Last Updated: April 25, 2023
What is the ideal container size for growing healthy tomatoes? If you are new to growing tomatoes, you may wonder how big of a pot to use for tomatoes. This article will help you pick a suitable container for growing healthy, high-yielding tomato plants!
Tomatoes are perfect plants for growing in containers. Tomatoes grow fast, and are directly impacted by the size of the container in which they are grown. A smaller container will usually lead to smaller plants and lower tomato yields.
However, there are some tomato types that are small and require less space. These make the best varieties for growing in containers as they stay relatively compact. However, you can grow virtually any tomato in pots!
What Container Size is Ideal for Tomatoes?
Each tomato plant you grow will take up a significant amount of space. Typically, the larger the pot you choose, the larger plant will grow. It is important to provide adequate space for the roots to develop and expand.
As a rule, tomatoes should be planted in pots with at least 5-10 gallons of volume in order to achieve ideal harvests. Some varieties require less space, but most tomato types need plenty of soil space to grow well.
The container you choose for growing tomatoes should be based on the variety you are growing. For large, beefsteak-type tomatoes, get the largest pot that you are comfortable with. Each fruit will require lots of energy and nutrients.
For smaller types, like grape and cherry tomatoes, you can usually get away with smaller pot. However, yields will likely be better when the plant’s roots are given enough space to expand and mature.
Is a 3 Gallon Pot Big Enough for Tomatoes?
You may wonder if your 3 gallon pot will suffice for growing tomatoes. With a small porch, you may not want to have a massive planter taking up lots of space.
In short, a 3 gallon pot will work for growing tomatoes, though you may see reduced yields. Depending on the tomato variety, 3 gallons may be insufficient for ideal harvests. Use a 5 gallon pot or larger for the best yields.
Though not ideal, your 3 gallon pot will still grow a tomato plant and produce some fruit. If you have limited growing space, it may be beneficial to keep your plants in a smaller container anyway. Just don’t expect huge yields, especially from larger tomato varieties!
Avoid smaller pots, as your plants may become root bound, potentially leading to curling leaves and small yields.
Can I Grow Tomatoes in a 5 Gallon Bucket?
In North America, the 5-gallon bucket is extremely common. Almost every household has at least one of these plastic buckets hanging around. So you may wonder if you can grow tomatoes in a 5 gallon bucket.
Simply put, a 5 gallon bucket is a suitable container for growing tomatoes and will provide good harvests. Drill holes in the bottom of the buckets before planting to allow for adequate drainage.
Since 5 gallon ‘homer’ buckets are so cheap, they may just be the perfect container for your tomato growing needs. All you need to do is drill some holes and fill them with good potting soil!
Note: It is unclear whether homer buckets are made with food-grade plastic, so take this into consideration before using them to grow food.
The only drawback of using a 5 gallon bucket for growing plants is the somewhat ugly design. If this doesn’t concern you (or your neighbors), then go for it!
Do Tomatoes Grow Better in Pots or in the Ground?
This is one of the great debates – do tomatoes grow better in pots or in the ground? I have experimented with both methods and have seen a variety of results.
In my experience, in-ground tomato plants are more difficult to keep free from disease, but can often lead to better harvests when conditions are ideal. Potted tomato plants are great for drainage, but require more frequent watering and fertilizing throughout the year.
The ideal midway point is the raised bed. Essentially, raised beds are like growing in large pots. They naturally provide excellent drainage by design, and the soil can easily be amended with compost or other organic material each year.
Tip: Try growing tomatoes in grow bags for a simple, cheap container option. They come in a wide range of sizes and colors.
Overall, there are benefits and drawbacks to each growing container. In ground plants are more subject to the elements (heavy rain, wind, soil-borne disease), but typically grow larger with the increase soil space.
No matter where you plant, it is beneficial to plant you tomatoes deep, or sideways. Learn more about how deep to plant tomatoes in this article.
If you are planning to grow determinate tomato varieties, you may want to go with a pot. Indeterminate plants are better suited for vining or growing along a tall trellis.
Potted tomato plants are easy to move, but require regular watering and fertilizer to keep them happy. Depending on the size of the pot, the yields may also be reduced. I would recommend experimenting with each to determine what works best for your unique situation.
How Many Tomatoes Should I Get From 1 Plant?
After you get started planting tomatoes, you will begin looking forward to your harvests. How many tomatoes can you expect to get from each of your plants?
Tomato yields will depend largely on two factors: the tomato variety and the size of the growing container. Large varieties, like beefsteaks, will produce fewer fruits than small types, like cherry tomatoes.
If you attempt to grow large tomatoes in a tiny container, you may be lucky to get 1 or 2 ripe tomatoes. However, if you are growing grape tomatoes in a 10 gallon bucket, you may end up with 100 or more tomatoes before the season ends! The yields will vary widely based on these two conditions.
One other factor to consider is the duration of your growing season. If you live in a warmer climate with a longer season, your tomatoes can continue to produce more flowers and fruits until the temperatures drop.
In colder climates, the plants will have less time to produce fruits, leading to smaller overall harvests. In my experience in USDA hardiness zone 6a, I always have more tomatoes than I know what to do with!
Best Containers For Tomatoes
So, with the ideal container size in mind, which pots are best for growing tomatoes? There is a wide selection of pots, from clay to plastic to wooden. Here are a few choices I would recommend for your potted tomato plants:
These trusty, reusable pots are simple and functional. They come in a variety of colors and sizes, making them perfectly suitable for almost any plant. Tomatoes should be planted in at least the 12″ pots, and ideally the 14″ containers. Using these pots, you can create a colorful veggie container garden on your patio or deck!
Fabric Pots (7 gallons)
Fabric pots are becoming a sort of sensation in the gardening world. They are compact, reusable, breathable, and cheap. They also come in a variety of sizes and colors to suit your needs. These 7-gallon fabric pots have received excellent ratings on Amazon, and are a great bang for the buck! However, they aren’t the most attractive, and have a tendency to become dirty throughout the season.
For a more aesthetically pleasing garden, plant tomatoes in cheap nursery pots and house them in attractive planters. This resin planter is just one option, but search around for a shape, color or size that suites your garden landscape.
Using these pots, you can get the exact look you want in your yard. I don’t recommend planting tomatoes or other plants directly in planters as they usually do not have drainage holes.
With the right container size for your tomatoes, you’ll achieve great harvests and big, healthy plants. The benefit of growing in pots is mobility and easy care and maintenance.
Good luck with your potted tomato plants this season, and let me know if you have any recommendations or questions!