Problems Growing Upside Down Tomatoes

Instead of growing tomatoes in the ground or in a standard vertical garden pot, some tomato-lovers raise the vine or shrub in an upside-down hanging planter. This system of growing tomatoes is typically used when the home gardener wants or needs to save space, according to Rutgers University. Because of the unique setup of these planting systems, hanging tomatoes face problems that their traditionally planted cousins do not.

Heat

Because the plant hangs upside down, the pot itself is not shielded by foliage and is more exposed to the sun than a traditional pot, resulting in an excessive buildup of heat. For this reason, Rutgers University suggests that gardeners choose light-colored pots. Additionally, bigger pots are better able to withstand heat and protect sensitive plant roots than smaller pots.

Food and Water

An upside-down tomato plant needs feeding and watering just as a tomato grown in a traditional method. A standard tomato plant needs 2 to 4 quarts of water per day, according to the University of Missouri. Because greater heat in the upside-down plant may cause increased moisture loss through evaporation and plant transpiration, gardeners should be prepared to water an upside-down plant more often than they're typically accustomed to. For fertilizer, Ohio State University recommends a standard 5-10-10 or 5-20-20 product.

Uneven Growth

The tomato plant will grow toward the sun. If the hanging planter isn't turned every couple of days, the resulting plant will look lopsided and one half of the plant will be in poorer health from a lack of sunlight.

Shallow Root Development

The upside-down tomato plant's roots will continue to grow in the direction that gravity pulls, according to Rutgers University. In an upside-down planter, the roots will collect at the tomato plant's base instead of growing away from the plant. Rutgers recommends planting the tomato plant as deep as possible so its root ball is as close to the top of the upside-down planter as possible.

Pests

Pests may attack the upside-down tomato plant just as they would if it was on the ground. Common pests include aphids, spider mites and leaf miners. Standard insecticidal soap will control these pests, according to the University of Missouri. Larger pests, such as stink bugs and hornworms, can be plucked off manually.

Keywords: upside-down tomato plant, tomato plant problems, tomato plant management

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.