Though cherry tomatoes are usually grown on large plots of land for commercial purposes, you can actually grow them easily at home with raised beds and even containers! However, for a good yield, make sure to closely monitor and maintain its ideal growing conditions.
Cherry tomatoes can be grown easily in a pot with 1) deep 5-gal plastic containers, 2) soilless growing medium, 3) approximately 75 oz of water weekly, 4) 6–8 hours of full sun, 5) temperatures ideally at 60–85°F, 6) humidity levels at 40–70%, and 7) weekly application of diluted potassium-rich fertilizer after fruit set.
As we always mentioned, gardening is not an exact science and the value and numbers given above are for guidance only. Those are the ideal for which we noticed the best growth for our plants. However, tomatoes can withstand different temperatures and light conditions.
Cherry tomatoes must be kept in 2–5 gal plastic planters that are roughly 12–24 inches deep and wide. However, if possible, use bigger containers. Drainage holes and catch plates are also essential for good drainage and avoiding overwatering.
Tomatoes are naturally deep-rooting plants. When planted directly in the ground, some varieties can have their root systems growing up to 10 feet below the ground!
So even when planted in containers, cherry tomatoes thrive when they are grown in very deep pots and containers—1 foot at the very least. They are a lot less likely to be deprived of water this way too.
All that space allows their roots to grow big and sturdy, providing them with good support and anchorage. So even when your cherry tomato plants start getting really big and top-heavy, you can rest assured that they won’t just readily topple over.
Determinate cherry tomato varieties like the Sun Gold can do well in as little as 2-gal pots. Meanwhile, indeterminate cherry tomatoes such as Chello require at least 5-gal containers.
But do make sure to only keep one plant per pot. Otherwise, both cherry tomatoes will be fighting over not only space but also important resources like water!
Home gardeners don’t need to buy expensive big terra cotta, concrete, or glazed ceramic pots for cherry tomatoes. In fact, they will do well in light-colored plastic containers—perfect for moist but well-draining potting soil. Grow bags will work as well.
Pro Tip: You could even repurpose old plastic buckets of flour and other foodstuffs into the perfect cherry tomato planters. Just drill a few holes at the bottom or sides of your thick-walled food-grade plastic bucket for good drainage.
Then, you can place the container near a trellis or some other similar support structure on your patio or balcony. Doing so provides cherry tomato vines and branches with something to hold onto.
Learn more on how to provide support for cherry tomatoes in our article!
Ideally, cherry tomatoes grown in containers should be kept in soilless growing mediums with pH values between 5.8–6.8 and are moist but well-draining. Such mixes typically contain coco coir, peat moss, pine bark, sand, perlite, and vermiculite.
Unlike cherry tomatoes cultivated in spacious fields for large-scale production, those kept in containers shouldn’t be grown with regular garden soil.
This is because garden soil easily gets compacted and dried up. More importantly, it doesn’t drain well and can even cause weeds, pests, and disease problems. So don’t just scoop up soil from your yard to use with your cherry tomato.
Instead, it’s much better to use high-quality soilless potting mixes for potted cherry tomatoes. Such mixes cause little to no problems and offer a lot of great benefits including, but not limited to, good drainage, aeration, and nutrients.
Others also like incorporating half a cup of gypsum into the soil around their cherry tomatoes. Doing so can promote overall development and improve moisture retention.
But don’t worry, it won’t affect the pH level of your potting soil. In case you’re worried about keeping the acidity above 5 and below 7 for your cherry tomatoes, then create a mix from scratch!
Our friends from the University of New Hampshire recommend home gardeners make their very own cherry tomato potting mix. Make it with 60 lbs peat moss, 60 lbs vermiculite, 1.25 cups dolomitic lime, 0.50 cups 20% superphosphate, and 1 cup of 5-10-5 fertilizer.
If, however, you’re looking for an organic ready-to-use option, try out this potting mix from Amazon. It’s commonly used for growing various vegetables and fruits in containers.
Pro Tip: Always check the ingredients list of packaged potting soils. Some companies add slow-release fertilizers and hydrogel into theirs. Though fertilizers are generally necessary for fruiting in tomatoes, the hydrogel could retain too much water in the soil and drown them.
Regular watering is key for thriving potted cherry tomato plants. They require about 65–75 oz of water per week. Watering twice a day during very hot summers may be necessary. Never let more than the top 2 inches of the soil dry out completely.
