If you’ve ever popped a cherry tomato in your mouth right off the vine while it’s still warm from the sun, you know why these flavorful, bite-sized delights are one of the most popular garden crops.
Cherry tomatoes are fairly easy to grow even if you are new to gardening. They also need fewer days to mature than regular tomatoes, which is a big advantage if you live in a cold climate where the growing season is short, or if the temperatures in your zone get too high too early for the fruit to set during the summer. They are typically ready to harvest within around 50 to 65 days and should be planted after the danger of any frost has passed.
|Botanical Name||Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme|
|Common Name||Cherry tomato|
|Mature Size||5 to 8 feet height|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Loamy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||6.0 to 6.8|
|Hardiness Zones||1-13, USDA|
|Native Area||South America|
How to Plant Cherry Tomatoes
Generally, cherry tomatoes are grown the same way as regular-size tomatoes. Most cherry tomato varieties are indeterminate and tend to sprawl even more than hybrid and heirloom tomatoes. This means to control them, you need to provide good support for the vines, and keep them in check with regular pruning. Leave at least two feet between each plant to allow for their spreading habit and to ensure good air circulation.
Make sure that you practice crop rotation, which prevents diseases from spreading, and also avoids excessive nutrient depletion of the soil. Do not plant tomatoes in the same location where other members of the nightshade family (potatoes, eggplants, and peppers) were grown the year before.
Cherry Tomato Plant Care
Plenty of sun and warmth, rich and well-drained soil, and regular fertilization are all needed to produce an abundant and healthy cherry tomato crop.
Plenty of sunlight is crucial to successfully grow cherry tomatoes. They need full, direct sun for at least six to eight hours per day.
The soil for tomatoes needs to be slightly acidic, well-drained, rich, and loamy. To determine the nutrient level in your soil and its pH, it’s important to do a soil test.
If your garden soil is heavy and has poor drainage, you are better off growing tomatoes in raised beds or containers.
Tomatoes must be watered deeply and regularly. At no time should you let the soil dry out. During the time of fruit development, keeping the soil moist helps to prevent blossom end rot. Overwatering, on the other hand, will cause the cherry tomatoes to split.
Drip watering is best, as overhead watering can lead to the spread of tomato diseases such as blight.
Temperature and Humidity
Tomatoes are highly cold-sensitive. Wait until there is no more danger of a late spring frost and the soil temperature has reached at least have 60 degrees Fahrenheit before planting your tomatoes. And make sure to harden off the seedlings before transplanting them in the garden.
Tomatoes are not bothered by humidity but one thing to keep in mind is that the lush foliage of tomato plants stays wet longer in humid weather. If tomatoes are planted too densely or not properly pruned, and disease hits, poor air circulation will make it spread faster. When planting, remember to be generous with space. A little extra space is better for airflow and also for access when picking.
At least two weeks before planting your cherry tomatoes, add 2.5 pounds of complete fertilizer per 100 square feet. Once the tomatoes are planted, they need regular fertilizing throughout the growing season, about every two weeks.
Cherry Tomato Varieties
There are numerous cherry tomato cultivars, both heirloom and hybrid varieties. They come in different shapes: round, elongated (also known as grape tomatoes), and pear-shaped. There are many different colors too. They come in shades of red, yellow, orange, and blackish-purple. Here are just a few popular ones:
- ‘Black Cherry’: Purple-black heirloom variety
- ‘Fantastico’: Determinate grape tomato, crack-resistant, late blight tolerant
- ‘Golden Sweet’: Yellow grape tomato, crack-resistant, resistant to Fusarium wilt and leaf mold
- ‘Isis Candy’: Heirloom variety, bicolored pale red with golden streaks.
- ‘Juliet’: Red grape tomato, crack-resistant
- ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’: Deep red heirloom variety that originated in the wild in eastern Mexico
- ‘Sun Gold’: Orange-colored cherry tomato, resistant to fusarium wilt and tobacco mosaic virus
- ‘Supersweet 100’: Red cherry tomato, resistant to fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt
- ‘Yellow Pear’: Yellow pear-shaped heirloom variety
Harvesting Cherry Tomatoes
Once the cherry tomatoes start ripening, check your plants at least every other day. Cherry tomatoes are ripe when they easily detach from the stem. If left on the plant for too long, they will crack or drop off the stem.
Heavy rain can make cherry tomatoes crack or split even more, so pick any ripe tomatoes before the rain. Or, if that’s not possible, right afterward because cracked tomatoes rot quickly.
How to Grow Cherry Tomatoes in Pots
For container growing, choose a determinate, dwarf, or bush-type cherry tomato variety, such as ‘Fantastico’, ‘Patio’, ‘Better Bush’, ‘Gold Nugget’, or ‘BHN 968’.
Make sure you select a large container, plant the tomatoes deeply, and that you pay close attention to your watering schedule because containers can dry out more quickly.
Growing Cherry Tomatoes From Seed
It’s fairly easy to grow cherry tomatoes from seed. But unless you want to grow a lot of cherry tomatoes of the same variety, or if you want to grow more unusual varieties that are only available from seed companies, buying healthy tomato seedlings from your local garden center might be the more convenient way to go.
When growing from seed, make sure the potting medium is kept consistently moist but not wet and that they get sufficient light and warmth. Germination usually takes around five to ten days.
The seedlings can be hardened off and transplanted outside when nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Like larger tomato types, the cherry tomato can be susceptible to several diseases. These include blight, leaf spot, mosaic viruses, and verticillium wilt.
Most of these can be prevented or managed by good garden practices. Make sure they have ample growing space, that they are staked, and don't water overhead. It is also possible to buy cultivars that are resistant to disease. Suggestions include the cultivar Baby Boomer for containers and Cherry Bomb and Orange Paruche for the garden.