A Chitted Potato Bonsai Tree
(Image credit: Vinodkpillai)

The potato bonsai “tree” idea started out as a tongue-in-cheek gag that has turned into a fun and interesting project for both adults and children. Potato bonsai growing can show kids how tubers grow and can help teach children the basics of the responsibility and patience required to grow plants.

How to Make a Potato Bonsai

For your bonsai potato project, you will need:

  • a chitted (sprouting) potato
  • pea gravel
  • potting soil
  • a shallow container, such as a margarine dish
  • scissors

First, you need to make a potato bonsai container. Use the shallow container and drill or cut small holes in the bottom for drainage. If you would like, you can paint the container as well. Next, take a look at your sprouted potato. Right now the sprouts should be a pale color and have not formed themselves into leaves yet. The pale sprouts will become either roots or leaves, depending on the environment they are put into. Decide which side of the potato will grow into the best potato bonsai tree. Lay the potato into the container with the potato bonsai tree side up. Fill the container with potting soil about 1/4 of the way up the potato. Then use the pea gravel to fill the container up to the halfway mark on the potato. Add water to your bonsai potato container and place it in a sunny window.

Beginning Your Potato Bonsai Gardening

The leaves on your potato bonsai tree will start to appear in one to three weeks. A potato bonsai growing in warmer conditions will sprout leaves faster than ones growing in cooler conditions. Also, some sprouts will grow up from beneath the gravel line. These sprouts should be removed. Only keep the sprouts that grow from the part of the potato that appears above the soil. Water your potato bonsai once a week if it is growing indoors and once a day if it is growing outdoors. Once your potato bonsai tree has several leaves on the sprout, you can start pruning your potato bonsai. Shape the individual stems as though they were actual bonsai trees. Be sure to remind children not to trim too much off the plant. Go slowly. More can be taken off, but you can't put it back on if too much is taken off. If by chance a child does take too much off, not to worry. Potato bonsai gardening is a forgiving art form. Place the potato bonsai back into a sunny spot and it will regrow. Keep your potato bonsai watered and trimmed and it will last quite some time. As long as the potato is kept healthy and is not overwatered or underwatered you should not see any rot or decay.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.