How to Grow Cherry Tomatoes: Planting and Harvesting Cherry Tomato Plants

Cherry tomatoes produce smaller fruits than regular tomato plants, and they are popular amongst gardeners as they grow quickly and set fruits early in the season.

They require many of the same conditions as full-sized tomatoes, but there are some specific care requirements that should be acknowledged for the plants to be successful.

So if you’ve never tried growing them before, you need to learn the basics how to grow different types of cherry tomato plants in your garden.

The main stages of growing cherry tomatoes are planting, maintenance, and harvesting, and we will walk through every step so you can understand the ins and outs of growing these tasty fruits.

Choosing the Right Variety of Cherry Tomato 

Choosing the Right Variety of Cherry Tomato

Before we dive into the steps for growing cherry tomatoes, we need to decide which ones we want to grow!

Just like regular tomatoes, cherry tomatoes can be divided into the groups indeterminate and determinate.

To refresh your memory, indeterminate cherry tomatoes are also called vine tomatoes and they grow continuously throughout the season, can become quite tall and produce staggered harvests of fruits.

Determinate cherry tomatoes, also called bush tomatoes, will reach a predetermined size and produce one main wave of fruits that will all ripen around the same time and then be finished for the season.

Most varieties of cherry tomato are indeterminate fruit bearers, but there are still plenty of determinate ones to choose from if you prefer a compact plant. 

You can grow cherry tomatoes from seed, or purchase seedlings from a nursery later in the spring. You will have more choice in variety when purchasing seeds, which can be bought from a wide selection of online retailers across the world.

But it can be quite fussy to take care of newly sprouted tomato plants, and given their popularity you will still be able to find a number of cherry tomato cultivars at your local plant nurseries.

Here are some popular cherry tomato cultivars that are likely available for purchase as both seeds and seedlings, and their fruit bearing nature.

cherry tomato cultivars

Cultivar Name

Fruit Bearing

Sunrise Bumblebee

Indeterminate

Sungold

Indeterminate

Maskotka

Determinate

Green Envy

Indeterminate

Black Pearl

Indeterminate

Tiny Tim

Determinate

Maglia Rosa

Semi-determinate

Sakura

Indeterminate

Sweetie

Indeterminate

Gardener’s Delight

Indeterminate

Yellow Pear

Indeterminate

Cherry Roma

Indeterminate

Baby Boomer

Determinate

Step-by-Step Guide To Growing Cherry Tomatoes

How To Grow Cherry Tomatoes

So you have decided which cherry tomato varieties you want, now how do you actually grow and care for the plants?

The following guide, which is broken into the three main stages of growing cherry tomatoes, can be used to answer any questions you may have and ensure your plants have a successful season.

Stage 1: How to Plant Cherry Tomatoes

1: Start your Seeds

Start your Seeds
  • If you are choosing to grow your cherry tomatoes from seed, you should start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost in seedling trays. 
  • Keep them well-watered in a sunny spot with good air circulation until they are 6-10 inches tall. 
  • If you are planning to buy seedlings, this step does not apply.

2: Choose your Planting Spot

  • Choose a spot in your garden, or place your pot in a location, where the cherry tomatoes will receive full sun; at least 6-8 hours per day. This is essential to set up your plants for success, and any less than 6 hours will likely result in weaker plants and a lower yield.

3: Prepare your Planting Spot

Prepare your Planting Spot
  • Cherry tomatoes can be grown in containers or in the ground, and either way make sure you have well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. 
  • Sandy or loamy soils work well for cherry tomatoes, and the ideal pH is slightly acidic between 6.5 and 6.7.
  • If growing in a container ensure you have a pot that is at least one foot deep and 14 inches wide, but check to see how large your specific variety is expected to grow. Ensure your container has lots of drainage holes.

4: Harden Off Seedlings

Harden Off Cherry Tomato Seedlings

About one week before you are going to transplant your cherry tomato seedlings outside, you can bring them outside for a few hours each day in a process called “hardening off” to get them adjusted to the wind and climate outdoors and reduce the shock of transplanting.

