Is Potato a Root Vegetable Or Not? Deep Analysis On The Potato Plant

Potatoes are one of my favorite things to grow. Most people know nearly nothing about potatoes other than that they taste good! I actually breed new types of potatoes and have at last count, about 45 different types of potatoes growing in my garden. These are all shapes, colors, and sizes! Let’s have a look at potatoes and then answer our question “Is a potato a root vegetable or not?”

Potatoes are South American plants that have been cultivated for food for thousands of years. Solanum tuberosum is the species name of the potato. In its name, we actually find the answer to our question ” Is Potato a root vegetable or not?” Ok, so we can see in the species name that it is a tuberous plant!

A potato is a stem tuber – in other words, a potato is a modified stem that grows underground and stores nutrients. Technically, this means that it is not a root! Root tubers are found in plants such as sweet potatoes.

A few of the unique potatoes I have bred.

A Quick Background On Potatoes

A potato tuber is a swollen stem. If you plant a potato tuber, it will “chit” or start growing shoots at the eyes/nodes and these will grow up and out of the soil. Roots will grow around the tuber, and these will gather nutrients that are then taken to the leaves, where photosynthesis happens. Excess sugar is relocated to the roots, converted to starch, and stored.

As the potato nears the end of its growth cycle it will store nutrients in lots of tubers underground. The plant will then flower, and the flower develops into little “potato cherries” that look a bit like tomatoes. These are full of seeds. Now here is where things get interesting.

When you dig a potato up, you can keep the biggest potatoes to eat, and I normally keep all the golf-ball-size ones for replanting. If you plant a potato, it is genetically identical to the parent plant – because a potato is really just a stem “cutting” for want of a better word.

Cloned potatoes

This means that when you plant a bed of potatoes, if you use a single cultivar, such as Siffra (this is probably the worst most horrible potato in the world), then your entire bed of potatoes will be insipid, identical, bland siffra potatoes. Every plant is a clone of the parent plant.

Genuine new potatoes grown from seeds

If however, we take a potato cherry, that is filled with seeds, and germinate these, every seedling will be an entirely new and unique potato type!! Now this may sound easy, but it is not – I have germinated thousands of potato seeds over the years, and a very small number have proven to be of any use! In fact, I have only brought 45 new types of potatoes into the world! All the others either grew and did not produce potatoes, or they died, or they made potatoes that had defects that meant there was no point going further with that strain.

Is Potato A Root Vegetable?

Root vegetables are broadly classified as underground plant parts that can be eaten. This is a really non-scientific classification. But, according to this definition, a potato is in fact a root vegetable, even though it is a stem tuber!

Learn more about How To Plant Potato Roots

How To Plant a Potato

If you plant a potato tuber in the soil, it will grow into a potato plant and produce more potatoes. If you have never grown potatoes before I would suggest you try your first grow in potato grow bags such as these.

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You can use a general all-purpose potting soil such as this and I would mix three parts of this soil with one part of pearlite. This improves aeration and drainage in your soil.

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Choose organic, healthy potatoes at the shop. I am not a big fan of buying seed potatoes – these are invariably soaked in horrible systemic fungicides and other bad things. Life is too short to grow boring potatoes, so my general feeling is to try and grow exciting potatoes! Red, purple, orange, etc. Most specialty greengrocers now tend to have novelty potato packs consisting of these interesting colors.

potato is root or stem

What Are The Different Types Of Potatoes?

There are thousands and thousands of varieties of potatoes in the world. Every time a seed of a potato cherry germinates, that becomes a new variety of potatoes. You can divide potatoes up into all sorts of different classifications. My general favorite method is to divide them up into potatoes that are good to fry, those that are good to boil, and those that are good to bake.

A really good potato will be usable for all of the above. But a junk shop cultivar such as most potatoes in the world bred more for economic gain than flavor. Yield, storability, disease resistance, and so on are actually far further up the ladder of important characteristics for a commercial breeder than taste.

Once you learn to grow your own potatoes you will find shop potatoes are just a poor substitute.

Conclusion On Is Potato A Root Vegetable

A potato is a stem tuber, and it grows underground. In this regard, it is referred to as a “root” vegetable even though it is actually a stem! Growing your own potatoes is a very rewarding hobby, and if you do this, you can let the potato plants go to seed!

When this happens, you can harvest the little tomato-like potato cherries and the little black seeds in this fruit can be germinated. Each seed that germinates produces a completely new and unique potato type!


Is potatoes a root or stem?

A potato is a stem tuber - a tuber is an underground storage organ. You get root tubers and stem tubers. Potatoes are stem tubers.

What are root vegetables?

Root vegetables are all the vegetables that grow below the surface of the ground. They include carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, and radishes. Roots are an important part of a healthy diet and can provide your body with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other health benefits.

Potato is root or stem?

Potatoes are stem tubers - in other words they are an enlarged underground stem that stores energy and nutrients. Hence they are stems.

Is a potato considered a vegetable?

Vegetables are whole plants, or parts thereof that are eaten for food. In this regard a potato is a vegetable.

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