Tomatoes are one of the most popular things to grow in a vegetable garden. There’s nothing like a fresh, juicy tomato in a salad or sandwich. For many home gardeners, if they grow only one thing each year, tomatoes are at the top of the list.
But what if you don’t have much or any garden space? Perhaps you live in a condo or apartment, and only have a balcony. Or perhaps, like me, you live in the desert, and have more concrete or rocks than soil. If that describes you, then your best option for growing tomatoes is to turn to container gardening. The good news is you can successfully grow tomatoes in pots.
But there are important considerations when it comes to growing tomatoes in containers. Not all tomatoes grow well in pots, and not all pots are suitable for growing tomatoes.
In this article I dive into the best tomatoes to grow in pots, and the best types of containers to use for growing tomatoes.
How to Grow Tomatoes in Pots
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You can grow a variety of tomatoes in pots. Choose larger containers for larger tomato varieties. Select containers with good draining. Use loose, fertile, well-draining soil that is a mix of 50% potting soil and 50% compost.
Without further ado, let’s get into the finer details of how to grow tomatoes in pots.
The Best Pot Size and Types of Pots for Growing Tomatoes
When it comes to growing tomatoes in containers, one of the first things you need to choose is the container.
It’s important to match the pot size to the plant size. Whichever variety of tomato you select to grow, find out how big it will be when it’s mature, and select the pot size accordingly.
Growing Tomatoes in Small Pots
I personally favor growing tomatoes and other vegetables in small pots. There are a couple of reasons for this.
The first reason is that it requires less soil. If you’ve ever started a container vegetable garden, you know that soil is one of the biggest expenses. With a larger pot, you need more soil. You also need to use more nutrients. Larger pots also typically cost more than smaller pots. The bottom line is the bigger the pot, the greater the expense.
In addition to the cost savings, it’s easier to move smaller pots. There are a couple of reasons you may want to move your pots. Most of the reasons pertain to weather. As an example, if you’re going to have a hard freeze, you may want to move the tomatoes you’re growing in containers indoors or put them into a garage. A large container may be too heavy to move.
The challenge with growing tomatoes in small containers is that the smaller the container, the smaller the plant.
Tomato Varieties You Can Grow in 6 – 12 Inch Pots
Here are some tomato varieties that you can grow in small pots.
- Micro Tom
- Red Robin (available on Amazon)
- Totem (available on Amazon)
- Tiny Tim (available on True Leaf Market)
- Yellow Pygmy
- Red Velvet
Growing Tomatoes in a 2 – 3 Gallon Container
If you want to take things up a notch and still have a container that is easy to move, then planting tomatoes in a 2-3 gallon container is a good option.
You can plant all of the varieties listed above in this size container. You can also grow some slightly larger varieties such as the Patio Princess Hybrid tomato.
Growing Tomatoes in a 5-Gallon Bucket
Tomatoes that grow larger, such as the Mortgage Lifter and Sungold varieties can grow up to 10-feet tall and need a 5-gallon bucket or container to grow in. It’s harder to move 5-gallon buckets that are filled with soil and growing large tomato plants. But they’re the only option if you want to grow tomato varieties that grow tall.
Choosing Containers Based on the Type of Tomatoes You Want to Grow
Now that I’ve given you some basic ideas of the types of tomatoes you can grow in containers, and the size of pots you need to grow different types of tomatoes, let’s dive deeper into the many types of tomatoes you can grow in pots, and the right types of pots for different tomato varieties.
Plant Cascading Tomatoes in Hanging Containers
Cascading tomatoes don’t need to be supported. Cascading tomatoes drape over the side of the pot and produce fruits.
Here are a couple of cascading tomato varieties to get you started.
- Tiny Tim reaches a mature length of 18-inches and will produce an abundance of 3/4-inch red cherry tomatoes throughout the summer.
- Tumbling Tom (Amazon) produces cascading branches that will tumble over the hanging pot. The plant produces 1-inch red cherry tomatoes throughout the summer.
- If you have a large hanging pot grow the amazing Hundreds and Thousands variety of cascading cherry tomatoes. It will produce massive amounts of sweet bite-sized tomatoes all summer.
Growing Bush Tomatoes in Pots
Bush tomatoes are excellent for pots and small spaces. Bush plants have strong, stocky stems and only get 3-5 feet tall when mature. Try one of these varieties of bush tomatoes in a 12–18-inch pot on your patio or deck.
- Better Bush produces red slicing tomatoes all summer.
