • ‘Kennebec’
    Light skin and flesh, high yields; good for frying
  • ‘Red Pontiac’
    Red skin and white flesh with deep eyes
  • 'Russian Fingerling'
    Oblong finger shaped tuber with thin skin and buttercream colored flesh
  • 'Yukon Gold'
    Gold skin and flesh; creamy flesh
'Bintje', ‘Kennebec’, ‘Red Pontiac’, 'Russian Fingerling', 'Yukon Gold'
Tags:
#poisonous#full sun tolerant#small spaces#white flowers#purple flowers#pink flowers#blue flowers#tuberous#poisonous fruits#vegetable garden#yellow fruits#green fruits#edible roots#sprawling#acidic soils tolerant#vegetable#pollinator plant#edible garden#green leaves#purple fruits#annual vegetable#container vegetable garden#problem for cats#ebh-vh#ebh#problem for dogs#problem for children#problem for horses#container plant#poisonous if ingested#vhfn#vhfn-v#perennial#erect
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Bintje'
    Small to medium size tuber with golden skin and yellow flesh
  • ‘Kennebec’
    Light skin and flesh, high yields; good for frying
  • ‘Red Pontiac’
    Red skin and white flesh with deep eyes
  • 'Russian Fingerling'
    Oblong finger shaped tuber with thin skin and buttercream colored flesh
  • 'Yukon Gold'
    Gold skin and flesh; creamy flesh
'Bintje', ‘Kennebec’, ‘Red Pontiac’, 'Russian Fingerling', 'Yukon Gold'
Tags:
#poisonous#full sun tolerant#small spaces#white flowers#purple flowers#pink flowers#blue flowers#tuberous#poisonous fruits#vegetable garden#yellow fruits#green fruits#edible roots#sprawling#acidic soils tolerant#vegetable#pollinator plant#edible garden#green leaves#purple fruits#annual vegetable#container vegetable garden#problem for cats#ebh-vh#ebh#problem for dogs#problem for children#problem for horses#container plant#poisonous if ingested#vhfn#vhfn-v#perennial#erect
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Solanum
    Species:
    tuberosum
    Family:
    Solanaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The potato was used in folk medicine for the treatment of burns, corns, cough, tumors, and warts. Reportedly, in Europe raw potatoes were tied behind a person's ears to treat delirium.
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    South America
    Distribution:
    Native: Argentina Northwest, Argentina South Bolivia, Chile Central, Chile North, Chile South, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. Introduced: Assam, Bangladesh, Belgium, Dominican Republic, East European Russian, East Himalaya, France, Great Britain, Haiti, Hawaii, Illinois, India, Ireland, Laos, Minnesota, New York, Tadzhikistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zaire.
    Wildlife Value:
    The flowers are pollinated by insects and bumblebees.
    Edibility:
    The tubers are edible but discard sprouts and never eat tubers if they look spoiled or green below the skin. All the green parts of the plant contain a toxin known as solanine and should not be ingested. Potatoes can be stored in a cool, dry, dark place for three to four months. Potato tubers can be boiled, baked, fried, or roasted as a vegetable. They may also be processed to produce potato flour. potato chips, vodka, and schnapps.
    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:
    Erect
    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
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Potato plants will sometimes produce a round, smooth, yellowish-green to a green berry that is 0.5 inches in diameter and is filled with many seeds. EXTREMELY TOXIC, DO NOT EAT.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Blue
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Flowers have yellow stamens, and the blooms may be white to pink, purple, or blue.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Orbicular
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are alternate, pinnately-compound with varyingly shaped leaflets. The leaf grows up to 10 in long and 2 to 6 inches wide. The leaflets are opposite or alternate and up to 6 inches long and 2 inches wide. There are 6 to 8 pairs of leaflets. They may be sparsely or densely hairy. 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 Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are erect, winged, and branching. The surface may be smooth or sparsely hairy.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Landscape Theme:
    Edible Garden
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Rabbits
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Children
    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
    Leaves
    Roots
    Stems