Tomato Plant Flowers, But No Fruit? (7 Causes & Solutions)

It is frustrating to see your tomato plants flower without producing any fruit. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to identify the problem and save your harvest.

So, why do tomato plants flower but not produce fruit? A lack of pollination due to extreme temperature or humidity will cause tomato plants to flower but not produce fruit. Other environmental factors that delay fruit production include: water, light, or nutrient deficiencies, pests, and diseases.

It’s important to remember that it takes over a month to go from the appearance of a flower to a ripe tomato. So, be patient!

Still … if you aren’t seeing any fruit on your tomato plant and flowers keep dropping off, then it is time to do some detective work and find the source of the problem.

In this article, we’ll start with pollination for tomato plants: how it works, what prevent its, and how to take matters into your own hands.

Let’s begin.

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Tomato Plant Pollination

If your tomato plant has flowers but no fruit, a lack of pollination is the most likely cause. Before we can understand a lack of pollination, we need to know how pollination works for tomato plants.

How Does Tomato Plant Pollination Work?

Tomato plant flowers are self-pollinating. This means that each flower contains both a male part and a female part. (It is a myth that 2 tomato plants are needed to get fruit; one plant will pollinate itself!)

tomato flowers
Tomato plants are self-pollinating, containing both male and female parts.

However, self-pollination does not mean guaranteed pollination. Tomato flowers do contain both a male and a female part, but they still need help for pollination to occur.

Usually, a bee provides this help for tomato flowers. When bees visit flowers in search of nectar, they hover near the flower. As their wings vibrate, the bees cause the flower itself to vibrate.

This, in turn, causes the male part of the flower to release pollen onto the female part of the flower. If conditions are right, then the female part of the flower will be pollinated.

Bees do much of the work that needs to be done to pollinate tomato flowers.

The flower will then form fruit, which should develop into a healthy tomato if there is enough water, nutrients, and sunlight.

Obviously, this process does not always work so easily. In fact, according to the University of Maryland Extension: if the flower is not pollinated within 50 hours of forming, it will abort.

Let’s look at some of the factors that can prevent pollination of tomato plant flowers.

What Prevents Tomato Flower Pollination?

There are several factors that can prevent tomato flower pollination, including:

(Click on the links above to skip to that section of the article).

bee on blueberry flower
Bees are important pollinators, but their population has been declining for some time now.

We’ll look at each one in turn, starting with pollinators.

Lack Of Pollinators

One big factor that prevents tomato flower pollination is a lack of bees. Bee populations have been declining in many parts of the U.S. and the world in general.

Part of this is due to diseases, and part of it is due to pesticides or other chemicals used in farming and gardening.

a bee on broccoli flowers
Pesticides can lead to a lack of bees over time.

If you don’t see many bees in your garden, consider going pesticide-free to give the bees a chance to recover. Planting flowers to attract bees is also a good idea.

(You can learn how to create a pollinator garden to attract bees here).

You can even ask your neighbors to do the same to create a larger area where the bees can live and work. Beekeeping is another option if you also want honey every year!

Extreme Temperature

Another factor that prevents tomato plant pollination is extreme temperature or humidity. Pollination will often fail if daytime temperatures go far above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, or if nighttime temperatures go far below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

tomato flowers
On the hottest summer days, extreme heat will prevent pollination of tomato flowers.

In fact, according to the Penn State University Extension:

“When daytime temperatures exceed 90o degrees several days in a row and nighttime temperatures remain above 72o degrees in the same time period, pollen can become nonviable.”

So, pollination may be delayed during a heat wave in the summer, or during a cold spell in an area with a short growing season.

The tables below provide a summary of how various temperature ranges affect tomato flower pollination.

For nighttime temperatures:

Effect on tomato
flower pollination
Below 55F
(below 13C)
Prevents pollination
of tomato flowers.
55F to 72F
(13C to 22C)
Acceptable range
for tomato flower
Above 72F
(above 22C)
Prevents pollination of
tomato flowers if such
temperatures persist
for a few days.

For daytime temperatures:

Effect on tomato
flower pollination
Below 55F
(below 13C)
Prolonged exposure
causes flower drop
and other problems.
55F to 70 F
(13C to 21C)
Below optimal range
for tomato flower
70F to 85F
(21C to 29C)
Optimal range
for tomato flower
Above 85 F
(above 29C)
Prevents pollination
of tomato flowers.

