How to Save Potato Plants After a Late Freeze

Most potato varieties can survive a few late freezes without any damage to the potato.
Most potato varieties can survive a few late freezes without any damage to the potato. (Image: Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Potatoes are cold-season vegetables and there are over 100 varieties that are grown throughout the world. When potato plants grow, they feature dark green, bushy and compact leaves. But if a potato plant endures a late or unexpected freeze, you may notice that the leaves wilt, get soggy or even turn black. Depending on how mature the potatoes are at the time of the freeze, the plant may only suffer from an aesthetic wound. If the potatoes have formed on the vine, they will usually not be damaged by a late freeze.

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Wait for the ice to thaw before you assess the exact damage of the freeze to your potato plants.

Do not water or attempt to wash the ice off of the potato plants. While cold water may freeze more of the leaves, warm water may even do more damage because it will raise the temperature of the plant too quickly and can permanently damage the potato plant’s cell tissues.

Cut away any soggy, browned or otherwise damaged leaves with garden shears. This is more important if your potatoes are very young. If potatoes have already begun to grow, removing blackened or damaged leaves is more for aesthetic reasons. The potatoes should be unharmed by a freeze when they are older.

Wait for the vines to die back naturally before harvesting the potatoes. Depending on what variety of potato that you are growing, this could be anytime during the summer. While the freeze may cause some dieback, don't harvest the potatoes until the whole vine begins to die back.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't get discouraged if you see frost-damaged leaves or blackened shoots due to late freezes. An early freeze can kill the seeds, but a later freeze may just turn the leaves and shoots black. You can remove them so they don't ruin the look of the garden, but most likely a late freeze isn't going to kill your potatoes.


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