Plant

Do Potatoes Need to Flower to Produce Tubers?

do potatoes need to flower

Concerned gardeners might find comfort in knowing that potato flowers – or their absence – shouldn’t cause too much concern in the garden. Luckily, potato flowers shouldn’t cause any alarm either!

Do potatoes need to flower? You don’t need to flower to produce tubers; although flowers may indicate it’s time for harvest, you can still reap a bountiful harvest this season without them!

As part of my discussion on potato plants’ lives and harvesting potatoes without flowers, I will also address whether seed collection from flowers is possible. 

Lifecycle of a potato plant

Here is a breakdown of a typical lifecycle of a potato plant: from planting until harvest. To gain a fuller appreciation of how and why potatoes bloom, it helps to first understand their lifecycle.

Spring planting

Planting potatoes incepe The lifecycle of a potato begins three to four weeks prior to the last frost. Seed potatoes should be planted into shallow trenches 4-5 inches deep or raised beds depending on your garden setup, using either shallow trowels or seed tubes.

Potato Tuber Sprouting

Within hours after being planted, potatoes will begin producing sprouts from their eyes – small dimples on the skin of each potato that indicate where its eyes will form sprouts. Sometimes sprouts may even start developing before you plant; this is perfectly normal and won’t have an adverse impact on its health.

As sprout growth often happens underground, gardeners usually can’t witness it directly.

Leaves emerge

Once leaves emerge, after three weeks from planting, the first potatoes should begin sprouting from their soil beds. At this stage, it’s crucial that they receive adequate sunlight and are provided with water at this early stage of life.

Water the soil at least twice per week to maintain a consistent level of moisture in it and to prevent complete drying out while not overwatering plants.

Flower Production

Over the next several weeks, your potato plants may begin to flower. The flowers may be white or purple in hue and could even develop into small fruits that you can collect later. I will discuss more about these blossoms and fruits later.

Plant Maturity

Your tubers should reach full maturity 90-110 days from when you planted them, when their leaves start turning yellow and start dying back – an indicator that it’s time to harvest!

Harvesting 

Collecting potatoes can be both easy and fun! All it requires is some light digging. Personally, I like using a digging fork but you could also opt for using either a trowel or shovel.

I try to be careful when harvesting potatoes to avoid damaging or puncturing them as that could introduce rot later on during storage.

Do potatoes need to flower first in order to produce tubers?

Potato plants differ from many other plants in that they don’t need to flower to produce tubers; indeed, some may never produce flowers at all!

Though many plants bloom to produce seeds and reproduce, this is not necessary in the case of potatoes, since we don’t use their actual seeds to cultivate them – instead we plant new tubers which develop into potatoes as per their lifecycle described above.

Flowers that bloom from these tubers may produce tiny green fruits resembling tiny tomatoes. Some people choose to remove these blooms and fruits so that the plant can focus more energy into tuber production.

My own tubers haven’t really seen much benefit from this approach, but you may discover it to be immensely valuable for their growth.

As soon as flowers and fruits appear on a plant, you can take it as an indicator that it may soon come to an end of its life cycle. Soon enough they’ll fall off as it begins dying back.

Once the leaves die back, your tubers should be ready for harvest in two to three weeks.

Do potatoes need to flower first in order to produce tubers

When are potatoes ready to harvest?

Harvest time will depend on the variety you are growing; generally speaking it takes around 90-110 days or three or four months for potatoes to reach full maturity and should then be harvested.

Kennebec or Norland varieties will require longer to reach maturity than smaller potato varieties such as Satina.

Your seed provider can give you more specific guidance about when and how to harvest potatoes, while our more detailed article on harvesting them is here.

If you’ve lost track of how long it’s been since planting your potatoes, keep an eye on their foliage. As harvest time nears, its leaves will start turning yellow before withering and dying back.

Sometimes I like to do a small dig just to check on how the tubers are looking underground as their harvest date approaches.

Are potato fruits edible?

 If your flower turns into fruits, be wary! They contain poison and will likely leave you feeling sick. Plus, their taste doesn’t compare with anything you can get elsewhere!

Potatoes belong to the nightshade family along with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, all of which contain solanine which is harmful when consumed by humans.

Luckily, this chemical doesn’t appear in any parts of nightshade plants that we typically enjoy eating – simply avoid any leaves, stems or fruits from these plants (along with those from potato plants) when selecting food from nightshades and you will be safe.

Can seeds from potato fruits be saved?

Yes, technically speaking it is possible to save seeds from small fruits of a potato plant for seed saving, similar to how tomatoes seeds are saved. The process follows similar lines.

An effective method for extracting seeds from fruit is to first mash small fruits into pulp, which you then combine with water into a sort of slurry in a jar and cover with a breathable fabric to protect from bugs or dust mites.

This slurry will need to sit out for three days to ferment properly. When your seeds have fermented successfully, they’ll have settled to the bottom of your jar and a thin layer of mold will have appeared on its surface.

Give the seeds a thorough rinse and leave them out to dry before placing in storage until needed.

Potato Seeds Vs. Seed Potatoes

Saving seed from potato fruits is often not recommended due to two main concerns. First, there’s the potential risk that potatoes grown from saved seeds won’t produce true-to-type specimens like their parent plant did; secondly, saving seeds can often produce plants which appear vastly different.

Establishing potatoes from true seeds takes significantly longer than starting them from seed potatoes, making a successful potato crop more difficult to achieve unless there is sufficient space inside your home during winter to start them inside.

Potato seeds and seed potatoes might sound similar, but they’re actually two separate entities. When people talk about planting potatoes in the springtime, potato seeds refer to actual seed pods from fruit while “seed potatoes” refers to tubers that people commonly plant with them.

Summary

Do potatoes need to flower? A flowerless potato plant should not cause alarm. Your tubers will still thrive just fine without them. While flowers can provide an indication that it’s almost time to harvest your tubers, maturity will also be evident once their entire plant starts dying back.