How to grow tomatoes in pots — 7 easy steps

Tomato in pot
Tomato in pot (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’ve always wanted to grow your own tomatoes but live in an apartment, or don't have space for a garden where you can grow tomatoes from seeds to plant directly into the ground? Learn how to grow tomatoes in pots, and you'll be able to enjoy fresh, homegrown tomatoes for your meals. 

When placed in the right environment, tomatoes planted in pots can thrive anywhere. What’s more, knowing how to grow tomatoes in pots is more convenient and easier to move around the home. Providing it gets the right sunlight, you can place your pots on a balcony, porch, patio, or even windowsill. And the best part is, a single plant can produce hundreds of tomatoes in one season, promising a juicy, summer feast. Once you plant them, you can also learn how to prune tomato plants.

If you want to save money on your grocery bills, here’s how to grow tomatoes in pots in seven easy steps. For more guidance, check out how often should you water tomato plants and when should you do it?

If you're new to the world of growing food, check out the 9 easiest vegetables to grow for beginners and these are the 5 best trees to grow in containers

How to grow tomatoes in pots

1. Find the right sized pots

Tomato plants in pots on windowsill

Tomato plants in pots on windowsill (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Once you’ve bought your chosen tomato variety at your local garden center, you’ll need to find large pots to plant in. The bigger the better when it comes to growing tomatoes as this will be easier to look after the plants, and have a healthy harvest. Ideally, you’ll need a pot that is at least 15 inches in diameter for one plant, but you can always repot into a bigger pot once the plant outgrows it. You can even use hanging baskets to grow tomatoes, but these need frequent watering.

2. Use good quality potting soil

Potting soil in pot

Potting soil in pot (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Next, fill the pot with a good quality, high-nutrient potting soil or compost to about 1 inch below the rim. If you use ordinary garden soil, this will be too heavy for your pots and will compact. Ensure your pots have good drainage at the base to allow the water to drain into a tray. Most pots will have a hole at the base to prevent the roots sitting in water and affect their growth.  

3. Plant tomato seedling deep in the soil

Potting tomato plant in pot

Potting tomato plant in pot (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Now it’s time to get planting! A general rule of thumb when planting a tomato seedling, is to first remove the bottom sets of leaves. Then, dig a hole in the soil with a trowel or hand fork that is deep enough for most of the plant to be buried, so that only the top bunch of leaves are showing. Use your hands to cover the plant with topsoil. 

4. Add supports

Tomato plant on balcony

Tomato plant on balcony (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Next, add support to keep your tomatoes well centered and in place to grow vertically.  First, place a long stake right next to the stem. It should go to the bottom of the pot and stick up out of the soil. Then once the stake is in place, tie it to the stem with a piece of plant wire or twine. If you prefer to place your tomatoes on a balcony, this will also protect them from bending out of shape in the breeze. 

5. Place in a sunny spot

Tomato plants by window

Tomato plants by window (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Tomato plants thrive in sunny locations, and warm temperatures. Ideally, they need between 6-8 hours of sunlight. Place tomato plants in sunny spots, and if they’re not getting enough sun during the day, move the pots around to a location that does. Bear in mind that too much sun isn’t good for young plants, and may kill them. If temperatures are kept higher than 90 degrees F, the plant stops producing flowers and fruit will no longer grow to its maximum size.  

6. Water the soil well

Watering seedlings by window

Watering seedlings by window (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Water the soil completely with a watering can. Generally, soil in pots can dry out quickly, so ensure the soil is watered every morning to provide daily moisture. If warm temperatures increase, you need to water twice a day. Be sure not to overwater though, as soggy soil can cause the roots to rot. You can buy a soil water meter like this XLUX Soil Moisture Meter ($12, Amazon) to indicate when it’s time to water your plants.  

7. Feed your tomatoes regularly

Feeding tomato plant

Feeding tomato plant (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Finally, feed your tomato plant every two weeks with a tomato-specific fertilizer or an all-purpose, slow release feed. This will provide all the essential nutrients it will need to grow such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It’s also worthwhile checking to see if your potting soil already has those nutrients in the mix, as some already include fertilizer.  

How long does it take a tomato plant to grow? 

Holding a homegrown tomato plant

Holding a homegrown tomato plant (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Depending on the variety, tomatoes take 25 to 60 days to form fruits after flowering. However, the smaller varieties of tomatoes can take between three to four weeks to bear fruit. 

If you're also interested in indoor plants, check out our guides on how to care for succulents, how to repot succulents and how to plant grass seed and get a greener yard. We also cover how to care for air plants.

If you have favorite plants that are wilting, check out our top tips on how to save a dying plant. Also, be sure to check these 5 plants that can help you sleep better, while you learn how to clean every room of your home for spring-cleaning tips. 

Struggling with weeds in your yard? Check out how to get rid of dandelions for tips on what to do. 

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!