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How to Grow Potatoes in Containers

How to Grow Potatoes in Containers

Learn how to grow potatoes in containers; no tilling required. Although potatoes grow best in places with cool summer days and nights (think Idaho), if you choose the correct variety and plant them at the correct time, it’s possible and relatively simple to grow potatoes in warmer climates like Arizona. 

Whether you like them baked, mashed, french fried, roasted or any number of other ways, potatoes are a delicious staple. Try a homegrown potato and you can taste the difference in crispness and freshness. If you want to learn how to grow potatoes in containers, you’ve come to the right place. 


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Here are 10 tips for how to grow potatoes in containers:​


1. Before you learn how to grow potatoes in containers, understand how potatoes grow​

Look closely at a potato; there are several slightly-recessed ‘eyes’ on the surface. Under the right conditions, these eyes sprout – you’ve surely seen this happen to a potato in your kitchen. 

When the sprout is planted, it develops into a stem. The stem grows into a plant above ground, and the excess energy from the plant is channeled downward to the roots and stored in ‘tubers’. A tuber is the thickened part of the stem growing underground. We call those thickened tubers ‘potatoes’.

How to grow potatoes in containers

2. Choose the right potato to plant​

In climates that have a shorter season, such as the low desert of Arizona, plant “early” and “mid-season” determinate varieties of potatoes. Determinate varieties are faster growing potatoes that produce one smaller harvest quicker (60-90 days) than indeterminate varieties. Varieties to try are Yukon Gold, Purple Viking, and All Red.  

If you have a longer growing season choose indeterminate (“late season”) varieties of potatoes. Indeterminate potatoes grow a larger crop with multiple layers along the stem and take between 110 and 135 days to produce. Late season potatoes continue to set new potatoes along the stem until they are harvested or frost kills them off. Indeterminate varieties to try are Russian blue, Canela Russet, and Ramona.

Buy certified disease-free seed potatoes from online retailers or garden centers for best results.


3. Prepare the potato before planting​

Put seed potatoes where the temperature is between 60-70℉ and where they will be exposed to light. This encourages the potatoes to sprout (a process called ‘chitting’). Once potatoes have sprouted, if potatoes are larger than an egg, cut it into pieces. Ensure each cut piece has 2-3 eyes. 

Allow cut potatoes to dry at room temperature for 2-3 days to give cut edges time to heal or scab over. When the edges feel leathery with no signs of moisture, they have properly dried. Smaller potatoes (about the size of an egg) can be left whole. Discard any potatoes with soft spots.


4. Plant potatoes at the correct time​

In cooler parts of the country, plant potatoes just after the last frost date. In the low desert of Arizona, plant from September through January.

Potatoes are frost-sensitive, and the plants will die in a hard frost. If plants are killed by frost, harvest potatoes, no matter the size, within a week or two to keep them from rotting.  


5. How to grow potatoes in containers? Pick a container, any container​

Potatoes aren’t picky about which container they are grown in. Choose trash cans, compost sacks, or burlap bags. I like growing potatoes in these 40 gallon grow-bags. Follow the basic principles for planting outlined below, and you can be successful no matter which container you choose.



6. Plant the right number of potatoes for your sized container

The most important rule when using containers is to match the number of seed potatoes to the size of container you are growing them in. As a rough guide, each potato plant needs about 3 gallons to grow well. Overcrowding potatoes results in smaller potatoes.


7. Plant potatoes correctly

Place a 3-4 inch layer of loose soil, amended with compost, in the bottom of the container. (Roll down sides of container if desired). Potatoes prefer slightly acidic soil. Use a soil blend made for acid-loving plants or amend soil with an acid mix fertilizer according to package directions. 

Plant seed potatoes with sprouted-side up in soil, and cover them with 2-3 inches of additional soil. 

As potatoes sprout, cover the sprouts halfway when they are about 6 inches tall. Continue this process until the top of the container is reached at which point the plant will continue to grow without being covered up. 

Hilling the potatoes ensures that determinate potatoes are not exposed to sunlight and turn green and ensures a larger harvest of indeterminate varieties.


8. Don’t let potatoes dry out​

Potatoes need consistent moisture to grow well. Potatoes grown in the ground look for moisture in surrounding soil while container-grown potatoes rely on the moisture you provide. 

For even watering, I have a drip line inserted in each grow bag. It’s important to keep soil evenly damp, but not wet. Allow some drying between waterings. 

Consider feeding actively-growing potatoes with an acid -loving organic fertilizer or seaweed extract, each time you add more soil (or once or twice during the growing season). Mulching with straw helps to retain moisture.



9. Put your container in the best location​

Potatoes need at least 6 hours of sun to grow well. In the low desert, full sun is preferred for the fall planting of potatoes. Spring-planted potatoes do best with a little afternoon shade to prevent them from drying out too quickly.

How to Grow Potatoes in Containers

10. Know when to harvest potatoes

New potatoes‘ are simply immature potatoes that are harvested before the potatoes are fully mature.

For determinate potatoes check 60-90 days after planting and for indeterminate varieties check 100-120 days after planting. Dig down with your hand near a stem to check the size of the potatoes. Harvest potatoes that are large enough to eat as desired.

Harvest ‘new’ potatoes just after the plants flower (if the variety you are growing is one that flowers).  For larger potatoes, wait until the tops begin to turn yellow and die back. 

To increase the storage time of potatoes, allow them to stay in the ground for an additional 2 weeks following the dieback of the plants. 

When you are ready to harvest the entire container, gently dump it out into a wheelbarrow, being careful not to damage the potatoes. Let potatoes cure for a few hours outside. Brush loose soil off the potatoes, and store them in a cool, dry place until you are ready to use them.  

New potatoes are best eaten within a few weeks of harvest. Mature potatoes free of blemishes will store longer.



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Questions about how to grow potatoes in containers?

Ask below, and I’ll do my best to answer it. Happy growing!

Abbey Curry

Sunday 14th of January 2024

Hi Angela - thank you so much for all the great advise! It has helped me a lot.

I am trying to grow potatoes for the first time this year. I have a couple questions.

1. I’ve read that potatoes aren’t picky about their container, but would a large flower pot cause any issues since it is smaller on the bottom than the top or would it be better if the container was equal width top to bottom?

2. I see that the guides show the last month to plant seed potatoes is January, but seedsnow and others won’t start shipping to us until February/March. Is that too late for us here in Phoenix? I have created my own Yukon Gold seed potatoes just in case, but wanted to ask.

Thanks!

Angela Judd

Wednesday 17th of January 2024

The container should be fine - hopefully its at least 5 gallons. Chitting your own is a good option. I have also seen seed potatoes available at Home Depot recently. San Diego Seed company also sells them right now.

Mercy

Wednesday 3rd of May 2023

Thank you for sharing this information, I really appreciate your videos. I just start gardening this year and purchased different types of potatoes to grow.

Eleanor Cook

Sunday 16th of April 2023

Can we grow potatoes under the citrus trees? What amount of dirt and watering issues

Angela Judd

Tuesday 18th of April 2023

Citrus roots are pretty close to the surface, I wouldn't plant potatoes underneath them.

Melissa

Thursday 23rd of February 2023

I forgot to add I am in Arizona.

Melissa

Thursday 23rd of February 2023

This was my first time trying potatoes. I just harvested my early season potatoes that were in the ground for almost 90 days. They were really small. Do you know what could have caused them to be so small?

Angela Judd

Tuesday 28th of February 2023

If the plants hadn't died back, you could leave them in longer to see if they would grow more. They may have needed more time.