What Size Container Is Best For Growing Tomatoes (truth)

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When it comes to backyard gardening, knowing what size container is best for growing tomatoes can significantly impact your plants’ health and productivity. The size of the container plays an essential role in root development and overall plant growth while considering factors like stability, support, and adequate space to help roots flourish. 

The size of the container is crucial for successfully growing tomatoes. Generally, larger containers are better, allowing the tomato plant’s roots to spread and access nutrients. A container with a minimum volume of 5 gallons is recommended for growing a single tomato plant, but larger varieties may require even bigger containers, up to 20 gallons or more. The depth of the container is also significant, with a depth of at least 12 inches ideal to accommodate the plant’s root system. 

bush cherry tomato plant with green tomatoes growing in large container along with another young plant in sunlight

Providing the right size container ensures that your tomato plants have enough space to grow and develop, leading to healthier plants and a more abundant harvest. Choosing the ideal container size can set the stage for successful tomato cultivation, and that’s precisely what we’ll cover in this article so you can cultivate juicy, plump tomatoes all summer!  

Humble Highlights

  • Discover the minimum tomato container size to develop healthy, robust, and productive yields AND these vital 3 key benefits of larger containers so you can provide ample space for your plant to grow tall and produce a bountiful crop.
  • Uncover the importance of root health and care of your container-grown tomato plants so you can provide your plants with the ideal environment for growth and success, resulting in healthier plants!
  • Save time with these 3 advantages of supporting your maturing tomato plants with cages, stakes, and trellises, and why providing support early decreases the chances of your plant tipping over when it becomes top-heavy with fruit so you can offer the best stability for tall tomato plants.

Minimum Container Size For Tomatoes

When cultivating tomatoes, choosing a container size of at least 15 gallons is essential for the best growth and productivity. The size of the container directly impacts the development of tomato plants’ root systems, which are vital for nutrient uptake and overall plant health. 

what size container should  i use to grow tomatoes

In smaller containers, such as those below 15 gallons, tomato plants may experience restricted root growth, leading to stunted development and lower yields. Insufficient soil volume in smaller pots also necessitates more frequent watering, as the soil tends to dry out quickly, especially during the peak of the growing season. 1

When selecting a tomato pot size, growers should consider the relationship between the container size and the plant’s root system. Larger containers, ranging from 20 to 25 gallons, provide ample space for root expansion, allowing the plants to establish strong and extensive root systems. 

These robust roots support the uptake of water and nutrients, contributing to healthier plants and, ultimately, higher tomato yields. Therefore, it is advisable to opt for a container size larger than the minimum requirement of 15 gallons for successful tomato cultivation.

Benefits Of Larger Containers

Larger containers ranging from 20 to 25 gallons greatly enhance tomato plant growth by promoting extensive root development, increasing yields, and overall plant health. When considering the benefits of larger containers for your tomato plants, keep in mind the following:

  • Improved Root Systems: Larger containers provide more space for roots to grow and spread, allowing for more robust and healthier root systems.
  • Enhanced Water Retention: Increased soil volume in larger containers means better water retention, reducing watering frequency while ensuring consistent moisture levels for your tomato plants.
  • Better Nutrient Availability: The ample space in larger containers enhances the nutrient availability to the plants, supporting their growth and productivity.

Opting for larger containers offers stability for your tomato plants, minimizing the risk of tipping over and facilitating essential root development, which is vital for achieving robust tomato yields. 2

what size container do i need for tomatoes

Humble Tip:

An added benefit of cultivating tomato plants in larger containers is that the bigger pot size can help mitigate temperature fluctuations in the soil. 

The larger volume of soil in a bigger container acts as a buffer against rapid temperature changes, which can be particularly beneficial for tomatoes. 

Remember, tomatoes are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, especially in the plant’s root zone. Large containers help maintain a more stable soil temperature, promoting healthier root development and plant growth.

