Tomato Planting in Pots


Any plant can be grown successfully in a container if it is the appropriate size. If you lack the land to grow tomatoes in the ground, consider planting one in a pot to live on your sunny balcony or porch. Choose varieties of tomatoes that don't grow too large or produce their tasty fruits in a shorter amount of time, especially if your growing season is short. Tomatoes only grow when there is no threat of frost.

Container Selection

Choose a container that is at least 12 inches in diameter, according to Pam Bennett of The Ohio State University. Sam Cotner of Aggie Horticulture (Texas A&M) suggests a container that is at least the size of a 5-gallon bucket, since it will hold ample soil volume for good health of the tomato plant. Plastic or resin containers retain moisture better than clay or concrete containers. A light-colored pot doesn't heat up as quickly or severely as a pot that is dark green or black. The container must have at least one drainage hole in the bottom.


Tomato plants appreciate lots of warmth and direct sunlight. Locate the pot where it will receive at least 6 hours of direct sun rays daily. In hot summer regions, it's better if the plants in containers receive their sunlight from sunrise to midday, rather than all the sun in the hottest part of the afternoon. Also position the container where it is easy for you to access and water on a daily basis. Near a spigot is ideal but not necessary if you have a sprinkling can or garden hose.

Choosing the Tomato

While most varieties of tomatoes will grow in containers, dwarf selections or those that are bush-types may prove most rewarding, as suggested by Texas A&M University. Avoid indeterminate types (those that are vine-like) unless your pot is large enough to support a trellis or wire tomato cage. Determinate types (bush tomatoes) attain a certain mature size and you can match them with the size of container or how much space you have. Cherry tomatoes, those that produce many golf ball-sized tomatoes or smaller, are well-suited to practically any container pot.


Fill your pot with a quality potting soil that is made of organic materials like peat as well as perlite for good drainage. Do not place topsoil in the container because its texture is too heavy and after a couple waterings it will become compacted and rock hard. Plant your tomato plant seedling in the center of the container, planting it deeply so as much as 70 percent of the main stem is covered by the potting soil. Planting deeply allows for additional roots to form on the stem under the soil, getting your tomato plant off to a better start. Water the container with lukewarm water thoroughly until water is seen running from the container's bottom drainage hole.


The soil and roots of the tomato plant warm and dry out more quickly in a pot, so monitor the soil moisture twice daily in the growing season. Depending on how much sunlight and heat the container gains during the day, watering may be necessary in the morning and again in the late afternoon to prevent severe wilting or loss of foliage. To keep the plant growing full and balanced, consider rotating the orientation of the pot 90 to 180 degrees every few days to prevent the plant from leaning to the sunlight.

Keywords: tomatoes for containers, container growing tomatoes, tomato in pots

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," nonprofit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He's gardened and worked professionally at public and private gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He has written articles for eHow and GardenGuides.