Extreme Humidity

Even if you get the temperature right, the humidity might still be off. The best relative humidity level for tomato plants is 40% to 70%. Outside of this range, you may see a lack of pollination.

A greenhouse increases humidity, but air can also be too dry for tomato flower pollination.

If humidity levels are too high, then the male part of the flower will not be able to release the pollen onto the female part of the flower. If humidity levels are too low, then the pollen released by the male part will not stick to the female part.

Excessive wind can also contribute to tomato flowers drying out. For more information, see this article from the Iowa State University Extension on how temperature and wind can affect tomato flower pollination.

There is not much you can do about the weather conditions to help your plants. Although, a greenhouse that is tall enough can house tomato plants and increase humidity levels if it is too dry.

wind vane
Strong wind, hot temperatures, and dry weather can really slow down tomato flower pollination.

However, you can certainly try to help with pollination, especially if there are not enough bees to do the job.

How Can I Hand Pollinate My Tomato Flowers?

Maybe the bee population in your garden is not enough to allow for pollination. Or, maybe you want to give your plants an extra chance to pollinate during hot or cold weather.

Either way, here is a step-by-step on how to hand pollinate your tomato flowers.

First, choose your tool for hand pollination. One of the best is an electric toothbrush. The vibration of the toothbrush will simulate the vibration caused by a bee’s wings.

electric toothbrush
An electric toothbrush is a good choice for hand pollination of tomato flowers.

You can also use a tuning fork (strike it against something hard and then use it while it is vibrating).

In addition, you can use a toothpick, pencil, or stick to move the flowers out of place, causing them to vibrate when they spring back to their original position.

Second, choose the time that you will hand pollinate. In the middle of a heat wave, hand pollination works best in the morning or late evening, when temperatures are cooler. This will give the pollen a better chance to work.

Pollinate by hand in the morning or evening, when temperatures are cooler.

If you are getting unseasonably cold weather, then look at the weather forecast and try hand pollination at the warmest time of the day.

(If you are worried about cold damage to your tomato plants, check out my article on how to protect your tomato plants from cold and frost).

The more often you use hand pollination, the better the chance it has of working. Choose pollination timing wisely to increase your chance of success.

tuning fork
A tuning fork also works for hand pollination of tomato flowers – anything that vibrates like a bee’s wings!

Be sure to visit every flower you see. Go around all sides of each tomato plant to make sure you don’t miss any.

For more information, check out my article on hand pollination for tomato plants.

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What Else Causes Tomato Plants To Flower Without Fruit?

Aside from a lack of pollination due to heat or humidity, there are other issues that cause flowers but no fruit on tomato plants, including:

(Click on the links above to skip to that section of the article).

Pests (like tomato worms) are just one possible cause of plants with flowers, but no fruit.

Let’s start with nutrient imbalances.

Nutrient Imbalances

A possible cause of a lack of fruit on flowering tomato plants is a nutrient imbalance. Let’s start with excessive nitrogen.

Excessive Nitrogen

Many gardeners know that nitrogen is a necessary nutrient for plant growth. However, you may not know that too much nitrogen can prevent flowering or fruiting of plants.

tomato plant
Too much nitrogen will give you tall, lush, green plants – but no flowers or fruit.

Nitrogen is the nutrient that helps plants to produce lush, green foliage. This is helpful when the plant is trying to grow taller and store energy in its roots.

However, the plant must eventually put this energy to use by producing flowers and fruit. When a plant has too much nitrogen, it gets the signal to continue producing green growth (rather than flowers and fruit).

Using manure or a high-nitrogen fertilizer causes excessive nitrogen in your soil. If the nitrogen levels are high enough, you may even see some plants that fail to flower at all.

Manure can be a good supplement for your garden soil, but don’t overdo it.

(For more information, check out my article on over fertilizing plants and my article on low-nitrogen fertilizers).

The solution: be careful when fertilizing your garden. Follow the directions on fertilizer packages, and use a calculator to figure out the correct amount (based on the area to cover, fertilizer type, etc.)

Be sure to provide enough of other nutrients to your plants, such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium.

dolomitic lime
Dolomitic lime is a soil additive that provides both calcium and magnesium for your garden.

