How To Grow Cherry Tomatoes

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A cluster of 11 red cherry tomatoes on a wooden table

To grow cherry tomatoes successfully, you need to keep its soil evenly moist at all times, and give the plant at least 8 hours of direct sunlight, and feed the plant with an organic fertilizer once every week. Do not prune cherry tomato plants. Only prune the old leaves and excess inner leaves or bottom leaves. 

 

You grow cherry tomatoes pretty much the same way you grow any regular tomato plant, except the fact that you don’t prune the side growth (suckers) in cherry tomatoes like you do in regular tomato plants.

 

If you read this article completely,  you will be an expert in Cherry Tomato plant care, how to grow and propagate, what Soil to use, Repotting, Pruning and how much Water, Sunlight and Fertilizer is needed. You will know the best and most recommended ways to care for your Cherry Tomato plant.

Step 1 - Pick the Cherry Tomato Variety

There are so many varieties of cherry tomatoes that you can choose to grow. You can pick based on the type of tomato, the amount of harvest, the flavor and the time and effort it will take to get the harvest.

 

Here is a list of Top 18 Cherry Tomato varieties, their height, and number of days it takes to produce fruits.

Cherry Tomato Variety

Tomato Type

Height

Features

No. of Days to harvest fruit

Baby Boomer

Determinate

20-25 inches

200-300 1 inch tomatoes per plant per season

50-55 days

Maglia Rosa

Semi-determinate

24-36 inches

2-3 inch fruit with orange and pink shades

70 days

Sweetheart of the Patio

Semi-determinate

24-36 inches

Clusters of sweet bright red 1-inch fruits

68 days

Tiny Tim

Determinate

12-16 inches

Deep red 4 ounce fruits

55-60 days

Black Cherry

Indeterminate

60 inches

Deep-mahogany brown 1 inch fruits that are 

64 days

Black Pearl

Indeterminate

60 inches

deep mahogany color, sweet and tangy

65

Green Envy

Indeterminate

63-67 inches

Translucent emerald green colored 1-inch fruits

60-70 days

Italian Ice

Indeterminate

60-72 inches

Creamy yellow hue, sugary sweet 1-inch fruits

65

Midnight Snack

Indeterminate

74 to 84 inches

Tasty purple tomatoes, 

65 to 70 days

Mirabelle Blanche

Indeterminate

40-48 inches

Translucent pale yellow, 1 inch fruits, good for salads and grills

75 to 80 days

Orange Sunsugar

Indeterminate

84-108 inches

Sweetest cherries, high in Vitamin A. 1 inch fruit

62 days

Power Pops

Indeterminate

9-12 inches

Sweet with high levels of antioxidants

45 days

Sunchocola

Indeterminate

70 inches

Deep red, smoky and sweet flavor

67 days

Sungold

Indeterminate

48-60 inches

Most popular, disease resistant, tangerine-orange fruits

57 days

Supersweet 100

Indeterminate

90-144 inches

Bright red 1-inch fruits

65 days

Sweetie

Indeterminate

48-60 inches

High sugar content, good for juice

65 to 70 days

Yellow Pear

Indeterminate

90 inches

Pear-shaped yellow fruits with mild sweet flavor

80 days

 

Step 2 - Plant the Cherry Tomato Seeds

 

Tomato seeds planted in small labeled seed germination containers

Cherry tomato seeds can be sown from September to October. You can plant your cherry tomato seeds 6 weeks before the growing season and then transplant them into containers. For the US and UK, sow your cherry tomato seeds in March and April, just 6-8 weeks before the expected last frost of the winter season. However, if you live in a city where it's sunny throughout the year, there is no fixed time and you can plant your tomato seeds anytime you like and they will do just fine. 

 

Soil: Don’t use 100% garden soil as it drains poorly and may harbor disease organisms.

