How to revive a dying tomato plant. With over 10,000 varieties, tomatoes are one of the fruits most commonly grown in gardens worldwide. I am saying fruit as tomatoes are fruit in botanical terms but more often referred to as a vegetable.
These crops are also susceptible, and untreated disease or change in care can cause your tomato plant to take a turn for the worst.
If your tomato plant looks dying, it must be tended to immediately. I revived many dying tomato plants and will share my experiences in this article.
How to revive a dying tomato plant?
If your tomato plant looks dying, it doesn’t get the care it needs. Ensure your tomato plant gets enough sunlight, water, and fertilizer. Transplanting your tomato plant can be a last resort to reviving it.
Symptoms of a dying tomato plant
If the leaves of your tomato plant are wilting and the stems are beginning to collapse, this could mean your plant is dying.
Although, it can often be difficult to tell the difference between a dying tomato plant and one suffering from factors that don’t need attention.
If you notice any changes in the appearance of your tomato plants, such as yellowing or wilted leaves, I would suggest keeping a close eye on them for a few days before taking any action.
Sometimes, a tomato plant can be affected by changes in weather, which can cause disruptions in growth that your plant will soon recover from.
If up to a week has passed and your tomato plant has shown no signs of recovery, that is a cause for alarm.
Symptoms of a dying tomato include dry leaves that are crisp to the touch and discoloration spreading to the stems.
Tomato plants have relatively fast-growing foliage, meaning that if no signs of growth have appeared in a while, it is likely that your plant needs attention fast.
Caring for your tomato plant
The first thing you should do if you believe your tomato plant is dying is check that you have fulfilled all of its needs.
A tomato plant needs at least 4 hours of regular sunlight a day to thrive, and with very little or no sunlight, your plant’s leaves will begin to wilt and eventually fall off.
It is additionally important that your tomato plant is watered enough and regularly.
Tomato plants need 1-2 inches of water each time and shouldn’t be watered again until the topsoil is only slightly moist.
Consistently over or under-watering your tomato plant will cause it to start to die, and your watering schedule should be adjusted immediately if you believe this is the cause of your plant’s distress.
Fertilization is key
Tomato plants need many nutrients, specifically the three NPK nutrients. Without regular fertilization, your plant will not survive or bear any fruits. It can even cause your tomato plant’s leaves to turn yellow.
You should add fertilizer to the soil around a week before planting and regularly during the blossoming and fruit-growing periods. A simple tomato plant fertilizer is all that you will need.
If your tomato plant looks drab and you haven’t kept up with a frequent fertilizing schedule, I suggest immediately adding fertilizer to the soil.
Tomato plants recover quickly from nutrient deficiency, so you should see signs of recovery within less than a week.
Top tip – Be sure only to add the recommended amount of fertilizer to your plant, no matter the damage that has been done to it.
Tomato plants are very sensitive to nutrients and can be severely damaged by over-fertilization.
Transplanting a dying tomato plant
If you’ve had no luck with reviving your tomato plant, you can finally try transplanting it. However, as tomato plants have quite sensitive roots, you should only transplant them as a last resort.
Transplanting a tomato plant has especially proven successful in cases of root rot, where the soil has become so saturated that it is rotting the soil.
You should start by carefully removing your tomato plant from the soil, then clean the roots and carefully prune off any damaged or dead parts from the roots.
Don’t panic if your tomato plant starts to wilt after transplanting it.
Typically, this is a symptom of plant shock, although, in the case of tomato plants, it is likely just your plant adjusting to its new habitat and should revive itself after a few days.
Ensure that you handle the roots with care and avoid damaging them. I would suggest cutting around the root ball and washing off any excess soil instead of pulling your tomato plant from the soil, as this can result in roots being snapped.
Finally, transplant your tomato plant into a compost mix in a pot or container with drainage holes.
Precautions to take
Any tomato plants that look like they might be dying should be moved away from any other plants as soon as possible.
You should also never compost any dead tomato plants. Many tomato diseases can live on plant debris, even during the winter months, such as blight.
Dispose of your plant and the soil it has lived in to prevent any disease from spreading to your new crops the following year.
Transplanted tomatoes are wilting
If transplanted tomatoes are wilting, they most likely suffer from transplant shock. If you take your tomato plant from a given environment with specific lighting, temperature, and humidity and place it somewhere else, it can wilt.
The reason is that the conditions change drastically. E.g., moving a plant from a grow light outside where the sun is much stronger or from one potting medium to a different one causes shock in plants. I often had issues with limping tomato plants when I moved seed-grown tomato plants and enclosed a container with a lid. The main reason here is the difference in humidity.
The key to avoiding transplanted tomatoes from wilting is hardening off the plants. This means that you acclimated tomatoes slowly to the new environment. If you take the plantlets out of high humidity in an enclosed container, you can open up the container just a little on the first day. Then open it up more every few days until it is fully open.
The same applies when moving tomatoes under a grow light outside. Don’t put them directly under full sun, but gradually move them from shady to sunny places over a couple of days.
According to Cornell University there are certain measures that can speed up the process. A well-watered and fertilized plant transplanted on a cloudy day and protected from wind might do without any real hardening off.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take a dying tomato plant to recover?
This all depends on the extremity of your plant’s damage and what is causing it. If your plant is dying due to a lack of maintenance, it should take less than a week to recover. However, if your tomato plant has been affected by disease and has to be transplanted, this could take much longer.
Can I still eat the fruits from a dying tomato plant?
If the fruits do not show signs of discoloration, they are still safe for human consumption. I would suggest picking tomatoes that have not started to change color and letting them ripen off the vine, as your dying tomato plant may not have the energy to ripen them alone.
To save a wilting tomato plant:
- Closely observing the tomato plant
- Identify the reason for the wilting
- Does the tomato need water or fertilizer? Has it been transplanted recently?
- Once the main cause is identified, adjust your care and provide ample fertilizer, water, and protection
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Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.