Cherokee Purple tomato is an indeterminate, heirloom variety of tomato plants that are said to have belonged to the Cherokee tribe in the 1800s.
A member of the Solanaceae family, Cherokee purple tomatoes received public acclamation when they were first grown in Craig LeHoullier’s garden in the late twentieth century.
Since 1993, they have been cultivated for commercial use and gained further popularity.
Cherokee purple tomatoes produce large, dark-colored fruits with a greenish tinge near their stem and crimson-purple outer body.
They grow up to be 5 inches large, weighing approximately a pound.
They are thus named ‘Cherokee purple’ because of their distinct color and ancestry.
They have a tart and juicy flavor that is relished by Italians in their famous pizzas and pasta.
These plants are one of the easiest varieties of tomatoes to grow.
They require a little extra care when they are young, but once they mature, continue to grow and produce fruits with minimal care and effort.
Purple Cherokee Tomato Plant Care
Grow your Purple Cherokee tomato plants in clayey or loamy soil in temperatures of 50 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (10-35 degrees Celsius). Position it in a shaded corner where it is receiving indirect sunlight. Make sure to stake or cage them for support.
Basic Plant Care
Cherokee purple grows best in clayey or loamy soil that is slightly acidic (6 to 6.5 pH). Although tomato plants prefer heavy soil, lighter soil if well-drained can produce earlier fruits.
If you are growing the Cherokee Purples in a pot, it is necessary that the container should be large and deep as the tomato plants establish a wide and deep root system.
A rich, nutritious soil, which is aired and is at least eight inches deep is sufficient for the tomato plant to thrive in.
Tomato plants thrive in well-drained soil. The soil must be thoroughly watered but not too soggy or too dry.
Water must seep evenly through the layers of soil.
Cherokee purple can be made to grow better by the usage of mulch. Mulch (either organic or inorganic) is a mixture of material that is applied to promote the better growth of plants.
Organic mulch is made up of natural plant waste such as fallen leaves, wood chips, compost, sawdust, etc.
Add up to four inches of mulch after the soil has warmed. It improves soil fertility and conserves moisture.
This is why it improves the soil condition of the tomato plant by retaining sufficient moisture.
If you live in warmer areas, make sure to keep checking your soil by touching it.
If the soil’s top two inches are dry, sprinkle it regularly. Similarly, if you live in milder climates, do not overwater your plant if the soil is still moist.
Cherokee purple tomatoes are indeterminate plants that thrive and bear fruit well into the frosty season.
They grow well in climates with a good deal of sunlight and extended periods of warm, dry weather.
If you are growing Cherokee purples outdoors, it is better to place them in indirect sunlight or in a shaded place. Placing your plants in the direct sun may burn the plant’s leaves.
The leaves can fall off which may prevent the plant from building up their nutrients and performing photosynthesis and stunt their growth.
If you are growing them indoors, place them near a sun-facing window (southern or southeastern facing), which allows plenty of sunlight.
Purple Cherokee tomato plants grow well in places with plenty of sunlight. They are found in most places falling under the temperate and tropical zones.
They can also sustain themselves in regions with at least four months of sunshine.
They are most commonly available in summer and autumn when the temperatures lie between 50 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (10-35 degrees Celsius).
Cherokee purples prefer mild temperatures in the day as well as the night.
If you are planting tomatoes during high temperatures, it is preferred to do it in the morning or evening.
Young Cherokee purples are especially susceptible to extreme temperatures.
If you are using seedlings to propagate Cherokee Purple, make sure to harden them by keeping them indoors for a week or two before planting them.
If you want to shift your plant from indoors to outdoors, make sure to gradually increase the amount of light the plant receives and shelter them from strong winds.
These plants require low humidity to grow well.
High moisture content in the air such as in tropical areas promotes the growth of fungus that causes damage to the plant and prevents it from growing.
These plants can be grown indoors where you can better manage the humidity in a controlled environment.
These tomatoes are heavy feeders, requiring rich soil with plenty of nutrients. When they are in their initial growth stages, they prefer nitrogen-rich soil.
As they gradually grow, they require more phosphorus and potassium content, and fertilizer of 5-10-5 ratio every four to six weeks is enough for the plants to flourish.
Pruning, Staking, and Caging
Cherokee Purple grows up to be a 9 feet tall plant, having many branches laden with heavy fruits.
If they are not given the proper support, their stems may grow bowed, weakening the entire plant.
To make sure your plant grows to be a robust structure, it is important to use stakes and cages.
Using the latter is a better alternative as stakes are often unable to hold the heavy fruits in check even though they are able to provide the vines with sturdy support.
Although it is possible to place your cage once the plant has grown a few inches, a better option is to place them while you are sowing seeds.
This ensures that your plant grows around the cage and receives strong support from day 1.
Pruning your Cherokee Purple is a very crucial part of growing your plant. It ensures the healthy growth of tomato stems and the timely blooming and fruiting of your plant.
When your plant starts germinating, clip the earlier shoots that appear.
This promotes the growth of the roots of your plant so they are able to spread out and establish a strong foundation.
As your plant starts growing more, you will need to keep a check on its growth. Trim any branches that manage to snake their way out of the cage.
