Potato plants bloom towards the end of their growing seasons, which indicates that their tubers have expanded, yet when consumed directly, these flowers contain toxic solanine, which may cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other unpleasant symptoms.
Potatoes, like many plants, reproduce through multiple means. Aside from producing tubers that can sprout new plants, potatoes create flowers and make small, inedible berry-like fruits containing seeds with small tuber-like cells attached to their interior surface. Unfortunately, all parts of a potato plant containing solanine have an alkaloid poison called solanine, which may lead to nausea, headaches, and diarrhea if consumed in large amounts; as a result, they should all be considered poisonous and avoided.!
While potato plants do not depend on their flowers for reproduction, they serve an essential function by attracting pollinators that help facilitate pollination of their leaves and pollen. Flowers also indicate that the plant produces its fruit and will soon be ready for harvesting. Typically yellow in hue but also available as white, lavender, or pink colors depending on the type of potato crop.
Pollination of potato flowers is made more accessible due to thorns that protrude from their leaves and help spread pollen as insects crawl over them. Furthermore, these thorns protect them from being pulled off prematurely by predators or other animals who might otherwise remove them before their time.
Recent community research discovered 58 species of native bees near Michigan potato fields despite the relative lack of resources available there . Some trapped bees may not visit potatoes for pollen collection, but their presence suggests they use this area for foraging or nesting [12,13].
While gardeners may attempt to harvest potatoes earlier by cutting off the flowers from potato plants, this does not prove any tangible benefit to their yield. Instead, watching as the flowers die and fall off indicates that it’s time for harvest if soil temperatures are adequate. Moisture levels don’t pose too many challenges – which is why so many gardeners wait until the flowers start wilting or dying before digging up their potatoes.
Potatoes are integral to American cuisine, and home gardeners are increasingly cultivating them as an edible crop. While their starchy tubers grow underground are essential, the flowers and fruit (an inedible green sphere that looks similar to a tiny green tomato) of this plant are poisonous; their flowers, stems, leaves, and fruit contain high levels of solanine, an alkaloid which has been linked with diarrheal symptoms, abdominal pain headaches, and even death when consumed in sufficient amounts.
Potato flowers typically bloom when their plant reaches full maturity and begins producing its seeds. As the bloom matures, its inedible fruit (called tubers ) surrounds it and gives the plant its distinctive appearance. Potatoes are one of the few vegetables that produce flowers and berries to repopulate themselves after reaching maturity, provided they go to this state again.
Potato plants typically produce flowers during July and August, only for them to fall off before maturing into fruit. But thanks to cool temperatures this year, these blooms stayed put long enough to pollinate, creating this year’s small fruit photographed above.
Potato flowers and fruit indicate that it’s time to harvest tubers, although harvesting fruit should wait until after flower wilt and tubers reach maturity before taking action.
When harvesting potatoes, ensure they’re not green, which indicates that they have not fully developed and may not store well. For maximum yield and growth, hilling techniques such as adding extra soil around plant canopies can help block out sunlight for ultimate success.
Always remember that eating potato flowers or fruit is never safe, as all parts of the plant except tubers are toxic. Solanine, an alkaloid poison produced by potato plants that cause nausea, headaches, and death, is present throughout all parts of the potato plant, including leaves and stems.
Potato plant flowers feature five petals in various hues ranging from white, pink, lavender, and even red or blue, similar to their counterpart on tomato plants. As nightshade family members, their five petals look reminiscent of tomato flowers while recalling pepper flowers in some respects. A prominent stamen – often bright yellow – protrudes from its center when opening for pollination by bees or insects; without pollination, they quickly fade with summer heat without producing fruit that follows.
Potato flowers produce green fruit that looks similar to a tiny green tomato; however, this should not be eaten and should be removed immediately as both contain toxic solanine, which can lead to illness in humans if consumed.
Although not required for harvest, potato flowers indicate that underground tubers have begun forming and will soon be ready to harvest. This is particularly relevant with new potatoes, which tend to be smaller than those commonly sold at grocery stores or farmers’ markets. As they develop further, gardeners can use their flowers as an indicator to know how much water to provide their plants, as it will show how far their tubers have expanded in size.
Although its gorgeous purple flowers add beauty and style to a garden, the natural wonder of this plant lies beneath its surface – where delicious tubers lie waiting! In ideal growing conditions, potatoes have long been considered staples of agriculture – not to mention kitchens.
Horticulturists acknowledge that potato flowers aren’t necessary for producing potatoes, but they offer gardeners some advantages. One benefit is deterring children or animals from indulging their curiosity by eating these blossoms, which could result in vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches, and even death due to solanine’s poisonous alkaloid content found throughout all parts of a potato plant besides its edible tubers containing solanine – including any fruit which might form.
Removing flowers also has the advantage of channeling more of the plant’s energy toward producing potatoes than seeds for future plantings. You can pinch off individual blooms with your fingers or use gardening shears, but taking too much off may reduce potato yield upon harvesting.
If you are planting potatoes in the ground, a good indicator that their plants are ready for digging is when they begin flowering – this indicates substantial tuber growth has already started. You can also test their readiness by lightly digging around with your hands – if their tubers feel heavy for their size, they’re probably ready for harvest!
Container gardens follow a similar progression; however, flowering typically starts around 55-60 days post-planting to allow enough time for pollination, fruit production, and dormancy before the season ends.
The time it takes your potato plants to flower depends on your climate and the weather conditions in which you live. In colder regions, they may never flower or produce fruit at all; in warmer zones, however, don’t be surprised if your plants blossom with flowers and even grow fruit! Either way, this won’t have any lasting effect on harvest success either way.