If you like growing tomatoes but don’t have enough space for full-size plants, try growing the small tomato plants known as micro tomatoes or micro dwarf tomatoes. These compact tomato plants taste just like the tomatoes you’re familiar with, but they grow on itty bitty plants. In this article, I’ll introduce you to these tiny treasures and share some of my favorite varieties to grow. Plus, you’ll find tips for plant care and ideas for where to grow them.
What are micro tomatoes?
These small tomato plants are determinate tomatoes that have been bred to have a super-small stature. Unlike a patio-size determinate variety (also known as a bush variety), such as ‘Bush Early Girl’, ‘Celebrity’, ‘Patio’, or most types of paste tomato, the small tomato plants highlighted in this article grow to be just a few inches tall, even when they are fully mature.
Some micro tomatoes top out at a mere 6 inches in height, while others have vines that reach up to 20 inches long and cascade over the edge of a pot or hanging basket. Unlike indeterminate tomatoes that continue to grow until the plants are killed by a frost, micro tomatoes reach their genetically predetermined height and stop growing, making them ideal for small spaces.
For the most part, these are hybrid varieties that produce fruits that are sized just like regular cherry tomatoes, though there are a few selections that produce slightly larger sized fruits.
Why grow these small tomato plants?
Aside from micro tomato plants being perfect for gardeners with limited room, there are other benefits to growing a true dwarf variety like the ones you’ll find described in this article.
- No staking. These small tomato plants do not require staking, nor do they need the support of a tomato cage. They won’t topple over in a storm or need to be fastened to a trellis every few days.
- No pinching or pruning. Since micro tomatoes have a genetically pre-determined height, they aren’t as prone to suckering as standard tomato plants are, so you won’t have to be pinching or pruning the stems to keep them from taking over the garden.
- No diseases. Most of these miniature tomato varieties are also bred to be disease resistant, so their foliage stays tidy and blemish-free. Plus, if you grow them in containers, they won’t be exposed to soil-borne tomato diseases like fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt.
- No overwhelm. Yes, I love tomatoes and I’m sure you do too, but let’s be real…sometimes there’s too much of a good thing. If you live in a small household and only want enough tomatoes for salads or snacks, a few of these small tomato plants will provide enough fruits for your needs.
- No limits. Even gardeners with balconies, decks, and patios and no in-ground space can have homegrown tomatoes, thanks to these micro tomato varieties. Heck, you can even grow them indoors (more on that later in this article).
Where to grow mini tomato plants
You can grow these small tomato plants in any vegetable garden or raised bed, but they are most at home in pots. Try growing vining micro tomato varieties in a hanging basket, a deck box, or an elevated planter. I know one gardener who has a whole row of hanging baskets lining their porch, each filled with miniature tomato plants.
Any container with drainage holes will do. Next, let’s talk about how large of a container you should use and what is the best potting medium to fill it with.
How much space do small tomato plants need?
Since these plants are so small-statured, their root ball is not very large. Unlike a standard tomato, which requires a pot volume of at least 5 gallons, each micro tomato plant needs a pot that holds just a half-gallon of soil if they top-out at under 10 inches in height. Varieties that grow slightly larger should be grown in a container that holds around 1 to 2 gallons of soil (about the size of a standard hanging basket).
Fill the container with a high-quality organic potting mix that has a few handfuls of compost mixed in. The compost will help the potting soil retain moisture and help feed the plants.
If you’re growing these small tomato plants in the ground or in raised beds, space upright varieties 8 inches apart and vining selections 2 feet apart.
Expected yields from miniature tomato plants
They don’t have a tremendously high yield like a standard indeterminate cherry tomato simply because they don’t have as much stem area to produce blooms. However, each plant will produce several dozen fruits. The sweet flavor of these dwarf tomato varieties is quite delicious, much like a standard cherry tomato.
Harvesting can take place as soon as the fruits develop their mature color. You can harvest at any time of day, depending on whether you’d like a lunchtime salad or a midnight snack.
The best varieties of micro tomato plants
Here are some of my favorite mini tomato varieties (aside from the ones mentioned in the photo captions elsewhere in this article):
- ‘Tumbling Tom’: This is the first type of micro tomato I ever grew. They are vining tomatoes that are perfect for window boxes, elevated raised planters, or hanging baskets. The stems cascade down over the edge of the growing container about 18 to 20 inches. Small, cherry-sized fruits are packed with flavor and the plants are among the most productive of the micros. There is also ‘Tumbling Tom Yellow’ which is the same but with bright yellow fruits.
