How to Grow and Care for Tomatoes in Containers

Tomato Solanum lycopersicum

Intro: Tomato plants actually do best when grown in plant containers in kitchen gardens, and even gardeners with yards grow them in containers or even in bags. These plants have a distinctive smell and small, humble yellow flowers. After you’ve picked one of your own tomatoes straight from your balcony's kitchen garden, you’ll never look at a grocery store tomato in the same way again!


Scientific Name: Solanum lycopersicum

Plant Type: Annual fruit

Light: For best growth, provide your tomato plants with 6 to 8 hours a day of full sun.

Water: Self-watering planters are often recommended for growing tomatoes. Make sure the potting soil is constantly moist. Make sure to provide enough water to your tomato plants without overwatering. Read "Tips for Watering Plants" for more information.

Fertilizer: Tomato plants are heavy feeders because they grow quickly and produce large fruits. Provide your tomato plants with a constant supply fertilizer by including slow-release fertilizer with a 5:10:10 NPK ratio in the potting soil. You can also use a low dose of liquid fertilizer when watering. Do not provide too much nitrogen, which promotes leafy growth and not flower and fruit production.

Temperature: Because tomato plants are grown as annuals, you do not need to worry about overwintering these plants indoors. Just make sure outdoor temperatures do not dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit at night and reach 60 degrees during the day. Prolonged cold weather will stunt the tomato plant's growth. Temperatures during flower pollination are very important. If nighttime temperatures dip below 55 degrees and daytime temperatures exceed 90 degrees before 10 a.m., flowers will not be pollinated correctly, and the plant won't yield a fruit from that flower.

Pests and Diseases: Many insect pests will snack on your tomato plant, such as tomato cutworm, tomato hornworm, flea beetles, aphids, leaf miners, stalk borers, aphids, whiteflies and slugs. Be vigilant and catch pests before they do too much damage to your tomato plants. Use organic pest control to control pests without compromising the edible fruit your plants should bear. Blight is a common disease with tomato (and potato plants), and so are Verticillium and Fusarium wilt. These fungal diseases spread through soil and can infect other plants that come in contact with the potting soil (or are near that potting soil) for four years. If you have an infected plant, consider all of the soil in your container garden contaminated. To avoid many diseases, do not splash water or pour water on your tomato plant's leaves when watering.

Propagation: Tomato seeds are found within the fruit. Take seeds from a tomato you purchased at the grocery store, buy seeds at your local garden shop, or try some of the heirloom varieties that you can purchase online or at your local garden shop.

Misc. Info: While you can grow large tomato plants in containers, you may want to start with the dwarf varieties (like cherry tomatoes). There are some interesting upside-down hanging tomato plant containers that can save you space. If growing them in regular containers, the tomato plant needs some support, so supply them with garden stakes or thick sticks to keep their stems upright.

Learn how to pick tomatoes and harvest the seeds.



Tomato plant

Green Cherry Tomatoes

Yellow Tomato Flowers

Cherry Tomatoes and Beefsteak Tomato

Additional information