a picture of a red "Rooster" potato showing the buds sprouting from the eyes

How To Get Potatoes To Sprout Eyes: preparation for planting

Today I will show you how to get potatoes to sprout eyes. I do this a few weeks in advance of planting, which can mean your potatoes will be ready up to 2 weeks earlier than usual.

So you have decided to plant some potatoes, but if you are unsure what steps to take to get them planted, you are in the right place. Past experience has taught me that preparation is key to many things, and growing potatoes is no exception.

How to get potatoes to sprout: the process

When you have sourced good quality seed potatoes the next thing to do is put the seed potatoes in a slatted wooden boxes and place them somewhere inside, like a shed or an outbuilding, free from frost and with plenty of light.

Planting pre-sprouted potatoes will mean your plant will mature earlier and allow you to harvest your potatoes earlier in the year.

  • Harvesting earlier in the year is better for you for a couple of reasons.
  • 1. You get to eat them sooner
  • 2. The later in the year the wetter the weather making it harder to harvest your potatoes in good (dry) conditions.

Many people also call this sprouting or chitting seed potatoes.

Before you decide where you want to plant your potatoes, how to prepare your soil or even working out the amount or type of potato fertiliser you need – you should start with preparing your seed.

Finding a reputable seed potato supplier

Before you plant your seed potatoes in the ground you need to decide where you are going to buy them, depending on the amount of seed you require, you can purchase your seed from several different vendors.

I would encourage you to find a reputable seed potato supplier rather than just use ones left over in the bottom of your bag purchased at the supermarket or farm shop, as the potatoes purchased from a seed potato supplier either online or in your community should have been inspected either by the Department of Agriculture or a similar reputable body.

Now while you might think this is a bit extreme, and it will be ok to use the small potatoes in the bottom of the potato bag, some of these potatoes may be at their last planting.

These old seed potatoes have been degrading from when they were first planted. This means running the risk of having a poor to non-existent crop and/ or introducing disease into your garden or plot of land and having nothing to show for it at the end of the year’s work.

If you start with bad seed, you are not giving yourself a very good chance of growing a great crop of potatoes.

Buy graded seed potatoes

All potato seed in the UK is graded by DEFRA, I have attached a link to a guide for the Seed Potato Classification Scheme 2023 to 2024.

The grades of potatoes inspected by the Department of Agriculture in the US can be viewed below:


If you grow a lot of potatoes you will usually go to a registered seed potato producer who will will sell you graded seed potatoes from half a ton upwards.

Depending on the grade they could be from £150 to £400 per tonne, but smaller quantities can be discussed, it all depends on the person and your relationship with them.

Buying seed potatoes online

Many gardening websites sell seed potatoes online. Some are expensive and some may even sell ungraded potatoes. It is a good idea to check that the seed is graded or there is a risk of getting poor quality seed potatoes.

If all else fails I would recommend visiting your local potato farmer I’m sure they wouldn’t mind selling you graded seed.

Keep in mind the latest time of the year you can plant potatoes in the UK so be sure to plan your planting date well in advance. After this time the potatoes may not get enough time to mature and fully grow out.

How to get potatoes to sprout eyes

It is important where the potatoes will be chitted and is not susceptible to frost as this will kill your seed and make it unusable.

This gradual increase in temperature will encourage buds to grow on the seed potatoes- the buds will grow from the “eyes” on the potato. By starting the buds on the potatoes before you plant them will mean when conditions are right for planting you will have a headstart on the growing of the plant.

It’s also important that it’s not too dark as this will encourage long soft white buds to grow. These will break off easily if knocked- which will be a waste of your time.

If you do notice that your buds are slightly white you can bring them out into the light ahead of your planting date and the white buds will turn into green leafy buds when the daylight gets at them.

You should aim to have your buds 1cm to 2cm long and green in colour on your planting date.

An example of a chitted potato with perfect buds - green and less than 1/2 inch long.
An example of a chitted potato with perfect buds – green and less than 1/2 inch long.

Above: A potato with good buds- green and not too long.

A chitted potato with bad buds - fragile, long and easy to break
A chitted potato with bad buds – fragile, long and easy to break.

Above: A badly chitted seed potato with soft white buds which are too long.

How long do seed potatoes take to sprout?

The length of time it takes to sprout a potato depends on the temperature it is stored.

In most cases, chitting takes place a couple of weeks before planting and planting occurs from mid-February to April so at these temperatures you should expect chitting to take from 1 to 2 weeks depending on your location.

Removing excess buds from seed potatoes

Sometimes a seed potato can produce buds from up to 10 different eyes – all we need is a couple of eyes to sprout.

Some people prefer to remove these excess buds to give more power to the couple they want.

The practice of removing buds is something easy to do if you only have a few potatoes to plant, or if you are planting in a bag or a small container.

If you have boxes upon boxes of seed potatoes I would not worry too much about having to remove buds.

It is more important that the buds you do have are green and not too long.

When a seed potato is planted into the soil, the buds will grow vertically upwards to the surface.

Toughen your seed before planting

If the shed you have the seed potatoes in for chitting is quite warm, I would advise you to bring the seed outside to a cooler area three to four days before planting.

This will toughen the seed up before you plant it in the ground. This prevents shock from coming straight from a warmish shed to being planted in cold soil.

This shock can set the seed back a week’s growth as it adjusts to the soil temperature.

Choosing what to sprout your potatoes in

The best type of container to sprout your potatoes in is a wooden box with slatted sides to let plenty of light and air in.

The light will prevent the buds from going white and allowing air to flow through will help to prevent mould or damp conditions which could rot your seed.

Take a look at this summary video I made of this post