How To Plant Sprouted Potatoes (4 Key Steps For Success!)

Potatoes will sprout sooner or later – it’s in their nature, and you can’t do much to stop it! Still, you do have some options – for example, you can throw them out. Or, you can let them grow instead. But the question is: does it make sense to plant them?

So, can you plant a potato that has sprouted? You can plant a sprouted potato to grow a whole new plant (or cut the potato into pieces to get more than one plant!) Potato plants need full sun (8 or more hours per day) to grow best. Water and fertilize the plants as they emerge, and hill them up as they grow taller to avoid green potatoes.

Now, it would be great to know why potatoes sprout in the first place, so we’ll start there. Then, we’ll talk about planting sprouted potatoes and how to care for the plants as they grow.

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes Cover

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes

A complete reference and an ultimate guide that teaches you everything you need to know about potato selection, planting, care, harvest, and storage.

We’ll also talk about how to harvest potatoes and ways to store them for the long haul. We’ll also touch on few potential problems and how to avoid them.

Let’s get started.

(Click here to skip to the steps for planting sprouted potatoes!)

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Why Do Potatoes Sprout?

Potatoes, like all plants, have a goal to reproduce and create a new generation. Even in seemingly hostile conditions, they will attempt to do this.

Potato sprouts look like white “roots” (possibly with some green or purple coloring) that grow out of a tuber. Here you see two potatoes with sprouted “eyes”.

Potato sprouts look like really thick white “roots” growing out of the tuber. Sometimes, these sprouts have some green or reddish-purple coloring.

When you see potatoes growing sprouts, it means they are moving into wth the next phase of their life cycle: attempting to create a new plant. Long potato sprouts are guaranteed for tubers that are left out too long – they are trying to find soil to dig into so they can make a more permanent home!

Check out this cool illustration of a potato’s life cycle (from sprouted tuber all the way to a mature plant) on this page.

life cycle of a sprouted potato
A potato can go through its whole life cycle in a year. You can find a full-size PDF of this infographic here.

How Do Potatoes Grow?

Potatoes contain specific cells in their buds, which specialize to become either stems or roots. Potatoes also contain plenty of nutrients and starches in their flesh to help them grow.

potatoes in basket
Potato tubers contain starches and nutrients, which sprouts use to grow into a new plant.

The potato tuber has all the necessary resources to sprout and start growing into a new plant. As long as they are warm enough, potatoes will quickly begin to sprout.

A sprouting potato has “eyes” or buds, which are bulging sprouts. Each of these has the potential to grow into its own potato plant.

You can learn more about why potatoes sprout (and how to encourage it) in my article here.

How To Sprout Potatoes

If you want to make your potatoes sprout, store them in a warm, damp, light environment (ideally 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Remember that store-bought potatoes are often treated with sprout inhibitors.

potatoes at grocery store
Potatoes at the grocery store are treated with sprout inhibitors. This improves shelf life, but makes it harder to sprout potatoes.

As a result, they often won’t sprout as well as untreated seed potatoes. Store-bought potatoes will still sprout though, and you can still grow potato plants from them!

To get your potatoes to sprout eyes, wash them off to remove any sprout inhibitor that may be present. Be gentle to avoid scrubbing away the potato’s skin.

How To Prevent Potatoes From Sprouting

On the other hand, maybe you are annoyed by sprouting potatoes (or, you want to slow down the process). In that case, there are a few things you can do to prevent it from happening.

First, remember that fast-maturing potato varieties have a shorter dormancy period. (Dormancy period is the amount of time before a potato begins to sprout).

For example, dormancy period can range from 85 days (for Ranger Russet potatoes) all the way up to 155 days (for Russett Burbank potatoes).

sprouted potato
Fast maturing potatoes have a shorter dormancy period. Check the days to maturity in the catalog or online.

To prevent sprouting, choose potatoes that take longer to mature. Check the days to maturity in the catalog (print or online).

Also, remember to “cure” your homegrown potatoes after harvest by leaving them out to dry. Once they are cured, store the potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place to slow down the sprouting process.

The University of Maine suggests storing seed potatoes at 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) to prevent sprouting.

Finally, avoid storing potatoes together with onions – they emit ethylene, which makes potatoes sprout faster!

onion plants
Avoid storing onions with potatoes, since this will make the potatoes sprout faster.

(Speaking of which, if you have sprouted onions, you can plant them too – learn how to do it here!)

Your potatoes might still sprout, despite your best efforts to prevent it. In that case, you can cut out the eyes and eat the potatoes, including the skins.

