Why Are My Potato Plants Falling Over? (6 Causes & Solutions)

When your potato plants fall over, it is natural to wonder if they are dying – and if you will get a potato crop at all. As it turns out, there are lots of possible reasons this happens.

So, why are your potato plants falling over? Potato plants fall over if they get too tall due to over fertilization (especially with nitrogen). Temperature, watering, diseases, & pests can cause your potato plants to fall over – possibly without producing any potatoes. Potato plants also turn yellow and fall over when the plants are mature & ready for harvest. 

If your potato plants are mature, it is not a cause for concern when they fall over (you can find out by digging to see if there are harvest-ready tubers under the plants). But, if your plants are not mature, you should look into why they are falling over.

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.

In this article, we’ll explore what causes potato plants to fall over. We’ll also give you some tips on what you can do to treat it or prevent it in the first place.

Let’s get started.

(If you prefer, you can watch the video version of this article on Youtube, or below).

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Why Are My Potato Plants Falling Over?

One of the most common reasons that potato plants fall over is that they are mature and ready for harvest – so let’s start there.

potato vines fallen over
Potato plants turn yellow and fall over at maturity, when tubers are big enough to harvest.

Your Potato Plants Are Mature & Ready For Harvest

When a potato plant reaches the end of its life cycle, the part of the plant above ground falls over. Potato plant leaves and shoots usually turn yellow before they fall over.

This still leaves the question of how big potato plants get before they fall over. The answer is: potato plant height depends on the variety.

potato plants
Mature potato plants are 12 to 45 inches tall, depending on variety.

At maturity, potato plant height ranges from 12 inches (such as Princess Laratte potato) to 45 inches tall (such as the Red Luna potato). Most potato plants reach a height of 18 to 24 inches before they start to fall over.

You should not cut back your potato plants, even if they start to get tall (or leggy). Pruning potato plants is usually not necessary (a possible exception is if you are trying control diseases or pests).

pruning shears
Pruning potato plants is usually not necessary unless you are trying to control a pest or disease.

Pruning (or “topping”) leggy potato plants will limit their growth. This will reduce their potential to produce a good harvest of tubers. (But, you can pinch off potato flowers when they appear, since they produce inedible fruit after pollination).

When they fall over, it is a kind of natural indicator of when to harvest the tubers. By topping your potato plants, you won’t have this natural indication of when to harvest.

(Of course, you can always dig up tubers to see if they are ready – you can learn more about how to dig potatoes in my article here).

potatoes soil
Dig up tubers from under your plant to see if it is harvest time.

If you see potato plants turning yellow and falling over around the expected maturity date of the plant, there is nothing to worry about. To calculate the maturity date of your potato plants, keep track of when you planted them.

Then, check the time to maturity of the potato variety that you chose. You can find this information online, on the seed packet, on a seed company website, or in the catalog you ordered from.

white potato flower
Potato plants can grow flowers and fruit before maturity! You do not need to remove fruit – but contains solanine, a toxin.

Keep in mind that the time to maturity for potatoes can vary from as short as 75 days (2.5 months) all the way up to 160 days (over 5 months).

For example, let’s say you planted Ida Rose potatoes on April 15. Ida Rose potatoes take 95 to 100 days to grow to maturity (let’s use 95 days for this example).

potatoes clean for storage
Potatoes take from 75 to 160 days to grow to maturity, depending on variety.

That means that after 15 days at the end of April, 31 days in May, 30 days in June, and 19 days at the beginning of July, the potatoes would be ready for harvest.

So, the potato tubers would be mature on July 19th (15 + 31 + 30 + 19 = 95 days). See the table below for a visual of the timeline.

MonthDays In
April (last
15 days)
May (the
June (the
July (first
19 days)

Potato plants sometimes produce flowers or fruit before reaching maturity. This is a natural stage of their growth, and potato flowers indicate when to harvest the tubers.

You do not need to remove potato fruit from a plant, unless you are worried about pets or children eating them. The fruit that potato plants produce above ground is green and contains toxic solanine, which can be harmful in large amounts.

Why Are My Potato Plants Dying?

Don’t worry if it looks like your potato plants are dying before flowering. It may just mean that your potatoes are ready to pick out of the soil!

After harvesting your potatoes, you might find that some of them sprout after long-term storage. You can learn how to plant sprouted potatoes here.

grow your own potatoes sidebar
If some of your potatoes sprout in storage, you can plant them again to get new plants and more potatoes!

For more information on times to maturity for potato plants, check out this article on growing potatoes from the Oregon State University Extension.

Your Potato Plants Are Too Tall

If your potato plants are falling over long before their maturity date, there is some other problem. One possibility is that the potato plants are too tall.

potato plants
Potato plants grow tall with too much fertilizer (especially nitrogen).

Overgrown potato plants get tall due to over fertilizing (especially if you use fertilizer that is too high in nitrogen). This will promote lots of healthy green growth above ground.

However, this will also cause the plant to neglect the production of potatoes, which is the part of the plant you want to eat!

