How to Grow Cherry Tomatoes in a Pot
Do you want to grow tomatoes at home? Cherry tomatoes are the perfect tomato plant if you want to produce continuous bite-sized tomatoes all summer long. Cherry tomatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, which makes them great for new and experienced gardeners alike. Keep reading to learn how to grow cherry tomatoes in a pot!
During the summer, I always plant a huge garden. There are always several types of tomato plants. One of our family favorites is the cherry tomato. We usually grow three varieties: a red cherry or grape tomato, sweet orange cherry tomatoes and purple cherry tomatoes.
They rarely make it into the house because they’re so good fresh. My kids usually eat them for a snack while we are picking other vegetables.
If you don’t put out a large garden, you can still grow delicious cherry tomatoes. You can grow them easily in pots or containers, right on your back deck or patio.
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How long does it take to grow a cherry tomato?
Most varieties of cherry tomatoes will continue to grow all summer long. Most are indeterminate varieties, which means that they will continue to grow and produce fruit until they are killed by a frost.
You can start cherry tomatoes from seeds, or you can purchase seedlings at your local garden center. If you just want to grow one or two plants, it may be easier for you to grab a couple of seedlings and plant them.
Seedlings are plants that are already several weeks old. Depending on their age and size, it could take up to a month before they start to bloom. Once they bloom, it will only be about a week or two before they start to produce fruit. You can purchase seedlings that have blooms already to get a crop sooner.
If you’re starting them from seeds, it may take a couple of months before you see your first cherry tomato. There will be some variation among varieties as to how long it takes them to produce tomatoes, but that gives you a good general idea.
Most summer vegetables prefer full sun. They produce large fruits that require lots of energy and nutrients to make. For the most part, more sunlight is better when it comes to summer vegetable plants.
All tomato plants love full sun, and cherry tomatoes are no exception. Plan on placing your cherry tomato in an area where it will get at least 8 hours of direct sunlight.
Don’t worry about burning up your cherry tomato; it will soak up all the sunlight that it can get. Place your container or pot in the sunny corner of your deck or patio. Usually, a southern location will get the most sunlight.
You can grow cherry tomatoes inside if you don’t have anywhere else to put them. Choose a southern-facing window or glass door to put them in to give them the most sunlight.
One of the first questions that come up when you’re talking about how to grow cherry tomatoes in a pot is “Which type of cherry tomato should I plant?”
There are a ton of cherry tomato varieties. You may have guessed this if you’ve ever bought one of the small containers that have colorful cherry tomatoes in the grocery store. Some varieties are sweeter than others, some have thicker skin and others are more suitable for growing on a patio or deck.
Just like with regular tomato plants, you can find hybrids or heirloom varieties. Hybrid tomato plants are usually more resistant to certain conditions (i.e. drought, pests, splitting, etc.). Heirloom tomatoes are ideal if you want to grow the same variety year after year and plan on keeping seeds. Some heirloom varieties will even grow back on their own each year if you allow some of the tomatoes to fall on the ground.
My mom has heirloom cherry tomatoes that she was given to by a neighbor about ten years ago. She planted it by her deck and each year, new cherry tomato plants spring up all on their own.
Grape Cherry Tomatoes
Grape cherry tomatoes are oblong-shaped. They’re often red varieties and produce longer, tomato-y fruits.
Purple Cherry Tomatoes
Purple cherry tomatoes are both sweet and funky looking. Some varieties are dark purple while some are purple and dark green.
Orange Cherry Tomatoes
These tomatoes are usually the sweetest of the cherry tomatoes. A favorite of ours each year is the Sun Sweet. These sweet orange fruits hardly ever make it into the house! These tomatoes are usually thin-skinned and perfect for snacking.
Some of them are so sweet that you won’t even realize that you’re eating a vegetable. Trust me, this was one of the only tomatoes that I could get my son to eat when he was little and super picky!
Red Cherry Tomatoes
If you’re looking for just a normal red cherry tomato, the Super Sweet 100 or Sweet Million are proven varieties.
Pear Cherry Tomatoes
These tomatoes are pear-shaped; their long necks are narrower than the rest of the tomato. You can usually find them in either red or orange varieties. They do tend to have a little thicker skin than the other tomatoes.
