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Creative Ways to Grow Potatoes in Containers

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Here are some excellent potato container ideas for you to try, allowing you to grow varieties with shapes, colors, and flavors unavailable in supermarkets,

Growing potatoes in containers allows you to structure an acidic (pH 5.0 – 5.8) potting soil ideal for potato plants. Incremental additions of soil layers will trigger the buried stems to produce tubers to maximize potato plant productivity. 

Table of Contents

More About Potato Plants

Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are a cool-season crop native to South America’s Andes Mountains regions. Looking at the flowers, you will notice a resemblance to the tomato plant, also part of the Solanaceae family (together with eggplants and peppers). 

Some unique features of the Solanaceae family are their poisonous foliage containing solanine and day-neutral growth habit (flowers irrespective of day length). 

Hands holding a collection of fresh, dirt-covered potatoes, with varying shapes and sizes. The hands appear to be female and are cupping the potatoes gently, showcasing the earthy beauty of the produce.
“Harvesting the Fruits of Our Labor 🌱🥔 Nothing beats the satisfaction of growing and harvesting your own potatoes! 🌿🌻 #homegrown #freshproduce #organic”

Because potatoes are stem tubers (buried foliage), green potatoes should be avoided. The solanine in green potatoes will make you feel ill if eaten in large enough quantities, and Potatoe plants use it to keep animals from eating the plant.

General Notes on Growing Potatoes 

Potatoes do best in temperatures between 60° to 65°F (15.5–18°C) and a maximum of 80°F (26.6°C). Plant potatoes when the soil is above 45°F/7°C and know that growth will slow when the soil temperature reaches 75°F/24°C, and growth will stop around 85°F/29°C.

Because the vines are delicate, frost will harm them around roughly 30°F/-1°C. Depending on the variety, potatoes can take 90 to 120 days to mature, but gardeners can harvest new potatoes after 60 to 70 days. Potatoes require consistent moisture and six hours of sunlight daily. 

Seed Potatoes

Potatoes are grown from small potato tubers, also called seed pieces. Always try to get B-size certified seed that weighs just under two ounces. While you can cut seeds, doing so increases the risk of tuber-borne diseases.

If you’re using your stock, select them from high-yielding plants, choosing well-shaped, smooth, disease and injury-free tubers—store seed stock in a sterile environment to avoid contamination, and seed potatoes should be around 2 ounces in weight. 

A purple tray filled with several potatoes, some of which have sprouted seeds. The potatoes are different shapes and sizes, with varying shades of brown on their skin.
“Freshly harvested potatoes, each one unique in size and shape. Some have already started to sprout, a sign of new life and growth.”

Larger seed potatoes can be cut into several pieces, each about two ounces. Cut areas should be allowed to form a callus before planting them cut-side down. Each piece should have at least one eye bud (shoot). 

You can chit your tubers in a cool (50 °F/10 °C) room paired with a ripe banana or apple slices to develop buds.  

Why Can’t I Use Grocery Store Potatoes as Seed Potato?

You can’t use store-bought potatoes because they have been treated with maleic hydrazide to prevent sprouting and extend shelf life. Pair the chits with ripe fruit to boost sprouting on untreated seed potatoes. As the fruit ripens, it releases ethylene, a hormone that promotes growth.

Remember that potatoes are stems, so as the seed potatoes start sticking from the soil, you should cover them to prevent greening and the development of chlorophyll and solanine. Solanine, found in all the nightshade family plants, causes green potatoes to taste bitter (and is poisonous). 

Most Critical Time for Potato Plants

Potato plants flower and set fruit like tomatoes and peppers, but potato fruit is poisonous and should not be eaten. Flowering is an indicator that the tubers are developing, an indicator that you should keep a close eye on, keeping soil moisture levels optimal. 

The potato flowers serve no other purpose (for you), so cut them off to channel the energy they may use to the baby potatoes. Soon after harvesting, you can start harvesting some freshly dug potatoes.

How to Choose The Right Potato Containers

An empty, square-shaped garden bed with raised edges and filled with soil, ready for planting.
“Time to Get Planting! 🌱🌷🍅”

There is no end to gardeners’ creativity, and while there are several potato container ideas, all these need to pass the litmus test.

Drainage

Practical container growing is directly linked to drainage. Don’t even consider increasing anything that doesn’t offer ample drainage.

Using the proper potting mix is just as crucial as choosing a decent container. In the ground, fertile, acidic, well-drained soils are optimal for growing potatoes. However, the same garden soils beneficial for potatoes grown in the ground can be a bad choice for plants grown in containers.

Garden soil can contain weed seeds and diseases, draining poorly, drying out rapidly, and compacting readily. Instead, fill containers with equal parts of high-quality compost and “soilless” potting mix. 

Compost offers crucial nutrients; peat-based potting mixes are lightweight, hold moisture, and rapidly shed extra water. Garden centers sell both bagged compost and pre-made soilless potting mixtures.

Of course, you can make your own, and I’ve written an article to help you do just that.

