How to Plant Tomatoes in a Pot


Almost any tomato variety will grow just as well in a pot as it will in the ground. If space is an issue, it is easy to grow tomatoes in a pot. Many people live in apartments and have no yard but they do have a patio or balcony where they can place several pots. As long as there is sun in the area, growing tomatoes in a pot is possible.

Step 1

Choose a pot in which to plant a tomato plant. The best size is a 5-gallon container that is at least 12 inches deep. This will allow for optimum root growth. If the pot will have to be moved around, get a plant coaster on which to place the pot. These are flat surfaces with wheels underneath that allow the plant to be moved without lifting. They are great when there is a heavy pot to move.

Step 2

Prepare the pot by washing it out with soap and water. Do this especially if the pot has been used before. Rinse it well. Do not leave any soap residue in the pot or it could harm the tomato plant.

Step 3

Cover the hole in the bottom of the pot with a shard of another pot or a stone that fits over the hole. The object should not fit tightly. It is only there to keep the soil from going out through the drain hole while letting excess water out.

Step 4

Place a 1-inch layer of gravel on the bottom of the pot. This will allow for drainage of excess water so that the roots of the tomato will not be wet all the time and rot. If using gravel from the yard, be sure to rinse it before putting it in the pot.

Step 5

Fill the pot three-fourths full with a commercial potting soil. This soil can contain soil, vermiculite or pearlite and sphagnum peat moss. Some commercial blends come with a fertilizer built right in. If the soil used contains fertilizer, do not add extra fertilizer until after the fruit sets on the plant.

Step 6

Purchase a transplant from a garden center. Remove the transplant from its container and loosen the roots. Dig a hole with a garden trowel deep enough to contain the roots and place it in the hole. Fill in around the hole with more of the potting soil, coming up to the top of the pot, and push down on the soil to secure the plant. Insert a bamboo stake or find a tomato cage that will fit in the pot. If the soil sinks after watering, fill the pot with a little more soil mix.

Step 7

Water the pot with a mixture of water-soluble fertilizer. Use 10-20-10 fertilizer, dissolving two cups in one gallon of warm water in a 1-gallon jar. Take 2 tbsp. of this solution and mix with 1 gallon clean water in a watering can. Water the tomato plant with this solution. Use the solution every other day for about two weeks, then once a week. The days the solution is not used, the tomato should be watered well with clear water. Since pots dry out quickly and tomatoes are heavy drinkers, the pot should be watered every day. When watering with clear water, water until some comes out of the bottom drain hole.

Step 8

Place the pot in a sunny area. Tomatoes require eight hours of full sun per day. This may require that the pot be moved around each day to stay in the sunlight for that many hours. Six hours is the least a tomato will tolerate.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not use pots that do not have drain holes. The tomato will get too wet and the roots will rot. Do not use aquarium gravel at the bottom of the pot. It is too fine and will fall through the drain hole. Place the cage or stake in right after planting. This way the roots will not be disturbed after they are established.

Things You'll Need

  • 5-gallon pot
  • Plant coaster--optional
  • Soap and water
  • Shard of a terra cotta pot or small stone
  • Gravel
  • Commercial potting soil
  • Tomato transplant
  • Trowel
  • Bamboo stake or tomato cage and old nylons
  • 2 cups water-soluble fertilizer
  • 2 gallons water
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoon
  • Watering can
  • 1-gallon jar with lid


  • Aggie Horticulture: Vegetable Gardening in Containers
  • American Homeowners Association: Grow Tomatoes Anywhere
  • Ohio State University Extension: Growing Cucumbers, Peppers, Squash and Tomatoes in a Container
  • National Gardening Association: Container Tomatoes

Who Can Help

  • Thrifty Fun: Container Gardening Tomatoes
Keywords: tomatoes in pots, tomatoes in containers, planting container tomatoes