Cherry Tomato Plant Height
Most cherry tomatoes will get quite large and can reach up to ten feet in length. As long as they aren’t killed back by a frost, they’ll continue to grow.
I get that not everyone has space for a ten-foot-tall tomato plant. If you don’t want a tomato plant that gets that large, consider looking for a dwarf variety.
Containers for Growing Cherry Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes will need a container that is fairly large. This will provide the roots plenty of room. You also want a container that is large enough that can support the plant once it’s several feet tall.
What size pot do I need for cherry tomatoes?
It needs to be able to hold about five gallons of soil. A five-gallon bucket is the perfect size for growing cherry tomatoes. If you want something that is more aesthetically pleasing, you can use a large flower pot.
A flowerpot that is 12″ tall and 12″ deep usually holds about five gallons of soil and is large enough to support a cherry tomato plant.
Make sure that the container you plant in has drain holes. Nothing will kill a tomato plant faster than soggy soil! If your container doesn’t have drain holes, drill a few 1/4″- 1/2″ holes in the bottom of the container.
Cherry tomatoes need good quality potting mix. You can either make potting soil yourself or buy bagged potting mix. A general vegetable potting mix will usually suffice. You can get potting mix that has fertilizers in it.
Planting Your Cherry Tomato
You’ll need the following items to plant your cherry tomato:
Tomato plants or seeds
Start by filling your container about 2/3 of the way full with soil. Water the soil until it’s moist throughout and let any excess water drain out.
While the water is draining in your soil, gently pinch off the bottom set of leaves. When you place your seedling in the soil, you’ll want to bury them up until this point into the soil. I know it seems counter-productive to bury part of your tomato plant, but they’ll grow stronger if you do this.
Place your seedlings on top of the soil and fill in the container with soil up, burying the plant up to where you pinched the bottom stems off. Be sure to cover the roots well. You want to have a little bit of space left in the top of the container. 1/2″ of space is ideal.
Depending on how large your seedling is, you may need to create a small well in the soil before you place your tomato plant in it to make sure that it’s buried deep enough.
Try not to get soil on the leaves of the tomato plant. Many potting mixes have fertilizer in them and it can damage the leaves of the plant if it’s left on there. If you do get some soil on the leaves, gently dust or shake it off.
Once your tomato plant is nestled in, give it a good watering. Wet the soil really well. You may notice some places where the soil isn’t deep enough or doesn’t cover the roots as much as you’d like once you water it. If that happens, add soil to the places where it’s needed.
How do you care for potted cherry tomatoes?
For successful cherry tomatoes, you’ll want to make sure that they are properly watered, fertilized, supported and have ample sunlight. If you do these few things, your cherry tomatoes will reward you with delicious fruit all summer long.
Supporting Your Cherry Tomato Plant
One of the most common problems that I see with cherry tomatoes has to do with support. Cherry tomato plants can get very tall, some up to 10 feet by the end of summer. These really tall plants aren’t sturdy enough to keep themselves upright.
Tomato plant stems aren’t hard and woody; they may be stiff, but they aren’t all that strong. Cherry tomatoes usually need some type of support to keep them upright. Without proper support, the top half may eventually fall and break the center stem, cutting off the flow of water and nutrients to the top half of the plant.
You can use heavy tomato cages to keep them upright. Don’t skimp and buy the cheaper tomato cages; these often aren’t tall enough to provide the support large cherry tomato plants need. You also won’t get very far by staking cherry tomatoes up.
You can skip the tomato cages if you have a trellis or balcony that you can use to support your cherry tomato. Use garden string to gently tie the tomato plant upright and hold it in place.
Should You Cover the Soil?
It’s always a good idea to cover the top of the soil with a layer of mulch. Mulch will help keep the soil from drying out.
Have you ever watered a plant in a pot and noticed that your water creates a hole in the soil? It can be hard to avoid, especially if you’re watering with a garden hose. A layer of mulch will help to prevent that hole from forming.
If there is one thing that tomato plants are picky about, it’s watering. Tomatoes like to grow in the hot summer, but they don’t like to dry out either. They also don’t like to have water on them.
Don’t be tempted to water your tomato from the top. You may think that tomato plants need to be refreshed or cooled down; but don’t water their leaves or stems. Always water tomato plants at the ground.
