Do Tomato Plants Bear Fruit More Than Once? (It Depends On…)


If you have tomato plants in your garden, you may be wondering if they can produce fruit more than once during a single growing season.  After all, the longer the harvest, the more delicious tomatoes you will get.

So, do tomato plants bear fruit more than once?  Indeterminate varieties of tomato plants can bear fruit more than once, producing fruit until frost.  Determinate tomato varieties usually only produce one tomato harvest in a season.

Of course, an early fall frost can cut the season short, even if you have indeterminate tomato varieties.  There are also diseases, pests, and growing conditions to worry about.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at tomato varieties, when they flower and bear fruit, and what can hold them back.

Let’s get started.

Do Tomato Plants Bear Fruit More Than Once?

As mentioned above, indeterminate varieties of tomato plants can bear fruit more than once in a season.

Indeterminate tomato plants, also referred to as “vining” varieties, can easily grow to 6 feet tall. In fact, some can reach a height of 10 feet or more with proper support.

Indeterminate tomato varieties will continue to produce fruit throughout the growing season, even after the first ripe tomatoes on the plant begin to ripen. They are preferable if you want to space out the harvest over a longer time period.

tomato stakes
Indeterminate tomato varieties are taller and often requires stakes or other support.

Determinate tomato plants, also known as “bush” varieties, grow to around 4 to 5 feet and then stop growing.  They usually only produce one harvest during a season, with all of the fruit ripening with a week or two.

For this reason, determinate tomato varieties are preferable if you want to preserve all of your harvest at once. Processing tomatoes for pasta sauce, pizza sauce, or stewed tomatoes is a lot of work, so it make sense to do it in large batches.

plant cage
Determinate tomatoes are shorter, so a cage can provide good support.

If you want to plant determinate tomato varieties, but don’t want all of the fruit at once, there is a solution. You can simply stagger your plantings of determinate tomato varieties.

That way, you can get fruit over a longer time period.  Another option is to plant several different varieties with varying times to maturity, which will give you a longer harvest period.

The number of tomatoes you get per plant will depend on the size and type.

For example, some cherry tomato plants (such as Super Sweet 100 from Burpee) can produce 100 or more tiny tomatoes (weighing only one ounce) in a single season.

Larger “beefsteak” tomato plants (such as Beefsteak from Burpee) may only produce 10 tomatoes per season – but the fruit will be enormous (weighing up to 3 pounds!)

How Long Do Tomato Plants Take To Produce Tomatoes?

Tomato plants can take from 48 to 100 days (7 to 14 weeks) after transplant to produce tomatoes. Remember that if you are starting seeds indoors, it will take another 6 weeks (42 days) for the seeds to germinate and grow large enough for transplant.

The time from transplant to ripe tomatoes can vary quite a bit, depending on the variety of tomato.

For example, at the low end, the Sweet ‘n’ Neat Cherry Tomato will mature in 48 days, giving you ripe fruit in about 7 weeks after transplant!

cherry tomatoes
Some cherry tomato varieties can produce fruit in as little as 7 weeks!

For more information, check out the Sweet ‘n’ Neat Cherry Tomato on the Bonnie Plants website.

On the high end, Brandywine tomatoes can take up to 100 days after transplant to ripen, meaning that it can take about twice as long (14 weeks) to get ripe fruit.

brandywine tomatoes
Brandywine tomatoes can take 14 weeks to produce fruit!

As mentioned earlier, if you plant tomatoes from seed, instead of transplanting seedlings, it will take even longer to get ripe tomatoes.

For more information, check out my article on when tomato plants produce fruit.

When Do Tomato Plants Stop Producing Fruit?

Indeterminate tomato plants will keep producing fruit until disease or frost stops them from doing so. Determinate tomato plants will produce one crop of fruit and then stop producing.

frosted leaf
A frost will stop both determinate and indeterminate plants from producing fruit if you do not protect them.

Of course, an early and unexpected fall frost could also stop determinate tomato plants from producing their crop. A lack of water, nutrients, or sunlight can slow down or stop a tomato harvest, and may prevent any fruit at all.

Cold protection, such as cloches and row covers, can extend your growing season by a week or more. You can check out all kinds of cold protection resources on this page.

Why Are Your Tomato Plants Not Producing Fruit?

A lack of pollination is one possible reason that your tomato plant is not producing fruit.

