How Big Of A Container Does A Tomato Plant Need?

Have you ever stood in your garden, with your tomato plant in hand, and wondered which pot size would be its perfect home? 

It’s something that I was actually curious about recently, and decided to research.

So, now that I’ve painstakingly researched it, I’ve compiled what I learned below.

Let’s get started!

Why Does The Size Of The Container Matter?

Tomatoes love the sun, they need at least six hours of sunlight a day. But while they’re soaking up that sunlight, their roots are looking for space to grow. 

That’s why the container’s size is crucial. 

A spacious container offers the roots ample room, potentially leading to a flourishing plant and a richer tomato yield.

So, when you’re choosing a pot for your tomato plant, think about the space those roots will need. It’s crucial for the plant’s growth and the bounty you’ll reap.

5-ish Gallons Is The Preferred Container Size

While there is a lot that we’ll discuss below, most gardeners would agree that a 5 gallon container will be big enough to allow your tomato plant to reach maturity and for you to get a decent tomato harvest.

However, while 5 gallons is “big enough”, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use a container that is bigger (or even smaller) that that size.

How To Choose the Right Container For Your Tomato Plant?

Selecting the ideal container for your tomato plants revolves around a decision that can impact their growth and tomato yield. 

Container Size depends on the Tomato Variety

Many different tomato varieties have distinct space needs.

Like plants have specific sunlight requirements, tomatoes have particular container size preferences. 

Below, I outline how the tomato type determines its optimal container size:

2-gallon Containers (Limited Space Gardener)

If you’re working with limited space or just started into the world of container gardening, a 2-gallon pot is a great starting point.

While it will limit the yield (how many tomatoes you’ll get in the season), you will still be able to get a decent harvest, provided you fertilize it properly.

If you do plan on using a 2-gallon container, then I would recommend choosing tomato varieties that are content with a cozier home such as Tiny Tim, Tumbling Tom, and Patio Princess.

While they might be smaller in size, don’t be fooled – they bring a burst of flavor to the table.

So, if you have a small balcony, patio, or even a windowsill, these plants, and a 2-gallon sized container, are your go-to for you get that that tomato harvest you’re looking for.

Plus, it’s a low-risk way to try out container gardening.

5-gallon Containers (Minimum Requirement Gardener)

The next container size that is great for tomatoes is the 5-gallon container. Like I said before, this size is what most gardeners will say is ‘good enough’ to grow a tomato plant in, and perfect if you have a bit more space in your home.

It’s personally what I used when I grew some tomatoes in a few of my old feed bags.

This size is best for determinate tomatoes like Ace 55, Mountain Merit, and the classic Roma tomatoes.

These types of tomatoes have a moderate growth pattern, which means that they won’t grow that much.  Which makes the 5-gallon container perfect for them.

10-20+ Gallon Containers (Harvest Maximizing Gardener)

Now, if you have a wide space in your garden, and you’re looking to maximize the harvest of your tomatoes plants, then you’ll want to aim for a container that holds 10 to 20 gallons.

Or even more.

I’ve read of some people that will use 25 gallon containers to grow their tomatoes in, because of how much soil and space tomato roots can take up.

Again, it’s not required to used this much space to get a decent yield from a tomato plant. However, if you are trying to get as much as you can from each single plant, then obviously the more (good quality) soil you give them, the better the return will be.

These container sizes work well for indeterminate tomatoes like Paul Robeson, Kellogg’s Breakfast, and Green Zebra, which love to stretch out and grow tall.

These types of tomatoes will give you a yield that you can’t imagine, because of all their growth. That’s why they’re usually more in need of a sturdy foundation, which a spacious container provides (along with a trellis for support, obviously).

Pro Tip: Choose Containers that are Food Grade

When you’re picking out a container for your tomato plants, especially if it’s made from plastic, you want to make sure that it is food grade. 

Why?

Because whatever goes into that container can potentially make its way into your tomatoes.

And those tomatoes?

They’re heading straight to your dinner table.

Using food-safe containers ensures that no harmful chemicals or substances leach into the soil and, subsequently, into your tomato plants.

Not only are you looking out for the well-being of your plant, but you’re also ensuring that the tomatoes you harvest are safe and healthy for you and your family to eat.

In a nutshell, always opt for containers labeled as ‘food-safe’ or ‘BPA-free’. It’s a small step that can make a big difference in the quality and safety of your homegrown tomatoes.

(Check out this guide on telling which plastics are food grade

Always Keep These Tips In Mind

When diving into the world of container gardening, especially with tomatoes, there are some golden rules to remember.

These essential tips ensure your plants thrive and yield the best harvest.

1. Use bigger containers for matured plants

When you’re planting a tomato seed, avoid planting young seedlings directly into large five-gallon containers.

Seedlings can struggle with water distribution when placed in bigger containers, leading to potential root issues.

So, what you would need to do is to start them in smaller containers (like a starter tray), and just transplant them to a more bigger container once they’ve grown.

This approach ensures better water uptake and reduces the risk of water stagnation at the bottom, which can create anaerobic conditions that are harmful to the roots.

2. Drill A Hole (or multiple holes) For Drainage

This tip is especially true for those using plastic buckets or totes to grow plants in.

Before transplanting, examine your container for sufficient drainage holes.

If they are insufficient or the holes are too small, what you would need to do is to use a hand drill, and add more holes at the bottom.

This ensures that excess water drains away, preventing waterlogged soil.

Additionally, these additional openings also promote vital air circulation for healthy roots.

Now Let’s Grow Some Tomatoes!

Choosing the right container for your tomato plant can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

With a bit of knowledge and some trial and error, you’ll find the perfect container for your tomato plants.

And when you’re biting into that juicy, homegrown tomato, you’ll know it was all worth it.

Considering container sizes for your tomato plants? Share your thoughts and what size is best for you in the comments section below!

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