Potatoes are some of the most versatile vegetables out there. Skin-on and buttery when cooked and are at their best roasted, mashed, or made into soup. They’re also easy to grow and store; however, it can be disheartening to grow potatoes that just aren’t blooming.
Here are 8 reasons why your potatoes aren’t flowering:
- The potatoes are growing in dry or low-quality soil.
- There’s inadequate light exposure.
- Your potatoes lack the right nutrition.
- You’re not giving your potatoes enough water.
- The temperatures are too extreme for the potatoes.
- Your potatoes have the Verticillium wilt disease.
- Your potatoes have the Fusarium wilt disease.
- You have a potato variety that doesn’t flower.
It can be frustrating when your potato plants don’t flower. Check out these tips to determine why your potatoes aren’t flowering and make sure it happens next time.
1. The Potatoes Are Growing in Dry or Low-Quality Soil
Since potatoes are root tubers, good soil is essential for their growth. These tubers thrive in loose, well-drained loam soil. Sandy soils drain water too quickly, denying the potatoes enough time to absorb it. In contrast, clay soils retain too much water and make it harder for the plant to absorb.
According to the University of Minnesota Extension, soil with a pH value between 6.0 and 6.5 is the best for growing potatoes. The soil should also be adequately moisturized to ensure healthy growth.
Soil that lacks these primary conditions will make it harder for your potatoes to absorb water and nutrients, slowing down their growth. In addition, dry soil will dry the plant’s foliage. In both cases, your potatoes are unlikely to flower.
2. There’s Inadequate Light Exposure
Apart from well-drained soil, potatoes also need at least 6 hours of daily sunlight to grow. This light is especially important when the foliage is green. The plant collects the sunlight and produces the tuber down below. Sunlight is also very important for the blooming of flowers.
Without enough light exposure, your potatoes won’t likely produce flowers. The resulting potato tubers will also be small or immature.
3. Your Potatoes Lack the Right Nutrition
All plants require some essential nutrients to grow.
The plants use up additional nutrition during flowering and vegetable production—the plants use more resources during these stages of growth.
If you can, add a mix of organic compost and 10-20-20 or 5-10-10 fertilizer into the potato garden. Doing so will give the plants the nutrition they need to bloom.
4. You’re Not Giving Your Potatoes Enough Water
Potato plants also require enough moisture for blooming. If they fail to get enough water, they’ll dry up and fail to produce flowers. You should water your potatoes consistently every week, providing at least 2 inches (5.08 cm) of water, especially during blooming.
You should never let the soil dry during the growing season. Potatoes that receive inadequate water exhibit signs such as yellowing leaf margins and tips, drying up, and not blooming. They also produce small or diseased tubers.
5. The Temperatures Are Too Extreme for the Potatoes
Sunlight is great and beneficial in potato growth. However, high temperatures aren’t. Potatoes grow best when the summers are between 65 and 70°F (18.33–21.11°C) but can also grow in warmer areas.
In these areas with higher temperatures, potato plants don’t produce flowers. However, if the plant is still green and not dying, there’s nothing to worry about. It’ll still produce healthy tubers.
6. Your Potatoes Have the Verticillium Wilt Disease
Verticillium wilt disease is a soil-based plant disease that causes potatoes to die prematurely.
You’ll notice this disease in your potato plant when the leaves on the lower vine wilt or turn yellow. The signs continue to show until the entire plant withers. Sometimes the tuber might be affected and begins to show brown marks in the vascular ring near the tip of the stem.
A potato plant with verticillium wilt disease will dry up and die before producing flowers.
7. Your Potatoes Have the Fusarium Wilt Disease
A potato plant with fusarium wilt disease starts by looking pale. The outer leaves and leaves petioles will then begin to drop. The lower leaves will become yellow, wilt, and eventually dry as the disease progresses.
Also, the entire plant may die before reaching maturity when it’s supposed to be blooming. If tubers are present when the plant is infected, they’ll also turn brown.
8. You Have a Potato Variety That Doesn’t Flower
Surprisingly, not all potato varieties produce flowers. Unfortunately, since there are so many varieties, it’s not easy to determine exactly which ones bloom. However, as long as your potato plant stays green and healthy, it’ll produce potato tubers.
