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How to Grow Potatoes in Containers – Step by Step Guide

Whether you live in an apartment without access to a yard, or you have a sizeable backyard, growing vegetables in a container is accessible to anyone wanting to try their hand at gardening. 

Growing potatoes in a container is perfect for both seasoned gardeners and those that are brand new to the process. Following some easy-to-follow steps below, you will be eating fresh potatoes you know are free of any harsh chemicals. Your family and the environment will benefit from your decision. 

Because of their hearty nature, potatoes are the perfect candidate for any container vegetable garden. Gardeners of all levels will find this project manageable. It is also a great way to introduce kids into gardening, encouraging them to help our environment and eat healthy, homegrown foods.

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Potatoes being pulled from the soil
Photo by Sharon Kingston

Step-By-Step Guide to Growing Potatoes in a Container

The steps involved in growing potatoes in a container may seem a lot to take in initially, but the results will be well worth your time and energy once you bite into your self-grown spuds.

Make Sure You Have All of the Necessary Materials on Hand

There is nothing worse than getting right smack dab in the middle of a project than having it come to a screeching halt as you have to leave and head back to the store because you didn’t get all of your materials prepped prior to potato planting.

Here is what you will need to gather beforehand:

  • A gardening trowel
  • Seed potatoes
  • Potting soil
  • Fertilizer
  • A container

Prep the Potatoes from Spuds or Seeds

While you can use store-bought potatoes to plant, we suggest purchasing seeds from a reputable source for best results.

While seeding your own potatoes is a nice way to put your leftover spuds to use, grocery store potatoes can sometimes be chemical-laden or genetically modified, so choose the method that is best for you.

If you’re using store bought potatoes, once your potatoes have sprouted eyes, the time has come to prepare them for planting. If the potatoes are small enough, then you can simply plant them whole.  If they are larger, or if you want to grow more potatoes, then you can cut them into pieces.

If you opt to cut your potatoes, try cutting them in no more than quarters and allow them a day or two to dry out. 

Prep the Soil for Planting

Knowing what kind of potting soil you will need is partially based on the type of container you plan to put your potatoes in.  If you plan to plant in a plastic container, you should opt for fast-drying soil as a safeguard in case you over water. 

It is recommended that you go with higher quality soil, with organic being the optimal choice. 

Mix in some fertilizer or compost material, and your soil is ready. 

Keep in mind that you will need to fertilize throughout the growing process. Again, organic is optimal because if you over-do-it with regular fertilizer, you are apt to scorch your spuds before they even have a chance to get growing. 

Container Prep Comes Next

Now’s the time to get your container ready to go.  We will go into much more detail later on as to what type of container you should plant your potatoes in. 

For now, just keep two things in mind:

  • The container needs drainage, and the drain should not be directly in touch with the ground. To protect your floors, you can place your container on planters or a tray.
  • The container needs to be a minimum of 15 inches deep. While we won’t start with that much soil, as your potatoes grow, you will need room to “hill” them. We will talk more about this soon.

Drainage is key to the success of your potato growing project because if your fledgling fingerlings get too wet for an extended period, they will rot, and the soils of your harvest will spoil.

If your container doesn’t have drainage, you can add your own. Just make sure that you don’t make the holes too large, or you are apt to lose some of your soil during the drainage process

Make sure that you pick the right spot for your container sooner rather than later.  If you wait, your container will get heavier as the growing process continues, and it will be a pain to try to move. 

The optimal place for your potato container will get about six to eight hours of full sunlight a day.

You can now add the soil and fertilizer combo to the container. You will want to put enough soil in the container so your potatoes have room to root, but you don’t want to add too much, as you will continue to add throughout the growing process. 

Time to Plant the Potatoes

Place the potatoes in the container with their eyes facing upward. You want to make sure there is plenty of room for your potatoes to grow without overcrowding, so make sure to them around 10 inches (25 cms) apart from each other.

Once they are in position, add more soil on top of the seeded potatoes. One to four inches (2.5 to 10 cms) is usually plenty, but the hotter the environment, the more soil you need to use to cover your potatoes.

Give your newly planted potatoes a good soaking. You will want to water them every day, and a sign you can stop watering is when you see water running out of the drainage area of your container. 

When and How to “Hill” Your Potatoes

Potatoes grow quickly! You need to keep an eye on them, so you’ll know when to “hill” them. Once the plant grows to about 6 inches (15 cms), you’ll want to add some soil to the top.

You want to make sure that your potatoes are covered throughout the growing process to prevent your taters from turning green. Green potatoes not only taste terrible, but they can be toxic if consumed.

Put around 3 inches (8 cms) of soil over the top of the new growth. You want to make sure that the lower leaves of the plant stay buried. This is also a great time to add in your extra dose of fertilizer.

