How to Grow Hanging Tomato Plants
Hanging baskets overflowing with colorful blossoms are common summer sight, but how about a hanging pot with tresses of just-ripe tomatoes? Yes, it can be done! Best reserved for gardens that offer little or no inground garden plots or space for patio containers, tomatoes will grow and fruit in hanging containers. Requiring significantly more care than both inground and container-grown counterparts, hanging tomato plants are a labor of love with a sweet, juicy reward for the extra watering and strong support they require. Follow these tips for how to grow hanging tomato plants and you’ll be well on your way to a delicious harvest.
Choose the Right Pot
Tomatoes will grow in traditional hanging baskets and upside-down tomato pots. Although novel, upside-down hanging pots present many practical challenges for growing tomatoes. Plants naturally want to grow up toward the sun. When planted upside down in a special container, the tomato stems bend and form a U shape as they attempt to grow toward the light. The bent stems are weak and easily snap under the weight of fruit or during high wind. Upside-down pots also have the potential to partially shade the developing plant. Be sure to select a location that has ample direct sunlight for best fruit production.
The best upside-down hanging tomato pots are made out of sturdy buckets; the popular thin, breathable plastic planters dry out far too quickly for practical use. During hot and dry conditions, breathable plastic planters require watering more than once a day. Choose a planting bucket that is light in color; dark-colored pots can cause the plant’s roots to get too hot during the heat of summer.
Size is important when choosing a traditional hanging basket or upside-down pot for a tomato. Select a pot that is 12 to 24 inches in diameter and holds at least 5 gallons of soil. Tomatoes have extensive root systems. Not only do their root systems fuel the plant’s top growth, but they also anchor the plant in the pot. Plenty of soil is essential for a strong plant.
Focus on Light
All tomatoes require 8 hours of direct sunlight to grow and fruit well. When choosing a location for your hanging basket tomato plants, look for a spot that isn’t shaded by a nearby building, roof, or trees. Be especially mindful of porch roofs, which tend to be common places for a hanging plant—porch roof hanging locations tend to cast too much shade for tomato plants.
The best tomato hanging basket location is likely on the south side of a building. In Zones 7 and above, a hanging spot that receives a few hours of shade from the intense afternoon sun is preferred, while Zones 6 and below can tolerate a full day of sun.
Invest in Ultra-Strong Support
A mature hanging basket tomato plant with moist soil can weigh 50 pounds or more. Couple wind with the weight of the container and it is easy to see how sturdy support is essential. Visit a local hardware department for wall anchors and hanging gear to support the hanging tomato plant.
Go for Tiny Tomatoes
The best tomato plants for hanging are varieties of cherry and grape tomatoes. These small-fruited plants hold up to container growing much better than large slicing tomatoes and their long, ropey vines trail over container edges. Here are 5 great hanging basket tomato plants.
- ‘Midnight Snack’ hybrid is an indigo-type cherry tomato that ripens to red with glossy black-purple coloring where it is exposed to sunlight. It produces large clusters of fruit.
- ‘Napa Grape’ hybrid has a high sugar content and amazing sweetness. The 1-inch long fruits are produced in abundance on vigorous vines.
- ‘Tiny Tim’ has 1-inch, cherry-red tomatoes on small, tidy plants. It has good disease resistance and excellent flavor.
- ‘Tumbler’ hybrid is a bright red cherry tomato that is a favorite for hanging containers. Its compact vines produce as much as 6 lbs. of fruit in a season.
- ‘Tumbling Tom’ yellow fruiting hybrid cascades over the edge of a traditional hanging basket bearing lots of sweet, yellow tomatoes that are 1 to 2 inches in diameter.
How to Grow Hanging Tomato Plants
Tomatoes planted in traditional hanging baskets are planted in very much the same way you plant a pot of annual flowers. Fill the container with high-quality potting soil. Add a slow-release fertilizer—a fertilizer formulated for food crops is a great choice. Then add the tomato plant and water it well. Plan to water your tomato hanging basket daily and sometimes as frequently as twice a day in hot, dry conditions.