Life Cycle of a Potato Plant

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You can easily grow potato plants.
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Potatoes (​Solanum tuberosum​) are annual garden vegetables that complete their entire potato plant lifespan and cycle, from the development of sprouts to the death of the parent plant, within a single growing season. During the season, this life cycle of a potato plant progresses through five distinct stages.


Potato Sprout Development

In the first stage of the life cycle of a potato plant, new sprouts emerge from growth buds, or ​eyes​, on the previous season's mature tubers. These sprouts are initially very pale, and they often appear as small white bumps on potatoes stored for a long time in the kitchen or pantry. When they emerge from a planted seed potato, the sprouts grow upward and eventually push above the surface of the soil. At the same time, ​new roots​ begin to grow from the potato's eye at the base of the sprout.


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Vegetative Growth of Potatoes

In the second stage of the cycle, the potato plant develops its above-ground structure, including ​stems, branches and leaves​. The plant's root system also develops at this time, and the horizontal root shoots, called ​stolons​, from which new tubers will grow begin to develop.


During the initial part of this vegetative growth stage, the plant gets nourishment from starch and sugars stored in the seed potato. Then, as leaves develop, the process of ​photosynthesis​ begins and the plant becomes capable of nourishing itself in preparation for new tuber growth.


Potato Tuber Initiation

In this stage, the tips of the stolons begin to swell, the first step in the development of ​new tubers​, but the tubers do not yet grow substantially in size. This stage usually happens just before the plant flowers, but there is no direct connection between flowering and the beginning of tuber development.


The flowers, if pollinated, produce small, tomato-like fruits that contain seeds. These fruits are not edible and are not generally used when cultivating potato plants unless you are creating hybrids, advises the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

Potato Tuber Bulking

In this stage, the plant directs most of it energy toward the growth of the new tubers. ​Water, sugars and nutrients​ begin to build up in the cells of the tubers. The cells swell, and the tubers increase dramatically in size.


Maturation of Potato Plants

In the final stage of the growth cycle of potatoes, the plant's growth slows and eventually ceases entirely. Photosynthesis in the leaves slows down, and the tubers stop growing. Above ground, the plant turns ​yellow​ and starts to drop its leaves, and below ground, the skins of the tubers thicken in preparation for their dormant period. At the end of this stage, the plant dies.


During the maturation stage, sugars in the tubers are converted to ​starch​, an efficient source of food for next year's plants, as well as an important component of high-quality potatoes for harvest.


Potato plants contain a toxic chemical called ​solanine​. Solanine is present in all parts of the plant, but it is concentrated in new sprouts, unripe tubers and tubers that have turned green because of exposure to sunlight, advises Missouri Botanical Garden. ​Avoid eating any tubers or parts of tubers that appear green.​ Symptoms of solanine poisoning include vomiting and diarrhea.



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