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The best potatoes to grow are the ones you prefer or haven’t tried yet, ones that aren’t available at your local supermarket.
It reads like a click-bait headline “Best Potato to Grow in Containers” You’ll read the article only to find that the best potato is the one you’d like to grow because any potato that grows in garden soil can be produced better in the suitable container.
Best Potato to Grow in Container
There are well over 200 potato varieties, more tubers than you could grow in 20 years. There are many ways in which potatoes are grouped.
- Preferred growing season (earlies, second earlies, main crop, and fall potatoes).
- Skin and flesh color combinations.
- Potato sizes and shapes
- Total solids
- Dormancy variance
Potato Plant Varieties
There are numerous registered potato cultivars. Choose cultivars based on your preferences, intended usage, and capacity to store. You should consider cultivating uncommon heirlooms and specialty cultivars in most supermarkets.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of potato types, varieties, features, and uses. More than 300 registered potato varieties are on the North American Potato Association’s website and 196 on the Canadian Register, and 364 on the British Potato Register.
|Russet||It is characterized by an even oval shape, light brown skin and few shallow eyes.||Low sugar content and their oblong shape make Russets ideal for chip making, and Teton Russet is used for McDonald’s fries.||The flavour is subtly sweet and well-suited for salads, soups and stews because slices and chunks maintain their shape during cooking and mixing. They are also excellent at baking potatoes.|
|Yellows||Alegria, Anuschka, Latona, Molli, Nicola, Satina, Yukon Gem, Yukon Gold||They have a slightly waxy, velvety and moist texture. Yellows are subtly sweet, rich and buttery, and with a medium-sugar content making them great for grilling, roasting, mashing, and salads.||The flavour is subtly sweet and well-suited for salads, soups and stews because slices and chunks maintain their shape during cooking and mixing. They are also excellent for baking potatoes.|
|Reds||Chieftain, Colorado Rose, Cherry Red, Red Cloud, Red Gold, Red Lasoda, Red Pontiac, Sangre||With rosy skin and white flesh, red-skinned potatoes have a firm, smooth, moist and creamy texture.||They have an earthy, nutty flavor and are great for roasting, grilling, salads, or baking.|
|Fingerlings||Austrian Crescent, Russian Banana, French Fingerling, Laratte, Red Thumb, Rose Finn Apple, Purple Peruvian||They have an earthy, nutty flavor and are great for roasting, grilling, salads, or baking.||Specialties|
|Fingerling Potatoes are 2-4 inches long, finger-shaped; red, orange, purple or white skin; red-orange, purple, yellow or white flesh, with some streaked with coloured veins.||All Blue, Asterix, Cherie, German Butterball, Kennebec, Midnight Moon, Purple Majesty||Fingerling Potatoes are 2-4 inches long, finger-shaped; red, orange, purple or white skin; red-orange, purple, yellow or white flesh, with some streaked with colored veins.||Purple/Blue Potatoes are small to medium-sized, oblong to fingerling, deep purple, blue or slightly red skin; blue, purple, lavender, pink or white flesh. Most have a moist texture and firm flesh.|
The average length of the growing season for potatoes can also be used to classify them; early cultivars mature in 60–80 days, mid-season cultivars in 80–100 days, and late-season cultivars in 100 days or more.
Determinate and Indeterminate Potato Plants
When choosing a variety, consider how long it will take for the plant to mature. For instance, Norland could grow in 80 to 90 days instead of Russet Burbank’s 120 days or longer. While late-maturing cultivars store well because they withstand sprouting and shriveling in storage, early-maturing kinds are preferable for “new” potatoes.
Growth patterns distinguish between determinate and indeterminate potatoes.
Determinate Potato Plants
Determinate potato crops (like tomatoes) typically refer to bushy vegetation with a defined, shorter growth period—early season potatoes (early variety).
Indeterminate Potato Plants
On the other hand, indeterminate are bigger plants that continue tuber development over the growing season—referred to as late-maturing plants.
Each category includes several distinct potato cultivars, so there are many to pick from. Determinate and indeterminate cultivars can be chosen based on yield, garden space, and labor input characteristics.