Importance Of Root Development Space

Providing ample space for root development is essential to increasing the chances of maximum growth and productivity of your tomato plants. To ensure peak root development, tomato plants require a minimum container size of 15 gallons. Larger containers, ideally between 20 and 25 gallons, provide even more room for root expansion, resulting in larger root systems and increased tomato production. On the other hand, smaller containers restrict root growth and may lead to more frequent watering to support the plant adequately.

It is recommended that only one tomato per container be planted to allow the plant enough space to develop a healthy root system. Choosing the right container size for your tomato plants ensures they have adequate space for peak root development. This, in turn, leads to healthier and more productive plants overall. 3

Selecting a container that provides sufficient root development space is essential for the successful growth of your tomatoes. Of course, you’ll want to ensure it has proper drainage and good-quality soil to promote a healthy growing experience. Check out the video below that explains how tomato plants grow and produce based on the pot they’re cultivated within. 

Stability And Support For Tomato Plants

Ensuring the stability and support of your container tomatoes is essential for their best growth and development. Here are some key points to consider for supporting your tomato plants effectively:

  • Use Larger Containers: Opt for containers at least 15 gallons in size to provide stability and ample room for root growth.
  • Explore Indeterminate Varieties: These tomatoes can grow tall and benefit from the support of larger containers to prevent toppling over.
  • Utilize Tomato Cages Or Stakes: To support the tomato plant stems and prevent bending or breaking, consider using cages, stakes, or trellises in your premium potting mix-filled containers for additional support. 4
what size container needed for tomatoes

Optimal Growth And Yield Factors

Selecting the appropriate container size is essential for optimizing the growth and yield of your tomato plants. For peak growth and yield, choosing a container size of at least 15 gallons for typical tomato varieties is recommended. Smaller containers may lead to more frequent watering needs, while larger containers support more extensive root systems and produce more abundant fruit. 

As explained above, container sizes ranging from 20 to 25 gallons provide ample space for root development and maximize fruit production.

Plant one tomato variety per container to prevent overcrowding and promote healthy growth and maximum yields. Proper nutrient uptake is vital for robust growth and bountiful harvests, and when tomato plants are grown too close together, nutrient availability in the soil becomes compromised. 5

Additionally, selecting the right container size is critical in promoting healthy growth, maximizing fruit production, and avoiding issues such as root-bound plants. Providing adequate space for root development and fruiting can set the stage for successful tomato cultivation in containers.

what is the best container for growing tomatoes

Humble Tip:

Indeed, the shape of your tomato pot can also affect tomato yield. While most backyard gardeners focus on the total volume of the pot, the shape can influence how the roots grow and how efficiently the plant takes up nutrients.

For example, pots that are taller than they are wide can encourage deeper root growth, which can be beneficial for stability and accessing nutrients deeper within the soil. 

On the other hand, wider pots with more horizontal space can allow for a more extensive root mass closer to the surface, which may be advantageous for nutrient uptake in certain conditions.

Choosing the right pot shape AND size can help optimize tomato yield by ensuring the roots have a favored environment to support healthy growth and fruit production.


Selecting a container size of at least 15 gallons for growing tomatoes is essential for ideal growth and yield. Remember, when it comes to backyard tomatoes, the larger the container, the better. Pots ranging from 20 to 25 gallons provide ample space for root development, leading to healthier and more productive plants.

Ensuring proper root development, stability, and support will ultimately contribute to successful tomato growth and maximize fruit production.

What size containers do you choose for your homegrown tomatoes for the best success? We’d love to know! In the comments below, tell us what works well for you and what container-grown tomatoes you enjoy most!


  1. ResearchGate – Container Size Effect On The Plant Production And Precocity In Tomato (Solanum Lycopersicum L.)
  2. Iowa State University, Extension And Outreach – Container Gardens Give Small Gardens Big Benefits
  3. ScienceDirect – The Development Of Tomato Root System In Relation To The Carbohydrate Status Of The Whole Plant
  4. North Carolina State University, Cooperative Extension Durham County Center – Your Tomatoes Need Your Support
  5. University Of California, Agriculture And Natural Resources – Improving Tomato Yield With Nutrient Materials Containing Microbial And Botanical Biostimulants

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