Just don’t eat any green skin or flesh from potatoes. When you expose potatoes to prolonged sunlight, they turn green, due to chlorophyll production.

green sprouted potato
Don’t eat green potatoes – they may contain the toxin solanine, which makes you sick!
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons: https://commons

In addition to chlorophyll, potatoes exposed to sunlight may also produce solanine. Solanine is a potato plant’s way of preventing animals from eating the tubers.

Solanine is poisonous, and it will make you sick if you eat too much of it!

How To Plant Sprouted Potatoes

You can plant a potato that has sprouted, even if it has long sprouts. However, when growing potatoes from potatoes, there are a few things to keep in mind as you get started.

  1. Wait For The Right Weather Conditions (Cool – But Not Too Cold)
  2. Prepare Potatoes For Planting (Chitting & Cutting)
  3. Choose & Prepare A Garden Site For Planting Sprouted Potatoes
  4. Plant The Sprouted Potatoes

Follow these steps, and you should get healthier plants and more potatoes. Let’s take them in order.

(You can also watch the video on YouTube if you prefer!)

1. Wait For The Right Weather Conditions (Cool – But Not Too Cold)

If you plant your potatoes too early, a late frost will kill them. You can use this tool from the Farmer’s Almanac to find last frost date for your area.

frosted leaf
Don’t plant sprouted potatoes outside too early, or a late spring frost will kill back the plant to the ground.

Remember that last frost date is an estimate, and a frost could occur later. To be safe, wait until a couple of weeks after the last frost date to plant.

If your potatoes are really sprouting quickly, you could put them in some potting soil in a bucket (or you could plant them in the bucket for the sesaon!). Then, you can leave them under a grow light or near a window to transplant into the garden later.

potato with long sprouts
This potato has sprouted and is really taking off. It can’t be contained!

In order to plant outside, the soil should be thawed (not frozen), but still cool (45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Generally, mid to late summer is the latest you want to plant potatoes outside.

Otherwise, an early fall frost will kill the plants before they can produce a full harvest. Besides that, frozen ground makes potatoes impossible to harvest.

2. Prepare Potatoes For Planting (Chitting & Cutting)

Now that you have an idea of when to plant, it’s time to prepare the seed potatoes themselves for planting. A seed potato is simply a potato (or a piece of a potato) that has a bud (eye) that can grow into a new plant.

Kennebec potatoes
A seed potato has one or more buds (eyes) that can sprout and grow into a new plant.

You can plant seed potatoes before they have sprouted. However, it is better to wait until their “eyes” have begun to sprout.

“Chitting” is the process of encouraging seed potatoes to sprout, in order to prepare them for planting.

Once a potato sprouts, you know that it is ready to grow into a full-sized plant. You won’t have to wait to see if the potato will ever sprout, since it has already begun the process.

If potatoes start to sprout a bit early, the sprouts may grow pretty long. You can still plant potatoes with long sprouts – you just need more space for them (for example, a trench).

You can certainly plant an entire seed potato in the ground after it sprouts. However, there is another way to get more plants and more potatoes: by planting potatoes from eyes.

First, cut the potato into several smaller pieces.  Try to leave one sprouted “eye” on each piece of potato.

cut russet potato with eyes
Cut the potato into pieces – aim for one eye per piece.

That way, you can give each piece of sprouted potato enough space to grow. This will prevent competition among plants for water and nutrients in the soil.

Then, leave the potato pieces out for a few days, to give them a chance to dry out and “scab over”.  This will help to prevent rot after you plant the potatoes.

While you are waiting for the cut potato pieces to dry out, you can take the next step, which is choosing and preparing a garden site.

3. Choose & Prepare A Garden Site For Planting Sprouted Potatoes

Potatoes are not too picky, but if you choose a good garden site to grow them, then the plants will thrive and produce more potatoes for you.

Here are a few steps to help you choose and prepare a good site for growing potatoes:

Choose A Sunny Spot

First, identify areas of your garden that get 6 to 8 hours of full fun per day, with partial shade during the rest of the day.  Avoid areas with full shade, since this will inhibit the growth of potato plants or give you small potatoes.

sunlight through forest
Potatoes need plenty of sunlight. Look at those beautiful rays!

Pay attention to where the trees are, especially ones that lose their leaves in winter. What looks like a bright spot in early spring may be partially or completely shaded by leaves in the summer!

Ensure Well Drained Soil

Next, make sure that the soil drains well.  Potatoes don’t like soil that is too soggy.

clay soil
Clay soil often drains poorly and stays too wet for growing potatoes.