5: Transplant your Seedlings Outdoors

Transplant Your Seedlings Outdoors
  • When transplanting your seedlings outside, make sure nighttime temperatures are above freezing, and ideally at least 60℉, as no variety of cherry tomatoes are frost tolerant and they will not do well in low temps.
  • Plant purchased or homegrown cherry tomato seedlings by digging a hole in the soil that is around 3-5 inches deep, depending on how tall your seedlings are. You should bury your cherry tomato seedlings as deep as you can up to the first node, to maximize root development.
  • All the little hairs on the stems of your tomatoes have the potential to become roots when buried! Only a few branches and leaves should stick out from the soil, and all of the bare stem should be underground. 
  • You can remove any flowers that are on the seedlings at this point. We want all the energy to focus on root growth at this stage, not flower production.

6: Bury your Seedlings

  • Fill the soil back in until the plants are well buried, and avoid mounding any soil around the base of the plant to keep the soil level. Give your plants a good, deep soak with a watering can.

Stage 2: How to Care for Cherry Tomatoes

1: Trellis your Plants

Trellis your Plants
  • Indeterminate cherry tomatoes will need to be trellised as they grow taller, and you should install trellises immediately after planting (unless you have a permanent trellising structure like a fence). 
  • Determinate tomatoes will remain more compact, although they can become quite bushy and may benefit from a tomato cage, especially if they are in a container and are at risk of toppling. 
  • There are many ways to trellis climbing vine cherry tomatoes: stakes, string, fencing, wire mesh, or cages are all options and you should choose the one most suited to your garden (and your budget).

2: Water your Cherry Tomatoes

Water Your Cherry Tomatoes
  • Once your cherry tomatoes are planted, you want to make sure to water them with a deep soak around once or twice a week depending on your climate. You can water them a little more frequently for the first few weeks after transplanting, when they are more susceptible to drying out. 
  • If growing cherry tomatoes in containers, you will need to water them more frequently throughout the season. Potted plants dry out quickly because they are above ground where the sun can heat up the entire pot, causing soil moisture to evaporate more quickly than in-ground plants.

3: Fertilize your cherry tomatoes

You should fertilize your cherry tomato plants once a month with compost or an organic fertilizer that has equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Make sure to water your plants before fertilizing to avoid burning the roots.

4: Mulch Around the Base of the Plant

Tomato seedling in the ground with straw, young foliage of tomato
  • A few weeks after planting you can mulch your cherry tomato plants. Mulch helps retain moisture from watering, cools the soil, protects against soil borne disease pathogens splashing up onto lower branches, and controls weed growth. 
  • Popular mulches include straw, wood chips, hay, dead leaves, and compost. You can also try a living mulch of clover which provides constant ground cover and fixes nitrogen in the soil. If you don’t have your own, make sure to source your mulch from a known and trusted source, as it is a common way that new diseases are brought into a garden.

5: Prune Indeterminate Varieties

Indeterminate cherry tomatoes will need to be pruned regularly throughout the season. Determinate varieties do not need to be pruned. As your vine tomatoes grow up your trellising system, remove suckers frequently but allow one or two to develop at a time.

This keeps a good balance between allowing new growth to contribute to a higher yield, without allowing the plant to be overtaken by thick branches and bushy foliage.

remove suckers
  • To remove suckers, pinch them off with a thumb and forefinger when they are still only a couple inches tall. Removing them early creates a smaller wound on the plant, reducing the likelihood of disease pathogens and pests using it as an entrance.
  • In the first two weeks after transplanting, you can actually prune away any flowers that pop up as the plant is establishing itself. This may seem counterintuitive but your cherry tomatoes are more likely to succeed later on if they have a strong start. But make sure to stop doing this after the first couple of weeks!

6: Monitor and treat for pests and disease throughout the season.

As you are pruning, trellising, and watering, keep an eye out for pests on the undersides of leaves and any signs of fungal, bacterial, or viral infections.

If you catch and treat issues early there is more likelihood you will be able to control the problem and save your plant.

Stage 3: Harvesting Cherry Tomatoes

1: Check that the Tomatoes Are Ripe

check that cherry tomatoes are ripe and ready to be picked
  • To check that cherry tomatoes are ripe and ready to be picked, you should assess their color, smell, taste, and shine. When they are approaching prime ripeness their color will be full and deep, they will smell fragrant, feel slightly tender and their skin will have a glossy shine to it. 
  • Do a taste test to confirm that the tomatoes pop in your mouth and explode with flavor!