Water your cherry tomatoes in the morning. If you accidentally get water on the leaves, it has plenty of time to dry during the day. Don’t water plants in the evening. Any water that gets on the leaves won’t dry and can lead to diseases.
An easy way to water at the ground is with a soaker hose.
How often should I water my cherry tomatoes in pots?
Check the soil in your containers frequently. Do this by poking your finger into the soil about an inch deep. If the soil is dry, add water.
I find that my cherry tomatoes usually need watering about once a day in the middle of the summer. If we have some afternoon storms, I can get by with watering every other day.
Fertilizing Cherry Tomato Plants
Cherry tomatoes produce fruits, which takes a lot of energy and nutrients to happen. If your plants aren’t fed properly, then they will stop producing tomatoes. If you notice that your cherry tomatoes stop growing or stop putting on flowers or fruits, it could be because they don’t have enough nutrients to do so.
Cherry tomato plant leaves that are discolored or turn yellow may also be a sign that your plant isn’t getting the nutrients it needs.
Many potting mixes come with a slow-release fertilizer in them. This usually lasts about three months. You can see the granules of fertilizer in your potting mix; they’re typically a dark yellow/orange or green in color and are small spheres.
It’s a good idea to have some water-based fertilizer as well to give them a quick boost of nutrients. Miracle-gro works well, but you can also use organic fertilizers if you want.
Tomato plants will need additional calcium to prevent blossom rot. You can get calcium fertilizer in a foliar spray that can be sprayed directly onto the plant. Look for sprays that treat blossom end rot. You can also add calcium to the soil with bone meal, Epsom salt or crushed eggshells.
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Common Mistakes Growing Cherry Tomatoes in Pots
Cherry tomatoes are one of the easiest vegetable plants to grow. When I get asked about cherry tomato plant problems, I find that usually one of the following issues is going on and has prevented the plants from thriving and producing as well as they should be.
Tomato plants need large containers. You want at least five gallons of soil per plant. It can be tempting to put multiple tomato plants in one container. I mean, tomato plants don’t take up much space around them since they tend to grow straight up.
Don’t be tempted to put more than one plant per five gallons of soil. The tomato plant roots need the space and nutrients in the five gallons of soil. If you plant too many plants in one container, the soil will quickly become depleted of space, nutrients and water.
A small container will also be much more likely to fall over. Cherry tomatoes are top-heavy and can fall over in the slightest breeze if they aren’t weighed down.
Nothing will kill a tomato plant faster than over-watering it. This is why it’s important to make sure that the container you plant in has plenty of drainage holes. It’s really hard to overwater if the soil can drain.
When the soil can’t drain, excess water remains in the soil. Tomato plants need air around their roots. If the soil is filled with water, there isn’t air around the roots like it should be. You can literally drown a tomato plant if the soil is too soggy.
Yes, tomato plants like to grow in the middle of the hot and dry summer. But, think about it. Tomatoes are juicy fruits, which means that they require water to be produced. This is on top of the amount of water that the plant needs in order to grow and function like normal.
If your tomato plant looks droopy or wilty, water it. Don’t wait; water it as soon as you notice that it looks droopy. If you wait too long, it may end up dropping fruit or blossoms.
Not Enough Sunlight
Tomato plants need at least 8 hours of direct sunlight. They don’t do well in shaded areas. Your tomato plants may grow in shade or in places where there isn’t a full 8 hours of direct sun, but they won’t do as well as they would if they were in a really sunny location. If your plant is slow growing and hasn’t put on any blossoms or tomatoes, try moving it to a sunnier location.
Tomato plants will continue to grow until they are hit by a frost. If you try to grow tomato plants too early in the season or too late in the season, they won’t grow much and may die. If you’re set on growing tomatoes year-round, consider growing them in a greenhouse or indoors to make sure that they are warm enough.
Not Staking or Staking Too Late
Unless you purchase dwarf varieties of cherry tomatoes, you’ll need to support your plants. Don’t wait until your plants are starting to lean to stake them up. Feeding a large cherry tomato plant through a tomato cage is difficult at best and will usually end up in broken stems.
Once your tomato plant is about two feet tall, go ahead and put it in a cage. If you wait around, your tomato plant could get top heavy and fall over, which will break or pinch the center stem. Once the top falls, the tomato plant won’t be the same since nutrients and water will have a hard time moving around the part of the stem that was pinched.