Only indeterminate varieties benefit from hilling, but even these can manage without hilling if the seed potato is large enough (closer to 2 oz./~60g) and planted 8 inches/10cm deep.
Planting Potatoes in Containers Simplified
Ideal Plant Environment to Grow Potatoes
Plant potatoes in containers when the soil temperature is above 50°F/10°C. Maintain soil temperatures in the lower sixties (16 – 18°C)—a drop in night temperatures (to about 50°F/10°C benefits growing potatoes.
Use a deep container (minimum 12 inches/30 cm) with suitable drainage holes. These should be located at the bottom of the container and on the lower sides. Don’t block the holes with pebbles; use a coffee filter or an empty tea bag instead.
Ensure your potting mix has a balanced blend of organic and inorganic matter. Inert material boosts drainage speeds, and organic matter helps retain moisture.
The advantage of growing potatoes in containers is that you do not need to worry about clay soil. Add compost to lighten the soil if you’re planting in garden soil (not in a container). Sandy soil drains too fast, so add compost to increase water retention and slow draining speed.
Potatoes prefer full sun. Please take advantage of growing potatoes in containers by moving them to optimize total sun exposure (six hours plus per day of direct sunlight), avoiding midday sunlight.
Growing Potatoes in Containers
If you’re an inexperienced gardener, purchase your seed potatoes from your local garden center or online. Check with your local extension office for any restrictions on Inter-state plant movement restrictions.
If you’re planting in your garden soil, always get disease-free certified seed potatoes with maximum disease resistance. It is less critical to plant in containers in a fresh potting mix.
Create a nutrient-rich starter mix to serve as the base for your seed potatoes. Organic options include a bone-, fish-, and blood meal blend. If you use an NPK mix, choose a slow-release option focusing on the P levels.
Fill your container with 4 to 6 potting soil, and press the chitted (sprouted) seed potatoes into the soil.
For early-season, determinate varieties, plant potatoes by covering the seed potatoes with 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) soil and water thoroughly.
Caring for Potatoes in Containers
After planting seed potatoes, only water when necessary until the potato plant emerges, after which watering should be increased. Potatoes grow in four phases, each with their individual watering needs.
Sprout Development. In-soil sprout development should be well irrigated before planting. If you grow potatoes in containers, water the pot well after planting and limit watering until the potato plant emerges (2 to 3 weeks)l.
Foliage Growth. The goal is to optimize the plant’s strength with adequate water, ample direct sunlight, and risk control (not watering foliage but soil instead). A more vigorous, robust plant is better able to grow healthy tubers.
Tuber Initiation. The potato plant’s tubers are a food source for these perennial plants as they emerge from dormancy. When the plant starts flowering, tubers also start developing (or just before). Consistent soil moisture is critical to crop size and quality.
Tuber Bulking. Tubers grow bigger as the plant starts aging and dying (senescence). Sugars and starches accumulate. A consistent water supply is still important as it helps bulk the tubers.
Maturation. The tubers reach maturity and their full size. The top of the plant dries out and dies. During development, the tuber skin toughens to protect it from winter threats—but we harvest them instead. Reduce watering or cut it altogether.
Remove any fruit that forms to ensure the maximum available plant energy is channeled to tuber development.
How to harvest Potatoes
Wait for at least 50% of the foliage to turn yellow before harvesting new potatoes.
If you have a slotted inner pot that snugly fits into a bigger container exposing the growing potatoes, you can harvest them while they’re growing (new potatoes).
You can harvest mature potatoes once the plants mature, as indicated by all the foliage dying back.
An early harvest will provide smaller tubers with thinner skin. A mature crop produces type-typical potatoes and a maximum yield.
It would be best if you did not tarry with late harvest Russet potatoes as the colder it gets, the more starches convert to sugars. A higher sugar content fries poorly, causing darker fries.
As fingerling potatoes are also late-harvest, leaving them in the soil for a little longer improves taste, but don’t use them as fries.
Hilling growing potatoes only benefits indeterminate (long-season) plants.
Most mid-season potatoes (second earlies) are determinate plants and, like the early-season plants, don’t benefit from hilling.
