Best Tips for Growing Tomatoes in Pots

growing tomatoes in pots

Imagine stepping out onto your balcony or patio and plucking ripe, juicy tomatoes right off the vine. By growing tomatoes in pots, you can turn this dream into a reality, no matter how much or how little space you have. Whether you're a seasoned gardener with a large backyard or live in the city with just a small balcony, growing tomatoes in containers is a versatile and accessible way to enjoy this delicious fruit.

The beauty of growing tomatoes in pots lies in its flexibility. You can easily move your pots to follow the sun, bring them indoors to protect them from bad weather, and have better control over soil quality than in a traditional garden. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know, from selecting the right pot size to managing pests and ensuring your plants get all the nutrients they need. 

growing tomatoes in pots

Getting Started with Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Choosing the Right Pot Size

Selecting the appropriate pot size is crucial for the healthy growth of your tomato plants. Different types of tomatoes require different pot sizes. Proper drainage is equally important. Ensure your pots have several drainage holes at the bottom. Good drainage prevents water from pooling at the base of the pot, which can lead to root rot and other issues.

Best Soil Mix for Container Tomatoes

The soil mix you use plays a significant role in the health and productivity of your tomato plants. Container tomatoes need a soil mix that is well-draining yet capable of retaining moisture. A good mix should include a combination of potting soil, compost, and perlite or vermiculite. Potting soil provides the base structure, compost adds essential nutrients, and perlite or vermiculite improves drainage and aeration. Look for a high-quality potting mix specifically formulated for vegetables. These mixes often contain a balanced blend of peat moss, compost, and other organic materials that support the growth of tomato plants.

To further enhance your soil mix, consider adding a slow-release fertilizer that can provide your tomatoes with a steady supply of nutrients. Tomatoes are known to be heavy feeders, so this extra boost ensures they have everything needed to produce juicy, flavorful fruits.

growing tomatoes in pots

How to Grow Tomatoes from Seeds

First, choose high-quality tomato seeds. You can find a wide variety of seeds at garden centers or online. To begin, fill a seed tray or small pots with a seed-starting mix. This mix is lighter and more conducive to root growth than regular garden soil or potting soil. 

Plant the seeds about 1/4 inch deep in the soil. It’s often helpful to plant a few seeds in each cell or pot to ensure that at least one germinates. Cover the seeds lightly with soil and gently water them. Keep the soil consistently moist but not saturated. A spray bottle works well for this task as it provides a gentle mist that won't disturb the seeds.

Place the seed trays in a warm, bright location. Tomato seeds germinate best at temperatures between 70-80°F. You might consider using a heat mat to maintain a consistent temperature, especially if you’re starting seeds in a cooler environment. Once the seeds sprout, usually within 5-10 days, move them to a sunny windowsill or under grow lights. Tomatoes need plenty of light to grow strong and healthy. Aim for at least 14-16 hours of light per day. If using grow lights, keep them just a few inches above the seedlings and raise them as the plants grow.

growing tomatoes in pots

When the seedlings develop their first set of true leaves, it's time to thin them out, leaving the strongest plant in each cell or pot. Continue to keep the soil moist and provide ample light. As the seedlings grow, you might need to transplant them into larger pots before they are ready to move outside. This step ensures that the plants don’t become root-bound and continue to grow vigorously.

Before transplanting the seedlings into their final pots, they need to be hardened off. This process acclimates the young plants to outdoor conditions. Start by placing them outside for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the time they spend outdoors over a week or two. Make sure to protect them from strong winds and direct midday sun initially.

Once hardened off, transplant the seedlings into larger pots filled with a high-quality potting mix. Bury the seedlings deeper than they were in their starter pots, covering the stem up to the first set of true leaves. This encourages a stronger root system and a more robust plant. Using grow bags or large containers for transplanting can help accommodate the plant's growing roots and ensure ample space for healthy development.

growing tomatoes in pots

Tips for Growing Tomato Plants in Pots

Tomatoes thrive in full sun, place your pots in a sunny location and ensure that your pots are large enough to support the variety of tomato you’re growing. Fertilizing regularly is key, as tomatoes are heavy feeders. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer or one specifically formulated for tomatoes. Follow the package instructions for frequency and amount. Over-fertilizing can lead to lush foliage with little fruit, so be mindful of the balance. Using a fertilizer specifically formulated for tomatoes can help ensure that your plants receive the essential nutrients they need throughout the growing season.

