How to Grow Tomatoes in Pots in Florida
Tomatoes (Lycopersicon spp.) are annual plants that are either determinate or indeterminate. Plant determinate tomatoes for one crop of tomatoes earlier in the season. Plant indeterminate tomatoes for continued crops throughout the season. Determinate tomatoes are better for containers because they stay smaller. Both types of tomatoes tend to stop producing when night temperatures stay above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which can make them a challenge to grow throughout Florida.
Select smaller varieties for containers. Heat- and humidity-resistant varieties produce tomatoes longer in the Florida heat. Cherry tomatoes usually continue to produce fruit through the summer even when nights stay hot.
Disease and pest resistance is also important. Common tomato diseases like verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt thrive in Florida’s heat and humidity.
With careful selection, larger-fruiting tomatoes can be grown successfully in different parts of the state:
- ‘Charger’ (Lycopersicon ‘Charger’) is a good determinate variety for central and south Florida. The determinate plants grow to a height of 3 to 4 feet and produce 10- to 14-ounce tomatoes in 72 to 78 days.
- ‘Amelia’ (Lycopersicon ‘Amelia’) is a determinate variety that grows well in north Florida. It grows to a height of 4 to 5 feet and produces 8- to 10-ounce tomatoes in 80 days.
Tomatoes in Containers
Pot up the tomato plants in late winter or early spring when there is no longer any danger of frost. Use large containers with drain holes in the bottom. A 5-gallon bucket with four to six ½-inch holes drilled into the bottom works well. Very small varieties like ‘Micro-Tom’ (Lycopersicon ‘Micro-Tom’) can be planted in smaller pots or hanging containers. ‘Micro-Tom’ was developed at the University of Florida. It grows to only about 6 inches tall.
Plant tomato plants with houseplant potting soil that contains sphagnum peat moss, perlite and vermiculite. Do not plant tomatoes in containers with garden soil, which does not drain quickly enough for containers. Mix ½ tablespoon of 10-10-10 slow-release fertilizer into each gallon of soil.
Place a tomato cage over each tomato plant and push it firmly into the potting soil. Set the containers in a spot where they will be exposed to a minimum of six hours of sunlight. Water the newly planted tomato plants generously until the water pours out of the drainage holes.
Water potted tomato plants when the top of the soil begins to dry. Do not allow it to dry out. Pour water evenly over the soil until it begins to drain from the bottom. Water in the morning with a watering can or garden hose. Avoid wetting the leaves to help prevent foliar diseases.
Fertilize the tomato plants with a 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer once per week or every other week beginning when tomatoes form. Mix 1 teaspoon into 1 gallon of water and pour it evenly over the soil after watering the tomato plants with plain water.
- Potting mix
- Time-release fertilizer
- Hand trowel
- Tomato transplant
- Tomato cage
- Hand trimmers