You can also use mulch as a blanket for your potatoes. But be warned, if you opt for mulch as your top layer, mulch does not offer the same type of nutrients that soil and fertilizer do, you will have to add fertilizer more often to ensure that your potatoes are hardy. 

You will need to repeat these steps several times throughout the growing process, so don’t discard that extra potting soil or fertilizer.

Harvest Time

You have doted over these darlings for what seems like decades, and it is now time to reap the benefits of your bounty.

Once they begin to flower, you can reach into the soil and start picking your crops of container-grown potatoes. They will continue to produce and grow until the plants begin to yellow and die off.

Some suggest dumping the container out and getting the rest of your potatoes that way; however, if you leave the dead plants in the container, you make your own mulch for future gardening. 

Storing Your Surplus Spuds

Once your potatoes have been harvested, they will keep for quite a while if you store them correctly. Putting them in a breathable container like a basket or paper bag will help them last even longer, especially if they are stored in a dark, dry place.

How Big of a Container do You Need to Grow Potatoes?

While the different sorts of containers that can be used to grow your potatoes can be endless, ensuring they are the right size will help you produce a healthy harvest.

As mentioned previously, the minimum height for premium potato growth is 15 inches (38 cms). That will allow plenty of room for your potatoes to grow comfortably and give you plenty of room to “hill” throughout the process.

The minimum width at the bottom of the container should be 14 inches (36 cms). That will allow for drainage and for your plants to root correctly. 

Additionally, it’s recommended that you have a large enough container to hold a minimum of 2.5 gallons of soil. 

How Many Potatoes Can You Grow in a Container?

How many potatoes you grow in one container is going to depend on a few factors. The size of the container is the main thing that will determine how many potatoes will grow from one receptacle.

You should space your spuds out by about 10 inches (25 cms) to make sure they have plenty of room to breathe while they grow. 

Another factor in the number of potatoes produced from one container will depend on how well you treat them. If you don’t give them adequate water or sunlight, or if you give them too much water, then your crop is going to be smaller than it could have been.

Photo of a potato plant growing in a grow bag
Photo by Graham Corney

How Deep Should You Plant the Potatoes in Containers?

Soil should be at least 2 inches (5 cms) deep in your container to safely plant your potatoes.  

This depth allows your potatoes room to take root and and provides plenty of room in the container to “hill” your spuds several times as they grow.

Which Types of Potatoes Grow Best in Containers?

Because potatoes are such hearty veggies and can grow just about anywhere, there is virtually no right or wrong as to which types grow best in containers. 

Because potatoes grow so well in containers, it is suggested to opt for higher-end potatoes as the kind you try to grow. That way, you will not have to pay out of your pocket for the potatoes with a pretty price tag.

Others just stick with growing their favorite variety. No matter how you do it, you are sure to make someone’s tummy happy by growing potatoes. 

How Often Should You Water Potatoes Grown in Containers?

Potatoes are thirsty little veggies, and they need to be watered at least once a day, depending on the weather in your area.

If it is extra dry and windy, you might have to water them more often than that.

It is crucial to make sure you do not overwater your potatoes. If they are overwatered to the point where they are standing in water, they will rot.

An excellent way to make sure that you are watering your potatoes exactly right is to let the water run until it begins to drain out of the opening in the container. When the water starts to come out, stop watering your potatoes. 

How Much Sun do Potatoes Need When Grown in Containers?

Potatoes enjoy their time in the sun, so make sure they get a lot of it.

Place your container in an area where your spuds will be soaking up the sun between six and eight hours a day. This will provide optimum growth. Grow lights can be used if you don’t have windows that can accommodate that amount of sun.

When they spend more time in the sun, make sure to check them a couple of times a day to see if they need water. A balance of sun and water is crucial to successful potato growth.

What Type of Soil Should Be Used When Growing Potatoes in Containers?

Organic potting soil is always a great option for planting potatoes in a container. It is also recommended that you opt for quick-drying soil if you accidentally overwater them now and then. It is much more forgiving than regular potting soil. 

Also, potatoes grow better when the soil is a bit acidic, so reaching for a bag containing a pH balance of 6 is a good option. 

What Type of Fertilizer Should Be Used When Growing Potatoes in a Container?

To get the most bang for your buck out of your potatoes in a container, the best type of fertilizer that you can use is a slow, time-released organic fertilizer. 

It is also recommended that you occasionally give your taters a treat of liquid fish emulsion.

It is a good idea to fertilize your container potatoes every time you “hill” them

With the addition of soil alongside, you won’t be as apt to burn your potatoes by using organic fertilizer so you avoid overfertilizing them. 

How Should Mulch Be Used When Growing Potatoes in Containers?

