Summary: Growing a Bonsai Potato
with a nasty sprouted spud will make this activity all the
more fun while you create your own bonsai potato. This is a
perfect use for those recently rediscovered spuds that might
be otherwise headed for the trash. All you need to do is plant
it in a pot and with patience and careful pruning, you too can
create a bonsai potato.
Shoots grow from the top of the potato slowly.
You will need a
sprouted potato and a shallow pot. I use bonsai pots, but
these can be pricey and hard to find. I would suggest using a
shallow clay pot. Plastic might be ok, but you'll need to make
sure it doesn't get overwatered.
Plant the potato
in the pot so it juts out of the dirt. Your potato should be
at least half way in the dirt. Before planting your spud spend
some time observing how the sprouts grow out of the potato.
The sprouts become the branches so you'll want to plant the
tuber with these sprouts above the dirt. How you position the
potato in the dirt has everything to do with the form that
your bonsai will take after planting. Because every sprouted
potato is different, every bonsai potato will be different. I
like to imagine the potato is a rock and the sprouts are small
trees growing from the rock.
A couple weeks
after planting your potato, small leaves will form on the
sprouts. The sprouts grow very slowly after it is planted.
However, shoots that come up from underground around the
potato grow very quickly. Cut these shoots below the dirt
Just a little purple after two weeks in the refrigerator.
testing was done at the GreatScott.com Labs and Proving
Grounds in Phoenix, Arizona where outdoor summer temperatures
regularly exceed 115F (65C). Be assured that I put the potato
through some extreme testing.
I tested the
potato for cold resistance by placing it in a plastic bag in
the refrigerator for a couple weeks. The leaves turned purple,
but otherwise the potato was unaffected.
The plant also
did fairly well outdoors in the hot summer temperatures. Most
plants couldn't survive in a pot outdoors in the summer. The
air is very dry and soil in pots dries out very quickly. The
bonsai potato did well and was even able to survive a few days
with no water. When the soil is dry, the plant draws moisture
from the tuber. The tuber shrivels but the plant will survive.
If your spud is
neglected and the potato shrivels, you may be able to save it
if you catch it early. Place the pot in a tray with a couple
inches of water for a couple days. If the potato plumps up,
consider yourself lucky. If the potato does not plump up-it
may be too late. Continue to water the spud daily, but don't
soak in water. Sometimes the tuber will no longer respond to
watering and will shrivel and die no matter how intesive the
care. I have repeatedly tested the abuse a bonsai potato will
take and have killed several this way.
Cutting off the growth tip keeps the plant height
A good bonsai
should have a height proportionate to the depth of the pot and
the size of the tuber. To keep the sprouts from growing too
tall, cut off the top growth tip with small scissors right
before the first leaf. This stops the sprout's upwards growth.
The stem will get a little taller as the spacing between
leaves grows, but will soon stop. Depending on the height of
your plant this growth may add an inch or two to the plant's
height. Cutting off the top growth tip prevents the stem from
getting taller and forces the plant to grow multiple branches.
This slows the plant's upward growth.
discussion would involve the varieties of potatoes and bonsai
plants of each. The most common type of potato someone might
encounter would be the Russett potato. They are big, a little
rough-skinned, and frequently come in 5lb (2.3Kg) bags. They
are also very good baked. A bag can frequently be had for
around a dollar. These half-used bags of potatoes are often
forgotten in a cupbard. They can be a good place to find your
I'd like to
say that the bonsai potato project was a great success, but I
don't think that's the case. I doubt that this method of
bonsai potatoes will ever catch on. It might make a good
windowsill plant. It is a definitely a conversation starter.
Since bonsai spuds take a long time to grow, this is not an
experiment suited for impatient children. And although the
bonsai potato stood up to more abuse than a conventional
bonsai I wouldn't say it was indestructable.
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