Key Takeaways for Growing Cherry Tomatoes in Containers
- Use large, 5+ gallon containers for each plant for sufficient root room.
- Select compact, heat-tolerant cherry tomato varieties suited for container culture.
- Plant seedlings deeply, burying up to two-thirds of the stem to encourage roots.
- Install tomato cages or strong stakes at planting time to support fruit-laden plants.
- Water regularly, fertilize biweekly, and use drip irrigation if possible.
- Harvest ripe fruits frequently to keep plants continuously producing through the season.
The Complete Guide to Growing Cherry Tomatoes in Containers
Cherry tomatoes are a gardener’s delight. These bite-sized, pop-in-your-mouth jewels add brilliant color and sweet, tangy flavor to everything from salads to skewers.
The best part about cherry tomatoes? They thrive in containers!
With the right techniques, you can harvest pints of petite tomatoes on a patio or balcony. Read on for a complete guide to growing a bountiful crop of container cherry tomatoes.
Why Grow Cherry Tomatoes in Pots?
Before we get into the details, let’s look at some of the benefits of growing cherry tomatoes in containers:
- Perfect for small spaces – Grow tomatoes anywhere without an in-ground garden
- Easy care and harvest – Keep plants within arm’s reach for convenient tending and picking
- Custom care – Adjust water, light, and fertilizer individually for each plant
- Continuous harvest – Enjoy ripe tomatoes for months from a single container
- No disease transmission – Prevent soil-borne diseases spread by isolation
- Less pest pressure – Containers have fewer problems with large pests like gophers
- Productive varieties – Compact cherry tomato plants yield heavily in pots
With the right cultivation methods, you can harvest up to 20-30 lbs of fruit from a single container-grown cherry tomato!
Choosing Cherry Tomato Varieties for Containers
To get the most abundant harvests, start with varieties bred for pot culture:
- Determinate types – Choose compact, “bush” cherry tomato varieties under 3 feet tall that stop growing once fruit sets. They thrive with minimal support in containers.
- Disease resistance – Look for cultivars resistant to common tomato diseases like early blight, late blight, verticillium wilt, and tobacco mosaic virus.
- Small fruits – Cherry, grape, and pear-shaped tomatoes require less energy, so plants remain compact and productive.
- Heat tolerance – Varieties that perform well in hot, dry conditions are ideal for the temperature fluctuations of containers.
Some excellent container cherry tomato options include:
- Sungold – Extremely prolific, golden cherry tomato. Sweet flavor. Needs minimal support.
- Sweet 100 – Heavy yields of bright red, super sweet 1″ fruits. Does well in heat.
- Jasper – Bright red, firm cherries on compact, vigorous plants. Sets fruit well in heat.
- Tidy Treats – A true dwarf only 8-12″ tall! No support is needed. Disease resistant.
- Tommy Toe – Vibrant red, grape-shaped fruits. Thrives in 5-gallon containers.
Planting Cherry Tomatoes in Containers
With the right planting techniques, your container cherry tomatoes will get off to a strong, healthy start:
Choose the Right Container Size
As a vigorous grower, cherry tomatoes perform best in large containers, at least 5 gallons per plant. This gives their dense root systems ample room.
For dwarf and ultra-compact varieties, 3-5 gallon pots may be sufficient. Just watch for any signs of stress and water frequently.
Always choose containers at least 12-18 inches deep. Shallow pots heat up and dry out too quickly for tomatoes.
Use window planter boxes, half whiskey barrels, or 5+ gallon buckets for full-sized cherry tomato plants.
Use Quality Tomato Potting Mix
- The potting soil you use is critical. Avoid regular garden soil, which compacts and drains poorly in containers.
- Instead, use a high-quality organic vegetable and tomato potting mix. It will provide the aeration and drainage of tomato roots.
- Look for mixes containing compost, perlite, vermiculite, and coco coir for moisture retention.
- Or purchase a pre-mixed ‘soil for containers’ blend, including fertilizers.
Start Plants From Seed or Buy Transplants
You can start cherry tomato seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your last expected spring frost. Harden off before transplanting outside.
Otherwise, buy vigorous transplants from a nursery. Look for stocky, green plants without flowers or fruit.
Transplant seedlings on a calm, cloudy day to avoid stress. Water the plants in the well for the next few days.
Plant Deep for Strong Roots
- Tomatoes form roots all along their stems when buried. For best growth, plant seedlings deeper than usual.
- Bury at least 2/3 of the stem, leaving only 3-4 sets of leaves above. Roots will increase in the buried section.
- This also supports the plant better when full of fruit. Take off lower leaves and plant in a trench for even deeper roots.
Add Support Structures
Even compact determinate cherry tomatoes benefit from some support, especially in exposed windy locations.
Use wide tomato cages at least 4-5′ tall. Or install strong stakes and loosely tie plants every 12-18″.