 

  1. Take some fresh and soft organic cherry tomatoes and cut them in half. Squeeze out all seeds from the tomato.
  2. With the help of a strainer, run the water on these seeds and wash them thoroughly. This is to prevent any fungus buildup when it comes in contact with soil.
  3. Take a small pot with drainage holes, and fill the pot with 60% garden soil and 40% compost or any special seed germination mix that you may find in store.
  4. Place the extracted seeds on the soil.
  5. Top it off with a very thin layer of soil on top of the cherry tomato seeds. Do not push the seeds too deep into the soil.
  6. Water thoroughly. Keep the soil evenly moist during the germination phase.
  7. Keep the pot in partial shade. 
  8. Seeds start to germinate within 3-5 days. When seeds start to germinate, move the pot to a location which receives direct sunlight. Introduce sunlight gradually to avoid shock.
  9. After 2 weeks, you should start to see a good amount of stem and foliage growth. When the seedlings are 6-8 inches long or when the seedling roots have started to fill the container, it's time to repot them into a bigger container. Each seedling gets its own container. Keep the root ball intact to avoid any transplant shock.

Why Seeds are not germinating?

Here are the top reasons why you are failing to germinate the seeds:

  1. Most common reason is when you are trying to germinate seeds by placing an entire cherry tomato slice on the soil. The sliced tomato becomes the breeding ground for fungus and diseases - not the best environment for seed germination.
  2. The seeds are not viable and are very old seeds. Check the expiry date/best before date on the seed package. To check the viability of seeds, put some seeds in water. If some seeds are floating, those seeds are not viable.
  3. Sowing seeds too deep.
  4. Bad seed starting potting mix or soil. Using 100% garden soil or too many stones can prevent seeds from sprouting freely.
  5. Wrong temperature or wrong season. Temperature is an important factor for germination.
  6. Improper watering. Too dry, they won't sprout. Too wet, the seeds will rot in the dirt.
  7. Sunlight prevents seed germination. Dark damp and warm conditions are needed for most seed germinations. Gradual sunlight exposure is needed after seed germination.

 

You can also propagate stem cuttings from a mature tomato plant to grow more tomato plants. Below are the steps to transplant a tomato plant into a bigger container.

Step 3 - Plant the Cherry tomato into a big container

Once the seed has germinated and the foliage growth has started, you can transfer this young cherry tomato plant into a bigger pot/container so it can grow more.

 

You will see white hair on the stem of the cherry tomato plant. As these white hairs touch the soil, it starts to grow roots and that is why it is important to plant the tomato plant as deep as you can into the soil. The more of the stem we can have underground, the more root systems the plant can produce which results in a stronger plant with healthy roots and more fruit.

 

  1. Fill the pot with your potting mix. Dig a hole about 6-8 inches deep.
  2. Remove all the leaves from the bottom and just leave a few leaves on the top of the stem.
  3. Plant the entire stem as deep as possible into the soil. Keep at least 6-8 inch gap between two plants
  4. Add a handful of Rock Phosphate into the soil. Then place your plant along with its root system on top of it. When roots grow, they will get in contact with rock phosphate.
  5. Water thoroughly. Keep the plant in partial shade for 2 days so the plant recovers from transplant shock. Gradually expose the plant to the sun.
  6. In about 2 months, you will see some blooms that will turn into tomato fruit soon. Tomato plants produce fruit between 35 to 60 days post planting.

In about 2 months, you will see some blooms that will turn into tomato fruit soon. Tomato plants produce fruit between 35 to 60 days post planting.

  1. As the plant grows, it will need some support because of the added weight of the fruits on the plant. Use stakes or wood to loosely tie the stems and provide them with the needed support to grow.

 

Cherry tomato plants are self-pollinating and its flower contains both male and female reproductive organs. Cherry Tomato flowers are typically pollinated by wind and occasionally by bees. Lack of wind or insects can delay the natural pollination of cherry tomato plants. In that case, you can easily pollinate your tomato plant yourself. Just gently shake the open flowers of your tomato plant which will distribute the pollen grains evenly. This will cause more fruit production in your tomato plant.

