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The Complete Guide To Container Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the most popular choices for gardening in small spaces because they can grow in containers. Whether you have a patio, balcony, or even just a windowsill, there is undoubtedly a tomato variety that you can grow.

How do you find the perfect type of tomato for your tiny garden? Keep reading to get the lowdown on the top container tomato plants and how to grow them.

container tomatoes growing in containers probably using the best soil for tomatoes in containers

The Best Container Tomato Varieties

Growing the ultimate patio garden starts with selecting the right plants. There are many varieties of container tomatoes to choose from, each offering unique benefits you’ll enjoy.

If you are cultivating an outdoor patio garden, you must evaluate your local climate to select a zone-suitable tomato plant. This is less important when you have a greenhouse or indoor garden.

Primarily, you should choose container tomatoes based on the flavor and texture you enjoy. It is easier to grow dwarf-determinate tomatoes in pots. Still, with a trellis and a large enough planter, you can grow any type of tomato successfully.

Do you want a dwarf plant suitable for smaller containers? Check out the following tiny tomato plants that pack huge flavor:

Most indoor gardeners prefer determinate tomatoes for growing in containers. This is due to the compact growth habits of these bushy varieties.

Are you set on growing your favorite indeterminate vining tomato plant in a small space? Learn how to grow tomatoes upside down to discover new gardening possibilities.

You can choose a few of the best container tomato varieties if you have enough room. Mix it up with a blend of cherry, Roma, beefsteak, and sliced tomatoes.

After you narrow down your top choices, it’s time to get planting. Purchase high-quality tomato seeds from a trusted nursery like Hoss Tools and follow along to learn how to grow the best container tomatoes.

How to Grow Tomatoes in Containers

seedling tomatoes growing in tomato containers

Growing container tomatoes is straightforward and easy for beginner gardeners to accomplish. In practice, all you need is soil, a large container, and tomato seeds.

Still, some prefer to start tomatoes in seed trays and transplant the seedlings once they are ready. If you want to dive deeper, check out this comprehensive guide about growing tomatoes in pots.

Here is a brief step-by-step guide to growing container tomatoes the best way:

Step 1: Start Seeds in The Right Soil for Tomato Containers

The perfect tomato container garden starts with balanced, nutrient-rich, well-draining soil. In fact, choosing the best soil for tomato containers can reduce diseases and pests and increase fruit size and yield.

Tomato plants prefer sandy-loam soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. The best potting mix also contains essential nutrients and minerals to support healthy growth.

FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil Mix is the best choice for container tomatoes. It’s an all-in-one solution that is ready straight from the bag.

Fill a seed-starter tray with moist soil and sow two seeds in each cell. Place the tray under a full-spectrum grow light during the day, and mist the cells with water from a spray bottle each morning.

Step 2: Thin Seedlings

Once the seedlings are about two inches tall, remove the smaller one from each cell carefully. Pinch them off just above the soil to avoid disturbing the root systems.

Step 3: Transplant Seedlings

After the seedlings have at least two sets of leaves, you can transplant them into larger containers. Gently remove the entire contents of each cell and plant them up to the bottom leaves in individual pots.

Step 4: Fertilize Tomato Containers

Container tomatoes benefit from the additional nutrition boost provided by the right fertilizer applied at the appropriate time.

Apply balanced fertilizer to each tomato container after the threat of transplant shock has passed. Reapply later in the season once the plants begin flowering and fruiting.

Once your tomato plants start producing flowers and fruit buds, you should apply fertilizer weekly. FoxFarm Happy Tree Frog Fruit & Flower Fertilizer supplies critical nutrients your plants need for a bountiful harvest.

Check out this Tomato Fertilizer Guide to learn more about the best tomato fertilizer options.

Step 5: Trellis Plants

Tomato Trellis Ideas

All tomato plants benefit from having a simple support structure. Use a small cage or trellis to help your container tomatoes grow healthy vines and plump fruit.

If you are growing compact bush container tomatoes, you might think you don’t need a trellis. Even though determinate tomatoes don’t have extensive vines, they still benefit from caging.

Plump tomatoes can put some strain on the stem and branches of your plant. Trellises and cages help support some of this weight.

Trellising provides more surface area for foliage to flourish. This provides plants with improved airflow and sunlight exposure. Learn how to tie up tomato plants to get the complete picture of this beneficial process.

Step 6: Harvest Tomatoes

Different types of tomatoes mature at different rates. Check your seed packets for days to maturity so you can harvest ripe tomatoes at their peak flavor.

How do you know when your container tomatoes are ready to harvest? There are a few signs of ripeness you should look for.

First, remember that the nose knows. Your tomato plants and fruits will be pretty fragrant once they are mature.

It helps if you also look for color changes in the tomato’s skin. Depending on the type, once the entire tomato is an even shade of red, orange, or yellow, it is likely ripe.

Look for texture changes, too, since ripe tomatoes feel heavy and firm instead of hollow and rubbery. In fact, a fully ripe tomato may soften so much that it falls right from the vine.

Watering Tomato Containers

Keeping your container tomatoes adequately hydrated is a delicate dance.

If the soil is too dry, your plant won’t grow to its full potential. Plants can die from root rot and other diseases if it gets too wet.

So, what is the best way to water tomatoes in pots? Before adding water, you should check the soil with a finger dip test every morning.

Simply dip your index finger two inches into the soil at least four inches away from the stem. Examine your finger once you withdraw it to determine the moisture level.

The soil is dry if your finger is clean and should be watered thoroughly.

The moisture level is perfect if your finger has a few clumps of soil clinging to it.

If your finger comes back coated in mud, the container is over-saturated. Avoid watering for a few days until it dries out.

Common Container Tomato Pests and Pathogens

Potted tomato plants can be especially susceptible to common tomato diseases. You can help protect your plants from infection by providing them with adequate airflow and proper nutrition.

If you keep your tomato containers indoors, you might need to battle pests like aphids. Check out this guide to common tomato pests to learn how to combat these pesky critters.


fresh container tomatoes growing in a garden

Which tomatoes grow best in containers?

Determinate bush-type tomatoes generally fare best in containers. Since these plants are self-limiting, they are better suited for small growing spaces.

How deep do containers need to be for tomatoes?

Tomato plants require large pots in order to thrive. The minimum size tomato container is 18 inches deep by 12 inches wide.

How many tomatoes can you plant in a container?

You should only cultivate one tomato plant per container. Overcrowding leads to increased disease risk, nutrient deficiencies, and poor yields.

What are the tastiest tomato recipes?

Check out these delicious and easy ways to enjoy your container-fresh tomatoes:

  • The Best Tomato Soup Recipe to Enjoy with Grilled Cheese
  • Delicious and Easy Tomato Salsa Recipe
  • The Best Marinara Recipe: Fast Prep and Delicious Flavor

The Ultimate Gardeners’ Guide to Container Tomatoes

After reading this in-depth guide, you should feel confident selecting and growing your own container tomatoes. Hopefully, you are inspired to try new varieties in your small garden this year.

You must learn tried-and-true advice and gardening tips to get the most out of your tomatoes. To read more comprehensive growing guides, explore our Tomato Plants hub.