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Growing Heat-Tolerant Tomatoes: A Guide to Better Yields and Healthier Plants

Refreshing and versatile tomatoes are a staple in any kitchen. And there’s nothing quite like the perfection of enjoying a fresh, home-grown tomato straight from your garden.

But if you live somewhere with hot weather and high temperatures, you’ve probably learned that standard tomato plants can struggle in hot, dry, or very humid climates.

Want to start growing tomatoes, but live outside the standard growing regions for these notoriously sensitive plants?

Keep reading to learn about heat-tolerant tomatoes, including how to grow them in your garden!

Heat-Tolerant Tomatoes

Characteristics of Heat-Tolerant Tomatoes

What exactly makes a tomato heat-tolerant? Here’s how heat-tolerant tomatoes separate themselves from the rest of the pack and are able to survive and thrive in hot weather.

Tomato heat tolerance varies depending on the genetic traits of each particular cultivar.

Though they love sunlight, most standard tomatoes prefer a warm environment with a consistent temperature between 65 to 85 degrees. Exposed to temps in the 90s and above, these tomato plants are liable to experience heat stress.

A tomato plant in heat stress will start shutting down some of its biological functions in an attempt to conserve energy and keep itself alive. This negatively impacts the fruit quality, yield, and the plant’s ability to continue growing and reproducing.

Unlike standard tomato plants, heat-tolerant varieties can set fruit despite high temperatures. They are also able to continue flower production and other regular plant functions despite fluctuations in temperature and humidity.

Reduced Risk of Sunscald and Splitting

Many heat-tolerant tomatoes have developed thicker skins than their standard counterparts. This makes them less vulnerable to sunscald or to burn under prolonged exposure to bright sunlight.

And tomatoes with stronger, thicker skins are also less likely to split or crack if the plant experiences drought conditions or other fluctuations in water availability.

A Longer, More Productive Harvest

Because of their resistance to the adverse effects of hot weather and extended sunlight hours, heat-tolerant tomatoes can produce bountiful harvests through an extended growing season.

Why Grow Heat-Tolerant Tomatoes?

big beef tomato which is heat-tolerant

Whether you live in a dry desert region or a hot and humid area, growing heat-tolerant tomatoes is a great option for anyone concerned about the effects of hot weather on their tomato plants.

Keep reading to learn about the many benefits of growing heat-tolerant tomatoes.

Ability to Grow in Hot Climates

If you live in the dry desert heat of the American Southwest or the hot, humid Southeast, someone’s probably told you it’ll be hard to grow tomatoes in your garden.

But lots of heat-tolerant tomato cultivars can grow just about anywhere.

And considering the impact of climate change on rising temperatures throughout most regions of the US, growing heat-tolerant tomatoes might be a good idea for gardeners just about anywhere.

Increased Yields

Heat stress on a standard tomato plant delays fruit set, impacts pollination and fertilization, and overall results in low yields.

Plant heat-tolerant varieties instead, and you’ll be bringing in a steady, healthy tomato harvest all summer and fall, no matter where your garden grows.

Improved Plant Health and Fruit Quality

Standard tomatoes grown in hot weather are liable to wilt, drop flowers, and produce uneven crops of slow-ripening, oddly shaped, or poor-quality fruit.

Planting heat-tolerant tomato varieties will ensure your crop grows as it should, regardless of hot weather conditions.

How to Grow Heat-Tolerant Tomatoes

Thinking about growing your own heat-tolerant tomatoes? Here are the steps you’ll need to take to get started.

1. Prepping The Soil

Tomatoes like loose, loamy, nutrient-rich soil through which their roots can grow and spread easily. Plant your new heat-tolerant tomatoes in well-draining, slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 to 6.8. You can check the acidity of your soil easily using one of these best soil pH testers.

Mixing a layer of organic mulch into the top layer of your base soil is also a great idea, especially when growing tomatoes in hot weather. This creates a layer of insulation that helps to keep the plant’s roots cool under the soil.