For one thing, there may not be enough pollinators (such as bees) nearby.  This can happen if you or your neighbors use pesticides, or if a nearby business causes pollution that harms bees.

bee on blueberry flower
A lack of bees may be responsible for lack of fruit set on your tomato plants. In that case, you can use a toothbrush to help pollinate the tomato flowers!

If a lack of pollinators is a problem in your garden, you can hand-pollinate with an electric toothbrush (among other methods).  For more information, check out my article on how to hand pollinate tomato plants.

Another potential problem that can prevent pollination is high or low humidity levels.  Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about this one!

High humidity means that the male part of the flower cannot release its pollen onto the female part of the flower.  Low humidity means that the pollen will not stick to the female part of the flower.

There are several other environmental factors that can delay tomato production, including:

  • water
  • light
  • nutrient deficiencies
  • pests
  • diseases

For more information, check out my article on why your tomato plants are not producing fruit.

Do Tomato Plants Regrow Every Year?

Tomato plants do not regrow every year. There are two possibilities for a tomato plant: it either survives the winter, or it does not.

ripe tomatoes on vine
Tomatoes are perennial, but they can only make it to the next year if they survive the frost!

If you protect a tomato plant from cold, it can survive the winter. In this case, the plant does not regrow from the roots, but instead keeps its vines and foliage.

On the other hand, if a tomato plant succumbs to frost, its vines and leaves will not survive. In fact, its roots will not survive either.

A tomato plant that succumbs to frost will not regrow next year from the roots. At that point, your best bet is to pull out the old tomato plant and compost it to make room for next year’s crop.

Are Tomato Plants Perennial?

Tomato plants are perennial, which means they can survive longer than one year – as long as the climate is warm enough.

However, for practical purposes, tomatoes in cold climates are often treated as annuals. Annuals are plants that only last one year and do not regrow.

frost
Frost will kill tomato plants, but if kept warm enough, they can live longer than a year.

In most cold climates, it is too difficult to keep tomatoes alive during harsh winters. As a result, gardeners will buy new tomato seeds or plants every year and dispose of the mature plants at the end of the season.

For more information, check out this article on Wikipedia about perennial plants and this article on Wikipedia about annual plants.

How Long Do Tomato Plants Live?

Tomato plants treated as annuals will live for less than one year. The exact amount of time depends on the climate and timing of frost.

For example, here in Boston, Massachusetts, the last spring frost date is April 10. The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests starting tomato seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before this date.

So, if you start your tomato seeds indoors on February 13 (8 weeks before last frost on April 10), you might be able to keep the plant alive until November 3 (last frost date) or later.

This would mean your tomato plant could live for almost 9 months! If you take precautions to protect your tomato plants from frost, they could live even longer than that.

As you can see, the time a tomato plant lives will depend on:

  • where you live
  • how early frost comes along in the current year
  • how well you protect your plants from frost

Tomato plants treated as perennials will live for more than one year, as long as you protect them from disease (such as early or late blight) and frost (you could use a heated greenhouse to do this).

greenhouse
A greenhouse can keep tomato plants warm and allow them to survive a frost.

However, if frost kills a tomato plant, it will not regrow and come back the next year. You would need to rely on saving seeds, buying seeds, or buying transplants to replace the old plants.

What Can Kill Tomato Plants?

Pests, diseases, improper watering, nutrient deficiencies, and extreme temperatures can all kill tomato plants.  You will need to take measures to protect your plants if you want them to have a chance at bearing fruit more than once in a season.

Pests

There are lots of pests that will hurt or kill your tomato plants if given the chance.  If you don’t take steps to deal with these pests, you will end up with fewer tomatoes (if you’re lucky), or you just might lose your whole harvest (if you’re unlucky)!

Many different types of worms (moth larvae) eat tomato plants, including tomato hornworms and cutworms. Cutworms like to chew around the stems of tomato plants at the base, severing the plant near the soil surface.

tomato hornworm
Tomato hornworms are one type of pest that feeds on tomatoes.

For more information, check out my article on what kinds of worms eat tomato plants, and my article on how to get rid of cutworms with natural methods.

Aphids are another pest that can damage your tomato plants.  They are small, but they can multiply quickly and spread from plant to plant.

aphids
Aphids can spread quickly and take over multiple plants in a short time.

For more information, check out my article on how to get rid of aphids.

Diseases

Sadly, there are many diseases that can foil your efforts to grow a bountiful crop of tomatoes.  Some of the most common diseases that affect tomatoes are fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt, and blight (early or late).

