Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Care for Potted Tomato Plants

By M.H. Dyer ; Updated September 21, 2017

There’s nothing quite like homegrown tomatoes picked fresh off the vine, and it doesn’t even require a patch of ground to enjoy this summertime treat. As long as you can provide direct sunlight, you can grow tomatoes in pots. Although potted tomatoes take a little bit of care, it isn’t difficult, and the first time you taste the juicy sweetness that only fresh tomatoes can offer, the effort will be well worth it.

Purchase tomatoes that are suited to your climate. Most tomatoes will do well when nighttime temperatures are at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a cooler climate, look for early varieties such as "First Early" or "Early Girl."

Choose a container that will accommodate the tomato when it’s full-grown, at least 18 inches in diameter and 14 inches high. Any type of container will work as long as it has a drainage hole in the bottom, but plastic containers will hold water longer than terracotta or clay.

Use good-quality potting soil that contains perlite, and add a handful of compost at planting time. Put a small piece of screen over the drainage hole before planting to keep the soil from escaping out the bottom of the pot.

Add stakes to the container before you plant the tomato. Use wooden , bamboo or metal stakes, or purchase a tomato cage.

Plant the tomatoes deep in the soil, at least up to the first set of leaves. More stem under the soil will enable more roots to develop. Put potted tomatoes where they will receive full sunlight, but will be out of the wind.

Water tomatoes deeply, and don’t allow the soil to dry out. One watering per week is usually enough, unless the weather is hot and dry. If the tomato is inadvertently allowed to dry out and the leaves appear wilted, put the entire container in a bucket of water for an hour. Cut back on the water when the tomatoes begin to ripen, as too much water can create flavorless, watery tomatoes.

Feed potted tomatoes every other week, using a well-balanced all-purpose commercial fertilizer. Always water the tomatoes before fertilizing.


Things You Will Need

  • Tomato plants
  • Planting container
  • Potting soil with perlite
  • Compost
  • Small piece of screen
  • Stakes or tomato cage
  • Water
  • All-purpose fertilizer

About the Author


M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.