Size

Container potatoes can be grown in a 5 to 15-gallon (20 to 60-liter) container that is more than 12 inches (30 cm) deep. Avoid using a deep container (more than 36 inches (91 cm)) because it may be challenging to water them uniformly. 

The top of tall containers typically dries before the bottom, which might remain soggy and cause potatoes to rot. A close relationship exists between soil quality and drainage for growing potatoes in containers. 

Depth

A deep container allows you to get the most bang for your buck. The chicken wire tower below is an example of a high tower that can grow hundreds of potatoes without taking up much space.

The fortunate thing about gardeners is that they generally have more common sense than most people. If you understand the principles of water movement in the soil, the effect of cation exchange capacity (and carbon content), and drainage, I’m sure you’ll be able to work out how deep it is, too deep.

If you don’t know, remember that gardeners never fail; they merely have learning opportunities.

Space

Growing potatoes in containers optimize your available garden (or balcony) surfaces. Consider your space, its light, water availability, and temperatures when growing potatoes.

It would be best to have full sun, temperatures below 80°F/27°C for about 90 days, and daily watering (and drainage).

I(f you have space, potatoes grown in raised beds do well. A bucket will give you as many as 70 homegrown potatoes if your area is limited. Potatoes grow to 12 -24 inches (30 – 60 cm). 

Availability

Nobody ever lists the availability of a container for growing potatoes, and you don’t need to buy anything fancy. Potato container ideas can include the white 5-gallon buckets you can pick up for almost nothing.

Just make sure you drill big enough holes in the bottom and on the sides at the bottom to maximize drainage. You can’t overdo drainage.

Accessibility

Consider any accessibility challenges. If bending or reaching down is challenging, grow potatoes in a planter or a bucket on a table for easy access.

Potato Container Ideas 

Several blue circular garden containers are visible in the photo, arranged in a group and surrounded by chicken wire.
“Container gardening made safe! These blue beauties are protected from critters by their trusty chicken wire enclosure.”

Let’s review some potato container ideas, and then I’ll share why I’ve stuck to using the 30-liter (8-gallon) buckets from Oaklands Gardens in the UK. The ViaGrow 7-gallon bucket is a good option for our USA readers.

Tony O’Neill with container-grown potatoes

Potatoes can be grown in a wide range of various containers. Although ready-made potato towers and specialized growing bags are available, any opaque container with drainage holes, such as barrels, trash cans, plastic storage tubs, and chimney flues, will work.

Buckets

The world is drowning in single-use plastic, contaminating our rivers and harming our oceans. Where we cannot avoid single-use plastic, we should make every effort to have it recycled. When purchasing plastic articles, always look for the recycle logo and the resin code in the middle.

Below is a table of the seven resin codes and matching plastic types and their recyclability

Resin CodePlastic-typeCan it be Recycled?
1PET or PETE (Polyethylene terephthalate) soft drink and water bottlesYes
2HDPE (High-density polyethylene)Yes
3PVC (Polyvinyl chloride)No
4LDPE (Low-density polyethylene) – shopping bagsSpecialized Process
5PP (Polypropylene)Specialized Process
6PS (Polystyrene)Specialized Process
7OtherSpecialized Process

The buckets I use (as mentioned above) are made of HDPE and will remain usable for decades. When, for some unforeseen reason, they are no longer being used, they can easily be recycled.

As mentioned above, buckets have been my go-to method of growing potatoes for years. Look for ones with handles that make moving them around easier.

I use heavy-duty, thick pots that will not crack or split. I’ve done many trials with them, and they consistently give me great results. They do not have a lovely finish like decorative ones, but they are strong and designed to do the job, not look pretty.

The ViaGrow pots are made from recycled HDPE High-Density Polyethylene, the safest, BPA Free, food-safe plastic and the most sought-after plastic for growing food. Pots do have drainage holes around the bottom.  

Grow Bags

Grow bags are very well suited for growing potatoes but go for the larger version (5 to 15 gallons/20 – 60 liters).

Heavy burlap bags are ideal for containers because they breathe and drain. Ensure enough room in the container you select for the soil to expand as the potatoes grow. This encourages the growth of more tubers in layers.

Some potato growth bags are fitted with flaps that allow you to access the potatoes without disturbing the plant. Fabric potato planters can be a challenge to move around.

Chicken Wire

There’s a lot of debate on how successful potato towers are. One of the arguments is that covering the stem with soil reduces the plant’s access to light, reducing productivity. The solution is simple.

  • Never cover more than a third of the plant’s height
  • Use chicken mesh and straw that allows plants to grow vegetation out the side, optimizing photosynthesis for plant strength.

To build a potato tower, create a cylinder from three to four feet of wire fence. Line the mesh with straw to prevent soil from spilling out of the openings.

A small “nest” of straw is then placed in the bottom of the cylinder, followed by about 6 to 8 inches of soil, and numerous little seed potatoes are then arranged in a circle around the inside of the fencing.

Repeat the process, adding soil and potato layers. Ensure the chits are close (about 3 inches) to the straw and mesh sides.

The potatoes will start to grow out of the sides of the potato “tower” and be ready to be harvested after they have flowered and the plants begin to die back.

