Are Seed Potatoes Different From Regular Potatoes? Find Out!

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When it comes to growing potatoes, understanding the difference between seed potatoes and regular potatoes can be a bit confusing. But, it’s important to understand their differences to have a successful tuber harvest this season.

The main difference between seed potatoes and regular potatoes is that regular potatoes are treated with a sprout inhibitor to give them a longer shelf life. Seed potatoes do not have this treatment and are also certified disease-free to help prevent the spread of common potato diseases. 

I’ll go over these differences in more detail as well as what a true potato seed is. I’ll also share how you can make your own seed potatoes at home!

How are seed potatoes different from regular potatoes?

Although they look similar, seed potatoes are actually quite different from the potatoes you buy at the grocery store for several reasons.

For starters, grocery store potatoes are oftentimes treated with a chemical to keep them from sprouting and to preserve their shelf life. Ever notice how potatoes seem to last forever on the shelf? Well, you can thank the sprout inhibitor for that.

Seed potatoes are not treated with this chemical because obviously, you want the tubers to sprout when you plant them

Seed potatoes are also certified disease-free. If you plant a regular potato in your garden, you run the risk of introducing new diseases into your soil that can not only ravage your potato crop, but also other crops in the nightshade family like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. 

Although seed potatoes are better for production purposes, this does mean their price tends to be a little higher than regular potatoes. To me, it’s worth it though. You get what you paid for. 

How to tell if your potatoes are certified disease-free?

Any seed potatoes you buy from a well-known seed provider in the U.S. are required to pass several tests and inspections to prove that they are truly disease free. If any of the potatoes test positive for disease, they are no longer allowed to be sold. 

This is why it’s important to purchase seeds from a reputable source as this will ensure that they have passed certification. Some good seed companies that I like include Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Fedco Seeds, and High Mowing Organic Seeds just to name a few. 

Can you plant shriveled seed potatoes?

Yes! You can still plant shriveled seed potatoes. As long as you don’t see any signs of rot or mold, you should be good to go. 

Sometimes the seed potatoes that seed companies send you will already be a little shriveled anyway. But this isn’t anything to worry about. Just pay attention as you’re planting and toss any questionable potatoes. 

We have a great article all about planting shriveled potatoes that you can check out here

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Are true potato seeds and seed potatoes the same thing?

Nope! It’s a little confusing because they sound like pretty much the same thing, but they’re not. Seed potatoes don’t look anything like a seed and just look like regular potatoes. 

A true potato seed comes from the fruit of the potato plant. When you grow potatoes, you may notice that they set flowers that can sometimes turn into little tomato-looking fruits. These fruits are not edible and can be toxic if consumed. 

Inside this fruit are the tiny potato seeds which, in theory, should grow into a new potato plant.

Why not use actual seeds?

Using true potato seeds isn’t very practical. For starters, they can be a challenge to harvest, and a lot of the time, potato plants won’t even set fruit that can be harvested. 

They also take significantly longer to grow into a mature potato plant than common seed potatoes. Unless you have a good indoor space to start seeds, it will be very difficult to get anything to germinate outside in the dead of winter. 

Lastly, remember all that stuff I mentioned earlier about seed potatoes being certified disease free? True potato seeds don’t have this certification so there’s no way to tell if you’re introducing new diseases into your garden. 

How to make your own seed potatoes?

If you want to do a little experiment and try making your own seed potatoes, there is a way to do it. Just keep in mind that these potatoes will obviously not be certified disease free and may have a lower germination rate than seed potatoes you would buy from a seed company. 

To make your own seed potatoes, you first want the tubers to sprout a little bit. 

A lot of times, garden potatoes will do this on their own if you leave them on the shelf long enough but if you want them to sprout quicker, you can leave them close to a window where they get a little bit of indirect light.

Once the tubers have small sprouts growing from their eyes, you can cut your potatoes into pieces, leaving one sprout or eye per cut piece. Without a sprout or eye, there’s a good chance that piece won’t grow into anything.

Leave your newly cut tuber pieces somewhere to dry. Eventually, the cut sides will harden and scab over leaving you with a new seed potato!

If you’re not ready to plant right away, store the seed potatoes in a dry, dark place to prevent any mold from growing.

Interested in more potato-growing tips? Check these articles on:

In summary

By now, I hope I’ve cleared up any confusion on the difference between seed potatoes, regular potatoes, and also true potato seeds. I know it seems a little convoluted but the distinctions are important. So let’s recap:

Seed potatoes:

  • These are the potatoes that are conventionally used in potato production and look just like regular tubers.
  • They are purchased from a reputable seed company.
  • They have gone through several rounds of disease testing and are certified disease free.
  • They are often more expensive than regular potatoes.

Regular potatoes:

  • These are the potatoes that you find in the grocery and are used mainly for consumption.
  • They are treated with sprout inhibitors to prevent sprout growth and improve their shelf life. 
  • They are not certified disease free and can therefore potentially introduce diseases into your garden that can damage not just your potatoes, but other crops too.

True potato seeds:

  • These are the tiny seeds that develop inside the fruit of a potato. 
  • Not all potatoes set fruits and therefore are not a reliable source for growing new potatoes. 
  • True potato seeds take significantly longer to grow than seed potatoes and can be impractical if not impossible to grow. 

Check out these must-have gardening products

You don’t need much to start gardening, but some tools and products will make a difference in how comfortable and effective gardening can be for you. Here are my favorites:

  • Garden Trowel. A good garden trowel will last you many years. I love how sturdy this hand trowel from WOLF-Garten is, the metal doesn’t bend and it has a nice grip.
  • Trimming Scissors. I use them for delicate pruning and harvesting all summer long, and they’re super handy. These Teflon Trimming Scissors are extra nice because they don’t rust as easily.
  • Dutch Hoe. Dutch hoes may seem old-fashioned, but there’s nothing like a quick sweep through the topsoil to get rid of small weeds – no bending required. I love WOLF-Garten’s selection: this dutch hoe coupled with their universal handle.
  • Grow Lights. These grow lights from Mars Hydro are super strong, yet dimmable, so they fit every stage of growth. They don’t put out too much heat and are very economical.
  • Seedling Trays. There’s an art to choosing the best size for seedling trays so that it holds the perfect amount of water and gives the roots enough room to grow. These germination plugs are perfect when coupled with 1020 bottom trays
  • Liquid Fertilizer. You’ll need to feed your plants from the seedling stage, all the way to fruiting. This organic fish & seaweed blend is a very versatile option. Use it half-strength for young plants and full-strength for established plants.

Browse our list of tools, fertilizers & pesticides, indoor growing products and seed shop recommendations – we hope you find our selection useful and it saves you some time!

Ciara Konhaus

I’m Ciara and I’m a gardener and agricultural educator in zone 6b. I’ve farmed and gardened all over the Appalachian mountains and love to empower people with the tools they need to start their own gardens. There’s nothing more rewarding than growing your own food!

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