Do Potatoes Cross-Pollinate?

I’ve started to chit my Potatoes. As you can see I’ve got a small clutch of a standard variety of first earlies (Rocket) and two rather unusual varieties (Congo and Highland Burgundy Red). The smaller seed Potatoes were given to me while I was on a pruning course last year.

I put them in an airtight container and placed them in the potting shed all winter. They’ve saved well so I’m hoping to have some really unusual Potatoes in this year’s harvest.

The problem is, I was a bit worried that they might cross-pollinate and I would end up with a large batch of darkish or purply-red Potatoes instead of ones that are true to one variety. So I did some research.

It turns out that Potato flowers have both male and female parts and so are very likely to pollinate themselves. I watched a video on how to create a new Potato variety by cross-pollination and it looked like it was pretty difficult to do actually. So the likelihood of the bees managing it for me is very slim. Plus, I suppose people plant three, four, sometimes five varieties of Potato on one allotment sometimes and you don’t necessarily get cross-pollination, do you?

So, I’m resolved to give all three varieties a go. I might plant them separately, away from each other just to be on the safe side. But I think I should be okay.

Does anyone have any more data on this? Is there a definitive yes or no answer?

16 Responses to “Do Potatoes Cross-Pollinate?”

  1. VPon 18 Feb 2010 at 2:58 pm

    I went to a workshop on this very topic last October. Cross-pollination is most unlikely.

    You might like this blog (it’s the guy who did the workshop):

  2. bradon 18 Feb 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Are you going to be saving the seeds to replant, or just some of the potatoes? It seems that only the flowers and their resulting seeds would be open to new genetic influences.

  3. VPon 18 Feb 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Besides, your seed potatoes will most probably be tubers (as most seed potatoes are), not actually grown from seed? In which case they’re going to come true anyway…

  4. mtpon 18 Feb 2010 at 3:13 pm

    For sure – I hadn’t thought of that. Of course I will be saving the tubers, not the seed. So it should be fine.

  5. Julieton 18 Feb 2010 at 5:45 pm

    root cuttings are clones. You only get the results of pollination in seeds.

  6. Megson 19 Feb 2010 at 12:15 am

    Yep – agree with everyone else. It’s incredibly difficult to grow potatoes from real “seeds.” Although growing from “seed potatoes” is easy and there is no chance of any crossing. Enjoy your lovely varieties!

  7. Kath in Oregonon 19 Feb 2010 at 2:47 am

    I just love home-grown potatoes. In fact it’s the only vegetable I do grow (shady environment limits my garden activities). I suspect the names in Europe are different but there are some (really expensive in the store) ‘fingerlings’ that I take pains to grow. Norwegian ‘fir’ (or Finn) apple is my favorite and Russian ‘banana’ is a close second (and very prolific) variety. The purple fingerlings are very attractive but I don’t find they taste very good. Anyone else grow fingerlings?

    I remember the early Jerseys (yum!) but these are a close second in taste.

  8. Joon 19 Feb 2010 at 8:57 am

    Your varieties sound interesting. I look forward to following your progress with them.

  9. Pete Ton 19 Feb 2010 at 9:25 am’s the tomato like fruits that contain potato “seed”, not the tubers. New varieties are produced from growing on these “tomato seeds”.

    Look interesting, but they are quite small potatoes. You may be lucky enough to get, and a few to keep back for planting if they’re any good!!

    Up here in North West Sutherland, we’ve just had another dusting of snow, thats two nights running now. Beautiful day now with bright sunshine, and hope to get glass in my new (second hand) greenhouse. Then I can start planting. Love this time of year, nights getting longer, days warmer, and the hope of new growth, even have a few snowdrops out..

  10. Pennyon 19 Feb 2010 at 9:30 am

    My husband grew some potatoes from seeds from out allotment last year – he hoped to cross pink fir and charlotte – the lovely nutty taste but without the knobbly bits. The yields were low but the potatoes seemed more charlotty to me (hush don’t say) he has kept some as seed pots for this year so we will see if we get bigger yield
    Keeps him amused on lottie

  11. Katieon 19 Feb 2010 at 9:46 am

    I’d not thought of potato seeds – I spose somewhere someone must play with them to create new frankenstein potatoes (Is that what monster munch crisps are made of?).
    An elderly plotholder on our allotments told me about how he used to graft tomatoes because he had friends who worked at some major tomato place where they grew millions of them and taught him loads of stuff. It’s only been very recently that I’ve seen grafted veggies for sale in the UK for the public though.

  12. mtpon 19 Feb 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks for all the advice guys.

  13. jane lon 19 Feb 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I think the confusion here is that what we plant are called ‘seed’ potatoes. Nothing to do with seeds ( pollinated flowers ) at all. Simply a term to describe what you use to start off a new plant. The tubers you’ll get are clones of the one you put in !

    Never heard of anyone sowing the actual seed off the plant tops. Leave that to the scientists and plant breeders.

  14. Kath in Oregonon 20 Feb 2010 at 2:33 am

    Not worth it really: nearly 5000 varieties already exist, half of these native to Peru. What we need to do is get them to export a few of the heirlooms (once they’ve banked enough). The Europeans only took the boring ones.

  15. Paul Richardsonon 03 Mar 2010 at 8:32 pm

    I think you have sorted this by now. Cross-pollination would only matter if you grew new potatoes from true seed, i.e. the seeds in the small tomato-like fruits which are sometimes borne on the shoot. Tubers won’t be affected, as they are clones of the parent, and genetically identical.

  16. Sidlow Mcfarlandon 06 Apr 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Some years ago I grew Dunbar Standard( White) potatoes with Arran Victory( Dark blue) potatoes nearby.I found that in some cases I had white potatoes with blue splashes. Explain I grew these for some years but have none now.