Two Different Types Of Tomato Plant Leaves
potato leaf tomato
(Image credit: Gardening Know How, Nikki Tilley)

Most of us are familiar with the appearance of tomato leaves; they are multi-lobed, serrated, or almost tooth-like, right? What if you have a tomato plant that is lacking these lobes? Is something wrong with the plant, or what?

Tomato Leaf Types

If you are a true garden geek, then you probably already know this, but tomato plants are of two, well actually three, leaf types. As aforementioned, we have what is referred to as a regular leaf tomato, those with serrated or ruffled leaves. There are hundreds of varieties of regular leaf tomato, and among these are:

  • Celebrity
  • Eva Purple Ball
  • Big Boy
  • Red Brandywine
  • German Red Strawberry

The list goes on and on. There are many variations of regular leaf tomato from color differences of green or green/blue hues to width and length of the leaf. Very narrow leaves are referred to as dissected, as they look as if a sawtooth has cut into them. Some varieties have heart-shaped leaves, and some have droopy dissected foliage referred to as wispy droopy leaves. Along with regular basic tomato leaf types to be found are the potato leaf tomato varieties. Less common are those referred to as Rugose, which is a variation of regular and potato leaf tomatoes and has a darker green puckered leaf structure, as well as Angora, which has a hairy regular leaf. So, what is a potato leaf tomato?

What is a Potato Leaf Tomato?

Potato leaf tomato varieties lack the lobes or notches seen on regular leaf tomatoes. They look akin to, well, potato leaves. Young potato leaf tomato plants (seedlings) are less obvious in their difference, as they do not show this lack of serration until they are a few inches (8 cm.) tall. Potato leaves on tomatoes also tend to have more heft than regular leaf tomatoes and there is some claim that this makes them more resistant to disease. Leaf color is usually a deep green with leaves on an individual plant varying from having totally smooth edges to some minimal lobing. Examples of potato leaf tomato varieties include:

  • Prudens Purple
  • Brandy Boy
  • Brandywine
  • Lillian's Yellow Heirloom

Of course, there are many, many more. Potato leaf tomato varieties tend to be mostly heirloom cultivars. There really is no difference in resulting taste between regular leaf tomatoes and potato leaf varieties. So, why are the leaves different? Tomatoes and potatoes are related to each other via the deadly Nightshade variety. As they are cousins, more or less, they share some of the same traits, including similar foliage. Leaf color and size can vary with each variety of tomato and are influenced by climate, nutrients, and growing methods. At the end of the day, potato leaf tomatoes can be chalked up to just one of nature's curious quirks, a good one that allows for further varieties of tomato to be grown even if just for fun.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.