- Bush Beefsteak tomatoes are very popular because of their large size and meaty texture.
- Homestead 24 is ideal for hot humid climates. This bush tomato produces plenty of large red slicing tomatoes.
- If you want to grow a variety of colorful bush tomatoes, try Dwarf Purple Heart for purplish-black tomatoes, Dwarf Pink Passion produces pale pink slicing tomatoes, or Golden Fresh Salsa which produces yellow plum-shaped tomatoes.
Growing Vining Tomatoes in Containers
Vining tomato plants reach a mature height of 4-10 feet, depending on the variety planted.
The vines need to be supported to prevent them from breaking and to keep the fruits off the ground. Grow vining tomatoes in pots that are 12-inches or larger. Provide support for them by staking and tying, or with a trellis, or place the pot near a porch post. Loosely tie the vine to the support as it grows.
Here are a few varieties of vining tomatoes you can grow in pots.
- Beefy Boy produces large red slicing tomatoes on 6-feet long vines.
- San Marzano will produce an abundance of dark red, plum-shaped tomatoes on an 8-feet long vine.
- Brandywine produces large beefsteak tomatoes that are commonly found at farmer’s markets. The skin is pinkish-red with a meaty interior and sweet flavor. The vine will reach 9-feet when mature.
Growing Climbing Tomatoes in Containers
Climbing tomatoes are great for growing in larger pots around the perimeter of a porch or deck to create a living privacy screen. Their vines can climb up to 18-feet and will produce small, pollen-filled blooms followed by large, juicy tomatoes.
As a general rule, the longer or taller the vine will be at maturity, the larger the pot it needs. Plant the vining or climbing tomato varieties in 5-gallon buckets for best results.
Here are a couple of climbing tomatoes you may want to experiment with growing in containers.
- Climbing Trip-L-Crop climbing tomatoes grow 12-18 feet tall and produce extra large red tomatoes that can reach 6-inch across.
- Sweet Minion Hybrid Cherry tomato will produce a bumper crop of red cherry tomatoes on a climbing vine that will reach 10-feet long.
Select Containers with Drainage
When you have matched your tomato choice with the right pot, look at the bottom of the pot to ensure it has plenty of drainage holes.
Tomato plants need excellent drainage because they require a constant supply of moisture. One hole will not be sufficient.
If you find a pot that is perfect in every way except for drainage, depending on the type of material the pot is made of, you may be able to add more drainage holes.
For instance, if you purchased a plastic or rubber pot, you can add drainage holes with either a drill, or with a soldering iron. Soldering irons, such as these that you can pick up on Amazon, are inexpensive and get the job done.
Once you’ve selected the pot and have ample drainage holes, place a coffee filter inside the pot over the holes before filling it with soil. This will allow the excess water to drain through without taking the soil with it.
Growing Medium for Tomatoes
Now let’s get into the type of growing medium you need for growing tomatoes in containers.
Tomatoes are heavy feeders and heavy drinkers. What you put into the pot for the plants to grow in is all the nutrition and moisture they will have so make sure it’s sufficient.
Tomatoes like to grow in loose, fertile, well-draining soil. A growing medium that is 50% potting soil and 50% compost provides almost everything your tomato plant needs to thrive in a pot.
A weekly feeding of compost tea (or other water-soluble organic plant food) will give the plant a boost of nutrition and moisture. This will be in addition to regular watering.
There are also some nutrients that you can pick up that are made specifically for tomatoes. I like Tomato Tone, that you can pick up here, on Amazon.
Plant Tomato Seedlings Deeply
Tomato plants will form roots anywhere the stem touches the soil. The more roots the plant has, the more nutrition and moisture the plant will be able to absorb.
Pinch off all the lower leaves on the stem and plant the seedling deeply in the growing medium. Just leave the top 2-3 inches of the seedling above the soil.
Understanding the Difference Between Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes
Determinate tomatoes produce all of their fruit at one time. They will produce one crop of fresh tomatoes and then they are done. Determinate tomatoes are great for making salsa, tomato sauce, juice, or paste.
Indeterminate tomatoes produce fruit continually throughout the season. This type is ideal for having fresh tomatoes for eating throughout the summer.
Read the seed packet or plant label to discover if the variety you want to grow is determinate or indeterminate, so you won’t be surprised at harvest time.
If you’re looking for an easy way to add some homegrown tomatoes to your summer meals, try growing them in pots. Just follow these simple tips and you’ll be enjoying delicious homegrown tomatoes before you know it! Happy tomato growing!
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