The Q&A Archives: Do We Have Potato Trees?

Question: We think we have potato trees (3) which we inherited from previous owner. We are not sure. They are about 5' - 6' tall and have green leaves and purple blossoms, mostly in the hot weather. We are in El dorado Hills, 35 miles east of Sacramento. I think it's zone 8 or 9. We are just into the foothills. They could also be potato bushes that were trained to be trees. They are delicate and have a thin trunk, 2-3 inches across. The branches are very thin as well.

What are they and how do we care for them? All three are on a drip system tied into the rest of the landscape.

Answer: Solanum rantonnetii is often called the potato tree. It's an evergreen shrub which can be trained into a tree form. As a shrub, it will grow 8'-12' tall and 6'-10' wide. Trained into a tree it will reach 12'-15' in height. The leaves are lance-shaped with scalloped edges. If your plants are Solanum rantonnetii, prune them back to keep them in shape (they're fast growing), provide full sunshine, and water deeply once each week. They're relatively easy to grow and established plants will come back if tops are killed back by frost. Enjoy!

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