Some farmers speculate that it’s better when the potatoes don’t produce flowers. That’s because blooming takes energy that could’ve been used to develop tubers away from the plant. That said, there are no scientific studies to support the theory.
Potatoes Can Also Produce Flowers
To understand why potatoes flower, you need to know that apart from the tubers we consume, potatoes can also produce fruits. For these fruits to be produced, flowers must grow and pollinate first. Farmers also observe potato flowers to know the progress of the potatoes.
Generally, when a potato plant blossoms, it means that the tubers below are growing and can soon be harvested as “new Potatoes.”
How To Know When To Harvest Potatoes Without Flowers
If your potatoes keep growing and don’t seem to be producing flowers, you might be wondering how to know when to harvest (since most farmers wait for the flowers to fade away).
One sure way would be to wait for the potato plants to dry, wither and fall off. When this happens, the tubers below are usually mature.
Another way would be to estimate the potatoes’ progress. Most potatoes have a known growth cycle. Depending on the potato variety, the growth stages last between 90 and 120 days from planting to harvest. Understanding your variety’s growth cycle will help you estimate when the potatoes are ready for harvest.
You Can Grow Potatoes From a Potato Fruit
Have you ever seen fruits on a potato plant?
Sometimes potato flowers pollinate and produce fruits that look strikingly similar to green tomatoes. Don’t be alarmed when you see them. Potatoes can’t grow tomatoes! Nevertheless, don’t try to eat these fruits because they’re toxic.
Potato berries contain high levels of a toxin called solanine. Although the toxicity of the berries isn’t harmful to the potato tubers, it’s toxic to humans and can be a dangerous attraction to children.
These potato berries are, however, not entirely useless. You can use them to propagate new potatoes. The fruits have seeds inside, just like any berry. You can extract these seeds and plant them. However, planted seeds take longer to sprout than those grown from a tuber.
The resulting plants will also not produce the same type of potato as the parent plant. Generally, it’s a longer and harder process than growing potatoes from a parent tuber, but you can do it.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Should Potato Plants Flower?
Potato plants should flower towards the end of a potato’s growth cycle. The plants usually flower after about 70 days of being in the ground. However, depending on climate and potato variety, they might bloom much later or not flower at all.
Once a potato plant flowers, it’s unlikely to grow much further after that. So if your potatoes flower, they’ll be ready for harvest soon.
Can You Eat Potato Flowers?
You can’t eat potato flowers. Just like potato fruits, the flowers contain high levels of solanine. All parts of a potato plant, except the tuber, are toxic to humans. They all have solanine, which can sometimes spread to the tubers when they’re exposed to light during storage.
Solanine in potato tubers appears as pale green spots, which you should cut off before preparing the tubers for consumption.
Should Potato Flowers Be Removed?
Potato flowers don’t need to be removed. There’s no scientific evidence to support the removal of potato flowers. Even so, some farmers remove them, hoping that the energy the plant used on them will be diverted to the tuber. Removing the flowers won’t have any adverse effects on the potatoes.
It’s okay to remove potato flowers, especially if your kids or animals like to hang around in the garden. No flowers mean no fruits, so you won’t have to worry about them accidentally eating the toxic berries.
Can You Use Potato Flowers To Estimate Harvest Time?
You can use potato flowers to estimate harvest time. Generally, potatoes are mature enough two or three weeks after blooming. However, if you live in a climate that doesn’t allow the plant to flower, or you plant a variety that doesn’t flower at all, you’ll need to use other methods.
You can simply dig out one or two tubers with your hands and see if they’re ready for harvest.
Can You Dig Up Potatoes Before They Flower?
You can dig up potatoes before they flower. There’s bound to be a few new potatoes (small, thin-skinned potatoes). These will be fine for immediate consumption but won’t do well in storage. However, flowers are a good way to judge potato maturity.
Therefore, the potatoes you dig up before the plant blossoms are small, thin-skinned, and sometimes immature.
Harvest them on a dry day, and be careful while handling them. Since the skin is so thin, you might accidentally rub them off.