Can You Transplant Potatoes? (3 Tips On When & How To Do It)


You can sprout potatoes and plant them to get more tubers.  However, this still leaves the question of whether you can transplant potatoes after they are already established in a spot.

So, can you transplant potatoes?  You can transplant potatoes, but it is best to do so when the green growth is still short (before the roots are established).  Transplanting “volunteer” potato plants will help to avoid diseases (such as late blight) in your garden.  Be sure to choose a spot with good soil and sun exposure.

Of course, you can always choose to leave volunteer potato plants where they are.  However, they might end up too crowded, so moving them might help to reduce the spread of disease and competition between plants.

In this article, we’ll take a look at transplanting potatoes.  We’ll get into when and how to do it, along with detailed steps.

Let’s get going.

Can You Transplant Potatoes?

You can transplant potatoes, either from sprouted tubers indoors or from established plants that are already growing outdoors.  If you follow the right steps, you can increase the chances that your plants will stay healthy after transplant and go on to produce a good harvest.

Baby Potato Plant
You can transplant established potato plants if they are still small (under 6 inches), before longer roots form.

Before you get started with transplanting potatoes, it’s important to know when to do it, so we’ll start there.

When Should You Transplant Potatoes?

The time to transplant potatoes will depend on where you are transplanting them from: indoors or outdoors.

When To Transplant Potatoes From Indoors

If you are sprouting your potatoes indoors, the sprouts only need to be 1 inch long (or less) for planting.  However, the weather is the real determining factor here.

Your goal should be to transplant sprouted potatoes outside 3 weeks before the last spring frost date.  You can find the last spring frost date for your area with this tool from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

frosted leaf
Don’t plant sprouted potatoes too early, or a late spring frost can kill off any growth above ground.

If you transplant any earlier than that, there is the risk that a late spring frost will kill the green growth of the plant above the soil line after it emerges.  The tuber will still send up new growth if its stem dies back, but this will cost energy and set the plant back a bit.

Make sure that your potato is sprouted before you transplant it outdoors.  This ensures viability and gives it a head start on growth.

Keep your potatoes at 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) to avoid sprouting until the planting date gets closer.  Potatoes will sprout within 2 weeks at room temperature (70 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 degrees Celsius).

sprouted potato
Untreated potatoes will readily sprout at warm temperatures after a period of dormancy.

However, it might take longer for store bought potatoes, since they are treated with the sprout inhibitor clorproham.  To avoid this, buy certified seed potatoes, which are never treated with sprout inhibitors.

Let’s work through an example to see how the dates work for potato storage, sprouting, and transplant.

After consulting with the Old Farmer’s Almanac, I found that the last frost date for Boston, Massachusetts in 2021 is April 10.

Working backwards 3 weeks (21 days) suggests a potato planting date of March 20 (11 days in March + 10 days in April = 21 days, or 3 weeks).

To sprout untreated seed potatoes, I should bring them to room temperature 2 weeks (14 days) before that, or around March 6.

The table below illustrates the timeline for warming up, sprouting, and transplanting potatoes from indoors.

EventTimelineExample
Dates
(Boston)
Cold
Storage
To 5 weeks
before last
spring frost.
Up until
March 6
Sprout In
Warmth
(70F/21C)
For about
2 weeks.
March 6 to
March 20
Move To
Garden
3 weeks to
last spring
frost date.
March 20
This table illustrates the timeline for storing,
warming up, sprouting, and transplanting
potatoes from indoors.

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

When To Transplant Potatoes That Are Already Outdoors

In some cases, you will already have established potato plants (with green growth above ground) that are already growing outdoors.  Maybe they are volunteer potato plants in the garden, or maybe you started them in a container to transplant later.

baby potato plant
If you have volunteer potato plants outdoors, transplant them before they grow too large!

Either way, it pays to know when to transplant established potato plants.  That way, you can avoid the spread of disease and competition between plants, while giving them enough sunlight to grow properly.

If you planted potatoes in a container outdoors, wait until the green growth begins to appear above the soil line before transplanting.  That way, you know that you have a viable plant that can survive the move.

However, you don’t want to wait too long to transplant.  Ideally, you should transplant a potato plant when the stem is only a few inches above ground.

