If there was ever a vegetable that could grow in any garden, the potato may be the one. In addition to versatility, potatoes are fairly easy to grow, one of the earliest crops you’ll harvest each year, and store well under the right conditions.
Understanding the 13 USDA plant hardiness zones helps you determine when to plant your potato crop and provides clues as to which varieties will grow best in your climate for a more bountiful yield.
To survive in this zone, plants must be tough. These two hardiness zones represent places like the Yukon, Siberia, and parts of Alaska. Temperatures can drop to -50 degrees F during the winter.
Vegetable crops have short growing seasons here, but white potatoes such as the Red Gold variety — a potato with red skin and yellow flesh — can thrive. A greenhouse or container garden provides the option of year-round growing.
When it comes to understanding hardiness zones, those with smaller numbers generally have the shortest summers and the coldest winters. Zones 2 through 6 include Alaska and much of the continental U.S. A wide variety of potatoes grows very well in these zones because they enjoy cooler temperatures and direct sunlight.
In these zones, plant potatoes in April and May. Try early, shorter-season varieties like the Russet Norkotah and Yukon Gold, as well as longer-season varieties such as the Ranger Russet and French Fingerling.
In these warmer areas, the average date of the last frost is around April 15, and the first frost occurs in the fall, usually by October 15. You can plant potatoes as early as March or up to seven weeks before the last frost.
Many growers in this region — which includes parts of New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arizona — mark St. Patrick’s Day as a good day to start planting. Late season varieties, such as Green Mountain or Snow White grow well here, along with mid-season types like Banana or the rare Sangre. If you’re a Russet fan, consider the Centennial.
The climate throughout the 7b growing zone is warmer, but the average date of the first and last frost is similar to those found in 7a. Temperatures fall between 5 and 10 degrees F during the coldest months.
Potato growers who live in this zone enjoy an extended planting calendar for their spuds, starting in March and running through September. Consider growing the Purple Viking, an all-purpose, high-yielding variety that some people prefer, tastewise, over Yukon Gold.
Plan on planting your first crop of potatoes as early as February throughout zone 8, and continue planting through April. Zone 8a has average minimum winter temps of 10 to 15 degrees F, while those in zone 8b fall between 15 and 20 degrees. You can also plant a crop in midsummer so that you have potatoes to harvest in the fall and a good supply through the winter.
Try Red Pontiac, Yukon Gold, Caribe, or Irish Cobbler varieties here. Use the hilling method: plant potatoes in shallow trenches and add soil as they sprout.
The best temperatures for potato planting are between 50 and 86 degrees F. Zone 9a locales sit within marine climates along the U.S. west coast, coastal and central California, southern and coastal Texas, coastal Louisiana, and central Florida.
Their climate allows planting periods starting in late January and extending into October and even November. General russet varieties don’t grow well in zone 9, but some specialized varieties, like Norgold M and Century russets, are better suited.
Warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons in these very southern and coastal regions mean the soil is warm enough to plant potatoes in January and February. Plan a second crop for October or November.
For an abundant harvest and full supply of potatoes, consider planting an early variety along with a late-season variety. Look for disease-resistant types like the gourmet-worthy Rose Finn Apple fingerling or the high-yielding Reba, an excellent all-around white potato that does well in drought conditions.
The best time to plant potatoes across zone 11, which has Mediterranean and tropical wet-dry climates, is December through January and February. Second crops aren’t generally successful due to the higher temperatures that extend through summer and fall.
You can start chitting seed potatoes like Rocket, Swift, Maris Bard, and Lady Christi in December. Plant once the shoots, or chits, start to appear.
Growing potatoes in these warmer zones isn’t recommended. Hardiness zone 12 includes parts of Hawaii, while 13 is Puerto Rico. Only those plants that tolerate intense heat flourish here and potatoes don’t do well in high temperatures. The soil in these hardiness zones is generally too hot, which stunts potato growth.
However, sweet potatoes are an option. In Hawaii, they’re called u’ala. Although they’re drought-tolerant, they need around 30 to 50 inches of rainfall per year to thrive. Plant them between March and May. Look for varieties like Bayou Belle or Beauregard to grow in these warmer zones.
Chitting is an effective method for starting potato plants in Canada’s cooler hardiness zones. It not only increases your harvest, but also speeds up sprouting. Just place potato seeds in a sunny location six weeks before the last frost date and mist them once each week. If you’re planting potatoes directly into the ground, you’ll need to wait for four weeks before the last frost date.
In Canada’s northern subarctic hardiness zones, plant in May or June. Warmer regions allow earlier planting times, starting in April and extending into the late summer. Norland, Perline, and Sangre varieties are just a few that grow well in Canada.