To protect your plants from pests and diseases, our Natural Plant Protector is a fantastic, all-natural solution that keeps your tomato plants healthy and thriving without the need for harsh chemicals. This product not only helps prevent potential issues but also effectively controls any problems that might already be present. Regular use of our Natural Plant Protector will give you peace of mind, knowing your plants are safe from common pests. It's simple to use, gentle on your plants, and incredibly effective! 

growing tomatoes in pots

Growing Specific Tomato Varieties in Containers

Tomato varieties differ significantly, each with its unique growing requirements and characteristics. Here’s a detailed look at growing popular varieties such as cherry tomatoes, Campari tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, and heirloom tomatoes in pots.

Growing Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are perfect for container gardening because they're compact and produce loads of fruit. Most cherry tomato plants are indeterminate, so they'll keep growing and producing tomatoes all season long.

They are best planted in pots that are at least 12-14 inches in diameter and thrive in well-draining potting soil mixed with compost. Regular watering is essential, but avoid waterlogging the soil. Position the pots in a sunny spot where the plants can receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.

To support cherry tomatoes, use small tomato cages or stakes. This helps keep the plants upright and prevents the branches from breaking under the weight of the fruit. Cherry tomatoes typically start producing fruit within 55-65 days from transplanting. Harvest them when they are fully colored and firm to the touch for the best flavor.

growing tomatoes in pots

Growing Campari Tomatoes

Campari tomatoes require larger pots, about 18 inches in diameter, to accommodate their root systems. Use a rich, well-draining potting mix and water consistently to keep the soil moist. Place the pots in a sunny location where the plants can receive ample sunlight. Support Campari tomatoes with sturdy cages or stakes, as they can grow tall and heavy with fruit. They usually take about 70-80 days to mature and are ready to harvest when they have a deep red color and are slightly firm.

growing tomatoes in pots

Growing Beefsteak Tomatoes

Beefsteak tomatoes are one of the largest tomato varieties, known for their meaty texture and rich flavor. Growing them in pots requires some special considerations due to their size. They need large pots, at least 24 inches in diameter, to support their extensive root systems. Use a nutrient-rich, well-draining soil mix. Water deeply and regularly to keep the soil moist but not soggy. These tomatoes also need a lot of light—at least 8 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Provide strong support with heavy-duty cages or stakes, as beefsteak plants can grow tall and the fruits are heavy. They typically take 80-90 days to mature. Harvest them when they reach their full size, are uniformly red, and slightly soft to the touch.

growing tomatoes in pots

Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes generally need large pots as well, about 18-24 inches in diameter.  Support heirloom tomatoes with sturdy cages, stakes, or trellises, as they can grow large and unwieldy. Fertilize regularly with a balanced fertilizer to support healthy growth and fruit production. Heirloom tomatoes can take anywhere from 70-90 days to mature, depending on the variety. Harvest them when fully colored and slightly soft. Monitor them closely for diseases, as heirlooms are often more susceptible than hybrids.

growing tomatoes in pots

Indoor Growing Techniques 

One of the greatest benefits of indoor tomato growing is the ability to control the environment. By managing the temperature and humidity, you can create an ideal growing environment for your tomato plants. Typically, tomatoes thrive in temperatures between 65-85°F. Maintaining a consistent temperature within this range ensures that your plants grow steadily and produce abundant fruit.

Lighting is another crucial factor for indoor tomato cultivation. Unlike outdoor gardens, indoor plants cannot rely on natural sunlight alone. To compensate, you’ll need to use grow lights. LED grow lights are an excellent choice as they are energy-efficient and can provide the full spectrum of light that tomato plants need. Position the grow lights about 12-18 inches above the plants, and keep them on for 14-16 hours a day to mimic the long sunny days of summer. Adjustable light fixtures are beneficial as they allow you to raise the lights as the plants grow taller.

growing tomatoes in pots

Ensure your pots have proper drainage and water the plants when the top inch of soil feels dry. Humidity levels should be kept around 40-70%, which can be managed using a humidifier or placing a tray of water near your plants. Good air circulation is also essential to prevent mold and mildew. A small fan placed near the plants can help keep the air moving.

One challenge of indoor growing is the limited space. Choose compact or dwarf varieties of tomatoes that are better suited for indoor environments. Both Fabric pots and plastic pots are great options as they come in various sizes and help in managing the plant’s root system. 

