Even if tomatoes fruits, technically, they are the number one most common garden vegetable being grown every year in America.
While these plants are much loved for their ability to produce delicious, sweet, and tangy tomatoes, they can be picky about light.
Most plant tags say “full sun,” but what does that mean, exactly?
How Much Sun Does a Tomato Plant Need
To grow plump and healthy tomatoes, give your plants about 6-8 hours of exposure to direct sunlight. In cooler regions, 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight will give you the best yield. For hot climates, stick to 6 or 7 hours of sunlight and give them light shade in the afternoon.
How To Plant Tomatoes So They Get Enough Sunlight
Planting tomatoes can be tricky based on the region where you live. If you want to avoid the problem of too much or too little sun, planting tomatoes in a pot is a great idea.
There are even upside-down patio tomato planters, which means no cages or stakes required!
Be sure that if you are planting in a pot, you choose a spot where they will receive direct sunlight for at least six to eight hours each day.
Then, you can move them in the afternoon if it’s too hot for them. Look for a high-quality potting mix for vegetables, which will encourage healthy growth.
Provide Light Afternoon Shade for Hot Climates
However, if you live in a very hot climate (consistently 90-95° Fahrenheit or above), you should plant tomatoes in a spot that gets light shade in the afternoon or add fine-mesh row covers to provide a little bit of protection.
Row covers will also help keep birds and some insects from devouring your tomatoes before you get a chance to devour them yourself.
Use Fertilizer and Compost
If you’re going to plant in the soil, dig about one foot deep and add some well-rotted compost, aged manure, and some good fertilizer if you want an extra boost.
Let the mixture sit in the hole for about a week to set and break down before planting.
Tomatoes can also be planted with 2/3 of their stem buried—it helps them grow stronger roots and makes for a healthier plant.
Different Types of Tomatoes
Determinate tomatoes are commonly known as “bush” varieties.
This type grows about two or three feet tall and will fruit and produce many different tomatoes at once. They don’t need cages or stakes, making them perfect for smaller spaces or as a patio plant.
They’re also perfect for canning because they produce many tomatoes very quickly.
But, you won’t be eating tomatoes all summer long if you choose this variety, since they generally only fruit at the beginning of the growing season.
Indeterminate tomatoes are space hogs and absolutely require stakes and cages for support, as they grow quite big and can spread out quickly.
These are known as “vining” varieties and will produce fat, healthy fruit all summer long.
While most indeterminate tomatoes are perfect for slicing or eating in sandwiches, they do require some extra TLC.
They can be grown on a porch or patio, but they won’t be able to spread out and thrive as they would in open soil.
Staking and caging is also extremely important, as it helps keep the fruit off the ground and gives the plant vital support.
General Plant Care for Tomatoes
Tomatoes may be a very popular plant that many people think of as “easy” to grow, but they require vigilant care.
They can be prone to disease if they’re not properly cared for, which is why it’s essential to give them the sunlight, water, and nutrients they need to flourish and thrive.
How to Water Tomatoes
Tomatoes should be watered copiously early in the morning so the extra moisture will evaporate by the afternoon.
Water deeply, so the roots have a chance to soak it up and support healthy growth. You don’t want to get stuck with root rot, which will damage the plant badly.
Avoid Having Wet Leaves Overnight
If you must water in the afternoon or at night, only water at the plant’s base, and avoid getting the leaves wet.
A tomato plant with damp or wet leaves overnight is prone to diseases like early blight.
Even high-humidity climates can cause this crippling disease, so it’s vital to keep the leaves as dry as possible, particularly overnight.
Water One to Two Inches Each Week
A good rule of thumb is watering about one to two inches every week. If your tomato plants are in a container, they’ll need more water. Check to make sure they’re adequately hydrated every day.
If you’re in a hot climate, water deeply and often, or try irrigation or a sprayer to ensure the soil stays evenly moist.
How to Prune a Tomato Plant and Encourage Healthy Growth
How to prune a tomato is typically based on the variety and cultivar being grown. Vining varieties should be cared for by pinching off what’s called “suckers.”
Suckers are new growth that consists of the small stems and leaves growing between the main stem and branches.
It’s a good idea to thin these out to allow more life-giving sunlight to reach all areas of the plant.
Whether you’re growing bush variety or vining variety, take the time to prune some of the lower leaves.
Look for the leaves growing from the base of the plant to about 12 inches upwards, and gently prune them to keep the plant healthy and thriving.
You can also read about tomato plant spacing for better tomato plant growth.
Frequently Asked Questions about How much Sun Tomato Plants Need
How come my tomato plants won’t grow any flowers or fruit?
If your plants won’t flower or fruit, the problem is most likely that they’re not receiving enough sunlight. Remember, tomatoes are sunlight hogs—they need at least six to eight hours every day. Keep in mind that direct sunlight doesn’t mean extreme heat every day. If it’s too hot, it could prevent the plant from flowering and growing tomatoes. Be sure to water regularly and add some fertilizer or compost for an extra boost.
How far apart should tomatoes be planted?
Well, it’s based on what variety they are. Bushy varieties (determinate) should be grown two feet apart. For the vining varieties (indeterminate), plant about three feet apart. Also, don’t forget to support vining variety cultivars! Tie branches gently to stakes or cages using twine or soft string.
To successfully grow tomatoes, the plants require about 8 hours of direct sunlight each day, minimum of 6.
If you live in a cooler climate, shoot for eight to ten hours of sun each day.
If you’re in extreme heat, the plants should get six to eight hours of sunlight and then light shade in the afternoon, as extreme heat can prevent pollination and fruiting.
However, by watering them regularly and giving them the sun, space, and support they need, you’ll be enjoying plump, sweet, and delicious tomatoes come this summer!
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.