High-nitrogen fertilizer causes tall, green growth on potato plants, but not many tubers.

For more information, check out my article on over fertilizing your plants and my article on low nitrogen fertilizers.

If your potato plants get too tall, one option is to use hilling. That means piling up soil around the base of the plant as it grows.

rows of potatoes
Hilling prevents potato sunlight exposure (which causes tubers to turn green and become toxic).

For one thing, the extra soil will help to prevent leggy potato plants from falling over. For another thing, it will prevent potato tubers from turning green and toxic in the sunlight.

(You can learn more about hilling potatoes in my article here).

You also have the option of staking them (just like tomato plants) to support them as they grow. One option is to use a single stake to support each potato plant.

tomato stake
You can use stakes to support potato plants that are growing too tall.

You could also drive stakes into the ground along a row of potatoes and tie off a length of twine between them. Do this at various heights (every 6 inches) and let the potato plants climb the twine as they grow.

For more information, check out my article on how to support plants.

Temperatures Are Too Extreme For Your Potato Plants

If you can rule out over fertilization of your potato plants, then it is time to consider extreme temperatures. This would be more of a problem in containers, where the soil is not as well insulated as the ground.

potato plants in container
A potato plant in a container sees more extreme temperatures.

Potato tubers (the part of the plant you eat!) form best at temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 21 degrees Celsius).

Potato tubers will fail to form when the soil temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) or warmer. So, avoid planting them too late in the season, when they will encounter warmer soil temperatures.

Potatoes can survive some cold, but frost kills plants back to the ground. High temperatures stop potato plants from forming tubers.

It is best to plant potatoes as soon as the soil temperature is 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (7 to 10 degrees Celsius).

Potatoes tolerate light spring frosts, but if temperatures get too far below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius), the plant will die and fall over.

If a fall frost threatens your potato plants, you can protect them with row covers by wrapping the whole plant, down to the soil.

row cover
Row covers protect potato plants from cold, wind, and pests.

For more information, check out this article on potatoes from the University of Illinois Extension.

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.

Improper Watering Of Your Potato Plant

If your plant has not encountered any frost or freezing, it could be that improper watering is causing your plants to fall over.

garden hose
Be careful not to over water or under water your potato plants.

If you over water your potato plants, the soil becomes waterlogged. At that point, the roots will not get enough air from the soil.

Eventually, the roots rot, which stops your plant from absorbing water and nutrients. Your potato plant won’t survive long in this state, and it will soon fall over.

root rot
Root rot causes roots to turn brown and mushy when soil stays wet for too long, denying air to the roots.

Potato plants leaves will sometimes curl as an early indication of under watering. In some cases, curled leaves on potato plants also indicate disease.

Your best bet is to check for under watering before worrying about diseases. The best way to check whether your potato plant needs water is to feel the soil with your fingers.

If your soil feels dry to a depth of a few inches, then it is time to water.

If the soil is dry to a depth of a few inches, then it is time to water your plants. When you do water your potato plants, water from below, to avoid wetting the leaves.

If you need to use a sprinkler and get the leaves wet, water in the morning or at midday. This will leave time for the leaves to dry off before nightfall, which decreases the chances of fungal disease.

If you use a sprinkler to water potato plants, do it in the morning or at midday. Wet leaves at night promote disease.

Water deeply and infrequently, rather than providing a shallow amount of water on a frequent basis. Avoid watering potatoes until after the plant emerges from the soil.

For more information on watering potatoes, check out this article from the Oregon State University Extension.

Your Potato Plants Have A Disease

After ruling out over fertilization, extreme temperatures, and improper watering, we now need to consider the possibility that your potato plants are infected with a disease.

Unfortunately, there are many diseases that can affect potato plants and devastate your crop. One such disease is blight, which comes in two types: early blight and late blight.

Your Potato Plant Has Early Blight

Early blight of potatoes is caused by a fungus called Alternaria solani. This fungus spreads by a few different methods:

  • spores carried on the wind
  • human contact
  • water splashing infected soil onto the lower leaves of a potato plant
early blight on tomato leaf
Here, we can see symptoms of early blight: brown spots on leaves, with yellow around the spots.

Early blight will cause potato plant leaves to get brown spots with yellow rings on the outside of the spots. This happens on the older (lower) leaves of the plant first.

A severe early blight infection can cause fewer and smaller potatoes growing on your plant. It can also cause lesions on the potatoes themselves.

large and small potatoes
A potato plant with early blight produces fewer & smaller tubers.

For more information on potato early blight symptoms, check out this article on early blight of potatoes from the Michigan State University Extension.

Early blight will spread readily in damp conditions. An outbreak of early blight often follows extended periods of rainy weather.

Early blight is more likely to take hold in your garden after a stretch of rainy weather.

The fungus that causes early blight can survive over the winter in the soil. It can then infect newly planted potatoes the following spring.

