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Why Do My Potato Plants Have Balls – What Are They?

Growing a new plant can be fun and exciting but also pose challenges. Every plant has specific needs that can ultimately lead to it not surviving if not followed just so. Vegetables are no different. Just because you have grown a successful cucumber plant before does not necessarily mean using the same tactics will work on a new potato plant. 

Of course, several other factors can affect a plant’s growth beyond just the gardener’s actions, like climate. Climates that are not ideal for a plant can cause growth imperfections or misshapen vegetables. For example, if you grow a potato plant in an improper environment and see that it has an odd shape, you might wonder, “Why do my potato plants have balls?”

Potato plants can have balls (also known as potato fruits) after enduring a particularly cold growing season.

Now that you know that potatoes can grow potato fruits if planted in an unseasonably cold season, you may want to take extra steps to ensure that you have chosen the best possible spot for your potato plant. While there is only so much you can do when it comes to temperatures and climate, placing your plant in an area that allows for more sunlight can help reduce the chance of your plant growing potato fruit.

What are potato flowers?

Potato flowers are simply the flowers that grow on potato plants. Potato plants typically flower for a short amount of time, and then the flowers will dry up and fall off the plant. The flowers are similar to tomato plant flowers, but they vary in color. Potato plant flowers are usually white, lavender, or pink, whereas tomato plant flowers are predominantly yellow. It’s relatively common for a potato plant to grow flowers, but it is possible to have a potato plant that does not flower at all, too.

Potato flowers can do more than just bloom, however. In some cases, if the potato plant’s environment experiences some colder weather, it can actually produce fruit from those flowers.

What fruit is growing on my potato plants?

So what kind of fruit can potato flowers produce? The fruit that can grow at the top of a potato plant has many names. They are commonly referred to as berries, seed potatoes, potato fruit, seed balls, potato apples, or potato tomatoes. This fruit is the result of a potato plant that has been exposed to colder than usual temperatures during the growth stage. 

They tend to look like green cherry tomatoes, but they aren’t. Potatoes are part of the Nightshade or Solanaceous plant family, including peppers, eggplants, tobacco, and tomatoes. The tomato plant and potato plant have a lot in common and are even in the same genus of plants, which is why they both produce berries.

Are potato balls edible?

No, potato fruit is not edible because it is poisonous. Since potato fruit looks like small tomatoes, many gardeners may wonder if they can get even more out of their potato plant by enjoying this other fruit at the top, but unfortunately, they can’t. 

Eating potato fruit will leave you feeling very sick. Typical symptoms include diarrhea, headache, abdominal pain, or even shock. Additionally, even though these potato fruits have seeds inside of them, you should not attempt to plant them. They will not produce more of your standard potato plants, and they would take years before they even became something that you could pick.

Does potato fruit harm my potatoes?

No, your potatoes will not experience any hardship from the fruit that grows at the top. According to Michigan State University, it is not uncommon for flowers to grow on potato plants. The flowers actually lead the potato fruits to appear on a potato plant. They bloom first; then the fruits eventually grow in their place.

The fruit will not tamper with the potatoes growing below the soil. This is a common issue, so there is no need to worry if your plant has to endure a slightly colder than usual growth period; you will still have some delicious potatoes. 

Should I remove the fruit from a potato plant?

While it is not required for you to remove the fruit, it is recommended. Since the fruits are poisonous due to a large amount of solanine, removing the fruit from the plant will ensure that no one accidentally ingests them. Removal is especially recommended in a home with children.

However, keeping the fruit on the plant will not harm your potatoes, but most would agree it is better to be safe than sorry, so it is typically just best to get rid of them to keep your loved ones safe. However, if you feel there is no danger of someone eating the fruit, you can leave them be if you would like. Potato fruit can live on the plant without interrupting the growth of the potatoes below.

Final Thoughts

Suppose you are looking at your potato plant and notice some balls or berry-like fruit growing at the top; no need to fret! Potato fruit results from a flowering potato plant experiencing a colder growth stage. Thankfully, it does not affect any of your potatoes in the ground, so just because it may have been colder during the season does not mean that it will necessarily hurt your potatoes. 

However, there is one crucial thing to note about potato fruit. Potato fruit is highly poisonous. You should never eat potato fruit as it can make you very ill. It is recommended to remove any fruits that may appear on your plant just as a safety measure. If you have children at home, you will want to check regularly for any growing potato fruit to ensure a child does not accidentally ingest it.

So, as long as you or anyone else does not ingest the ball-shaped potato fruits, you and your plants will be fine and have a substantial supply of potatoes to enjoy all season long.