Life Cycle of a Tomato


The tomato is one of the most popular plants in home gardens. While grown in the vegetable garden, tomatoes are actually fruits. They are annuals, meaning they grow, flower, set fruit and die within one season.

The Lifespan of a tomato spans one growing season. image by "Cherry Tomatoes" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Lorri37 (Lo) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.


Tomato seeds contain embryonic plants (cotyledons) and a food supply (endosperm) to nourish them as they lie dormant. When ground temperature and moisture is right, the cotyledon breaks the seed case and begins to grow


Upon germination, a root (radicle) grows downward and a stem (plumle) grows upward. Two juvenile leaves begin producing chlorophyll to process nutrients from the soil. Seedlings begin to grow aggressively when soil temperatures climb above 60 degrees.


The plant produces "true" leaves, unique to tomato plants. Some plants (indeterminant) begin producing flowers on a vine when quite young, and others (determinant) stop growing when they begin "setting" flowers.


Plants flower when daytime temperatures warm, in the 70s F. Most plants produce small white blooms in odd numbers along vine-like stems.


Insects or self-pollination fertilizes eggs in the ovaries of a few blossoms. Seeds form, surrounded by protective fruit. Fruit may be red, pink, yellow, white or orange and ripens with warm days and cool nights.


Tomato plants die when temperatures drop and the plants can no longer bloom and set fruit. The fruit then rots around the plants. Rain or animals carry the seeds to new locations.


  • University of Ilinois Extension
  • University of Ilinois Extension Teacher's Guide
  • Kansas State University

Who Can Help

  • Lifecycle of a tomato plant
  • The Great Plant Escape
  • Growing tomatoes in a home garden
Keywords: tomato plants, lifecycle of tomatoes, vegetable garden, annual

About this Author

Laura Reynolds began writing professionally in 1974. She has worked as author and editor in nonfiction, professional journals and newspapers. Reynolds has also served in numerous appointed and elected local offices. She holds a Bachelor of Science in education from Northern Illinois University.