Can I Grow Cherry Tomatoes in a Container?

If you're asking, "Can I grow cherry tomatoes in a container - successfully?" then the answer is yes - with a few small qualifications. Here's what you need to know about growing your cherry tomato plant in a pot/container.

Growing Cherry Tomato Plants - Soil

First off, growing cherry tomato plants really isn't any different from growing any other kind of tomato plant.  They all need direct sunlight (at least 6 hours a day), water and fertilizer (preferably organic).  A good soil to use in the container is a combination of compost and organic potting mix. (I like half and half myself.)

I've tried growing tomato plants in just compost  and in just organic potting soil, but I find that the two mixed together have produced the best growth.

Another option is to use compost mixed in with some sphagnum moss and/or perlite.

Don't use soil from your yard in the container; it may compact easily in a container, and it's quite possible there are unfriendly bacteria in it.

Container Size

What size of a container should you use for your cherry tomatoes?   Part of the answer depends on the variety of cherry tomato you plan to grow - determinate or indeterminate.  (Learn more about the difference between determinate or indeterminate on the tomato growing terms page.)

In general, determinate varieties are shorter and smaller than indeterminates.  Unless you are growing something like Micro-Tom (smallest tomato there is), the minimum size for a container should hold 3 gallons of potting mix/compost.  However, if you can manage a 5-gallon container, your tomato plants will thank you by providing more fruit.

Now for the indeterminate cherry tomato plants.  While I certainly have grown indeterminate cherry tomatoes in a 5-gallon container, they grow much better in a 10-gallon.  (I even have a few 20-gallon pots for the cherry tomato plants that get very large like Blondkopfchen.)  So, a 5 gallon container is the minimum, and a 10 gallon will have your plants thanking you. While I haven't grown SuperSweet 100 in a container (yet!) I think it would work quite well.

Fertilizer for Cherry Tomatoes

The general rule of thumb for container growing is apply half as much fertilizer, twice as often.  I like to use liquid fertilizer that I dilute to half-strength, then apply it twice a month.

You need to fertilize more often in containers for two reasons.  First, what fertilizer you do use  gets washed out from the extra waterings that container plants need.  Second, your cherry tomato plant's roots only have so much room to grow, and sooner or later, they will run out of space.  Since they can't expand further, they need to extract everything they can from a limited area.

Which fertilizer to use?  I primarily use organic methods (compost, fish emulsion, kelp meal, Terracycle and Tomatoes Alive!), there are times of extremely rapid growth where I admit to using Miracle-Gro for Tomatoes.  While my in-the-ground-garden tomatoes get organic, I find that the container-grown plants do need a little boost at times.  Of course, that could be because I am in a hot climate.  You'll have to experiment for yourself.

(You can also check out the posts I made about organic versus chemical fertilizers, as well as fertilizer components.)

Watering Your Cherry Tomato Plants

You really do want to put your containers where you have easy access to water.  Especially as they grow larger and the weather gets warmer, you will find that you'll have to water often.  During warm and windy times, I have to water my containers daily -- and there have been very dry times where I've needed to do it twice a day!

Try to keep the soil moist but not wet.  The more of an even moisture level of the soil, the less the chance your tomatoes will crack badly should a heavy rain arise.

A mulch will help to keep moisture in the soil longer.  I like to use an inch or two of hay, but I realize not everyone has easy access to it.  Other mulches can be bark chips, dried grass clippings, chopped leaves and even shredded paper!  (Just make sure the paper doesn't have colored ink on it.)  In addition, some people also swear by red plastic for a mulch.

Can I Grow Cherry Tomatoes in a Container?

By now you see the answer is yes, you can successfully grow and harvest cherry tomatoes in a container.  With just a little preparation and attention, you'll find yourself with tasty snacks that are good for you!

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10 Responses to “Can I Grow Cherry Tomatoes in a Container?”

  • Mildred Rush:

    Can you store tomatoes for a time. Like over the winter months

  • Gail:

    Hi Mildred, while there are tomatoes that can over-winter in the house or cellar, to my knowledge none are cherry tomatoes.