Often, a good compost mix will provide the nutrients that your tomato plants need to produce fruit. However, there are some cases where you can still experience nutrient deficiencies.

Lack Of Nutrients

A lack of nutrients will prevent tomato plants from producing fruit or even flowers. A nutrient deficiency will often display symptoms such as yellow leaves on a plant.

green tomatoes
A tomato plant needs enough of each nutrient to produce fruit.

(For more information, check out my article on nutrient deficiencies in plants).

As an example: potassium is necessary for plants to move water through their tissues. In short: lack of potassium leads to lack of water which leads to yellow leaves (and other problems).

Even if you have plenty of a given nutrient in your soil, your plants can still experience nutrient deficiencies if the soil pH is incorrect.

For each nutrient, there is an ideal pH range where it is most available in the soil. Outside of this ideal pH range, the nutrient becomes less available for plants to absorb through their roots.

(For more information, check out this article from Research Gate on nutrient availability depending on soil pH).

If you suspect that your soil pH is outside of the ideal range (for tomatoes, it is 6.0 to 7.0, or slightly acidic) the best way to find out is to do a soil test.

soil test kit
A soil test tells you the pH and nutrient levels in your soil.

You can buy a soil test kit online or at a garden center to do it yourself. You can also send a soil sample to your local agricultural extension for more detailed testing.

(For more information, check out my article on soil testing).

Lack Of Sunlight

Remember that tomato plants need 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight every day in order to develop properly. Without sunlight, tomato production will be delayed – or it might never happen at all.

sunlight through forest
Bring on the sunlight! Tomato plants need full sunlight (6-8 hours per day) to develop properly.

Transplanting mature tomato plants is risky. Unfortunately, all you can do is to choose a sunny spot for planting next year’s crop.

Improper Watering

Too much or too little water will also put stress on your plants. Eventually, it will cause them to drop flowers or prevent fruit from forming.

watering can
Both over watering and under watering can prevent fruit – even when tomato flowers are present.

If you over water your plants, the roots will rot if the soil stays wet for too long. This is more likely when the weather is cool, damp, and calm (no wind).

Eventually, it may look like your tomato plants are drying out. However, the truth is that they do not have enough living roots left to absorb water from the soil.

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

dying tomato plant
Your tomato plants may look wilted like this if they are over watered or under watered.

The best test is to feel the soil with your hands, down to a depth of a few inches. If it feels dry, go ahead and water your plants. Just be sure to avoid watering before a big rainstorm.

If you find that your tomato plants look dry and the soil is always dry, consider a deep watering once in the morning. That way, the water gets a chance to soak into the soil before the sun gets higher and temperatures rise to evaporate the water.

If soil feels dry a few inches down, go ahead and water. Don’t let the soil dry out too much.

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


Common garden pests (such as aphids or tomato hornworms) also cause stress to your plants. In severe cases, fruit will fail to develop, or it will drop off. You might even see the flowers dropping off the plant.

Aphids suck the juice out of tomato vines, and they multiply quickly, so watch out!

In cases of severe aphid infestation, you will have to remove and destroy infected plants to protect the rest.

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


There are many tomato diseases to worry about, and they are too numerous to list them all here. The best defense against diseases is to stop them from happening in the first place.

late blight potato leaf
Early blight and late blight are two diseases that can affect your tomato harvest.

Choose disease-resistant tomato plant varieties. The plant descriptions in a seed catalog will have codes for this. As an example: the code “EB” means “early blight” and “LB” means “late blight” (referring to plants that resist these diseases).

Another tip is to use crop rotation in your garden. This means that you should not plant the same crop in the same place every year.

Rather, get on a 2, 3, or 4 year crop rotation schedule to prevent the chance of diseases and nutrient deficiencies in your soil.

pea plant
Rotate tomatoes with legumes (like peas) and other types of plants to prevent disease.

(You can learn which crops to rotate with tomatoes here).


Hopefully, this article gave you an idea of why your tomato plants are flowering without producing fruit, and what you can do about it.

Pollination is the first place to look – if that is the problem, then you have some work ahead of you! Don’t worry though – the payoff of delicious tomatoes is well worth the effort!

You can learn more about why tomatoes flower early in this article.

You might also be interested in reading my article on how long it takes tomato plants to bear fruit (from seed to mature fruit).

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

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Jon M

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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