If your plant has not started giving flowers, prune and pinch out a few extra growing branches so your plant can utilize its nutrients in blooming instead.
These plants require a long season for their propagation as they are harvested in about 80 days.
It is usually preferred to start planting the seeds or seedlings within two weeks after the last frost.
Sow the seeds half-inch deep in a well-draining and fertilized soil.
Cherokee Purple grows up to be a tall plant (about 9 feet tall) with thick foliage and has a deep root system with its roots growing up to be 2 inches long.
Therefore, it’s imperative that they are planted in rows by spacing them a minimum of four feet apart.
Water the plants until the soil is evenly wet and place it in bright, indirect sunlight. Keep adding fertilizer once every month.
This plant germinates slowly and will take a month to sprout leaves, but once they have germinated, they will reach full height and give fruits in less than 60 days.
Harvest the tomatoes when they show a distinct crimson-purple color.
Cherokee Purple tomatoes take about 80 days to ripen fully. You will know when to harvest the tomatoes by their distinctive color.
When the tomatoes are large, green from the top and the rest of the fruit is crimson-purplish hued, it usually indicates the fruits have fully ripened and are ready for harvesting.
If you are planting the Cherokee Purples in bulk, it is possible that all the fruits of different plants may not ripen at the same time and may extend the harvest time up to two weeks.
Purple Cherokee Tomato Plant Common Problems
- Using fertilizer with very high nitrogen content can cause excessive growth of leaves and poor blooming and fruiting.
- Growing Cherokee Purple in tropical zones with heavy rainfall which is unable to drain causes poor fruiting.
- Extreme temperatures, either too high or too low may cause delayed blooming as these tomatoes grow best in mild temperatures.
- Unevenly moist soil that is not watered and drained correctly causes blossom end rot and the fruits grow irregular and cracked.
Storing purple Cherokee tomato seeds is very easy. Scoop the seeds out from the tomato, making sure to separate them carefully.
Wash them and then let them slowly dry out under the sun for a few days You can store the seeds up to 3 years in a cool, dry, and dark place.
Make sure they are dried thoroughly to prevent the growth of mold and to make sure the seeds are stored effectively.
Pests and Diseases
One of the most significant characteristics of the Cherokee Purple plant that lead to its increased popularity is that this heirloom variety of tomatoes is resistant to most pests and diseases that normally plague the tomato plant such as Septoria.
Cherokee Purple is however very susceptible to fungal and viral diseases such as the Late blight of tomato and the Tobacco mosaic virus.
Late blight of tomato is a common fungus that attacks tomatoes and potatoes that grow in warm and humid conditions. This occurs as small, dark spots on the plant’s lower leaves.
The fruit may also rot and drop off. Late blight cannot be cured, but it is possible to minimize the effects of this fungus by taking extra care of your plant and making sure its growing conditions are being sufficiently met.
The Tobacco Mosaic virus is a common problem that persists in the Cherokee Purples grown in North America. It is characterized by distinct inward curling of the infected plant’s leaves.
These diseases can be transmitted easily so it is better to destroy the infected plant before the infection may be passed on to other healthy plants and destroy them.
Tips for Growing Purple Cherokee Tomato Plants
- Keep the Cherokee Purple plant above the ground to prevent the onset of most blights.
- These plants require a minimum of 8 hours of sun exposure every day.
- Although staking, pruning, and using cages may reduce the yield of fruits, it is very important to apply these for the sturdy growth of the plant.
- Keep checking the moisture level of the soil by touching it with your hand. Do not let it dry excessively or let it sit in damp soil. Keep watering the plant according to its need.
- If you are shifting your plants from pots to the ground, plant them at a deeper level in the ground than they were planted in the container.
- If you bought seeds or seedlings in winter, wait till the weather has become steady before planting them.
- Don’t overcrowd the plants and make sure they are spaced 3 to 4 feet apart.
- Keep rotating your crops every three years to prevent the growth of diseases and pests.
Frequently Asked Questions About Purple Cherokee Tomato Plant Care
My Cherokee Purple has yellow leaves that are wilting. Will they survive?
Your Cherokee Purple is probably feeling a bit neglected these days. Your plants have probably been kept at a place where they have not been getting sufficient sunlight and have not been watered correctly. Just place your plant in a bright place and water it gradually, making sure to water it only when the soil has become dry.
The leaves of my plant have holes in them. How did this happen?
If your plant has burn marks around the hole, they might have gotten sun scalded because you shifted them from indoors to outdoors before letting them harden. If there are no burn marks around them, your plant could have a caterpillar infestation, which loves eating tomato leaves. You can either pick them off by hand, use organic pesticides or spray soapy water on the plant (1 teaspoon dish soap mixed with 1 litre warm water). This will kill the insects while not harming the plant.
Cherokee Purple is a famous heirloom variety of tomatoes that is widely known for its delicious flavor.
As these are also easy to cultivate, many people plant them in their gardens or grow them indoors in their houses.
The freshly harvested fruit can be added to sandwiches, pizzas, and salads and also can be eaten straight off the branches.
If you have all the right conditions to grow this plant, consider growing it in your homes as you will have mouth-watering fresh fruits at your disposal!
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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.