How to Plant Tomatoes in Pots


For those with limited garden space, growing tomatoes in pots or containers provides abundant fruit in a small space. Often sold as patio tomatoes, these tomatoes have been cultivated to maintain a small size, making them ideal for containers and pots. When provided with proper nutrients, adequate water, and rich, well-drained soil, tomatoes thrive in sunny locations.

Step 1

Select a 5-gallon pot for each tomato plant. Many gardeners prefer to use a recycled plastic bucket for growing tomatoes, but there are many pots available at your local home improvement center. Plastic pots retain moisture better than clay or terra cotta, but what you choose it up to individual taste. Check that the pot has adequate drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.

Step 2

Mix equal parts potting soil, peat moss, compost and perlite to create a lightweight porous soil. Garden soil tends to be too heavy and may contain diseases or insect pests. Clean sterilized soil mixture gives your tomatoes a good start.

Step 3

Choose determinate tomato plants. Determinate plants grow to a specific height (typically 1 1/2 to 2 feet) and cease growing. Indeterminate varieties continue to grow all season and can reach heights of 6 feet or more. Some determinate varieties may be labeled as patio tomatoes. Look for tomato plants with days to maturity that match the number of frost-free days in your region.

Step 4

Select stocky plants with thick stems. Look for rich, green foliage. Avoid tall, spindly seedlings or those with pale green leaves. Short healthy plants will soon overtake large weak plants.

Step 5

Fill the pot 3/4 way with soil and place the seedling so the top 4 to 6 inches is above the top of the pot. Fill in around the seedling with soil and firm with your hands to secure the plant and remove air pockets. Water thoroughly until water runs free from the bottom of the pot.

Step 6

Place in a sunny location that receives eight hours or more of direct sunlight a day. These heat-loving plants thrive along the southern side of the home.

Step 7

Water when soil dries slightly. Plants in containers require more frequent watering than those in the soil. Daily watering may be necessary.

Step 8

Apply water-soluble fertilizer designed for tomatoes on a 10- to 14-day schedule. Follow the instructions on the box for mixing and applying fertilizer. Typically, one gallon of water-soluble fertilizer is recommended per plant, but this may vary depending on the manufacturer.

Things You'll Need

  • 5-gallon pot
  • Soil mixture
  • Seedlings
  • Water-soluble fertilizer


  • AgrLIFE EXTENSION: Vegetable Gardening in Containers
  • Ohio State University Extension: Growing Cucumbers, Pepper, Squash and Tomatoes in Containers
  • University of Florida Extension: Minigardening

Who Can Help

  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Vegetable Gardening in Containers
  • University of Illinois Extension: Tomato
Keywords: grow tomatoes, grow tomatoes in pots, tomatoes in containers, patio tomatoes

About this Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with 4 years experience in online writing and a lifetime of personal journals. She is published on various sites, including Associated Content. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.