- ‘Tiny Tim’: This cute-as-a-button selection produces inch-wide fruits with a super sweet flavor. Tiny Tim tomatoes reach a mature height of just 6 to 8 inches, making it one of the most petite selections out there. All you need is a 6-inch pot, and you’re good to go.
- ‘Red Robin’: Similar to ‘Tiny Tim’ in production and stature, ‘Red Robin’ makes a great edible edging for garden beds. It’s a great way to expand your edible landscape. If you had enough plants, you could even grow it as a groundcover.
- ‘Little Bing’: This hybrid has fruit that’s ripe just 60 to 65 days after planting the seeds! The compact plants are super tidy and top out at around 20 inches in height. It produces a surprisingly large harvest of red tomatoes.
- ‘Red Velvet’: A little beauty with clusters of deep red fruits, the stems of ‘Red Velvet’ grow to just 8 inches in height. They are a little slower to ripen than some other selections (70 to 85 days), but they do great when grown indoors under a grow light.
- ‘Siam’: Another petite wonder that grows to 12-16 inches in height, ‘Siam’ produces a plethora of 1 ounce fruit. The foliage is a nice dark green and the fruit clusters produce dozens of tomatoes throughout the season.
- ‘Ponchi Mi’: Often available from the brand Bonnie Plants, this snacking tomato is a great fit for growing indoors or out. The compact plant maxes out at 6 to 8 inches and the tomatoes ripen in about 60 days from seed.
- ‘Veranda’: A lovely little plant that produces a surprising number of tomatoes all summer long. It’s a Burpee hybrid that’s available from them as seeds or young plants.
- ‘Heartbreaker’: If you’re looking for a micro tomato with slightly larger fruits, try ‘Heartbreaker’. This hybrid has fruits with a slight heart shape and a glossy red color. Clusters of fruits continue to grow as long as the ripe ones are regularly harvested. The plants are super sturdy and reach only 16 inches tall.
Caring for small tomato plants
Just like regular tomatoes, micro tomatoes do not tolerate frost. Wait until the danger of frost has passed and nights are consistently above freezing before planting (unless you’re growing them indoors, of course). Select a planting site in full sun or position the pot where it receives 6 or more hours of full sun per day.
You can start your own plants indoors from seed by following these instructions on growing tomatoes from seed, or you can purchase starter plants from a nursery. More and more garden centers are growing these unique small tomato plants, so they shouldn’t be too challenging to find. I’ve also linked a few sources for plants and seeds in the highlighted varieties mentioned above.
Watering and feeding
The biggest threat to the health of your micro tomatoes is improper watering. Both under-watering and over-watering are problematic, but under-watering is more common with outdoor plants. If your plants are growing in a small pot or hanging basket, it’s essential that you water the plants every day if the weather is above 80 degrees. If the temperature is less than that, every other day or every third day will be sufficient. For pots less than 12 inches in diameter, pour about 1 gallon of water on the soil slowly and allow the excess to drain freely through the drainage holes. This type of consistent, deep watering is essential for keeping soil moisture levels adequate during hot weather.
If your tomato plant is watered inconsistently and allowed to completely dry out between waterings, blossom-end rot could be the result. You can learn more about this calcium-related disorder in this article. It leads to fruits with dark rotten spots on the bottom end, though it is not as common on cherry types.
Fertilization should occur every 3 to 4 weeks, using a water-soluble organic fertilizer. This article shares lots of good fertilizer information.
Pests such as tomato fruit worms and tomato hornworms occasionally attack these small tomato plants. You’ll find solutions for both of these pests and others here.
Growing mini tomato plants indoors
If you have no outdoor growing space at all, you can also grow these small tomato plants indoors. Ideally, they should be grown under grow lights that are on for 16-20 hours per day. But, if you don’t have a grow light system, place the pots in a bright north-facing window that receives sun all day long for the best results. Turn the pot a quarter turn each day to keep the light levels even.
Tiny but mighty
Micro varieties might be small tomato plants, but they have a lot to offer. They produce delicious fruits, require minimal care, and take up very little space. I hope you’ll enjoy growing them on your porch, deck, or patio for many seasons to come.
For more on growing great tomatoes, please visit these articles:
- Tomato-growing secrets you can’t grow without
- How to pinch tomato plants
- How far apart to plant tomatoes
- Managing tomato diseases
- The best tomato companion plants.
Pin this article to your Vegetable Gardening board for future reference.
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