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Minimum Sun Requirement for Tomato Plants

By Barbara Gulin ; Updated September 21, 2017
Growing strong and healthy tomatoes requires sunlight.
tomato image by YN from Fotolia.com

Growing healthy tomato plants takes plenty of sunlight. Plants need a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. The plant converts the sunlight to energy, which it then uses to produce strong plants and abundant fruit. If you don't have an area in your yard that gets this much sunlight each day, there are a few things you can do to enhance the light that is available.

Direct Sunlight

Tomatoes prefer direct sunlight. Ideally, tomatoes need at least six hours of direct sunlight, but will thrive with eight hours of light each day. To get this amount of light, plant your tomatoes on the south side of your home. If you can't plant on the south side, the west side of your home or yard is a decent second choice. Choose a place for your garden that gets as much light as possible and has very little afternoon shade. Sunlight also warms the soil, making necessary nutrients available for the tomato plant to produce healthy and flavorful fruit.

Enhancing Available Sunlight

If your garden area does not get a minimum of six hours of sunlight each day, products are available to enhance the available light. The experts at the Tomato Gardening Guru website suggest that planting your tomatoes close to a fence and hanging a white sheet over the fence will reflect the light. You can also purchase reflective Mylar to augment available sunlight.

Too Much Sunlight

As a rule, it is difficult for tomatoes to get too much sunlight. The exception to this rule is if you live in a part of the country where the temperature exceeds 95 degrees F for an extended period of time. If you live in this part of the country, either choose a heat-resistant variety of tomatoes, or shade the tomatoes for part of the warmest time of day. Do this by building a fence near the tomatoes or construct some sort of canopy that will offer protection. Make sure there is plenty of air circulating around the tomato plants so that they don't overheat.

Containers and Sunlight

While tomatoes grown in containers need the same sunlight as tomatoes planted in the ground, they can dry out quickly, especially on hot summer days. Instead of keeping containers in a shaded area, make sure that tomato plants are watered frequently.

Sunlight to Ripen Tomatoes

As much as the tomato plant requires sunlight to grow abundant numbers of fruit, tomatoes do not require sunlight to ripen. In fact, tomatoes ripen faster in the absence of light.


About the Author


Barbara Gulin has been a freelance writer and editor since 2008. She has helped write curriculum for Asian elementary students to learn Engish and has written extensive content for Themomsresource.com. Gulin studied electrical and computer engineering at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. She is also a licensed life and health insurance agent.