How to Grow Tomatoes Upside-Down

Topsy turvy tomato planter
Ewen Roberts / Flickr / CC By 2.0

Growing tomatoes upside-down is an interesting gardening choice. Upside-down planters promise bigger, better, and earlier tomato harvests. But are they worth it?

Here are some of the important highs and lows of growing tomatoes upside-down.

Advantages of Growing Upside-Down Tomatoes

  • Good for limited space: For people with limited space, hanging a tomato plant upside-down and off the ground is a great option to grow tomatoes. Some sunny balconies and decks are perfect for growing tomatoes upside-down.
  • No staking necessary: Most tomato varieties, when grown traditionally, need staking. Stakes are used to keep tomatoes off the ground and to keep the stems from breaking under the weight of the fruits. However, upside-down growth doesn't require staking because the stems are inverted.
  • Foils some pests: When you grow tomatoes upside-down and away from the ground, you don’t have to worry about many pests reaching your plants.

Disadvantages of Growing Upside-Down Tomatoes

  • Hard to hang: Upside-down tomato planters can weigh more than 50 pounds when they are filled with damp soil and a large tomato plant. This makes hanging them a challenge. If you are going to hang one from a wall or ceiling, make sure your hardware is strong enough to hold the weight. Also, an upside-down tomato plant can move in a strong breeze, so make sure to consider that force.
  • Unnatural growth habit: When your upside-down tomato plant starts to grow, it will try to grow up instead of down. It will make a "U" shape and bump against the planter, looking kind of contorted and unsightly. Eventually, though, gravity will guide it down.
  • Hard to find sun: It is critical for tomatoes to have full sun exposure—at least six to eight hours a day. But an upside-down planter can block some of that sun exposure, especially for a young and small tomato plant.
  • Challenging to plant: To plant an upside-down tomato, you need to poke the plant into a smallish hole and then add soil. After your container is planted, you have to pick up the heavy planter and hang it.
  • Limited tomato varieties: Not every variety of tomato will thrive growing upside-down. Cherry tomatoes and other small-fruited tomatoes are recommended for this growing method.

Tips for Hanging an Upside-Down Tomato Planter

There are three basic ways to hang an upside-down tomato planter. You can hang it from wall, ceiling, or pole.

Look for a sturdy wall bracket or ceiling hook that's designed to hold at least 50 pounds. Make sure to use heavy-duty screws with it. And be sure you're screwing it into something substantial.

Unfortunately, most shepherd’s hooks that you can buy at nurseries or hardware stores won't hold the weight of an upside-down tomato planter. But there are some plant-hanging poles that are meant for heavy weights. Be sure to read the description of the product and how to use it. And be aware that these poles are often more expensive than a typical shepherd's hook.