How should you plant dwarf tomato seeds?
Dwarf tomatoes should not be overlooked by gardeners searching for more compact, productive tomato plants. Dwarf tomato plants produce a broad range of distinct tastes, shapes, and sizes of tomatoes, often outperforming traditional determinate tomatoes of the same size. Read on to learn all there is to know about miniature tomatoes, how to cultivate them, and where to acquire seeds.
What Are Dwarf Tomatoes?
Dwarf tomatoes are tomato plants that are much shorter than other tomato cultivars. These are not truly determinate tomatoes, although they reach the same size as determinate kinds. Another unique feature of dwarf tomatoes is that the leaves are generally darker green, thicker, and have a more wrinkled or crumpled texture, described as “rugose” foliage. The leaf shape may vary, but most commonly are potato-shaped, however some dwarf tomato varieties have tomato-shaped rugose leaves.
Other than their overall growth habit and their unique leaves, dwarf tomatoes can produce various kinds of tomatoes, from cherries to pastes to oxhearts to beefsteaks, in a wide variety of colors. Another advantage of miniature tomatoes is that most types are open-pollinated or heritage, which means you may store the seeds and transplant them year after year.
How Tall Do Dwarf Tomatoes Grow?
Dwarf tomatoes, despite their name, are not all like the tiny 6-inch tomato plants you see on social media. In reality, most dwarf tomato types may grow to be several feet tall, with an average height of 2-4 feet. There are also microdwarf cherry tomato cultivars that seldom grow taller than 2 feet and may achieve full maturity in less than 12 inches.
Examples of dwarf tomato plant sizes:
- Rosella Purple – up to 4 feet tall
- Dwarf Mr. Snow – up to 4 feet tall
- Dwarf Awesome – up to 3 feet tall
- Dwarf Mary’s Cherry – up to 2.5 feet tall
- Minibel (cherry) – up to 12 inches tall
- Orange Hat (cherry) – up to 9 inches tall
Can Dwarf Tomatoes Grow Large Tomatoes?
Dwarf tomatoes can and do grow medium and large tomatoes, with some varieties reaching nearly 16 oz. Several dwarf tomato varietals provide tomatoes weighing 4 to 12 oz.
Most people are acquainted with cherry tomato microdwarf tomato cultivars such as Micro Tom, Tiny Tim, Minibel, and Orange Hat. Yet, the “dwarfness” of a dwarf tomato has nothing to do with the fruit, but rather with the plant’s growth behavior. Rosella Purple, Dwarf Awesome, Dwarf Stone, Sweet Scarlet, and Dwarf Mr. Snow are examples of dwarf tomatoes that produce regular-sized tomatoes.
How Long Do Dwarf Tomatoes Take to Grow?
Most dwarf tomato varieties range from early season to mid season Microdwarf cherry cultivars mature around 50 to 65 days after transplanting, whereas many regular-sized slicing kinds mature in 60 to 80 days.
There aren’t many late-season dwarf tomato varieties, and just a few big types take more than 80 days.
Do Dwarf Tomatoes Need Support?
Dwarf tomatoes typically do not need support, but certain larger-fruited types with high yields may require a stake (3 to 5 feet long) for additional support to prevent them from toppling over, as do determinate tomatoes.
You may also use a tomato cage, but if you have accessible stakes, that will enough for miniature tomato plants. Tipping over little microdwarf tomatoes may be supported with a short stake or even a pole. If cultivated in a container, you may let your microdwarfs dangle from the pot’s side.
Growing Dwarf Tomatoes in Containers
Container size requirements vary per dwarf tomato variety, but use at least a 5-gallon pot for dwarf tomatoes that yield regular-sized tomatoes. Microdwarfs (like Minibel and Orange Hat) can thrive in a 1-gallon pot or even smaller.
Most gardeners who grow dwarf tomatoes grow them in pots, as dwarf tomatoes readily grow in containers. Several dwarf tomatoes grow between 2 and 4 feet tall, allowing them to achieve the same height as certain determinate kinds and fit in the same container (minimum 5 gallons). Microdwarf tomatoes grow from 6 to 20 inches tall, allowing them to be planted in even smaller pots.
You can also grow numerous plants in the same pot if you’re producing microdwarf tomatoes. For example, instead of planting a Minibel (which usually reaches about 1 foot tall) in a 1-gallon container, you can plant three or four of them in a 5-gallon container.
Are Dwarf Tomatoes Determinate?
Dwarf tomatoes are distinguished from determinate and indeterminate tomatoes by their small size. According to Dwarf Tomato Project co-founder Craig LeHoullier, their growth habit is actually more like an indeterminate tomato that grows short and stocky, slowly growing taller.
As a consequence, the plant remains relatively short, with huge clusters of tomatoes close together, similar to a determinate tomato. But if you have a long growing season, a dwarf tomato plant will keep growing, producing more flushes of tomatoes, like an indeterminate tomato.
Do You Need to Prune Dwarf Tomatoes?
Dwarf tomatoes require minimal pruning . Because dwarf tomatoes have a slow growth habit, prune them like you would determinate tomatoes, removing the bottom leaves touching the soil as the plant grows taller.
Dwarf tomatoes will generate suckers, but since their total size is modest, you do not need to remove suckers to keep your plant under control.
Where to Buy Dwarf Tomato Seeds
Several dwarf varieties are available from well-known seed companies, but since dwarf tomatoes are still relatively unknown, the variety is limited in most regions. However, there are some seed vendors who are partners with the Dwarf Tomato Project and therefore have a large selection of dwarf tomato seeds. Seed business partners may be found on the Dwarf Tomato Project website.
A small list of trustworthy seed sources that provide a vast variety of miniature tomato seeds:
- Victory Seeds (highly recommended)
- Renaissance Farms
- Seeds of Plenty (Australia)
Most miniature tomatoes are also open pollinated or heritage, which means you may keep the seeds and transplant them year after year.
What Are the Best Dwarf Tomatoes?
There are too many varieties to choose from, but several dwarf tomatoes keep coming up as highly recommended for both productivity and flavor. Some of the greatest tasting dwarf tomatoes are shown below.
- Rosella Purple (purple; medium to large fruit)
- Dwarf Mr. Snow (pale yellow; medium to large)
- Dwarf Stone (red; medium-sized)
- Dwarf Champion (pink; medium-sized)
- Sweet Scarlet (red; medium-sized)
- Dwarf Wild Fred (purple; medium to large)
- Golden Dwarf Champion (lemon yellow; medium-sized)
- Dwarf Emerald Giant (green; medium to large)
- Better Bush (red; medium-sized; F1 hybrid)
- Dwarf Blazing Beauty (orange; medium to large)
- Kangaroo Paw (red, yellow, or green; small)
- Dwarf Mary’s Cherry (purple; large cherry)
- Minibel (red; small cherry)
- Orange Hat (orange; small cherry)
Unless otherwise noted, all of the tomatoes described above are open pollinated.