Indoor gardening also offers the benefit of growing tomatoes year-round. By planting successively, you can enjoy a continuous harvest. Just remember to rotate your crops and provide each new batch of plants with fresh soil to prevent nutrient depletion and disease buildup. For an in-depth look at indoor tomato cultivation, you can refer to our comprehensive article on growing tomatoes indoors.

growing tomatoes in pots

Managing and Controlling Pests

Regularly inspect your tomato plants for any signs of pests like aphids, spider mites, or whiteflies. If you spot any, it’s time to take action with a natural, safe solution. Our Natural Plant Wash is perfect for this job. It's easy to use and gentle on your plants. Simply spray your plants once a week for general prevention. If you notice an infestation, increase the frequency to every few days until the pests are under control. 

growing tomatoes in pots

Growing Tomatoes Outdoors

One of the primary benefits of growing tomatoes outdoors is the access to natural sunlight. Tomatoes are sun-loving plants that thrive in full sun, requiring at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. The ample sunlight helps the plants grow strong and healthy. Additionally, outdoor growing provides better air circulation compared to indoor setups. Good airflow is essential for preventing diseases like powdery mildew and promoting overall plant health.

When it comes to container size, outdoor spaces often allow for larger pots, which can accommodate the extensive root systems of tomato plants. Larger containers, such as 18-24 inch pots, provide the necessary room for the roots to spread and support the plant's growth.

However, outdoor gardening also comes with its set of challenges, primarily related to weather conditions. Temperature fluctuations, heavy rains, and strong winds can all impact your tomato plants. It’s crucial to monitor the weather forecast and take preventive measures when necessary. For instance, during periods of heavy rain, ensure your pots have excellent drainage to prevent waterlogging. In high winds, consider positioning your pots in a sheltered area or using plant ties to secure them to sturdy supports.

growing tomatoes in pots

Pests and diseases are also more prevalent outdoors. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of trouble, such as discolored leaves or insect damage. Implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy and applying a natural and organic pesticide like Lost Coast Plant Therapy can help prevent and control any common garden pests and diseases.

growing tomatoes in pots

Watering is another critical aspect of outdoor container gardening. Unlike in-ground plants, container plants tend to dry out more quickly. During hot, dry spells, you might need to water your tomatoes daily. Water deeply and thoroughly, ensuring the moisture reaches the roots. Mulching the top of the soil with straw or compost can help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.

growing tomatoes in pots

Care and Maintenance

Pruning Tomato Plants

The primary goal of pruning is to manage the plant’s energy. By removing excess foliage and suckers, you can direct the plant’s energy towards producing fruit rather than excessive leafy growth. Suckers are the small shoots that develop in the leaf axils—the space between the stem and the branch. While some gardeners prefer to leave suckers on determinate varieties (which have a predetermined size), indeterminate varieties benefit significantly from regular sucker removal.

growing tomatoes in pots

To prune effectively, start by identifying and removing the lower leaves that are close to the ground. These leaves are more prone to disease and pest infestation. Next, focus on the suckers. Gently snap or cut them off with clean, sharp scissors. It’s best to prune in the morning when the plant is less stressed and the cuts have time to heal during the day. Regular pruning, about once a week, helps keep the plant manageable and improves fruit quality.

Pruning also enhances air circulation around the plant, reducing the risk of fungal diseases like blight and powdery mildew. By thinning out the foliage, you allow light to penetrate deeper into the plant, promoting more uniform ripening of the tomatoes. 

growing tomatoes in pots

Supporting Tomato Plants

Supporting your tomato plants is crucial to prevent them from sprawling on the ground, which can lead to disease and difficulty in harvesting. Tomato cages are one of the most popular support options. They are easy to use and provide all-around support as the plant grows. When selecting a cage, choose one that is sturdy and tall enough to accommodate the mature height of your tomato variety. Place the cage around the plant shortly after transplanting, so the plant can grow into it. As the tomato grows, guide the branches through the openings in the cage to keep them supported.

Stakes are another excellent option, as the tomato grows, tie the main stem to the stake with soft garden ties, spacing the ties about every 12 inches. Be careful not to tie too tightly, as this can damage the stem. Regularly check and adjust the ties as the plant grows.

growing tomatoes in pots

Common Tomato Plant Pests 

Tomato plants are prone to various pests and diseases, which can quickly turn your thriving garden into a battleground. Knowing how to identify and manage common garden pests is essential for maintaining healthy, productive plants.

Powdery Mildew is a fungal disease that appears as a white, powdery substance on the leaves, stems, and sometimes fruit of your tomato plants. This disease thrives in warm, dry conditions and can spread rapidly. To identify powdery mildew, look for white spots on the leaves. As the disease progresses, the spots will grow larger and cover the entire leaf surface, leading to yellowing and eventually, leaf drop. Our Natural Plant Wash creates an environment that is unfavorable for fungal diseases like powdery mildew. By adjusting the plant surface pH, the Natural Plant Protector makes it difficult for mildew spores to survive and spread, thereby protecting your plants from this common issue.