To find out if your soil drains well, you can do a soil drainage test (outline in this article).

If your soil drains poorly, you can add compost or aged manure to your soil to supplement organic material (humus) and improve drainage.

compost bin
Add some compost to your soil before planting your potatoes. This provides nutrients and organic material for plants.

For example, you can find bags of Black Kow manure online from Ace Hardware.

For more information, check out my article on how to make soil drain better.

On the other hand, if you have trouble with dry soil, check out my article on how to treat dry soil.

Keep in mind that potatoes and tomatoes should not be planted together. The reason is that they are in the same family and share some of the same diseases, such as early blight and late blight.

tomatoes and potatoes
Avoid planting tomatoes and potatoes together – they share some of the same diseases, including late blight!

For more information, check out my article on why you should not plant tomatoes and potatoes together.

Adjust Soil pH & Nutrients (Do A Soil Test First)

Now it is time to check your garden soil pH & nutrient levels. You can use a home test kit, or you can send a sample to your local agricultural extension for testing.

soil test kit
A soil test tells you the pH and nutrient levels in your soil.

To learn more, check out my article on how to test your soil.

According to Cornell University, potatoes like acidic soil, with a pH between 4.8 and 5.5. They can survive in soil with a higher pH, but there is more of a chance of scab, which is a disease that affects potatoes.

If your soil pH is too high, one way to lower it is to add elemental sulfur. For more information, check out my article on how to lower soil pH

(Peat moss can also help to acidify soil for potatoes. If you want to try this water-absorbing material, you can find a large bale of peat moss online from Ace Hardware).

potato plants
To grow nice, healthy potato plants like these, the soil needs the proper pH and plenty of nutrients.

If the soil test reveals low nutrient levels, add soil amendments as needed.  A standard 10-10-10 fertilizer will help with three important nutrients (nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, or N-P-K).

For more information, check out my article on the NPK ratio on bags of fertilizer.

Dig The Trenches For Planting Your Sprouted Potatoes (Or Choose The Right Container)

Finally, prepare spaces to plant your potatoes.  There are two basic options:

  • Dig holes 4 inches deep and 1 foot apart in a row.
  • Dig a trench 4 inches deep along the entire row. If you want 10 potato plants, then make the trench 10 feet wide.

A trench might work better for planting potatoes with long sprouts. This will give you plenty of space for planting without having to worry about breaking off or bending the sprouts.

rows of potatoes
Leave a foot between potato plants in a row, whether you use trenches or individual holes for the sprouted potatoes.

No matter which method you choose, leave a space of 3 feet between rows of potatoes. This will leave room for watering, weeding, and hilling later in the season.

For more information on spacing, check out my article on how much depth and space potatoes need.

Since potatoes start off completely underground, you might want to use a marker (a stick, plastic label, etc.) to tell you where you planted the potatoes. That way, you won’t step on them and compact the soil after planting.

Of course, you can always choose to plant sprouted potatoes in a container instead of in the ground. According to the University of New Hampshire Extension, a good container for planting potatoes is 2 to 3 feet tall and holds 10 to 15 gallons.

clay pots
A good container for potato plants would be at least 2 to 3 feet tall, holding 10 to 15 gallons.

If you do choose to plant potatoes in a container, just make sure to leave enough space for hilling later in the season (more detail on this later!)

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes Cover

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes

A complete reference and an ultimate guide that teaches you everything you need to know about potato selection, planting, care, harvest, and storage.

4. Plant The Sprouted Potatoes

When the potato pieces are dry and scabbed over, it is time to plant them in the holes or trenches that you dug. Remember: space them a foot apart if using a trench, to give them enough space to grow without competition.

sprouting potatoes
Plant your sprouted potatoes a foot apart to avoid competition between plants.

If planting an entire potato, position it so the healthiest looking sprout is facing up towards the sky. If planting a cut piece of potato, plant it with the cut side down (and the eyes facing up).

Cover the sprouted potatoes with about 4 inches of soil – enough to cover the holes or trenches up to the surface of the soil.

Congratulations – you’re on the way to growing your own potatoes!

Of course, if you want to do something completely different (this year or next), you can plant your potatoes in straw bales!

straw bale
Planting potatoes in a straw bale (or hilling them with straw) is one option.

If you want to use straw to grow potatoes, you can buy it online in bales from Ace Hardware.

For more information, check out my article on planting potatoes in straw bales.

How To Care For Potato Plants

If you followed the steps up to this point, your potato plants should be planted in a spot where they have enough sunlight, plenty of space, and healthy soil with the right pH and enough nutrients.

