Container gardening is all about making the most out of the limited gardening space you have. Several fruiting crops work well in containers including tomatoes.
I’ve been learning more about growing tomatoes in gardens and wanted to know if multiple plants can thrive in a single pot. So, I did some research and created this post to answer that question.
You can grow multiple tomato plants in one pot but I would not recommend doing that. The plants will compete with each other for nutrients and moisture. The overcrowding will cause a lack of sunlight and stunted growth. The lack of air circulation can invite fungal diseases to the plants.
Is It Possible To Grow Multiple Tomato Plants In One Pot?
It is possible to grow more than one tomato plant in a single pot. That said, it’s not always the best idea.
Like any other plant, tomatoes need room to breathe. Many cultivars will spread two to three feet wide. Not only that, but they often have deep roots that cause trouble in a crowded container.
Grouping several tomato plants together could be counterproductive to their development. Overcrowding is a big risk. When tomato plants bunch up, they’ll compete for resources. Some will suffer while others thrive. Either way, your plants aren’t going to reach their full potential when planted too close together.
Ultimately, whether you’ll see success in a single pot depends on many factors. Tomatoes are fully capable of flourishing when grown together. But, you need a large container and the right tomato varieties to pull it off. It involves a lot of careful planning to get right.
Otherwise, you’ll encounter a litany of problems.
Problems When Growing Multiple Tomato Plants in One Pot
Before you start making arrangements to plant tomatoes together, there are some things to consider. You need to weigh the potential advantages and disadvantages.
On one hand, planting multiple plants in one pot could increase your yield. You can maximize growing potential without taking up a ton of space.
But, your plants could run into some issues. Here are the most common problems that arise when tomato plants are grown in close proximity.
There’s no denying that tomatoes do best when planted in their own container. Even dwarf varieties need space. Most gardeners recommend keeping single tomato plants in pots with a 12 to 14-inch diameter.
Bigger is always better when it comes to container size. Larger pots allow for more soil. This results in better water retention and stronger roots.
When you plant multiple plants in a small pot, the roots can entangle and fight for resources.
Too Much or Too Little Water
As a good rule of thumb, tomato plants need about an inch or two of water every week. If you live in a particularly hot climate, you may need even more.
Having more than one plant in a pot could lead to water issues.
Because the plants are close together, it’s difficult to figure out how much water they need. You could overcompensate and provide too much hydration. This leads to blistered or cracked fruits. The plant could also experience root rot.
In some cases, you might end up under-watering the plant. With more plants sipping up the moisture, the soil with dry out much faster. Under-watering leads to limp stems, discoloration, and more.
As I stated earlier, overcrowding is a big problem when you stuff multiple plants in a single pot.
You have to remember that plants need air circulation to stay healthy. Proper airflow prevents fungal diseases.
On top of all that, there’s the matter of support. Many varieties require the support of a trellis or cage. There are some exceptions, but standard tomatoes cannot thrive without support.
Tomato plant height ranges from 6 inches tall to upwards of 20 feet tall.
When the plants are too close, there’s no room for a cage. As a result, the plant will likely fall over and break under the weight of the fruit.
Not Enough Sun
Tomato plants love the sun. They need between six and eight hours of sunlight every day to stay healthy. When you overcrowd them, the plants will compete to get some exposure.
This will lead to a leggy plant with thin branches.
Proper fertilization is difficult when keeping multiple plants together. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and need constant fertilization throughout the growing season.
You can do this with slow-release fertilizers or fast-acting liquid fertilizers.
Whatever the case may be, tomatoes need a lot of it. Your fertilizer must reach 12 inches below the surface. But even if you manage that, the nutrients aren’t infinite.
There are only so many of the key nutrients to go around. In a small space, your plants will use those nutrients up quickly. As a result, your reliance on fertilizer will increase. You could attempt to overcompensate, but that may lead to fertilizer burn. For many gardeners, keeping multiple tomato plants fertilized in a single pot is a losing battle.
Several factors will cause fungal issues to pop up. Everything from overcrowding to overwatering will help fungal spores take hold.
In a single pot, tomato plants lack proper air circulation. This prevents any excess moisture from evaporating.
Your plants could suffer from blight. This disease causes the plant to wilt until it eventually dies. Blight fungus thrives in moist conditions.
There’s also buckeye rot, which affects the fruits. The fungus creates large brown spots on the tomato, rendering it inedible.
Leaf mold is common as well. Affected plants will wilt and decrease your yield.
Those are just some of the possible fungal infections and diseases your plants could experience. There are many more. An overcrowded pot will only increase your plants’ risks.
How Many Tomato Plants Can You Grow Per Pot?
Now that you understand the risks, let’s go over what’s possible.
Keeping multiple tomato plants in a single pot is tough. But, it’s still doable.
How many plants you can keep will depend on several factors. These include the variety you choose and the required spacing.
Tomato Plant Spacing
To avoid overcrowding, you must give your plants ample room to grow. Improper spacing will reduce air circulation. Plus, it increases your risks of encountering some of the problems we discussed earlier.
Ideally, there should be about 24 to 36 inches of space between tomato plants. That’s the best-case scenario. Most gardeners will use that spacing when planting in the ground. In smaller gardens, 18 to 24 inches of space will work, too.
But, neither of those are viable in a pot.
At the very least, tomatoes in containers should have 12 inches of space between them. That applies to all container-grown varieties.
This spacing should help you avoid problems. But even then, you must keep a watchful eye on the plant and do some pruning to avoid issues. It seems like a lot of space when you’re first planting, but the tomato will spread soon enough.
The variety you choose is going to impact its performance in the pot.
Larger standard tomatoes aren’t going to work for a small or even medium-sized pot. If you want to grow several plants together, you’ll need to stick with smaller cultivars.
Determinate, Indeterminate, and Dwarf Varieties
Tomato varieties fall into three distinct categories. These include determinate, indeterminate, and dwarf.
The types of tomatoes you want to avoid for your container are indeterminate. Indeterminate tomatoes will continue to grow throughout the growing season. They’re vining plants that need a trellis or cage. On average, they reach heights of 6 to 20 feet tall.
They will quickly overcrowd your pot. So, they don’t make good container tomatoes.
Determinate tomatoes are a far better option. You might see these plants with a “Bush Tomato” label. That’s because they grow in a confined shape. There are no lengthy vines to worry about. Most will only reach heights of 3 to 5 feet.
Determinate tomatoes work well for containers. But, dwarf tomatoes are even better. With a maximum height of only 2 to 3 feet, they’re perfect for container growing.
You can also find micro dwarf tomatoes, which don’t even get a foot tall.
The cool thing about dwarf varieties is that the label refers to the plant. and not the tomato. They can produce full-sized fruit while taking up only the fraction of the space as larger plants.
What Should Be the Size of the Pot?
If you want to keep multiple tomato plants in a single pot, you’re going to need a very large container. Chances are, you’re not going to find a suitable pot at your local garden center.
The pot needs to be large enough to accommodate the spacing and soil needs of each plant.
Furthermore, tomatoes need at least 12 inches of depth and 12 inches of space between them.
When you factor in all of those requirements, you’re looking at an enormous container to keep several plants together.
Go for a container that looks more like a raised bed. You have to focus on the dimensions of the pot rather than the volume it can hold.
High-volume pots aren’t difficult to find. You can easily pick up a 100-gallon pot for a tree. But, those pots have too much depth and not enough surface space for multiple plants.
Instead of looking for traditional pots, aim for planter boxes instead. They offer ample room to raise your tomato plants without having to worry about overcrowding.