See more on how to get rid of powdery mildew here

Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects that cluster on the new growth of tomato plants. They can be green, black, red, or white and are often found on the undersides of leaves and stems. Aphids suck the sap from plants, causing the leaves to curl and distort, and can transmit plant viruses. To control aphids, regularly inspect your plants and remove any infested leaves. Applying our Natural Plant Protector is highly effective in managing aphid infestations as it works by suffocating and dehydrating the insects on contact.

See more on how to get rid of aphids here

growing tomatoes in pots

Spider Mites are tiny arachnids that can be difficult to see with the naked eye. They typically appear as tiny red or yellow specks on the undersides of leaves and are most active in hot, dry conditions. Spider mites damage plants by piercing leaf cells and sucking out their contents, which results in stippling—a speckled pattern on the leaves. Severe infestations can cause leaves to turn yellow and drop prematurely. Our Natural Plant Protector is particularly effective against spider mites. Its formulation suffocates and dehydrates the mites, their eggs, and larvae, providing thorough control without harming your plants.

See more on how to get rid of spider mites here

Whiteflies are small, moth-like insects that feed on the undersides of tomato leaves. They can cause significant damage by sucking the sap from the plants and secreting a sticky substance called honeydew, which can lead to sooty mold growth. To detect whiteflies, gently shake the plant; if a cloud of tiny white insects rises, you have whiteflies. Applying our Natural Plant Protector can also help eliminate whiteflies. Its natural ingredients are safe for plants but lethal to pests, disrupting their life cycle and preventing future infestations.

See more on how to get rid of whiteflies here

growing tomatoes in pots

Apply a Natural and Organic Pesticide for Prevention and Control

Keeping your tomato plants healthy and pest-free is much easier with a little preventative care. Our Natural Plant Protector is made with biodegradable, food-grade ingredients that work together to coat and suffocate pests on contact. It also includes citric acid, which adjusts the plant surface pH, making it an unwelcome environment for fungi like powdery mildew. By regularly using Lost Coast Plant Therapy as part of your pest management routine, you can enjoy a naturally healthy garden.

growing tomatoes in pots

Using our product is simple. Just shake the concentrate well before mixing it with water, then thoroughly apply the solution to your plants. Make sure to cover the undersides of leaves and stems where pests like to hide. For general pest prevention, use the product once a week. If you’re dealing with a more severe infestation, you can apply it every few days until things are under control. And as a precaution, it’s always a good idea to test the product on a small section of the plant first to make sure there are no adverse reactions.

By incorporating our Natural Plant Protector into your regular gardening routine, you can keep your tomato plants healthy and free from pests, all while using gentle, natural ingredients. 

See more on How it Works here and our Ingredients here

growing tomatoes in pots


Growing tomatoes in containers is an incredibly rewarding experience, whether you have a big garden or just a cozy balcony. It’s a joy to see your tomato plants thrive and produce those deliciously sweet tomatoes that we all love.

Remember, while there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of picking a ripe, juicy tomato from your own container garden, tomatoes are susceptible to various pests and diseases, so keeping an eye on your plants is key. Regularly inspect the leaves for any signs of trouble and take action promptly to keep your plants healthy. Spray your plants regularly with our Natural Plant Protector to keep them pest-free and prevent diseases like powdery mildew.

Watering consistently, providing ample sunlight, and using quality potting soil will help your tomato plants grow strong and productive. Don’t forget to prune and support your plants to prevent any damage and to help them reach their full potential.

growing tomatoes in pots

FAQ's About Growing Tomatoes 

Do Tomatoes Grow Better in Pots or in the Ground?

Tomatoes can thrive both in pots and in the ground, but each method has its unique advantages. Growing tomatoes in pots offers greater control over soil quality and drainage, which can lead to healthier plants. Container-grown tomatoes are also easier to move, allowing you to position them in the sunniest spots and protect them from harsh weather. 

Can I Grow Tomatoes and Basil in the Same Pot?

Yes, you can grow tomatoes and basil in the same pot, and they actually make excellent companions. Basil is known to enhance the flavor of tomatoes and can help repel certain pests, making it a beneficial plant to grow alongside tomatoes. When planting them together, ensure that the pot is large enough to accommodate both plants. 

What Should Not Be Planted with Tomatoes?

When it comes to growing tomatoes, it's important to be mindful of companion planting. Some plants should be avoided near tomatoes due to their potential to attract pests, compete for nutrients, or inhibit tomato growth. Potatoes, for example, should not be planted near tomatoes because both are susceptible to the same diseases, such as blight, and planting them together can increase the risk of disease spreading between the plants. Fennel is another plant to avoid, as it can inhibit the growth of tomatoes by secreting substances that affect root development.