If you add more soil to your container as the plant grows, never cover more than a third of the plant with each addition. Wait for the plant to produce at least 6 inches (15 cm) high before adding two inches (5 cm) more soil.
Potatoes in Containers Variety Choices
Early Season Potatoes
Try these early potatoes or determinate potatoes (depending on which side of the pond you live).
Norland Red (and Dark Red Norland)
When next you’re planting potatoes, consider the determinate Norland family. They have a short planting time, maturing in a record 70 to 90 days. Plant potatoes indoors two weeks before the last frost date and harvest before spring is over.
It’s an eye-catching potato with deep purple skin, pink splashes and pure white flesh. The Viking is early to bulk and mature (less than 90 days).
Other Earlies Options
Another early-season potato you should consider is Adirondack Blue and Irish cobbler.
Early potatoes are often considered more suitable to grow in containers, but if you have the correct container (with enough space, good drainage, and well-draining soil), you can grow any potato plant.
Medium Season Potatoes
They are also called second-earlies or mid-season potatoes.
As with all the Russet potatoes, the Norkotah is a long oblong ideal for fries. Mid-season potatoes are determinate (do not benefit from hilling) and mature in 95 to 110 days. Potatoes planted two weeks before the last spring frost indoors can be harvested in early summer before the warm weather.
This smooth skin longtime favorite for flavor offers light yellow flesh and golden skin. Consistent moisture is essential for Yukon Gold, known for developing a hollow heart if water is interrupted.
Container-grown potatoes produce tubers that are better shaped as there is limited resistance to expansion, unlike clay soil. The Yukon is oblongish—round compared to the Russets.
Late Season Potatoes
Late-season potatoes are generally indeterminate and can benefit from hilling, the incremental covering of a third of the growing stem every three weeks as the plant matures.
As mentioned, several potatoes are called fingerling types for their shape and mature size.
The French Fingerling has bicolor flesh (yellow with red speckles). The plant is tall and spreads somewhat, so grow potatoes with some distance between plants for better air circulation.
French Fingerlings are known for their gourmet flavor and are best boiled or roasted. Tubers are larger and more oval than Russian bananas.
Another fingerling variety not mentioned is the Magic Molly, purple-skinned with dark purple flesh. These dark potatoes have more antioxidants than others, making them a superfood.
As the plant grows taller, add some soil to cover the bottom third of the stem for high yields.
This late-season seed potato has a unique buttery flavor, making it unnecessary to add butter (stop me if you dare). If you grow potatoes in containers, this is an excellent choice.
German Butterball is excellent for storing throughout the winter and baking, roasting, mashing hash browns, fries, and steaming. This is fast becoming a favorite among gardeners as it also offers resistance to late blight and common scabs.
You must ensure these long-growing plants get cooler weather, direct sun, well-draining soil, and a container with adequate drainage holes. Enough water at the right time is essential, as is consistency.
FAQs on The Best Potatoes for Container Gardening: A Comprehensive Guide
What is the easiest type of potato to grow?
The easiest type of potato to grow is the early-season or “new” potatoes, and they mature in 60-80 days, requiring less care and maintenance than mid-season or late-season potatoes. Varieties like Norland and Yukon Gold are good options for beginner gardeners as they have a higher success rate and produce well in containers.
Do potatoes do well in containers?
Potatoes can do well in containers as long as they have enough space for root growth, proper drainage, and consistent watering. Container-grown potatoes can be easier to harvest and protect against pests and diseases. However, choosing the right size and type of container is important, using quality soil and providing adequate sunlight and nutrients for optimal growth.
Can you plant different types of potatoes in the same container?
Yes, you can plant different types of potatoes in the same container. However, it’s important to consider the size of the container and the growth habit of each potato variety. Plant larger potatoes at the bottom and smaller ones on top, leaving enough space for each plant to grow and mature. Ensure proper drainage and use nutrient-rich soil to support healthy growth.
The best potato to grow is the one you fancy and feel confident growing. Growing potatoes is easy, and growing potatoes in containers is even easier. If limited space is one of your challenges, start with an early-season variety in a grow bag 12 to 18 inches (45 cm) deep.