There are lots of factors that determine the time until a tomato plant produces fruit. For example, the seed germination time depends on soil temperature, and time to fruit maturity depends on the tomato variety.
So, how long does it take for a tomato plant to bear fruit? A tomato plant can take 113 to 156 days to grow from seed to ripe fruit. Germination takes 7 to 10 days under ideal conditions. Seedling growth takes 57 to 60 days until transplant. Flowers usually form within 21 days after transplant. Mature fruit will be ready for harvest 49 to 64 days after the flowers appear.
Of course, you might need to start seeds indoors and choose fast-maturing tomato varieties if you live in a cold area with a short growing season. Remember that the time to maturity (days to maturity) listed on a seed packet is telling you the time from transplant to mature fruit (not from seed to mature fruit!)
In this article, we’ll talk about how long it takes for a tomato to grow from seed. We’ll look at each of the 4 phases of growth and how long you can expect each one to take.
Let’s get started.
How Long Does It Take For A Tomato Plant To Bear Fruit?
When starting your own plants, it will take 113 to 156 days for tomatoes to grow from seed to mature fruit.
This timeline is broken down into 4 phases:
- Seed Germination (from planting a seed to seeing it sprout) – 6 to 11 days (1 to 1.5 weeks) under ideal conditions.
- Seedling Growth (from germination to transplanting outdoors) – 57 to 60 days (8 to 8.5 weeks)
- Flower Development (from transplant to flower appearance) – 0 to 21 days (0 to 3 weeks)
- Fruit Development (from flower appearance to ripe fruit) – 49 to 64 days (7 to 9 weeks)
The table below gives you an idea of how long each of the 4 phases of tomato germination takes:
|6 to 11|
|57 to 60|
|0 to 21|
|49 to 64|
|Total||112 to 156|
phase of tomato plant development.
There is a good visual that shows the stages of tomato plant development on Research Gate.
Remember that these times can vary widely, due to various factors such as:
- Soil temperature during germination (cooler soil means longer time to seed germination)
- Soil and air temperature during seedling growth (cool temperatures can slow or stunt growth)
- Presence of pollinators (a lack of bees can delay flower fertilization)
It’s time to take a closer look at each of the 4 phases of tomato development from planted seed to mature fruit. Let’s start at the beginning with seed germination.
How Long Does It Take Tomato Seeds To Germinate? (Phase 1: Tomato Seed Germination)
Tomato seeds will take 6 to 11 days to germinate under ideal conditions. But what exactly does “ideal conditions” mean in terms of soil moisture and temperature?
Ideal Soil Moisture For Tomato Seed Germination
Ideal soil moisture simply means that the soil stays wet, but not soggy or soaked. If the soil dries out, the seeds might succumb to drought before they germinate.
A great way to keep the soil wet for seed germination is to use a spray bottle. This method makes it difficult to over water.
A humidity dome is another way to maintain moisture levels to help seeds germinate. You can learn more about humidity domes in my article here.
Ideal Soil Temperature For Tomato Seed Germination
The ideal soil temperature for tomato seed germination is 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 29 degrees Celsius).
On the other hand, tomato seeds can take up to 43 days (6 weeks!) to germinate at a soil temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). Below this temperature, tomato seeds won’t germinate.
A soil temperature above 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) will also prevent tomato seeds from germinating. Of course, the time to seed germination can vary a bit depending on the tomato variety.
How Long Before Transplanting Tomato Seedlings? (Phase 2: Tomato Seedling Growth)
After seed germination, tomato seedlings will need 57 to 60 days (8 to 8.5 weeks) to grow into plants that are ready to move outdoors. When you transplant tomatoes into the garden, all risk of frost should be long past.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the time from planting seeds to transplanting outdoors is 64 to 70 days (9 to 10 weeks). Since it takes 7 to 10 days for tomato seeds to germinate, that gives us the figure of 57 to 60 days for seedling growth.
This means that tomato seeds should be started indoors 42 to 57 days (6 to 8 weeks) before the last spring frost date. They should be transplanted outdoors 7 to 21 days (1 to 3 weeks) after the last spring frost date.
Let’s go through an example. In Boston, Massachusetts, the last spring frost date is April 10.
Working backwards from April 10 on the calendar, we find that we should start tomato seeds indoors between February 12 and February 27 in Boston, MA (42 to 57 days before April 10, the last spring frost date.)
Working forwards from April 10 on the calendar, we find that we should transplant tomatoes outside between April 17 and May 1 (7 to 21 days after April 10, the last spring frost date).
When Do Tomatoes Produce Flowers? (Phase 3: Tomato Flower Development)
Tomato plants can produce fruit from 0 to 21 days after transplant. I say 0 days at the low end because it is possible to see flowers forming on tomato plants before they are transplanted outside!
On the high end, it can take 21 days after transplant to start seeing flowers on a tomato plant. Be sure to mark your calendar with your transplant date – if you don’t see flowers after a few weeks, it might be time to troubleshoot.
- Soil that is too wet or too dry
- Extreme temperatures (too hot or too cold)
- Lack of sunlight (shade from trees or buildings)
- Excessive nitrogen (encourages green growth, but no flowers)
How Long After Tomatoes Flower Do They Produce Fruit? (Phase 4: Tomato Fruit Development)
After successful self pollination, tomato plants can produce fruit 28 to 85 days after flowering. It really depends on the variety.
Some of the fastest-maturing tomato varieties, such as 4th of July, can produce fruit as soon as 28 days after flowering (49 days after transplant).
On the other hand, some varieties take a lot longer to produce fruit. For example, Marnouar tomatoes can take 64 to 85 days after flowering to produce fruit (85 days after transplant).
After initial fruit production, tomato plants can continue to bear fruit for weeks or months – right up until the first fall frost. You might be able to get a little more out of them in a greenhouse or with proper cold protection (such as row covers).
Why Does My Tomato Plant Flower But No Fruit?
There are a few different reasons that a tomato plant will flower without producing fruit:
- Lack of pollination (this can happen with extreme temperatures or humidity)
- Improper watering (too much or too little)
- Lack of sunlight
- Nutrient deficiencies
Lack of pollination will occur if it is too cold for bees to work. Bees will work in temperatures as cold as 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), but will slow down or stop if it is colder.
If the air is too humid and sticky, it can prevent the male part of the flower from releasing its pollen. If the air is too dry, the pollen might not stick to the female part of the flower.
Improper watering, lack of sunlight, nutrient deficiencies, pests, and diseases can all cause stress to tomato plants. This stress can prevent them from producing flowers or fruit, and it can even cause them to drop existing flowers or fruit.
Why Are My Tomatoes Not Ripening?
Sometimes, tomatoes will form and stay green or light red, but will not ripen fully. This is often due to extreme temperatures.
Temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) will prevent tomatoes from ripening.
Extreme temperatures are also a common cause of slow ripening in tomato plants. However, intense sunlight can also cause tomato fruit to overheat, leading to green or yellow “shoulders” (tops) on the fruit.
Now you know how long it takes for a tomato plant to bear fruit. The tomato variety plays a huge role, as do soil temperature, air temperature, and pollinator activity.
You might also like to read my article on when to pick tomatoes (to optimize for ripeness).
I hope you found this article helpful. If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.