One of the best ways to prevent diseases is to choose tomato varieties that are resistant to these diseases. A seed catalog will often indicate disease resistance with letters in a description.

For example, a “V” in the description of a tomato plant variety means that it is resistant to verticillium wilt. An “F” means that it is resistant to fusarium wilt.

fusarium wilt on tobacco plant
Here we can see symptoms of fusarium wilt on a tobacco plant. Picture from Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fusarium_wilt_symptom_tobacco.jpg

Many tomato varieties are also resistant to either early blight, late blight, or both.  Late blight is the more devastating of the two diseases, and can destroy an entire tomato crop for the year.

late blight on tomato stem
Late blight has infected this tomato plant, as we can see from the brown stem.

For more information, check out my article on the top 10 blight resistant tomatoes and my article on how tomatoes get blight.

Another good practice is to prevent the leaves and vines of your tomatoes from getting wet.  This prevents rot from taking hold, and prevents the spread of diseases that need moist conditions to thrive.

You should also stake or cage your tomatoes to provide support as they grow.  This will prevent soil-borne diseases from spreading to your plants.

Supporting tomato plants will also make it easier to care for your plants (watering, fertilizing, pruning, and harvesting).

For more information, check out my article on how to support tomato plants.

Improper Watering

Both over watering and under watering can spell disaster for your tomato plants.

When you over water, the soil stays moist for too long, leaving no space for air. As a result, the roots rot due to lack of air.

This prevents the plant from absorbing water and nutrients from the soil. Eventually, this will cause the plant to succumb to disease or stop growing.

garden hose
Be careful not to over water or under water your tomato plants!

For more information, check out my article on over watering your plants.

When you under water, the plant’s leaves may curl or become dry and brittle, with a “crispy” appearance.  This is more likely if you have dry soil.

For more information, check out my article on how to treat dry soil.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies (or pH imbalances) in your soil can lead to stunted growth, poor production, or even death of your tomato plants.

The best way to tell is to do a soil test, either with a do-it-yourself kit or by sending a soil sample to the lab at your local agricultural extension office.

For more information, check out my article on how to do a soil test.

Extreme Temperatures

Finally, extreme temperatures can kill your tomato plants or prevent them from producing the harvest you desire.

Extreme heat can prevent fruit set or kill your plants, especially in drought conditions. High temperatures can also prevent tomatoes from ripening properly.

rocky soil
Extreme heat will dry out the soil and can stop tomato plants from producing fruit.

Extreme cold and frost can kill all of your plants outright in a single night, unless you take measures to protect them.

One of the best ways to do this is to be aware of frost dates in your area and plant accordingly.  For more information, check out this article on frost dates from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

You can also use cloches to protect young tomato plants from cold. Row covers are better for protecting larger, more mature plants from early fall frosts.

For more information, check out my article on how to protect tomato plants from cold and frost.

Can You Keep Tomatoes Alive In The Winter?

You can keep tomatoes alive in the winter, but it will take some work.  If you are growing smaller determinate varieties in pots or grow bags, you can bring them indoors before fall frosts kill them.

Clay pots, plastic pots, and grow bags are all viable options if you want to move plants indoors for the winter.

For more information on containers for your indoor determinate tomato plants, check out my article on clay vs plastic pots and my article on using grow bags indoors.

You also have the option of using vegetative cloning to give a tomato plant a second chance at life.  This can be done for both determinate and indeterminate varieties.

Simply cut off a sucker from the tomato plant and submerge it halfway in water.  After some time has passed, the cutting will form roots.

At that point, take the rooted cutting and plant it in a container with potting soil. Then, raise the plant as you normally would.

Of course, if you are growing heirloom tomato varieties, you can also collect seeds from the fruit and plant them to produce seedlings.

tomato seeds
Collecting the seeds from heirloom tomatoes can allow you to produce another generation of the same crop next year.

Collecting seeds may not work as expected with hybrid tomato varieties, since the seeds may be sterile, or they may not produce plants that are similar to the parent plant.

For more information, check out my article on heirloom tomatoes and my article on the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid seeds.

Conclusion

Now you know that indeterminate tomato varieties can bear fruit more than once in a season, producing until frost (or something else) stops them.  You also know that some tomato varieties can be treated as perennials if the climate is warm enough.

As long as you avoid some of the most common growing mistakes, your tomatoes should be able to produce plenty of fruit for you.

For more information, check out my article on common mistakes when growing tomatoes.

You can also check out this tomato growing guide from the University of New Hampshire Extension.

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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