12 Tips for Growing Cherry Tomatoes in Pots or Buckets

Potted cherry tomato plants are easy to keep and maintain. It is easier to control the weeds and also, it saves on the use of water and fertilizers.  Proper drainage and limited soil in the containers make it easier to adjust the nutrient ratio as compared to when the plants are grown in the ground gardens.

Growing tomatoes in buckets or pots is a simple process that you can give a try. A common mistake that many gardeners do is planting cherry tomatoes in small containers. Bigger containers hold more soil, water, and nutrients for the plants. Smaller containers cause congestion of the roots.

To grow cherry tomatoes in pots, you need cherry tomato plants seedlings, large pots or containers, high-quality potting mix, stakes or cages, and fertilizers. If you want to add some beauty to your garden, there are various aesthetically pleasing pots available at your local garden supplier. Some models are self-watering.

Growing cherry tomatoes in pots or buckets

Can cherry tomatoes grow in pots?

Yes, cherry tomatoes can be grown in pots or containers but some varieties will do better than others. When intending to grow cherry tomatoes in pots, you can either choose determinate or indeterminate cherry varieties.

Determinate cherry tomato plants produce medium to smaller-sized fruits as compared to indeterminate varieties that produce larger fruits. They are easier to manage in containers since they only grow 2 to 4 feet tall.

Their small sizes make them ideal for an average container plant. They can even be moved indoors comfortably when the weather conditions are unfavorable. However, most of these varieties will produce their fruits in one flush within a period of 2 to 3 weeks.

To enjoy longer harvesting periods you can choose several determinate varieties with different harvesting periods. Alternatively, you may go for semi-determinate cherry tomatoes with a longer harvesting period.

With proper care and management, you can also plant indeterminate cherry tomatoes in pots. They are ideal if you have large pots. They can grow 6 to 8 feet tall and requires early staking or caging to prevent them from falling down.

How to grow cherry tomatoes in pots

The success of growing cherry tomatoes in pots starts from choosing the best variety and caring for the plants and all the way to harvesting. Here are various tips you can use to maximize your yields.

1. Choose the best cherry tomato variety

When it comes to planting cherry tomatoes in pots, there is a wide range of varieties to choose from. All cherry tomato varieties can be grown in containers. However, you would want to choose a variety that you can easily care for and maintain.

Determinate cherry tomato varieties are the best option for growing in pots. They grow 2 to 4 feet tall which is ideal for a medium-sized container. Some of the determinate varieties include Tiny Tim, Little Bing, Terenzo F1, Micro-Tom, and Gold Nugget.

On the other hand, indeterminate cherry tomatoes like Sungold and Supersweet 100 can still grow well in containers. However, you are supposed to choose large containers and also stake them early. They can grow 6 to 8 feet tall. When left un-staked, they can sprawl into vines.

2. Find an optimal planting site

All tomato plants including cherries prefer sunny and warm temperatures. Choose an area that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. The area is also supposed to be near a source of water for irrigation and easily accessible for routine care and maintenance.

If you are practicing indoor tomato gardening, choose an area that is near a big window to allow more light in. Alternatively, you can provide the plants with artificial lights. Modern grow lights mimic the full spectrum of sunlight, they provide the necessary light wavelength that promotes the healthy growth of cherry tomatoes.

3. Use the correct size of pots or containers

The size of pots or buckets determines your harvest. The pots are supposed to be wide and deep enough to support the roots of the plant. They should be at least 14 inches wide with a depth of 12 inches when growing determinate cherry tomato varieties. If you are growing indeterminate cherry varieties, they are supposed to be 20 inches wide with a depth of 18 inches.

Choose containers that are durable and do not dry out fast. For instance, you can use wooden barrels, glazed clay pots, or 10-gallon grow bags. Avoid cheap plastic pots that can break before the end of the season. The pots are also supposed to have tiny holes at the base for drainage.

4. Prepare the soil well

Prepare the soil well prior to planting. Use a high-quality organic potting mix designed for tomatoes. Commercial potting soil comes packed with nutrients to quickly start your plants. However, you can add some compost for an extra boost.

If you want to make your own potting mix, use equal proportions of garden soil, perlite, Coco coir, and compost. Try to avoid using soil with high clay content. It can become compact and prevent the roots from growing. Potting mix is supposed to have good drainage, be well aerated, and be rich in nutrients to support the healthy growth of cherry tomatoes.

5. Plant your cherry tomatoes at a correct depth

A common mistake that many gardeners make is planting the seedlings too close to the surface.  Also, do not plant the seeds directly into the pots, use germinated seedlings that are ready for transplanting. Plant them so deep to ensure 2/3 of the plant is under the soil.