For your cherry tomatoes to become deliciously juicy, they must be given sufficient water as they develop. Don’t ever let your little tomatoes go thirsty for long periods. Otherwise, you may end up with shriveled-up and rotting dry fruits.
On the other hand, you don’t want to drown your potted cherry tomatoes either. They like moist soil, not wet and swampy potting medium.
As with those grown in the ground, container cherry tomatoes will need about 1 inch of water every week. That’s equivalent to more or less 70 oz (approx. 2 L) of clean water for square ft of soil—which is roughly the same container size recommended for cherry tomatoes.
But to make sure you neither overwater nor underwater cherry tomato plants, check the top 2 inches (5 cm) of soil with your finger.
If it comes out dry, water your plant with water until it comes out of the drainage holes. Then, remove the excess water before setting the pots back on their catch plates. Watering your cherry tomatoes like this will encourage their roots to grow thick and deep into the pot.
Pro Tip: Directly water the soil of potted cherry tomato plants in the morning. This will prevent standing water at the bottom and lessen the likelihood of root rot.
Besides all that, be mindful of the type of water you use for your cherry tomatoes. They don’t like salt-rich waters including some well waters and ones that have been “softened.” Use filtered tap water, distilled water, or rainwater to be safe.
Container cherry tomatoes require at least 6–8 hours of direct sunlight exposure daily. Alternatively, it can be grown completely indoors with a full-spectrum 20–40 LED grow light that’s on for 12–18 hours a day.
When possible, experts even say that tomatoes seem to prefer to spend more hours under the sun. To be more specific, they like getting up to 10 hours of full and direct sunlight.
Just to be completely clear though, this doesn’t mean that cherry tomatoes can only be grown outdoors. Look for areas in your house that can provide enough sun for them.
Your potted cherry tomatoes can be placed in south and southwestern balconies, patios, and windows for the same lighting conditions. Isn’t that such a great compromise?
Now, if live in an apartment or condo and you can’t find any of that, don’t lose hope just yet!
Prop a strong grow light—20 Watts at the very least—about 3–12 inches above the very top of the plant and adjust its height as the cherry tomato grows.
Find out more in our article on PAR and grow lights!
Pro Tip: Opt for an LED grow light (here on Amazon) when available so you won’t have to deal with problems caused by excess heat.
Leave the grow lights on for up to 18 hours each day to encourage better growth and increase your yield of scrumptiously sweet cherry tomatoes.
Like regular tomatoes, potted cherry tomatoes thrive with warm daytime temperatures of 70–85°F. At night, temperatures should be kept between 60–70°F to ensure fruiting.
With enough warmth, you can practically grow cherry tomatoes anywhere in the US! Cherry tomatoes can be grown from Northwestern to Southeastern US, given that the area falls within plant hardiness zones 2–11.
I guess this can mainly be attributed to the fact that the crop originated from the sub-tropical coastal desert region of Peru. Surprisingly though, the world’s top producer of tomatoes is China.
So, yes—tomatoes are quite tolerant and hardy. However, cherry tomatoes still have limits—even when it comes to ideal growing temperatures. During the day, ideal temperatures are no higher than 85°F (29°C). Then, at night it should go no lower than 60°F (15.5°C).
Cherry tomato plants don’t do well when nighttime temperatures constantly fall below 55°F (12.7°C). Their leaves grow slower and smaller. Fruiting is also inhibited.
Successive daytime temperatures of 86–95°F (30–35°C) isn’t good for cherry tomatoes either. Excessively hot weather can make its flower’s pollen nonviable. In effect, the flowers will dry up and drop, causing the plant to not set fruit.
Pro Tip: If it does start getting unbearable hot for your cherry tomatoes, research shows that you can still protect them from heat damage. Simply drape a 30% filtering shade cloth over your containers of cherry tomato plants in the afternoon like this one from Amazon.
By doing this, you can get more and bigger delectably sweet ripened cherry tomatoes despite really hot summer afternoons!
Most potted cherry tomatoes grow well in a moderately humid environment, with humidity levels between 40–70%. High humidity causes lower yields of small low-quality fruits.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, tomatoes originally grew in the Peruvian coastal desert. In other words, it likes a relatively dry environment.
Over the years, numerous varieties and cultivars have been bred to allow people to grow this juicy fruit in less-than-ideal conditions. So now, you can find cherry tomatoes that can better handle slightly high humidity levels of about 70% and above.
However, cherry tomatoes are kept in excessively humid areas for too long and are prone to developing numerous problems. Its pollen, for instance, can become too sticky which can inhibit pollination by wind.