 

Growing Tomatoes in Pots/Containers

 

Healthy tomato plants grow large root systems and they should have enough space for them to grow efficiently.

 

If you are going to grow cherry tomatoes on the ground, you don't need to worry about the container size, but keep a space of 18 to 30 inches (2 ft) between two cherry tomato plants. When you are planning to grow cherry tomatoes in pots or containers, the bigger the better.

 

The minimum size of the container for an indeterminate variety of cherry tomato should be at least 5 to 7 gallons (19 to 26 litres). If you are growing cherry tomatoes in a container that is smaller than 16 inches, it is recommended to only grow determinate varieties in such small sized containers.

 

So basically you can only plant one cherry tomato plant in a 16" to 22" pot. So unless you have a huge container or a raised bed, you will only plant one cherry tomato plant per pot to avoid overcrowding. If you happen to visit a commercial cherry tomato farm, you will see that there is at least 18 to 30 inches (2 ft) space in between two tomato plants and they plant on a large scale: usually 2600 to 5800 plants per acre.

 

Ideally 2-4 indeterminate varieties of cherry tomato plant can feed one person throughout the year. So you will need 8-16 cherry tomato plants to feed a family of 4.

How long does it take for cherry tomatoes to grow?

Cherry tomato plants take 3 to 5 days to germinate the seed, 14 to 30 days to reach a height of 12-18 inches and about 2 months in total to produce fruit, from the day you plant seed. This means that a tomato plant grows about 1.4 to 2.1 inches every week after the tomato seed has germinated.

 

Here is a tomato growth timeline for reference

 

Seed Germination

3 to 5 days

Growth of sprouted seeds into a 5 inch tomato plant

14 days

Tomato Flowers appearing

60 days or 2 months, you will see some blooms when vines are approximately 12 to 18 inches tall.

Tomato Fruit

35 to 60 days post planting.

Total time since seed germination to harvest

1.5 to 2 months

Cherry Tomato Problems

Here is a list of all the problems faced while growing cherry tomatoes and the solutions.

Tomato Problems

Solution

Fruit not ripening

More leaves means less fruit. Prune away old leaves so enough airflow and sunlight reaches the fruit to ripen up.

Fruit having cracks

Plant was underwater in the last watering cycle and has now taken up a lot of water all at once, leading to cracks on its skin.

Bottoms of the cherry tomato turned black

Blossom end rot. Lack of calcium in the soil or underwatering is preventing the calcium in the soil from reaching the plant. 

Cherry Tomato plant leaves turning yellow

  • Underwatering/Overwatering
  • Spider mites infestation
  • Nitrogen deficiency in soil
  • Winter has come and tomato plant is starting to decline

Cherry Tomato leaves curling

  • High wind, dust and low humidity
  • Hot dry weather
  • Mites and viruses

Bottom leaves turning brown/yellow

They are just old leaves and not necessarily a disease. Just pluck them off.

 

How to water💧

Cherry Tomato plants like evenly moist soil that is not waterlogged.

 

For germination of tomato seedlings, you should water as needed to keep the soil always moist. Water from the bottom and let the pot holes extract water to prevent dislocation of seeds. You can also spray water gently from the top.

 

For a grown tomato plant with a strong root system, water deeply and thoroughly so the root grows in deeply. Water at least once a day to keep the soil evenly moist. In extremely hot climates, you may need to water twice a day to keep the soil evenly moist.

 

Tips for watering your Tomato Plant

  • Underwatering makes the plant weak while overwatering will cause root rot and kill the plant.
  • Make sure to water the soil, not the foliage. 
  • Cherry tomato fruit grows by extracting water from the plant. If your soil is dry and the plant experiences drought, the fruit will become dehydrated and will suck as much water as it can during the next watering, causing cracks on the fruit.