If you wait longer, the stem will get taller and the tuber will begin to grow long roots.  At that point, it will be much harder to transplant without harming the plant or its roots.

How To Transplant Potatoes (Sprouted Potatoes)

Now you know when to transplant potatoes – but that still leaves the question of how to do it.  Let’s go through the steps for transplant from indoors and for established outdoor plants.

Transplanting Potatoes From Indoors

When transplanting potatoes from indoors, the first step is to wait for the right time.  As mentioned above, store the potatoes in a cool place until 5 weeks before the last spring frost date.

Then, raise the temperature: 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) is ideal for sprouting potatoes.  The tubers should sprout within 2 weeks.

sprouted potatoes
Potatoes will sprout within 2 weeks at temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit after a period of dormancy.

At that point, you can cut larger potato tubers into pieces.  Aim for at least one sprouted eye per piece.

Leave the potato pieces out for a few days.  This gives them a chance to dry out and form a “scar” over the cuts.

These scars help to prevent rot after transplant. While you wait for the scars to form, you can choose and prepare the planting site.

Potatoes need:

  • Full Sun – plants that grow in an area with inadequate sunlight may still form lots of green growth, but the tubers will be small and lacking.
  • Well-Drained Soil – potato tubers rot more easily in damp soil that stays wet for too long.  For example, heavy clay soil does not drain as well as lighter soils with more sand.
  • Nutrients & Organic Material – compost and aged manure are a great start to adding nutrients and organic material for your garden. You can learn how to make your own compost in my article here.
  • Hilling – put your potato plants close to a source of soil or mulch, if possible.  You will need to pile up soil or mulch (such as straw) around the base of potato plants as they grow.  This is known as hilling, and you can learn more about how to do it (and why you should) in my article here.
sunlight through trees
Choose a spot with plenty of sun and well-drained soil with lots of nutrients to grow potatoes.

After you find a good spot, dig a trench (or a series of holes) 4 inches deep.  If you opt for holes, dig them 1 foot apart. This will leave enough space between plants to prevent competition and the spread of disease.

If you are planting an entire potato, place it so the healthiest sprout is facing up. If planting a cut piece of potato, plant it with the cut side down (and the eyes facing up).

If you use the trench method, put the potatoes about a foot apart in the trench.

After the potatoes are all in place, cover them with about 4 inches of soil.  That way, the trench is filled in and level with the surrounding soil.

As mentioned earlier, all you need to do after that is to hill your potatoes and water them to keep them growing.

You can learn more about sprouting potatoes in my article here.

Transplanting Potatoes From Outdoors

You can still transplant potatoes that are already growing outdoors – as long as they are not too big.  Just make sure to have a good spot to move them into (that means full sun and well-drained soil with plenty of nutrients & organic material).

Aim to transplant potatoes when the stems are still small (less than 6 inches tall).  Use a shovel to dig in the soil around the plant, and dig deep enough to get underneath the tuber.

Loosen the soil and use the shovel as a lever to help pull the plant up out of the soil.  Move the plant to its new home, and bury it to about the same depth as it was before you dug it up.

It’s ok if you bury it a little deeper than it was – after all, you will need to hill up soil around the plant later in the season anyway.

If your potato plants are already well established with large roots, it will be hard to transplant them without doing damage.

potato plants
If potato plants get too big, it will be hard to transplant them without damaging the roots.

Can You Replant Potatoes?

You can replant potatoes, but you should not do so right after harvest.  The tubers may sprout and grow into new plants in the spring, but they could rot in wet soil during fall or winter.

A better idea is to harvest the tubers, brush off the dirt, and store them in a cool place.  Remember that potatoes need humidity to avoid drying out and shriveling up.

russet potatoes
Harvest your potato tubers, brush off the dirt, and store them in a cool place until spring if you want to replant.

When planting time approaches in the spring, your potatoes will be ready to sprout, since they have gone through a dormancy period.

Put the tubers in a warmer environment to encourage sprouting, and plant the sprouted tubers outdoors a few weeks before the last spring frost date.

You can learn more about planting sprouted potatoes (and what to avoid) in my article here.

Conclusion

Now you know when and how to transplant potatoes.  You also know what to avoid when doing so.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

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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