Coupled with poor ventilation, too much humidity can prevent the plant from cooling down—often the case for caged container cherry tomatoes. As a result, the plant’s roots will stop absorbing water and nutrients from the soil. Fungal diseases may also be expected.
Are all fungi bad for your plants? Find out in our article on orange slime molds!
Excessively low humidity isn’t all that great for cherry tomatoes either. It makes pollen too dry, hindering proper pollination. Also, the plant will start pumping all the water and nutrients into its leaves to make up for the lack of humidity instead of storing them in the fruits!
A weekly or bi-weekly application of water-soluble balanced fertilizers is recommended for container cherry tomatoes before flowering. Switch to a high-potassium fertilizer once fruits form to improve their growth, color, and flavor.
More often than not, potting mixes formulated for container-grown fruits and vegetables contain a so-called “starter charger” of nutrients that will last for 2–3 watering sessions.
It’s important to know whether or not the pack you’re using has this to avoid overfertilizing it, especially with nitrogen. Feeding cherry tomatoes too much nitrogen will encourage leafy growth while inhibiting fruit set.
So if you have a young cherry tomato plant that has yet to start flowering and fruiting, focus on giving it less nitrogen but more phosphorus and potassium. For the most part, though, a complete and balanced fertilizer will do (e.g., 5-5-5).
Then, when you start noticing budding clusters starting to develop, start using 1/2–1 tsp of a water-soluble fertilizer high in potassium diluted in 1–2 gals of water. Can’t find a good and affordable option? Try out this potassium-rich fertilizer from Amazon.
For better prices, check your local home improvement warehouses. They typically sell it for less so you’ll get more bang for your buck!
Pro Tip: For organic fertilizer alternatives, feed your container cherry tomatoes with a mix of bone meal, fish emulsion, greensand, and kelp or seaweed meal.
If you have your cherry tomatoes in raised beds, used 1–2 tbsp mixed with 2–4 gals of water. However, if the manufacturer suggests a different application rate, it’s better to follow their instructions. The same applies to fertilizing container cherry tomatoes.
What are the common pests of cherry tomatoes?
The common pests of cherry tomato plants include aphids, cabbage loopers, Colorado potato beetles, cutworms, flea beetles, fruit worms, hornworms, red spider mites, slugs, stink bugs, and whiteflies. It is because of their sweet and juicy fruits that cherry tomatoes are vulnerable to the attacks of several kinds of pests.
Are cherry tomatoes poisonous?
Only the leaves, stems, and unripe fruits of cherry tomatoes are poisonous because they contain toxic alkaloids called solanine and tomatine. Ingesting large quantities of these parts can cause loss of sensations, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, severe stomach pains, and slowed ineffective breathing in humans and animals like cats, dogs, and horses.
How are cherry tomatoes propagated?
Cherry tomatoes are most often propagated by seed. They are either grown directly from seeds or cultivated from seedlings in plant nurseries and garden centers. Less commonly, people have successfully propagated new young cherry tomato plants from sucker cuttings. Other than that, cherry tomato stems can also be grafted onto a rootstock.
Summary of Potted Cherry Tomato Care Guide
Cherry tomatoes are best grown in light-colored 2–5 gal plastic containers, at least 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide. These should have holes to ensure that the soil drains well. More specifically, these plants prefer slightly acidic soilless growing mediums when potted. Look for coco coir, pine bark, and some perlite among other things.
Water potted cherry tomatoes at least once a week with at least 65 oz of clean filtered tap water, or as soon as the topmost 2 inches of the medium dries out to keep it evenly and sufficiently moist. Make sure to also give it about 8 hours of full sun exposure or 12 hours of a 20–40W LED grow light.
As it is native to the Peruvian coastal desert, container cherry tomato plants like warm temperatures between 70–85°F in the day and cool temperatures between 60–70°F at night. Moreover, it will thrive with humidity levels maintained within 40–70%. Give diluted balanced or potassium-high fertilizer weekly to promote flowering and fruiting, respectively.
- “Cherry Tomatoes” by n/a in University of Florida
- “Container Grown Tomatoes” by Tom Butzler, Thomas Maloney, and Darryl Dressler in PennState Extension
- “What is the best way to grow tomatoes in a container?” by Ask UNH Extension in University of New Hampshire Extension
- “Growing fruiting vegetables in containers: Tomato, pepper and eggplant” by n/a in North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
- “Container tomatoes for the Tennessee gardener” by Natalie Bumgarner in University of Tennessee Extension