Planting the seedling deep enough into the soil ensures a strong base. The roots will start growing from the part of the stem buried in the soil. Remove leaves that may be too close to the soil. The plant is also supposed to remain in an upright posture after transplanting.

6. Space your plants properly

To prevent competition for nutrients, water, sunlight, and other resources, avoid overcrowding your plants in a pot. Plant only one cherry tomato plant per single 14-inch wide pot. You can plant more than one plant if you are using giant containers or raised beds.

An ideal plant spacing for determinate cherry tomatoes is supposed to be 1 to 2 feet apart. However, the spacing is supposed to be 3 to 4 feet when planting indeterminate varieties. The pots contain limited nutrients and other resources, overcrowding encourages competition.

7. Water the plants

Cherry tomato plants require little and regular watering. Underwatering can cause the plant to have stunted growth, wilt, or die. On the other hand, overwatering can cause the roots to rot if the pots are waterlogged. It may also harbor diseases that may attack the plants.

Prior to watering your plants, check if the soil has adequate moisture or not. This can be done by poking a finger into the soil near the edge of the container. If the soil feels dry, go ahead and water your plants. The soil is supposed to remain moist and not soggy.

8. Feed your cherry tomatoes

Tomato plants are heavy feeders, ensure the soil is rich in nutrients by applying a balanced fertilizer after every two weeks. Go slow on nitrogen when the plant is blossoming. Excess nitrogen encourages the growth of foliage at the expense of flowers and fruits. Try to use fertilizers containing phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium.

9. Check for pests and diseases

Tomato plants are prone to various diseases such as early blight, Fusarium wilt, late blight, septoria leaf spots, southern bacterial wilt, and verticillium wilt. Watch out for yellowing of leaves, black spots on leaves and fruits, wilting, and blossom falling off. Identify the diseases and treat them early. Isolating or destroying the affected plants can help to control the spread.

Garden pests like aphids, cutworms, flea beetles, hornworms, nematodes, whiteflies, and thrips can also attack your plant. Smaller pests can be controlled by the use of organic sprays while larger ones can be picked off and killed.

10. Prune your plants

Pruning indeterminate cherry tomato varieties can help to maximize production by increasing exposure of leaves to light, preventing pests and diseases, decreasing competition for nutrients, and easing harvest. Removes leaves at the lower part of the plant, suckers, and flowers that appear late in the season. You can also top the plant to prevent it from further growing.

11. Stake or cage your plants

Tomato plants grow quickly and it is best to stake or cage them early. Both shorter and larger tomato varieties will bend and tip over when they are not staked or caged. The vines are not strong enough to support the weight of the plant together with fruits.

You can use a commercial standard tomato cage or make your own using stakes and wires. Set up the cages before transplanting your cherry tomatoes into pots. Late caging can damage the plant. Early caging also helps the plant to spread the branches easily in all directions.

12.  Harvest your tomatoes

Indeterminate cherry varieties will produce fruits throughout the season while determinant varieties will have one flush of fruits for a period of 2 to 3 weeks. Tomatoes are ready for harvesting when they start to change color from green to orange, red, yellow, or purple.

Growing cherry tomatoes in pots

How long does it take cherry tomatoes to grow?

Cherry tomatoes are normally ready to harvest 50 to 60 days after planting. Most of the plants will start to flower in about a month. The flowers are followed by tiny fruits that will enlarge into full-blown cherry tomatoes after a few weeks.

You will know cherry tomatoes are ready for harvesting once they start changing color from green to orange, red, yellow, or purple depending on the variety planted. Harvest the ripened fruits, and continue checking the plants regularly for more fruits.

Indeterminate cherry tomato plants will continue to produce fruits throughout the season. On the other hand, determinate varieties will produce fruits in one flush. All the fruits may ripen almost at the same time.

Ripe tomatoes will come off the vines easily, they may crack or fall off the vines when left for too long. Other factors like heavy downpours can also promote the cracking of the tomatoes on the vines. It is wise to harvest ripe fruits before rainfall. Picking the fruits before over-ripening can also help to prevent unwanted attention from bugs.

Tomatoes are juicy, tasty, and sweet when allowed to ripen on the vines. However, you may be forced to pick the fruits before ripening fully due to the fall of the first frost. Place the harvested fruits in a kitchen cabinet to ripen fully. Tomatoes produce ethylene that helps them to ripen fully on their own

Final Thoughts

Growing cherry tomatoes in pots should be easy when you choose a suitable variety, large containers, and high-quality potting mix. You should be able to get a bountiful harvest when other maintenance practices like planting at a correct spacing, watering, feeding, pruning, mulching, staking or caging, and controlling pests and diseases are incorporated.


Cherry Tomatoes – UF/IFAS Extension

Growing tomatoes in home gardens – University of Minnesota Extension

Tomatoes fact sheet – University of New Hampshire

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