Mulch can be used at any point in the potato planting process. It is excellent to use during the “hilling” process, or you can start by putting mulch atop potatoes when they are initially planted.

Because mulch is not as rich in nutrients as soil and fertilizer, it is essential to add more things like liquid fish emulsion as well to give potatoes the necessary goodies to ensure their proper growth.

What Types of Containers Work Best for Growing Potatoes?

There are a ton of different containers that can be used for planting potatoes. 

Old Tires

This is an eco-friendly option because you are repurposing a tire that would just be chilling in a landfill somewhere. 

Your potatoes can have direct access to the ground so that they can root till their heart’s content. Also, if your tire proves to be too shallow once you start “hilling” your potatoes, then you can add a tire on top of the original. 

The main caution against using a tire as a container to plant your potatoes is that tires draw in heat from the sun, so your potatoes will have to be watered more often.

Some say that using a tire as a potato container can introduce unwanted chemicals into your potatoes. There is not any research to this, but if you want to err on the side of utmost caution then you may want to choose a different base.

Planters and Flowerpots

Provided they meet the specifications concerning width and depth and they offer proper drainage, then a regular planter or pot will work for planting potatoes, too.

If they don’t have drainage holes, you can drill or poke a hole in the container, provided you don’t make it too big. If the hole is too big, you stand to lose a lot of soil and fertilizer during the drainage process. 

If the drainage holes are on the bottom of the pot, it can still be used if you buy “feet” to sit the pot on to keep it off of the ground.

Garbage Cans

As “uncanny” as it sounds, you can plant your potatoes in old garbage cans. From aluminum to plastic, the only thing that matters is that you get enough holes poked in it to ensure that you have proper drainage for your potatoes.

This should go without saying, but don’t use a garbage can that has been used for any human or animal products and waste, which rules out most kitchen garbage cans. They aren’t expensive—just buy a new garbage can for best results. Germs like E-coli can colonize in new plants from old waste.

Burlap Sacks

The old “tater sack” now has a new use. Instead of holding your potatoes, now you can grow the potatoes in them. Burlap is an excellent medium for a container to grow potatoes. Its porous nature lets the roots grow wild if they want to, while also allowing for fantastic drainage and good circulation. 

Smart Pots

A Smart Pot is basically a big bag that you can plant anything in, including potatoes.  They can be placed on the ground, allowing the plants to take root through its fabric.  Like burlap, it will enable whatever is planted in to breathe, and it will allow for maximum drainage.  

They can also be used inside if the need arises. They are reusable year after year, so this is a good investment if you plan on making planting potatoes in a container part of your yearly routine. 

Plastic Bags

Yes, you can even grow potatoes in a plastic bag. While they do not offer the breathable material that a burlap bag or a Smart Pot does, you can still pull off potato planting in a plastic bag with relative ease.

Grow Bags

Fabric grow bags have everything you need for a healthy plant, all wrapped up in an easy-to-carry satchel. You can fill them with soil and nutrients and add holes big enough for draining water without washing away the soil. Like burlap bags, they are made from materials that are extremely breathable and light, which ensures that your plants will get enough sunshine and oxygen.

Can Potatoes Grow in Containers Indoors?

Yes, they certainly can—and grow well. Provided you offer the potatoes the proper amount of sun and water, you will be good to go growing these goodies indoors.

Growing Potatoes in Containers Indoors: General Guidelines

When opting to grow your container potatoes indoors, a few modifications should be made from the process of growing outdoor-grown potatoes.

  • Try to find a well-lit place for your potatoes. Since they won’t be getting the six to eight hours of sunlight that their outdoor brothers will be, they still need as much sun as possible. 
  • These potatoes will not require nearly as much water. Because the sun is not sucking the moisture out of the soil, they will only have to be watered once a week or less. 
  • Because the plants are indoors, “hilling” might become a bit more of a mess, but it is still essential to the growth of healthy potatoes. It is advisable to put a protective covering, like a plastic sheet, under thepotato’s container. That will make for easier cleanup when you have to play inthe dirt inside your house.  

Growing Healthy Potatoes Indoors

The world of gardening does not have to be out of your reach. Quite to the contrary, learning how to grow potatoes in containers, be them inside or outside, is a wonderful way to bring homegrown food to you and yours. 

By understanding the method involved in planting potatoes in a container, most feel that it is easy enough and accessible enough to try. 

You can plant a potato in almost any kind of container under the sun. There are things that you’d never dream could be a viable container for a vegetable garden that work wonders for planting potatoes. 

Planting potatoes indoors will open a whole new world to those who don’t have a yard to grow in. While they might have once thought gardening was out of their reach, now they can see that it is accessible to them, as well.

Growing potatoes in containers is a great way for anyone to get into gardening!