Sunlight Requirements ☀️

Cherry Tomato plants grow in full sun, at least 8 hours per day. Whether growing in the ground or in a container, make sure to grow your tomatoes in a location that receives the maximum amount of sunlight.

 

Once your cherry tomato grows big, it will get lots of foliage which will prevent sunlight reaching the inner leaves. These inner leaves will turn yellow due to lack of sunlight. It’s not a disease, it's just the sunlight not reaching those leaves. So you can just pluck out those yellow leaves.

Soil

Cherry tomatoes can grow in any type of soil excluding clay soil as it can obstruct the root growth. They thrive in rich well draining soil. 

 

Cherry tomato plants need following properties in its soil

  • well-draining soil for roots to grow freely
  • lots of organic fertilizer
  • Slightly Acidic (pH 6-7)
  • Slightly moist at all times
  • Add mulch on top so the soil pathogens are kept covered and do not touch the leaves of the tomato plant

 

For growing cherry tomatoes from containers or pots, 60% garden soil with 40% organic compost is a good combination for growing Tomato plants. Also add some perlite or bark chips for drainage and aeration so the roots can grow freely. If you live in a hot climate, you can also use coco-peat or peat moss to retain moisture in the soil. The compost along with peat moss adds moisture retention properties to the soil.

Fertilizer

Tomato plants are heavy feeders and need to be fertilized every 2 weeks. Tomato plants specifically need a good amount of Nitrogen, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Calcium

 

Cherry Tomato plants need a good amount of Nitrogen in the beginning to start growing. Phosphorus helps with root development and flower production so it is needed in the soil throughout the lifespan of your tomato plant. 

 

  • Phosphorus:Rock Phosphate is a good source of phosphate for the roots, blooming and the fruit. You can also feed your plant with Fish Bone Meal which has Phosphorus in it.
  • Calcium: You can use calcium nitrate. You can also crush 2-3 eggshells and mix it with the soil before planting your tomato plant. Eggshells will decompose and release calcium into the soil.
  • Epsom Salt: It contains magnesium and sulfur. Most soils are deficient in these minerals. 1 tbsp per gallon of water, feed once every 3 weeks.

How to Prune✂️

Although the cherry tomatoes are indeterminate, they are not pruned the same way as the regular indeterminate tomato plants. In regular indeterminate tomatoes, we pinch out the side growth (also called “suckers”). These are removed from regular tomato plants as they do not produce as many tomatoes as its main stem and in turn, suck the energy of the entire tomato plant. On a cherry tomato however, it is the opposite.

 

In cherry tomatoes, the suckers produce a significant amount of fruit unlike the suckers of the regular tomato plants. If you prune the suckers in a cherry tomato plant, you will be cutting out most of your potential fruit. Let the cherry tomatoes grow wild and you will get 5 to 10 times more produce.

 

Only prune the first 2 or 3 suckers that appear at the bottom of the cherry tomato plant, and let the other suckers at the top to grow and tie them up to a stake as they grow. Later, if they grow too big for the area that you have, you can start to prune for managing the size. Also pluck out any old yellow/brown colored leaves at the bottom. Also prune bottom and/inner leaves to make sure there is good air flow between the plant else the leaves will stay moist and be prone to diseases.

Temperature and Humidity 🌡️

For seed germination, the ideal temperature is between 70° F to 80° F (21° C to 26° C) and that is why seed germination can be done indoors. Once the cherry tomato plant is mature, it thrives in temperatures between 65°F to 75 °F (18° C to 24° C)

Pests 🐛and Diseases🦠

  1. Rust and Mildew

Tomato leaves are very weak when it comes to pests and diseases. Any water that gets on the leaves and stays there, is going to be a breeding ground for leaves. You can either get rust (brown spots on leaves) or mildew (white spots on leaves) due to wet leaves. Mostly the lower leaves of the plant get affected by rust or mildew.

