Growing tomatoes in containers are extremely rewarding, but it can be disappointing if your plants don’t make it—and there are lots of things that can damage young tomatoes. These problems that plague tomatoes grown in containers can magnify in tropical or subtropical climates, where the humidity is turned up and pests multiply.
These tips were proudly taken from The Spruce's houseplants expert, Jon VanZile, who has been growing tomatoes in steamy Fort Lauderdale, FL for ten years and counting.
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Feeding and Watering Requirements
In general, there aren't different water or fertilizer needs in hotter climates when growing tomatoes. Tomatoes need a lot of water and fertilizer no matter where they grow, no matter what kind of climate. If you’re going to grow tomatoes in containers you need a very rich soil—a heavy peat-based soil with a lot of organic matter.
Always mix a slow-release fertilizer in with your potting soil and then add a liquid fertilizer throughout the season. Also, tomatoes need calcium, so if you start seeing black spots on the bottom of your tomatoes, you have the dreaded blossom end rot, so you may need to add lime to your soil.
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Cherry tomatoes are the best variety to grow in hot climates. But you can grow heirlooms in the subtropics, too. Many people like to grow heirloom tomatoes, which is more challenging in hotter climates because they’re not resistant to most of the wilts and fungi that tomatoes are susceptible to. If you want to grow heirlooms in a hotter climate, you have to be much more careful about your antifungal programs, as well as your watering and overall plant hygiene.
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The trick to growing tomatoes in containers is consistency. In the ground, if you skip a day watering, it’s no big deal. In a container, you don’t have that much room for error, so you really want to stay on top of watering and you really want to make sure it’s consistent so your fruit doesn’t split. And that means probably watering every day or every other day at the very least, especially as they get bigger, no matter what the climate. Because you want to make sure that they have a steady supply of water.
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Problems and Common Mistakes
Sometimes you get the occasional wild and there’s nothing you can do about it, and if it’s a viral wilt you have to kill the plant. Pests, too. The most common mistake gardeners make with tomatoes is probably using a container that’s too small. Not making sure that the plant isn’t getting a bacterial or fungal disease is big. Watering inconsistently is a big problem too.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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If you use self-watering containers they’ve got to be big. A mature producing tomato plant is a very large vigorous plant. You need a minimum of ten gallons per plant, preferably more than that. So if you can do a 15- or 20-gallon container per plant, you’ll get a much better harvest than you would with a smaller container.
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A lot of people think you can’t grow good heirloom tomatoes in the tropics or the subtropics, but you can. You can grow beautiful heirloom tomatoes in the subtropics, it’s just a lot harder. It’s a lot more work. If you want a really good harvest and you’re new to container gardening and tomatoes, the best thing to do is go out and buy a really resistant breed, like one of Burpee’s—a Big Boy or a Better Boy, even a Brandy Boy. They’ll produce very well and they’re not that hard to grow—they’re a vigorous plant. Remember, a tomato is actually a tropical plant. They’re really from the New World. So they’re used to this, they can do it. It’s just that we’ve bred them over the years for characteristics that make it a little more difficult.