2. Spacing and Planting

Like other vining plants, tomatoes grow quickly and don’t like to feel crowded. Always space tomato plants at least two feet apart from each other when planting. For larger tomato varieties, you may need even more space between plants.

Proper spacing of tomato plants is especially important when growing them in humid environments. Humidity increases the chance that airborne diseases like blight can spread from one plant to another, especially if there is not enough space between them for proper air circulation.

3. Support for Vertical Growth

Tomatoes grow best when they have support for vertical, as well as horizontal, movement. This is not only best for the plant’s health overall, but it also makes it much easier for you to see and remove ripening fruit when it’s time to harvest.

Depending on the tomato cultivar you’ve chosen to grow, you might need more or less vertical support.

We’ve got a complete guide to how to tie up tomato plants that will walk you through all the steps for trellising, staking, or caging different types of tomato plants.

4. Watering and Fertilizing

Home gardeners sometimes wonder exactly how often to water tomatoes in hot weather.

The most important factor in watering a tomato plant is consistency. Fluctuations in the amount of water available to the plant’s roots impact fruit quality and the plant’s health overall.

A great way to make sure your tomato plant’s water supply stays consistent is to use a drip irrigation system. Skip the manual watering, and you’ll avoid accidental under or over-watering.

And tomatoes need the right nutrition in their soil to produce the highest quality of fruit. Check out our top picks for the best tomato fertilizers you can buy online.

5. Care and Maintenance

As your tomato plants grow, check on them regularly and adjust their trellises as needed to keep the vine and fruit clusters supported. Always handle vines and stems carefully to avoid injury to the plant.

The best time for wide red tomato varieties to remove from the vine is when they start turning pink. Blushing tomatoes will ripen naturally off the vine.

Other colors of tomatoes will, of course, look different as they ripen. For more details about harvesting tomatoes properly, check out this guide on how to harvest tomatoes.

Best Heat-Tolerant Tomato Varieties

Keep reading for a short list of some of the best heat-tolerant tomatoes that you can get on order today.

Large and Medium-Sized Heat-Tolerant Tomatoes

arkansas traveller tomato

Wide heirloom tomato varieties thrive in hot, dry climates. Arkansas Traveler is a widely popular, medium-sized heat-tolerant heirloom known for its mild flavor.

For larger heat-tolerant heirloom tomatoes, you can also try the sweet and colorful Cherokee Purple or the extra large, bright red, and meaty Big Beef Tomato.

The hybrid cultivars Bella Rosa and Celebration are other great options for large heat-tolerant tomatoes. Both of these are known not only for excellent heat tolerance but for strong disease resistance as well.

Heat Tolerant Small and Cherry Tomatoes

a bunch of yellow pear tomato

Need a classic tomato for sandwich slices? Early Girl is a small, round, red, heat-tolerant tomato notorious for an early and long harvest season.

And if you love tiny tomatoes, you’re in luck because cherry tomato varieties are the best tomatoes for hot, humid weather.

Yellow Pear tomatoes are firm, heat-tolerant, growing in big clusters of tiny, tangy yellow fruits. But these plants can get pretty big, so make enough growing room for a four- to six-foot-tall spreading vine if this cute little teardrop-shaped treat piqued your interest.

Other delicious, heat-tolerant cherry tomato cultivars include Isis Candy and the award-winning Sparky XSL Tomato.

Choosing the Best Heat Tolerant Tomatoes for Your Garden

Consider a couple of things when choosing which heat-tolerant tomato variety is right for your garden.

Which types of tomatoes do you need for your favorite recipes? How many plants do you plan to cultivate? And how much space do you have for them to grow and spread?

It’s also a great idea to perform trial and error to determine which heat-tolerant tomatoes grow best in your garden. Plant a few different varieties and track their success. Then you’ll know which will be most worth your time to replant next season.

Time to Try Growing Heat-Tolerant Tomatoes

Now that you’ve learned about heat-tolerant tomatoes and why you should grow them in your garden, all you’ve left to do is choose which variety you’d like to get started with.

And for everything else you need to know to grow a successful tomato crop, check out our Tomato plants page for more reading and resources.