Place supports at planting time before stems are brittle. Containers blow over less with supported plants.
Install inexpensive wire mesh panels along the north side of containers to support plants while allowing ample sunlight from the south.
With optimal soil, planting depth, and early support, your cherry tomato container plants will take off!
Caring for Cherry Tomato Containers
The right cultivation techniques keep container cherry tomato plants thriving all season:
Water and Fertilize Regularly
Potted plants depend completely on you for moisture and nutrients. Check the soil daily and water the container tomatoes when the top few inches dry.
Apply a dilute tomato fertilizer or compost tea every 2-3 weeks during the growing season.
Watch for signs of deficiencies like yellow lower leaves and alter your feeding regimen if needed.
Use Drip Irrigation
If possible, use drip irrigation right at the soil line to conserve water and prevent foliar diseases.
Overhead watering wets tomato foliage, which allows mildew and blights to take hold. Drip lines or micro sprinklers apply moisture directly to the soil.
Prune for Productivity
Pinch off new suckers (shoots between main stems) to encourage a tidy, prolific habit.
Leave some lower foliage, but prune aggressively in the plant interior to allow light and air circulation.
Monitor for Pests
Inspect the undersides of leaves frequently for common pests like aphids, hornworms, or whiteflies.
Catch infestations early and use organic neem, pyrethrins, or insecticidal soap sprays before they get out of control.
Hand-pick larger pests like hornworm caterpillars. Remove badly damaged leaves immediately.
Begin harvesting cherry tomatoes when fruits fully ripen with deep color.
Make regular harvesting passes, picking ripe tomatoes to keep plants continually producing.
Transition Plants Indoors
At summer’s end, cherry tomato plants can be overwintered indoors near a sunny window to continue fruiting.
Prune plants by 1/3 and move containers inside before temps drop below 55°F nights.
With attentive care, your patio cherry tomatoes will reward you with sweet-flavored fruits all season long!
Troubleshooting Common Container Cherry Tomato Problems
Growing cherry tomatoes in pots comes with some unique potential challenges. Here are solutions for common issues:
- Leggy, weak plants – Plants aren’t getting enough sunlight. Move containers to a sunnier spot.
- Blossom drop – Fluctuating temperatures can cause blossom drop. Provide shade during the hottest parts of the day.
- Cracking fruits – Inconsistent watering leads to growth splits. Maintain even soil moisture.
- Wilting leaves – Plants are too dry. Check soil moisture and water plants deeply ASAP.
- Lower leaf yellowing – This can indicate a nutrient deficiency. Test soil and amend as needed.
- Curled leaves with spots – A disease like early blight. Improve airflow and quickly remove affected leaves.
- Webbed, sticky leaves – Spider mites are a common pest on dry, stressed plants. Wash leaves and apply insecticidal soap.
- Whiteflies – These pests rapidly build up in hot weather. Use yellow sticky traps and neem oil.
You can avoid most issues with container cherry tomatoes with attentive care and prompt intervention.
Grow Cherry Tomatoes in a Container Video Guide (2023)
Frequently Asked Questions about Container Cherry Tomatoes
How big of a container do I need?
Use a minimum 5-gallon pot for full-size cherry tomato plants. Smaller varieties can work in 3-5 gallons.
How many plants can I put in one container?
Use 1-3 plants per 5-gallon bucket, depending on tomato variety and container size. Give them ample room.
Is potting mix better than garden soil?
Yes, quality potting mixes provide the aeration and drainage of cherry tomato roots. Garden soil compacts over time.
How often should I water?
Check pots daily and water when the top few inches of soil dry. Avoid oversaturating.
How much sun do cherry tomatoes need?
At least 6 hours of direct sun daily. South-facing spaces are ideal. Rotate pots to follow sunlight as needed.
When do I start seeds for containers?
Start cherry tomato seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before your last spring frost date for long-growing transplants.
How do I fertilize container cherry tomatoes?
Use a diluted tomato fertilizer every 2-3 weeks per label instructions. Or apply compost tea for organic nutrition.
What causes blossom to drop?
Large temperature swings can lead to cherry tomato blossom drop. Provide some shade protection during the hot midday sun.
How can I maximize yields?
Choose prolific varieties, fertilize consistently, use drip irrigation, support heavily laden plants, and harvest ripe fruits frequently.
When do I harvest cherry tomatoes?
Begin picking fruits when they reach full color. Check plants every 2-3 days for ripe tomatoes ready for eating!
Enjoy Sweet Tomato Flavor on Your Deck or Balcony
With the right variety selection, planting techniques, and attentive care – you can grow a bountiful harvest of petite cherry tomatoes in pots.
Use this complete container cherry tomato growing guide for success from seed to harvest!
Let me know if you have any other questions in the comments.
Here’s to sweet, garden-fresh flavor – even on a small balcony or patio. Happy cherry tomato growing!