Can I Grow Indeterminate Tomatoes in Containers?

Yes, it is possible to grow indeterminate tomatoes in containers. Indeterminate tomato plants continue to grow and produce fruit throughout the entire growing season. These plants require larger pots, at least 18-24 inches in diameter, to accommodate their extensive root systems. Providing strong support with stakes, cages, or trellises is essential to help these plants grow tall and stay healthy.

growing tomatoes in pots

How Do I Prevent Root Disturbance When Planting Tomatoes in Pots?

To avoid disturbing the roots when planting tomatoes in pots, carefully handle the plants during transplanting. Gently loosen the soil around the plant and place it into a pre-dug hole in the potting soil. Water the plant thoroughly after transplanting to help settle the soil around the roots. 

What Are Determinate Tomato Varieties Best Suited for Containers?

Determinate tomato varieties are well-suited for container gardening because they grow to a specific height and produce fruit all at once. Varieties like 'Bush Early Girl,' 'Patio Princess,' and 'Roma' are excellent choices for growing in pots. These plants tend to be more compact and manageable, making them ideal for smaller spaces and easier to care for in containers.

How Can I Extend the Growing Season for My Container-Grown Tomatoes?

To extend the growing season for container-grown tomatoes, consider using portable pots that can be moved indoors. Ensure that your plants are healthy and pest-free, our Natural Plant Wash can help with this. Regularly fertilizing your plants and providing adequate sunlight can help them thrive for a longer period. Additionally, using row covers or frost blankets during unexpected cold snaps can protect your tomato plants and keep them producing deliciously sweet tomatoes well into the fall.

growing tomatoes in pots

What are the Best Tomato Varieties for Container Gardening?

Several tomato varieties are particularly well-suited for container gardening due to their compact size and robust growth habits. Cherry tomatoes, such as 'Tiny Tim,' 'Sweet 100,' and 'Sun Gold,' are excellent choices. These tomatoes are small, sweet, and highly productive, making them perfect for small pots and patios. Grape tomatoes, like 'Juliet' and 'Red Grape,' produce small, flavorful tomatoes that grow well in containers and offer a bountiful harvest. Bush tomatoes, which are determinate varieties like 'Bush Early Girl' and 'Patio Princess,' are designed for compact growth and are ideal for container gardening. 

For those who prefer heirloom varieties, 'Brandywine' and 'Black Krim' are great choices. Although they require larger pots, they can thrive well with proper care, providing unique flavors and colors. Campari tomatoes, known for their sweet flavor and juicy texture, are also well-suited for container growing.

growing tomatoes in pots

How Big Should a Pot Be for Growing Tomatoes?

For compact plants like cherry tomatoes or determinate bush tomatoes, a pot with a diameter of at least 12-14 inches is sufficient. These pots provide enough room for the root system to expand and support the plant's growth. For larger varieties, such as beefsteak or indeterminate heirloom tomatoes, you should opt for pots that are at least 18-24 inches in diameter. These larger pots accommodate the extensive root systems and provide the necessary stability for the plants as they grow tall and heavy with fruit.

Using 5-gallon pots is a popular choice for many tomato varieties. These pots offer a good balance of size and manageability, ensuring that the tomato plants have enough space to develop healthy roots while being easy to move and position for optimal sunlight.

growing tomatoes in pots

How Often Should I Water Tomato Plants in Containers?

Tomato plants in containers require regular watering to maintain consistent soil moisture. However, the frequency can vary based on factors like weather conditions, pot size, and the type of growing medium used. Generally, you should water your container tomato plants deeply and thoroughly whenever the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.

growing tomatoes in pots

How Do I Prevent and Control Pests on Tomato Plants?

Tomato plants are susceptible to various pests, including aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and powdery mildew. Preventing and controlling these pests is essential for maintaining healthy plants and ensuring a bountiful harvest. Frequently check for signs of pests or disease because early detection is key to preventing infestations from spreading and causing significant damage. Our Natural Plant Protector is an excellent solution for both preventing and managing common tomato pests.

growing tomatoes in pots

Additional Resources 

Your Guide to Growing Tomato Plants From Seeds

Garden Pests and Diseases - University of California

Spider Mites - Virginia State University

Powdery Mildew- Almanac

Whiteflies in the Greenhouse - University of Kentucky 

Whitefly - Outdoors - Missouri Botanical Garden

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Principles - United States Environmental Protection Agency

Aphids, in-depth- Wisconsin Horticulture

How–To: Grow Tomatoes Indoors

Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden

Powdery mildew | Description, Symptoms, & Control - Britannica