The two biggest things you will have to worry about during the growing season are watering and hilling. Let’s start with watering.

Watering Potato Plants

When the top inch or so of soil above the potatoes is dry, give them water.  There is no rule for when this needs to be done, since it will depend on temperature, humidity, your soil, and how much water the potatoes use.

Baby Potato Plant
This baby potato plant might be ready for some water soon!

Your best bet is to check the soil with your fingers each day to see if it is dry. If it is wet, hold off on watering – otherwise, go ahead and water.

The Oregon State University Extension suggests watering potato plants in mid-day. This gives the plant foliage enough time to dry off before nightfall, to prevent disease from taking hold.

They also suggest watering less in the early days of the season to prevent the sprouted potatoes from rotting before they get a chance to grow. In fact, they recommend that you avoid watering before the plant emerges from the soil.

baby potato plant
Avoid watering before the potato plant emerges from the soil to prevent rotting.

For a similar reason, ease up on watering later in the season (when the vines die) to prevent the tubers from rotting before harvest.

You can use your hands to feel new potatoes forming underground near where you planted the sprouted potato.  When these new potatoes begin to form, water the plant heavily, since it will grow rapidly and use lots of water.

watering can
Watch the weather forecast before watering – if there is a thunderstorm coming, you might be able to skip the chore.

Just be careful about overdoing it, especially if you are new at gardening – see my article on over watering plants.

Adding Soil To Potato Plants (Hilling)

With most plants, you put the seeds in the ground (or transplant them into the ground) and they grow without you having to add any more soil.  Potatoes can grow this way, but you can do even better than that.

Hilling, or building a mound of soil around potato shoots, is a method that will lead to stronger plants and bigger potatoes.  It will also help to prevent sun damage.

potato plants
Hilling up soil, compost, aged manure, or straw around your potato plants helps to keep the tubers out of sunlight.

Remember what we talked about earlier. When potato tubers are exposed to sunlight, they turn green and produce the toxic substance solanine.

Hilling helps to prevent this by using soil to cover any tubers that appear n the plant.

Use the “hilling” method to add soil at the base of potato plants as they grow. This will keep the tubers from turning green and inedible due to sunlight exposure.

Hilling is easy to do if you want to try it.  After every 6 inches of potato plant growth above ground, add some more soil to cover most of the plant.

However, don’t cover it completely, since photosynthesis requires that some leaves be exposed to the sunlight.

You can learn more about hilling potatoes (and why you should do it!) in my article here.

Harvesting & Storing Potatoes

Once the plants have produced their bounty, it’s time to reap what you have sown. Let’s talk about when and how to harvest potatoes, along with the best ways to store them.

How Long Does It Take To Grow Potatoes?

According to the University of Maryland Extension, potatoes will be ready for harvest 90 to 120 days (13 to 17 weeks) after planting the sprouted potatoes.  If you started them in soil indoors, you will want to track from that date, so be sure to write it down!

Use a calendar to track planting dates and days to maturity to get an idea of when your potatoes will be ready for harvest.

The time it takes to grow potatoes depends on the variety you choose. There are three basic types of potatoes:

  • Early Potatoes (such as Dark Red Norland or Yukon Gold) are fast-maturing.
  • Mid-Season Potatoes (such as Gold Rush or Kennebec) take a little longer than early potatoes to mature.
  • Late Season Potatoes (such as Elba or Pinto Gold) take the longest time to mature.

You can learn more about the types of potatoes in my article here.

When To Harvest Potatoes

If you kept track of when you planted your potatoes, you can use the days to maturity (depends on the variety) to help you figure out when to harvest.

If you did not keep track of the dates, don’t worry. There are some signs that can tell you when your potatoes are ready to harvest.

Before 13 to 17 weeks are up, you may see your potato plants start to decay or fall over.  The leaves will turn yellow, and the plant will die back.

potato vines fallen over
Potato vines and leaves will turn yellow and then fall over, signalling that the tubers are almost ready for harvest.

This is not necessarily a cause for alarm, since it is a natural part of the potato life cycle. In fact, this is actually a sign that the potatoes are close to the point where they are ready to harvest.

If you wait 2 to 3 weeks after the plant starts to die back, the potatoes should be mature and ready to harvest. If you harvest earlier, you may get “new” potatoes, which are smaller with thinner skins than mature potatoes.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, if you want to harvest smaller potatoes with thin skins (“new potatoes”), plan to harvest 2 to 3 weeks after the plants stop flowering. This will help to space out your harvest if you planted a lot of sprouted potatoes.

potato plant flowers
Potato flowers can be white or purple when they appear, and they tell you when to start expecting new potatoes.