    The ones that you can store over the winter to slowly ripen are called “long keepers”.

    Just as an FYI, simce they are picked fairly green to ripen indoors, they will never have that summer-fresh taste. However, they are still a bit better than the plastic-tasting tomatoes you see in the grocery store in Winter!

    If you’re talking, however, about keeping the cherry tomatoes indoors (on the plant in a container under lights” over the winter), you might be able to. However, if you want to do that, you may just want to grow them indoors from the beginning, starting the seeds about this time of year.

  • Is yellowing of leaves always the result of insufficient watering of cherry tomatoes

  • Gail:

    Hi Peter,

    Pretty much all tomatoes will get yellowing of the leaves from the bottom up, as they grow larger. As long as the plants have plenty of leaves otherwise, you just need to pluck off the yellow leaves and dispose of them away from the plant.

    Insufficient watering will produce wilting and stunted growth, not usually yellowing of the leaves. So my guess would be a bacteria if the leaves are yellowing on various parts of the plant, and not just from the bottom up.

    The good thing about cherry tomatoes is that they are very prolific, so you will most likely get some harvest.

    Going foward, make sure you mulch the plants very well, to prevent bacteria from the soil splashing on the plants as they are watered. Also, make sure the plant has plenty of air circulation and sufficient sun.

    Best wishes!

    Gail

  • I had a good grope of cherry tomatoes from containers on my balcony.BUT the skins were that tough i couldnt eat them. Going to try again from seeds but what mistakes did i make?

  • Gail:

    Hi Bill,

    My first thought is what kind of cherry tomatoes did you grow? Some of them naturally have thicker skin and are a little “tougher” to eat — especially some of the grape-shaped cherry tomatoes. Sometimes also watering can play a factor in skin thickness, but the variety of tomato is probably the culprit here.

    Round cherry tomatoes tend to have a thinner skin, but not always. Try looking for a tomato with “sweet” or “sugar” in the name — they are often very thin-skinned.

    Best wishes on the next crop!

    Gail

  • Doretta:

    I am a novice and am going to make my first attempt at growing my own herbs (the basics like basil, parsley, rosemary, etc) and I’d love to add Cherry Tomatoes to my collection…I have an area on my deck that gets plenty of sun and i can use the large container (10 or 20 gallon), but which variety of tomatoes might be best for my first try at this? My husband and I love making simple tomato salad with cherry tomatoes and a bit of red wine vinegar and oil and throwing it on chicken or toasted bread, so I suppose the sweet/sugar variety might be best? Thoughts? Any advice is welcome and appreciated! Thanks!

  • Gail:

    Hi Doretta,

    Some sweet cherry tomatoes would be my recommndation. I like the Sweet 100 and Sweet Million, but I’ve run across a few others that are tasty. In the beginning, I’d stick with round red or pink cherries. The grape tomato shape are nice, but in my experience they are a little on the “paste” side, which isn’t exactly what you want. Same for pear shapes — they are usually sweeter than the grapes, but not as sweet as the rounds.

    Word of warning — the indeterminate cherry tomatoes will try to take over! They do tend to grow pretty tall and spread a lot, but the reward is lots and lots of tomatoes! They would do fine in a large container. :)

  • AF:

    Hello. I’m groing cherry tomatoes from seed for the first time in my life (actually its my first time with vegetables in general, I dont have any previous experience). the seeds germinated, grew and I have just put them in pots. But I put all of the plants I had in the pots at random, because I didn’t expect all of them to survive. Well, they did… so now i dont know how many I should keep in each container. The pots must have around 3 or 4 liters and i don’t know the exact variety of the chery tomatoes, but the seed packadge says its the kind one can have in hanguing baskets. Should I leave just one per pot? Or one could have more?

  • Gail:

    Hi! Let’s see, 3 or 4 liters is 1 to 2 gallons. I would keep no more than two plants to a pot (1 would be better if you can manage it). Although they sound like more of a smaller variety, I prefer to give the plants a little more room to grow. Just remember to add a little extra fertilizer when you fertilize, if you keep two to a pot.

    Enjoy! :)

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