This is more likely to occur if you use compost that contains infected plants. If the compost pile did not get hot enough, it will not destroy the fungus that causes early blight.

compost bin
If you compost potato plants with early blight, make sure the pile gets hot enough. Or, burn infected plants and add the ash to your compost.

Early blight can also get into your garden if your seed potatoes were infected. So, always order clean certified seed potatoes from a reputable seed company that guarantees their products!

Finally, remember that early blight also affects other nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. So, an infection of any of these plants can also spread to your potato plants.

tomato stakes
Early blight also affects tomato plants, so avoid planting potatoes and tomatoes too close together.

So, it is a good idea to practice crop rotation and avoid planting any of these crops in the same area two years in a row. You can learn more about crop rotation in my article here.

Your Potato Has Late Blight

Late blight of potatoes is caused by a fungus called Phytophthora infestans. This fungus spreads by spores on the wind.

potato late blight
This potato is infected with late blight. I don’t want to eat that one! You shouldn’t plant infected tubers either.

Late blight is easily the more devastating of the two types of potato blight. This disease spreads between plants fast.

Left unchecked, late blight destroys entire potato crops. In fact, late blight was responsible for the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840’s.

Late blight causes large, dark brown blotches on infected potato plant leaves and stems (stalks). Over time, the tubers may also be affected.

late blight potato plant leaf
This potato plant leaf has signs of late blight: dark, brown blotches.

Late blight cannot survive in isolation in the soil. However, it can survive over the winter by “hiding” in these infected potato tubers.

As a result, you should remove any “volunteer” (unplanted) potato plants that grow in your garden, as a precaution against the spread of late blight.

Baby Potato Plant
If you find volunteer potato plants in the garden (I always do), it might be best to transplant them to a “quarantine” area to prevent disease.

Late blight spreads fast in damp weather at cool temperatures from 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 21 degrees Celsius).

Finally, remember that late blight can also infect tomatoes. The wind can help the spores to carry the disease from your tomato plants to your potato plants.

wind vane
The wind can cause late blight to spread from plant to plant by spores.

There is currently no cure for late blight in potato plants. Your best bet is to remove infected plants before the disease can spread to any others in your garden.

For more information, check out this article on late blight from the University of Minnesota Extension.

Other Potato Diseases

Two other common diseases that can affect potato plants are fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt. Your best bet is to purchase seed potatoes for varieties that are resistant to both of these diseases.

In seed catalogs or on company websites, disease resistance will often be denoted by an F (for fusarium wilt) and a V (for verticillium wilt).

Pests Are Attacking Your Potato Plants

If no diseases seem to be present in your potatoes, then it is time to check for pests. A couple of common pests that can cause problems for potato plants are cutworms and Colorado potato beetles.

Cutworms Are Attacking Your Potato Plants

Cutworms can chew and completely cut off your potato stalks at the stem, close to the ground. If the potato plants that fall over are completely detached, then you likely have cutworms roaming in your garden.

Cutworms chew potato stalks at the stem. It’s possible for them to sever many potato stalks in one night!

As any tomato or potato grower will tell you, a good way to prevent cutworm damage is to use cutworm collars on your potato plants.

For more information on cutworm collars and other tricks, check out my article on how to get rid of cutworms using natural methods.

Colorado Potato Beetles Are Attacking Your Potato Plants

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

potato beetle
Colorado potato beetles can multiply quickly and cause damage to your potato plants.

A single Colorado potato beetle can lay up to 500 eggs in a 5-week period. These eggs are usually found on the undersides of potato plant leaves.

Colorado potato beetles are one of the biggest culprits in potato plant defoliation (eating and removal of the leaves). If there is enough leaf damage, you could certainly see your plants falling over and dying before maturity.

Over the years, Colorado potato beetles have developed resistance to many pesticides. Crop rotation is one way to prevent them from spreading.

Using straw as mulch for potato plants also helps to hide the potato plants, and encourages the potato beetle’s predators to protect your plants.

You can learn more about Colorado Potato Beetles in this article from the University of Minnesota Extension.

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.


The table below gives a brief summary of the reasons why a potato plant might fall over and what to look for.

Plant ready
for harvest
Plant is healthy up
until maturity date,
and may produce
flowers or fruit.
Plant over
Plant is healthy &
has plenty of green
growth, but possibly
no flowers, fruit, or
Plants may fall
after a hard frost
(in spring or fall).
Soggy soil causes
root rot. Watering
does not seem to
help. Some yellow
leaves may appear.
Dry soil, wilted
plant, and yellow
leaves. Potato plants
wilting in heat is
more likely if
under watered.
DiseaseYellow, brown, or
black spots on
leaves or vines.
Plants completely
detached from
stems, cut off at
soil level.
Causes and signs of a potato plant falling over.

Now you have a much better idea of why your potato plants are falling over. Hopefully, it is due to the fact that your potatoes are mature and ready for harvest!

However, if that is not the case, then you know what other problems to look for. You also know how to prevent these issues from hurting or killing your potato plants.

You might also want to check out my article on how to dig (harvest) potatoes.

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

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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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