Harvesting potatoes is easy. Topple the tower, allowing all the potatoes to spill out. You can expect ten more to grow for every potato you put in the tower!

Planters

It doesn’t matter what size potato planters you use, but ensure they’re deeper than 12 inches/30 cm. Please confirm the planter has adequate drainage.

Add at least four inches of light potting soil or mix to your planter in the early spring before placing several seed potatoes evenly scattered around the bottom. 

The more nodes a seed potato has, the more potatoes you’ll grow, but they’ll be smaller. Use the right stock with a single eye for more giant potatoes. Cover the small seed potatoes with 4 to 6 inches/10 to 15 cm of soil and water adequately.

Allow the plants to grow four to six inches before adding a layer of more soil one to two inches (25 – 50 mm) thick, covering the bottom third of the plant. Repeat the process until the container is almost complete, and cover the top of the soil with a straw mulch.

Your potatoes will be ready to harvest in the late summer or early fall when the tops of the plants begin to turn yellow and die. Harvesting potatoes from a planter is more challenging than bucket container-grown potatoes.

Raised Beds

A wooden raised garden bed with no soil, covered with a black tarp.
“Preparing for a Fresh Start: Clearing Out the Garden Bed for a New Season”

The advantage of raised bed for growing potatoes is that it allows you the best of both worlds; a potato container garden with in-ground planting. The added garden soil, only possible in raised bed container gardening, allows the microorganisms to create aggregates and improve water management (and other benefits).

Raised beds are great as they allow gardeners with poor soil to add potting soil that best suits their crop. We want some acidity and a high potash (potassium) content for potatoes. Remember to keep the soil moist, especially when the potato plants. 

If you can, follow the instructions for the planter above (i.e., add layers of fresh potting soil as the plants grow).

Compost Bins

Upright compost bins are excellent potato-growing containers. Look for a variety that gives you access to the bottom half of the bin. 

Helpful Tip. There is a limit to the depth of a tower. Too deep Bins do not allow effective moisture management when growing potatoes in containers. 

Why Grow Potatoes in Containers?

My Simplify Gardening YouTube channel has many videos (see below) where I have repeatedly demonstrated that container-grown potatoes outperform those grown in a garden bed. That’s my reason, what’s yours?

Tony O'Neill harvesting container potatoes that he tipped into a wheelbarrow. Nice big red potatoes with bright red skins The variety is Rudolph
“Homegrown and harvest-ready! These potatoes have flourished in their grow bag, right in the comfort of our outdoor space.”

Taste better

There is no arguing homegrown potatoes taste better.

More Compact

Growing potatoes in containers take much less space than in the garden. Also, it allows some mobility, enabling you to move potato pots indoors when it gets too hot outside (or vice versa).

More Variety

There are hundreds of potato varieties that you can’t buy off the shelf. Grow your unique new potatoes, early potato varieties, rose finn apple, French fingerling, or red potatoes.

Aesthetics

There are many shapes and sizes of growing bags, large containers (for growing large potatoes), and colored pots. You can add your identity to the garden by growing potatoes in pots.

Choice of Mediums

One of the leading factors is that you can choose (or concoct) your growing medium. A half-and-half mixture of peat moss (acidic) and finished compost, and some leaf mold keep the soil moist. Check out my post on the topic. 

20 Resources for Growing Potatoes in Containers

  1. Potato Paradise: How to Grow More in Less Space.
  2. The Best Way to Plant Potatoes? Sprout Them!
  3. Growing Potatoes Made Easy: The Truth About Sprouting
  4. How to Choose the Best Feed for Your Growing Potatoes
  5. The Truth About Growing Potatoes in Tires
  6. Potato Growing Simplified: Tips for Watering, Mulching, and More
  7. How To Store and Preserve Potatoes Long Term (The Perfect Way)
  8. What is Potato Scab? I will Show You How To Prevent It!
  9. What Potato Varieties are Blight Resistant? Don’t Suffer Losses
  10. How To Avoid Catching Potato Blight? Tips You Need
  11. Maximizing Your Potato Harvest: The Truth About Cutting Seed Potatoes
  12. The Truth About Potato Flowers and Tuber Production
  13. Sprouting Potatoes – Everything You’ll Want to Know! (Video)
  14. YouTube – Potato Varieties – Explained 101
  15. YouTube – Harvesting 3 lots of potatoes grown in containers Did I get a giant potato?
  16. YouTube – Storing Potatoes Long Term – Save Your Potato Harvest
  17. YouTube – Potato Experiment – Ground Or Container – The Results Round 2
  18. YouTube -Seed Potatoes – The Secrets Revealed
  19. YouTube – Harvesting Containers Of New Potatoes UK
  20. YouTube – Growing Potatoes In Containers Just Took A Quantum Leap!

FAQs on Creative Ways to Grow Potatoes in Containers

In Closing

You can grow potatoes in containers in less than two months or as long as four months. 

Early-season potato varieties mature between 50 and 70 days and are great as new potatoes but store poorly. 

Late-season potato varieties mature between three and four months but offer the advantage of being stored for extended periods.

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