I assume by the search for the title of this article that you have found a plant growing somewhere that you have not intentionally planted. I will show you a list of images of potato plants at various stages of their lifecycle to hopefully help you identify the plant as a potato plant or not.
Potato plants in the early development stages
Depending on the time of year and temperature most planted potato seeds will emerge through the soil anytime from 3 to 6 weeks – if the seed has been chitted it will be quicker to appear. These young potato plants in the image below were planted 4 weeks ago at the start of June.
A potato plant in the middle of development
The potato plant will continue to grow upwards and outwards until it flowers at around 8-9 weeks, at which point the leaves and foliage will begin to shrink back in height as more energy is transferred into the making of the potatoes under the soil.
A potato plant at the flowering stage
Once the potato plant has reached the maximum size of leaf and stem growth upward and outwards it will begin to flower just after 2/3rds of the way through its life cycle. The plant can be 3 ft high and 3 feet across at this stage, although the fertility of the soil and the potato plant variety will all have their influence.
A potato plant ripening before harvest
In the last 3 weeks of a potato plant’s life, its leaves and stems will gradually sink back towards the soil and the leaves will lose their green colour and begin to turn yellow, then as they die back they will turn brown and drop off. Many growers not used to this sight become worried that the plant has something wrong with it but it is perfectly natural and just part of the plant’s life cycle.
Close up of the leaves on a potato plant
As you can see from the image below, not all the leaves on a singular potato plant will look the same. This plant has large smooth leaves close to the base of the plant and smaller more textured leaves near the top of the plant. This potato plant was nearly full size when the image was taken.
Potato plant leaves have short hairs on the surface
As you can see in the close-up image of the potato plant leaf below, each leaf has tiny short hairs on the surface.
The underside of a potato leaf is usually less green in colour and not as glossy as the top surface, it also has short hairs although generally, they are more difficult to see. It is much easier to see the veins and midrib of each leaf on the underside than on the top.
The stems of a potato plant
When a potato plant is first emerging through the soil it will have fine, smooth, thin stems, which as the plant grows become thicker and more textured and ribbed.
The stems in the image below belong to an almost fully grown potato plant, pictured near the base of the plant next to the soil where they are thickest. Note that the stems can have some darker colours also – they are not just green.
On most potato plants which are fully grown, you can make out multiple flat ribbons running along the outside of the stem from the bottom of the plant to the top.
The flowers on a potato plant
Not all potato plants flower, although many do. The colour size and shape of the flower will depend on the variety grown. The flowers in the images below belong to two different varieties- Maris Piper and Jazzy. If your potato has a flower on it, it should make it easier to identify as being a potato plant as the flowers on all potato plants are quite similar in size and shape – even though they may vary in colour.
I hope you found my short guide helpful – If you still feel unsure and would like a second opinion – why not send me a photo of the plant and I’ll take a look at it. Good luck!