2: Harvest Indeterminate Varieties Continuously

  • Indeterminate cherry tomatoes will need to be harvested continuously from when the first round of fruits begin to ripen, usually around mid to late summer, until the first frost. Once they begin to ripen you may need to harvest multiple times a week in order to keep up with the fruits!
  • Cherry tomatoes are a little different from full-size tomatoes in that most varieties recommend you harvest them just before they are completely ripe, to avoid splitting. Check your seed packet for specific instructions, but otherwise aim to pick them a few days shy of full ripeness.

3: Harvest Fruits with a Gentle Tug

Stage 3: How to Harvest Cherry Tomatoes
  • Once you believe the fruits are ready to harvest, gently tug them off the vine with a slight twist, and they should come away easily. If you feel resistance or feel like you need to pull hard to remove them, they are likely still too unripe and you should wait a few more days to harvest.
  • Determinate cherry tomatoes will ripen in a more condensed time period, and then you may have to spend quite a bit of time harvesting all the ripe fruits at once. This makes them ideal for canning and freezing!

4: Top all Plants before Last Harvest

Top All Plants Before Last Harvest
  • One month before the first frost, you can top all of your tomato plants, both indeterminate and determinate, to encourage any remaining fruits to ripen.
  • This entails cutting off the growing tip of the plant, and you can remove any unnecessary foliage and branches that don’t contain fruits as well. 
  • This will focus all of the plant’s energy on ripening existing fruits, instead of trying to produce new growth. Cutting away foliage and branches also opens up the fruits to heat from the sun, and since heat controls ripening this can speed the process up!

10 Tips for Growing Tons of Cherry Tomatoes

Different Varieties Have Different Care Needs

Cherry tomatoes come in an enormous diversity of shapes, colors, and sizes, so you will need to pay specific attention to the needs of your particular cultivar to determine any extra care needed and to know how they should look upon harvesting. 

Trellis Plants Early On

Trellis Plants Early On

If trellising with tomato cages or stakes that go into the soil near the base of the plant, you should stick them in right when you transplant your seedling. Plunging stakes or cage wires into the soil of a mature plant risks damaging its roots, whereas young plants will simply grow around the obstacles. 

Pick Cherry Tomatoes Before A Heavy Rain Event

Harvest Cherry Tomato

If you predict your cherry tomatoes are only a week or so away from harvesting, and there is heavy rainfall predicted, you can pick them early and let them ripen indoors.

Simply cut away an entire branch that has clusters of fruits on it and hang the branch indoors in a room temperature space without too much direct sunlight. 

Heavy rainfall can cause tomatoes to split and crack, which can be very irritating if they were only a few days away from harvest! 

Balance Nitrogen And Phosphorus In The Soil

If you are noticing that your cherry tomato plants are growing a lot of lush foliage but not producing many flowers or fruits, you may want to consider amending your fertilizer to be more phosphorus-heavy.

Nitrogen contributes to green, healthy leaf and branch growth, and phosphorus is what contributes to fruit development. 

Similarly, if you find that many of your leaves are turning yellow, there may be a nitrogen deficiency in the soil. 

Monitor Yellowing Leaves And Branches

As your indeterminate cherry tomatoes grow taller, older leaves that are closer to the base of the plant may begin to yellow and die back.

This is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern, and you can prune away any older branches as the plant grows.

However, if you are seeing lots of yellowing leaves or new growth that is yellow, it may be the sign of something more serious like a disease, pest attack, or watering issue.

Practice Companion Planting To Improve Growth

Cherry tomatoes can be planted with a number of companion plants to improve their growth and attract beneficial insects.

Garlic is a popular companion plant as it releases Sulphur into the soil which is a natural anti-fungal and can help in preventing a number of soil borne fungal diseases that target tomatoes. 

Borage is another good companion plant for cherry tomatoes that will attract pollinators early in the season to pollinate tomato flowers and increase fruit production.

Updated on by Amber Noyes

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