How to Grow and Care for Green Zebra Tomato

An unusual, attractive "hybrid heirloom" tomato

Green Zebra tomatoes on the vine

oceane2508 / Getty Images

First developed in the 1980s, the 'Green Zebra' tomato is a striking cross of four different heirloom tomatoes, giving this "hybrid heirloom" qualities of both hybrid and heirloom tomatoes: the strength and disease-resistance of a hybrid, and the unique flavor and appearance of an heirloom. The fruits are bright green or chartreuse when ripe and have green zebra-like stripes. Their flavor is somewhat tart, tangy and complex. They've become more popular as they've become more widely available, and are fairly easy for home gardeners to grow.

The Green Zebra is an indeterminate variety of tomato. It has long vines that need some form of support in the garden. These delicious tomatoes are an early cultivar that is one of the first tomatoes ready to harvest. It is delicious for making salsa, in salads, or slicing onto a plate to accompany a light summer meal.

Common Name   Green zebra tomato
Botanical Name   Solanum lycopersicum 'Green Zebra'
Family  Solanaceae
Plant Type    Annual fruit
Size   4-6 ft. tall
Sun Exposure   Full sun
Soil Type   Rich, sandy, well-drained
Soil pH   5.8 - 7.0
Bloom Time   Summer blossoms and fruits
Hardiness Zones   9-10 USDA
Native Areas   First bred in Washington State

How to Plant Green Zebra Tomatoes

You can grow these unique tomatoes from seed or buy seedlings from nurseries or farmers' markets. Seedlings will normally become available in spring, usually when it is safe to plant outdoors in your area.

Green Zebra tomatoes on the vine

oceane2508 / Getty Images

When to Plant

Tomatoes are sensitive to cold so it is imperative that you don't plant seedlings in your garden until the last frost date is well past.

Where to Plant

You can plant your Green Zebra seedlings in your garden or in containers. Choose a sunny spot with at least six hours of sunlight.

Spacing, Depth and Support

Plant seedlings so that the crown of the plant (top of the root system) is 2 to 3 inches beneath the soil surface. Plants should be planted at least 24 inches apart. These tomatoes grow many vines and so will definitely need some support as they grow taller. There are many different types of supports for tomato plants, including wire cages, dowels with twine or string, and anything your imagination can think of to keep the vines off the ground and evenly spread as the fruits grow.

Green Zebra Tomato Care

Your tomato plants have some specific needs to help them get a good start and grow healthy vines with firm, juicy fruits.


Tomato plants need plenty of sunlight to grow and for fruits to ripen. Six hours of direct sunlight per day should be the minimum.


Tomatoes do well in loamy, rich, slightly sandy garden soil that is neutral or only slightly-acidic. They need good drainage so adding amendments such as compost or potting mix is helpful. Or, you can plant them directly into containers to allow for more control over soil environment.


Tomatoes need regular watering to maintain a healthy growth rate during the growing season. When watering from a watering can or hose, it's best to water at the base of the plant, to help lessen the possibility of mold or mildew. Overwatering can cause leaves to turn yellow.

Temperature and Humidity

Tomatoes like warm weather and thrive when temperatures are between 50 and 75F degrees. In case of a heat wave, be sure to keep plants watered to prevent them from drying out.


Your tomatoes can benefit from some fertilizer which helps the fruits put on size and ripen evenly. Within two weeks of planting, use a low nitrogen 5-10-10 fertilizer, which will put more energy to the fruits and not the leaves. Apply dry fertilizer away from the plant, in shallow trenches at least 6 inches from the plant's roots. For containers, use a water-soluble fertilizer. It's worth adding extra calcium, as blossom end rot is common and the result of a deficiency.


Once your Green Zebra tomatoes begin to ripen they will bear continuously for a few weeks. How can you tell this green tomato is ripe? With experience you'll get to tell by looking at it. Sometimes the Green Zebra gets a touch of yellow or orange when it is ready to pick. Also the classic method is best: if the tomato pulls away from the vine with only very slight effort, it's ready to pick. Tomatoes are best stored at room temperature, and not in the refrigerator.

Growing in Pots

It's generally very easy to grow tomatoes in pots. The most important thing is making sure you use a big enough container because tomatoes have a large root system and benefit from plenty of soil. Those ten gallon buckets from the hardware store work fine (or a ceramic, terracotta or resin container of similar size). You should drill a hole in the bottom for drainage, or layer 3 inches of pebbles in the bottom. Place the containers in a location that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Only plant one plant per container. You will also want to create some support for the vines, similar to the supports needed for tomato plants in a traditional garden setting.


The best time to prune your tomato plants is after fruits have formed and are starting to take on size. As fruits grow, the leaves will also grow bigger, crowding the fruits and in some cases preventing ample sunlight from reaching them. Trim off any leaves or stems that are yellowed, wilting or damaged. Also prune lightly to allow sunlight to reach the tomatoes to ripen them. It's also a good idea to prune the leaves and stems closest to the ground to prevent spread of mold or mildew; trim leaves from the lower six inches of the stem for good results.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

There are a few different problems that can affect tomatoes. One of the worst in appearance is tomato blossom end rot, where tomatoes turn black on the bottom, though technically are not rotten. This is caused by a calcium deficiency in your soil, so an easy preventive measure is adding crushed eggshells to the soil in your tomato patch. Occasionally aphids can affect tomatoes; these are easily cleaned off by hand.

As a hybrid, the Green Zebra is resistant to some common tomato pests, such as septoria leaf spot. It might still be occasionally vulnerable to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, blight, and tobacco mosaic virus, as well as nematodes. Different tomato diseases have different symptoms and treatments. Some wildlife enjoy tomatoes so you may want to use netting to prevent birds, squirrels and other critters from snacking on them.

Growing 'Green Zebra' Tomatoes from Seed

Growing tomatoes from seed requires an indoor space with plenty of light and warmth, such as a greenhouse or a sunny window. You'll want to time planting so that your seedlings will be ready for planting after the danger of frost has passed. Use small containers that will allow for seedlings to grow to about six inches high. Egg cartons are a bit too small as the roots begin to get larger; a paper coffee cup is about right.

  1. Follow the directions on the seed packet which will give timing for appearance of seedlings, which can vary from one tomato variety to another. Plant 2-3 seeds per container in fresh potting mix.
  2. Use a mister to water and keep the soil surface moist until tiny seedlings appear, then water every other day, or enough to keep soil slightly moist but not wet.
  3. Thin the seedlings once they grow 2 inches tall and gently, carefully transplant to another container so you have one plant per container.
  4. Your tomato seedlings need to be hardened off before planting them in the garden. This means getting them used to colder temperatures and outdoor air. Place them outside for several hours, for increasingly longer periods of time over a week or several days.
  5. Plant in the garden once the seedlings are at least six inches tall, and all danger of frost has passed.
  • Are 'Green Zebra' tomatoes easy to grow?

    This delicious "hybrid heirloom" is quite easy to grow, requires no special growing conditions, and is relatively resistant to disease.

  • Do I need to stake 'Green Zebra' tomatoes?

    Yes, this indeterminate variety produces long vigorous vines and benefits from sturdy staking to support the fruits.

  • Do 'Green Zebra' tomatoes ever turn red?

    Usually these colorful tomatoes remain a bright yellow-green color with deeper green stripes. Sometimes they will get a slight orange blush, but they don't normally show any red color.

Article Sources
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  1. Growing Vegetables: Tomatoes . NH Extension,

  2. Marsden, Christy. "Blossom End Rot” Wisconsin Horticulture,