New gardeners may avoid growing potatoes because they think it’s too difficult, but is it?
Not when you know a few tricks, especially how much sun your potato plants need to grow delicious and tender tubers.
In this guide, you’ll find lots of information about the sunlight requirements necessary when growing potatoes, and I answer questions on whether they can grow in full sun or shady conditions.
Any gardener in any USDA planting zone can successfully grow potatoes, so keep reading to learn how to plant potatoes in the best spot, so they receive the correct amount of sun!
Potatoes Sun Requirements
White potatoes (Solanum tuberosum):
- Need 7-8 hours of direct sun
- Cover fresh leaf growth with soil as they grow, leaving a few leaves exposed to the sun
- Continue to keep sunlight off most leaves until they reach six inches in length
Red potatoes (Solanum tuberosum):
- Minimum of 6 hours of sunlight per day
- Can grow in partial shade with extra care
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas):
- Grow best in full sun
- Aim for 8 hours of direct sunlight per day
- Heat tolerant and prefer warm climates
- Gardening terms for types of sunlight
When shopping for varieties of potatoes, it’s good to understand what each requires in terms of sunlight.
Seed packets or information tabs on potato plants utilize four sunlight conditions so you can get the best potato variety that will thrive in the sunlight exposure of your garden.
Do Potatoes Need Full Sun?
Most potato crops grow best when they receive at least 8 hours of direct sunlight every day.
This amount of sun can sometimes pose a problem since many potato varieties prefer colder weather which occurs at a time of year when daylight hours are shorter, like spring or fall.
For the potato leaves to deliver nutrients to the root system to grow the tubers, sunlight is necessary for photosynthesis to occur. The more sun the leaves get, the better your crop yield will be as long as you maintain other soil conditions properly.
Related | How To Get Potatoes To Sprout
Potatoes take several months to reach maturity, and over this span, the angle and intensity of the sun change.
Since the amount of sun your plants receive may vary over the growing season, locate the optimal spot in your garden that allows for continual sun exposure during this time.
While sunlight reaching the leaves is critical for growth, you never want sunlight to reach the tubers, which causes damage.
Continue reading for more on the tuber damage sunlight causes, and to learn other signs that your potatoes are getting too much sunlight and how to avoid these issues.
Can Potatoes Grow In Shade?
Most potatoes can grow without a full eight hours of daily sun, but the absolute minimum amount of daylight for potatoes is six hours per day.
While direct sunlight is better for growing potatoes, any daylight exposure should deliver results. Direct full sun on some varieties of potatoes can actually be less helpful than general daylight, as it could quickly dry out the leaves and soil.
A few years back, I test-grew potatoes in a more shady area of my garden to see what would happen. While the plant vines above ground did well, I did notice a drop in the size and quantity of tubers at harvest time.
Potato tubers are larger and more plentiful when the plants grow in full sun, but if quantity isn’t a big deal, go ahead and utilize a shadier garden spot if you won’t be using it for anything else.
Related | Shade Loving Vegetables
How To Tell If Potatoes Are Getting Too Much Sunlight
As a gardener, spotting problems before they ruin your crop is critical.
Understanding the things to watch for on your potato plants as it pertains to too much sunlight is a smart way to offset damage quickly.
Here are the common signs your potatoes are getting too much sunlight:
- Leaves that turn light green
- Leaves that wilt then dry up
- Tubers become watery and brown
- Tuber formation is sparse
- Tubers turn green
Potato plant leaves that lighten, wilt, or dry up are signs they are receiving too much harsh sun exposure. Damage to leaves reduces the ability of the plant to transport nutrients so tubers can form.
Tubers that do form may feel squishy or watery to the touch and appear brownish.
When you see these signs, you can buffer your plants from the hottest midday sunlight by draping a shade cloth over the vines until the intense sunlight passes.
Be sure to keep the soil moist, which helps alleviate extreme soil temperatures.
Related | How Often To Water Potatoes
Tubers that appear green is a sure sign of sunlight damage.
Any light on a tuber (even artificial grocery store or house lights), will produce solanine, which is a toxin that makes the potato taste bitter and can make you ill. Solanine could even be fatal if a person ingests a large enough quantity.
The easiest way to avoid green potatoes is to “hill” your potatoes, or mound dirt over and around any area tubers have the potential to grow.
Hill around the base after planting, adding more just as the plants begin to flower. Hill again while the tubers are maturing to keep a safe barrier between the sun and the root, which will keep green spots from forming.
Store your potatoes in a cool, dark space in your kitchen, pantry, or basement. Never leave them sitting out on your countertop, where they will receive all types of damaging light exposure.
How much sun do potatoes need? Plenty!
I hope the information in this guide inspires you to grow a potato crop in your garden, so you can use them to create hearty meals for your family.
Now that you know the ins and outs of growing potatoes with proper sunlight exposure, you can enjoy this tasty tuber all year long!