Just make sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast.  Frost kills potato plants, just like many other plants.

The potatoes may be fine if they are far enough underground, but if the ground freezes, it will be difficult to harvest the potatoes.

If you decide to grow potatoes in a container instead of in the ground, you can just dump the soil out and sift through it to find your harvest.

If you plant potatoes in a container, you can just dump out the soil and sift through it to find the tubers after the plants die back.

How To Harvest Potatoes

You can use your hands to dig potatoes, although you might want to use gloves if the soil is cold in the fall.  This method is slow, but there is less chance of damaging the potatoes by cutting or bruising.

You can also dig for potatoes with a trowel, pitchfork, or other tool.  This will be faster than digging by hand, but there is more risk of damaging some potatoes.  Of course, any that get damaged can be washed and eaten immediately.

A pitchfork can help to dig potatoes, but be careful not to skewer too many of them!

The way you harvest potatoes depends on what you want.

New potatoes are small and soft, with thin skins, and will be found higher up on the plant (and thus buried in less soil). New potatoes are a nice fall crop to go with some of your other vegetables, but they don’t store as well.

Bigger potatoes are the more mature ones with thicker skins. These ones store better and will be found deeper down in the soil.

If you leave potatoes in the ground longer, their skins will get thicker, making them easier to store for long periods.

You can learn more about how to harvest potatoes in my article here.

How To Store Potatoes

If you get plenty of potatoes, it makes sense to store them properly. That way, you can get the most out of your gardening efforts and enjoy the bounty of your harvest for months to come.

First, brush off the dirt from your potatoes.  You can use a soft, dry brush to do this.

potatoes clean for storage
These potatoes are clean and ready for storage.

Avoid scratching them or cutting into them. However, don’t wash the potatoes, since this can encourage mold growth.

After cleaning the potatoes, allow them to “cure” for a few days.  This just means leaving them out to dry a bit.

Leave the potatoes to cure in a shady location. Remember about solanine and what happens when potatoes are left out in the sun!

Once they are cured, store the potatoes in cool, dry, dark place to keep them from sprouting.  When you are ready to cook them, wash the potatoes and prepare them.

If any eyes have sprouted, you can cut them out and cook normally. Just avoid eating any green flesh or skin on potatoes.

As mentioned above, if you want to sprout potatoes for planting next year, then put them in a warm, damp, well-lit place.

You can learn more about harvesting and storing potatoes in my article here.

Potential Potato Problems

Growing potatoes is not necessarily all sun and games.  Sometimes, you will encounter problems.

Here are a couple of common problems to look out for when growing potatoes.


Potato blight, or late blight, is a water mold, and it was responsible for the Irish potato famine in the 1800’s.  If you plant a potato with blight, the disease can spread to the rest of your garden, including other potato plants and even nearby tomato plants!

potato late blight
This potato came from a plant with late blight, and it is infected. If in doubt, don’t plant it!

Potatoes from the grocery store could have blight in them, even if they look healthy.  Furthermore, grocery store potatoes are often treated with a sprout inhibitor.

This keeps the potatoes edible longer, but prevents you from growing more of them. If you want to grow your own potatoes from sprouts with less risk of disease,look for certified disease-free seed potatoes from a garden supply center.


There are many garden pests that will give your potato plants a hard time.  The potato beetle is one such pest.

The potato beetle, or Colorado potato beetle, has a yellow or orange body, along with stripes running along its back.  They are about a quarter to half an inch in length.

Colorado potato beetle
A potato beetle on a potato plant.

They can lay 500 eggs in a 5-week period, usually on the underside of a leaf.  They are possibly the biggest culprit in potato plant defoliation (eating and removal of the leaves).

Potato beetles have developed resistance to numerous pesticides over the years.  Crop rotation is one way to combat their spread.

Mulching potato plants with straw can also help to hide the potato plants for a time. It may also encourage the potato beetle’s predators to protect your plants.

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes Cover

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes

A complete reference and an ultimate guide that teaches you everything you need to know about potato selection, planting, care, harvest, and storage.


Now you know how to grow potatoes from a potato! Hopefully, this article gave you everything you need about how to plant sprouted potatoes, how to care for the plants, and how to harvest and store your bounty.

You should also have enough information to avoid some of the more common problems with growing potatoes.

You can learn more about the tomato tree (a relative of the potato) here.

I hope that you found the article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

For more information on growing potatoes, check out this article from Cornell University.

If you are starting a garden, you can learn the basics on this page.

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Jon M

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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