Skip to main content

How to grow tomatoes in pots for fresh, juicy results all growing season long

Tomatoes are some of the most versatile vegetables (or fruits, botanically speaking) out there, with over a thousand varieties in terms of colors, shapes, and sizes. Whether cooked or raw, they add a vibrant touch to the look and taste of a dish or sauce. Best of all, they’re loaded with nutrients that are linked to various health benefits, including reduced risk of cancer as well as heart and bone diseases.

Want to enjoy tasty, fresh-picked tomatoes right in the comfort of your home? Thankfully, tomatoes are easy to grow on your own. You don’t need to be an expert gardener. You don’t even need a big space or know how to grow a vegetable garden to get started, either. Check out this quick guide on how to grow tomatoes in pots so that you can transport them easily when it comes time to harvest.

Benefits of growing tomatoes in pots

If you have recently acted on your balcony garden ideas and your space is limited to that area, no problem! Although tomatoes are typically cultivated in a vegetable garden, they also thrive in pots. Using this method has multiple advantages compared to planting directly in the soil, and it will help you save money on fertilizers.

tomato garden on windowsill

By planting your tomatoes in containers, it’s much easier for you to protect the plants from critters (like rabbits and deer). You’ll also be better able to protect their roots from pests and diseases. You’ll be able to control how much water the plant gets, which prevents the soil from getting soggy or sandy. Additionally, there’s the convenience of adjusting the location of the pots to just about anywhere they can get sun and keeping them easily within reach for harvesting.

A step-by-step guide to growing tomatoes in pots

Candace Hartley/Shutterstock

How to choose the right pot

The size of the pot should match the size of the plant. For tomatoes specifically, it’s better to go for bigger, deeper containers. Tomato seedlings may seem small, but a full-grown plant requires a lot of room in order to develop a strong root system. Dwarf varieties can make do with hanging baskets or pots sized 8 to 12 inches, while typical bush types will grow best in 5-, 8-, or 10-gallon buckets. For vining varieties, it’s recommended to go for 15- to 20-gallon tubs to ensure maximum support for the plants’ lengthening stems and heavy fruit production.

When it comes to the pot itself, there are many material choices available. Containers made of plastic and other artificial materials are fine choices, as they do not dry out quickly. Wine barrels, fabric pots, and galvanized metal troughs also make excellent vessels for growing tomatoes. You might wish to avoid terracotta, however, as the porous clay means the plan loses moisture quickly.

No matter what type of pot you use, make sure it has drainage holes to let the water drain freely and to let air reach the roots.

The best soil for growing tomatoes

Soil from planting beds can be too heavy for containers, and it could possibly contain pests and disease-causing organisms. We suggest using a premium-quality potting mix, particularly the light and fluffy type so there’s plenty of space for moisture and air to move through the soil.

As a rule of thumb, wait to plant until after the last frost in your region. Fill the pot with soil at least 1 inch below the rim so you can easily add a layer of mulch for maintaining moisture. Dig a hole so that most of the seedling is deep under the soil (about 2/3 of the stem) while keeping some leaves sticking out at the top. Any leaves or branches below the soil line must be removed. In time, roots will develop and strengthen, making them more likely to produce healthier plants. To avoid disturbing growing roots, insert a support when planting and secure it firmly into the soil. Depending on the type of tomato, you can use a stake, cage, or trellis.

Pick the right location and arrange the pots

Dealing with poorly-lit areas can be quite easy if you’re up to the task. Position the pots in a way that they’ll be exposed to the sun for at least six hours a day. You can move them to different spots if you think they aren’t getting enough sun in one location. Because tomatoes need consistent moisture, you might also want to place them near your garden hose reel, unless you don’t mind lugging around a watering can from time to time.

When arranging pots, group them to shade the roots, but leave enough space between them to prevent leaves from rubbing each other, which can spread diseases. One thing to note: Avoid placing them directly on asphalt and other hot surfaces (especially metal), since this can cause the roots to burn and interrupt plant growth.

Water and feed regularly

Proper watering is key to growing tomatoes in pots successfully. The soil must retain consistent moisture, but be careful not to saturate it. Do a simple finger push test—if the top inch is dry, it means the plant needs a drink. It also helps to have a saucer beneath the container to catch excess water. This will enable the plants to absorb extra moisture, which is especially ideal during hot days. A good garden hose can help make this easier.

Some potting soils already have nutrients in them, but you’ll want to continue feeding to yield stronger plants and juicier tomatoes. The general recommendation is to fertilize the plants about once every other week for the early growing period, and then taper fertilizing once the tomatoes start to ripen. Go for well-balanced fertilizers specially formulated for tomatoes and other summer crops.

Editors' Recommendations

HappySprout Contributor
Raspberries are a delicious and tart treat: How to grow them in your garden
How to plant and care for raspberries
Several ripe red raspberries on a vine

Fresh, delicious raspberries are a lovely treat, but it can be hard to tell exactly how fresh supermarket raspberries are. Rather than carefully examining containers of raspberries to see which looks fresher, why not just grow your own? They’re easy to grow, and, if you start with one plant, you can propagate your raspberry plant to make even more. Does the idea of having baskets full of fresh raspberries for homemade jams, pies, or smoothies appeal to you? Then you’re in the right place! We’re about to lay out all the dos and don’ts of planting and caring for raspberries.

What is the right variety of raspberry for you?
There are more kinds of raspberries than you might first imagine. For starters, there are two main categories: summer-bearing and everbearing, also sometimes called fall-bearing. Summer-bearing varieties produce one large crop of raspberries in the summer, while everbearing varieties produce two smaller crops, one in fall and a second in summer. Everbearing varieties tend to be shorter and sturdier, while summer-bearing varieties grow longer canes that need to be trellised.

Read more
How to grow chives from seed in your garden or kitchen so that you always have fresh herbs on hand
growing chives

Wondering how to grow chives from seed? Whether you’re a foodie who prefers fresh herbs for cooking or you're an aspiring gardener who's ready to test your green thumb, chives are a great plant to start your herb garden adventure. Chives are relatively low maintenance and easy to grow. Even better: they have a versatile, light oniony taste that complements soups, dips, roasted veggies, omelets, and more. (Although it might surprise you to learn that they aren't the same thing as green onions!)

Here, we’ll teach you how to grow chives from seed outside in a garden or from the windowsill of your own kitchen.

Read more
Curious how you can grow your own blackberries? Here’s our complete guide
Ripe blackberries on the bush

For those of us who grew up in rural areas, reaching into a bramble thicket to harvest some ripe, juicy blackberries is a defining childhood memory. Even if you grew up elsewhere, there’s a good chance you’re a fan of these berries. They're delicious on their own or added to tarts, pies, or smoothies. If you’ve got a craving for fresh blackberries, then you should know that blackberries are easy to grow and propagate at home! We’ve got everything you need to know to add blackberries to your garden, here in this handy guide.
What variety of blackberries should you grow?
Blackberry varieties can fall into a couple of different categories. There are thorny and thornless varieties, as well as trailing (vine-like) and erect (bush-like). There are also semi-erect blackberries, which are somewhere in the middle. They all grow in fairly similar conditions, but there is a trade-off.

Trailing varieties tend to produce more berries, and the berries are typically larger and more flavorful. However, they're less hardy, especially in colder environments, and need to be trellised. Erect varieties don’t produce as many berries, and the berries can be a bit less flavorful, but the plants are less likely to see significant damage and they typically don’t need trellising. Semi-erect varieties are hardier than trailing and produce higher yields than erect varieties but may be lacking in flavor and still benefit from trellising.

Read more