 

All you have to do is pinch out those leaves to prevent rust from spreading. If all of the leaves are affected by rust and/or mildew, you need to spray neem oil which gets rid of this fungal disease. 2 tbsp of neem oil per gallon of water, and spray it on the leaves.

  1. Leaf curl

A viral disease that is transmitted by pests and causes the leaves to curl. This does not affect the vigor of your tomato plant though. The only solution to viral diseases is to get rid of the plant and plant a new tomato plant.

  1. Blossom end rot

A problem that affects both peppers and tomatoes, this disease is caused by calcium deficiency or the inability of the roots to grab the calcium from the soil due to underwatering. 

  1. Tomato hornworms

Tomato hornworm on a steam held in hands

Tomato hornworms can decimate an entire plant in a day. The first signs of hornworms on a tomato plant are stripped leaves and black tiny droppings like poop. To get rid of them is easy - just pick them off. 

  1. Grubs and FigEater Beetles

green Fig Eater beetle commonly found pest in tomato plants

These are white insects that are beneath your soil and chew on the tomato roots. When they become adults, they become figeater beetles which will devour your tomatoes.

  1. Birds

Birds can eat the tomato fruits too. They are not interested in the tomato, but the water present inside the fruit. A simple solution is to keep a birdbath or a small pond nearby so all the birds will go there.

  1. Rats 

Rats can ruin your vegetable garden. All you can do for the rats is to set the traps at the base of your plants. Do not use rat poison.

Determinate vs Indeterminate Tomatoes

There are 2 types of cherry tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate. Here is a table to differentiate between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes.

 

Determinate Tomatoes

Indeterminate Tomatoes

Fixed size and grow fruits all at once

Grows like a vine and gives a steady supply of tomatoes rather than a large harvest at once.

Ripe fruit within 2 weeks and then die

Delayed ripening after the start of growing season as they spend some time growing in height.

Bush variety, smaller plants 4-5 ft tall

Vine variety continues to extend its length. Bigger plants throughout the growing season. Can grow more than 6-10 ft tall and become very heavy.

Pruning not needed as they stop growing on their own

Pruning is required. Pinch back the suckers (small shoots or leaves growing in between the stem and a branch) to prevent unmanageable growth. Do not pinch a sucker just below a bloom as it can reduce your harvest.

Support the plant with a stake (staking)

Needs large and strong stakes or caging as a support to their large growth. You can use sticks or bamboo poles as well.

A good choice if you want a lot of tomatoes at once

A good choice if you want steady supply throughout the growing season.

Examples: Baby Boomer and Tiny Tim

Majority of tomato varieties are indeterminate. Examples: Midnight Snack and Sungold

When tomato plants are done growing

Determinate varieties of cherry tomatoes grow a specific height (about 12 to 25 inches max), produce one set of flowers and fruit, and die once the fruits are produced. The lifecycle of a determinate variety of cherry tomatoes is about 6-8 months, from seed to flowering and then dying. Determinate varieties stop growing when the top bud has finished producing the fruit.

 

Indeterminate varieties of cherry tomatoes will grow indefinitely reaching heights of upto 12 ft tall, so they are never done producing fruit for you until winter comes and kills the plant. If you live in a place where the temperatures never go below 60F, the cherry tomato plants are short-lived perennials and will keep producing fruit for about 2 years.

Growing Cherry Tomatoes Upside Down

You can also grow cherry tomatoes upside down as a hanging vine, if you don’t have or dont want to set up staking or caging. This also helps the plant to keep its fruit away from the ground, and allows better penetration of light to all parts of the plant. You still need a strong hook or hanger though.

Tips before harvesting Tomatoes

  1. Before you eat the cherry tomatoes that you harvest, wash them thoroughly with water to get rid of any fertilizer residue, dirt or bacteria.
  2. Depending on the variety, a cherry tomato plant can be ready for harvest between 60 days upto 80 days.
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