Potatoes are incredibly useful vegetables to grow. A staple food, there’s just so much you can do with them, and they can be pretty sturdy growers.
However, growing a good batch of potatoes, depending on the variety, takes time — approximately three to four months (or 80 to 100 days) from planting your potatoes, but there are also a few other things you should know before you start that could impact how long you might have to wait.
Long story short, the length of time needed to grow potatoes can depend on when you plant them and your climate.
When Is the Best Time to Plant Potatoes?
Typically, spring is seen as the best time to plant potatoes as soon as the soil is workable. By that, we mean that the soil is soft enough to dig up and plant your potatoes. If the ground is still freezing over, it’s too early. (Frost is the natural enemy of the potato.)
Planting in early to mid-spring, you should be able to harvest potatoes by early summer, while planting potatoes later, specifically in the summer, could lead to delays depending on your climate. Furthermore, different potato varieties grow better in different seasons, and it is best not to mix them.
As Lynn Doxon writes, Carlton, Norland, and Lady Lenore varieties can be grown together early in the year while Russian Blue, German Butterball, and Green Mountain should be grown together in the late season — and not with the early varieties.
What Month Do You Plant Potatoes?
Throw out the calendar when planting potatoes because there isn’t a particular month that’s best. Quite simply, months are not always the same every year — one year can be drier or wetter than the next, and so it is less about choosing a month or date and more about watching the weather. When you get a good period where the weather may be suitable, that’s your chance.
Between April and October are seen as the best months to plant potatoes in moderate climates in the northern hemisphere, but there are other things to consider (see Do Potatoes Grow in Every Climate? below).
If you let the months dictate when you plant your potatoes, it could be disappointing if the weather is not good. Don’t plant potatoes if the soil is too wet or frosty because it can ruin them. The soil temperature should be at least 50°F (10°C).
However, if you went ahead and planted potatoes and you’re now worried about frost, you can cover your potato plants in the night to keep them warm with a sheet or plastic container.
When Is Too Late To Plant Potatoes?
In winter, when the ground becomes hard and frozen, or in the summer if it gets too hot. This goes back to what we said earlier about the soil being workable.
If the ground is frozen or too dry from the sun, it’s too late to plant potatoes. On top of that, they will not grow in these conditions. Almanac recommends planting potatoes at least two weeks after the last frost.
But potatoes don’t have to just be planted in the spring or summer, they can be planted in fall, and some believe this is better. As Kim of Homestead Acres explains, potatoes planted in the fall can get a head start — as they grow before winter and then become dormant until spring where their growth continues.
This can give them a head start of up to two weeks which also means you can harvest potatoes sooner. Plus, if you live somewhere where springs are very wet, this can be a great workaround.
Do Potatoes Grow in Every Climate?
The short answer is no.
Unfortunately, potatoes don’t grow too well in every climate and prefer cooler weather. In some cases, though, it can just be a case of planting and harvesting them at different points in the year.
According to an article by Steve Albert of Harvest to Table, “The ideal temperature for growing potatoes is 60° to 70°F (16-21°C); temperatures greater than 80°F (26°C) are usually too warm for potatoes.”
Barbara Pleasant adds that if the soil gets too hot, it stunts growth because the potato plant signals to the roots to stop making tubers and it may focus more on reproduction (making flowers). Pleasant also explains that potatoes can take warm air conditions — but not warm soil (that’s a super important clarification!).
Almanac further backs this up, saying “Potatoes grow best in cool, well-drained, loose soil that is about 45° to 55°F (7° to 13°C).” So, don’t confuse soil temperature with air temperature.
Pleasant suggests that this is why potatoes sometimes grow better in the ground than in bags — as bags are more exposed to air temperatures, the potatoes growing inside can get too warm, meanwhile, potatoes growing in soil are generally cooler.
So, if you live somewhere very dry or hot, it would probably be best to look into growing something more suitable for your climate. But don’t forget about sunlight — Almanac also mentions that at least six hours of sunlight is best. This can all impact how long you might have to wait for a good batch of potatoes.
Albert also explains that in tropical and subtropical climates, potatoes can be grown all year round. However, it is best to plant them in the summer and harvest them before the start of the rainy season.
And in regions with mild winters or continental climates with hot summers, you can plant potatoes in winter and harvest them in the spring — avoid planting in the summer.Interesting fact: Originating from Peru, today China, the USA, India, and Russia are some of the world’s largest potato producers.
When To Harvest Potatoes
Potatoes typically take between 80 and 100 days to grow in mild climates but the most obvious sign that potatoes are ready to be harvested are when their top vines die which means they have finished growing as Jeannie Nichols of Michigan State University explains. This is also when they are most nutritious.
It is also worth knowing that you can plant potatoes in early spring and harvest them by May or June or even July and then plant another batch which you could then harvest by fall giving you twice as many potatoes for your patch.
However, growing a second batch in the summer might not be an option if you have very hot summers as explained above.
Conclusion: So, How Long Do Potatoes Take to Grow?
The short answer is 80 to 100 days (three to four months), and you can tell when they are ready for harvesting when the vines on top have started to die (this means they have stopped growing).
While potatoes are generally planted in the spring, you can actually plant them in the fall to get a head start (in the winter, they become dormant). When temperatures exceed 80°F (26°C), it can stunt their growth.
When planting potatoes, don’t follow a calendar, watch the weather instead (no two years are the same). Ideally, two weeks after the last frost is best but the soil shouldn’t be too wet or dry. You can plant more than one batch per year if your climate allows.