How Long do Tomato Plants Live?
So you have decided to plant some tomatoes in your garden and are wondering how long you are going to enjoy the fruit of your labor.
And so you are asking, how long do tomato plants live?
Tomato plants can live for 6-8 months or 1-3 years depending on the variety. The lifespan of determinate tomato plants is 6 to 8 months, while that of indeterminate tomato plants is 1 to 3 years.
The tomato plant is a perennial crop, meaning that it can survive all year round while producing many fruits multiple times in its life cycle.
However, most tomato plants do not live to see their first birthday since they are killed by frost or diseases such as early blight. For this reason, it is known as a tender perennial that dies off under frost.
(You may want to read this article on whether or not tomato plants can survive frost damage).
The number of days it takes for your tomatoes to mature is also determined by the cultivar of the tomato plant and whether it is determinate or indeterminate.
Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes
Determinate tomatoes also called “bush tomatoes” grow to a fixed size (height) and ripen all their fruit within a short period of time, which is about 2 weeks.
They are smaller than indeterminate tomatoes as they only grow to 4-5 feet.
Don’t expect determinate tomato plants to start fruiting again after the first set of fruits have all ripened because they hardly do; rather they start withering and eventually die.
Hence, determinant tomatoes may only live for 6-8 months.
On the other hand, indeterminate tomatoes also known as “vine tomatoes” continue to grow in height throughout the growing season. They also continue to fruit and ripen throughout the growing season. That’s until frost kills the tomato plants though.
That being said, you can prevent frost damage by growing your tomatoes indoors or in a greenhouse under Led grow lights.
Indeterminate tomato plants provide a steady supply of tomatoes instead of one big harvest even though they usually start ripening a little later than the determinate tomatoes.
Indeterminate tomatoes can live for 1-3 years under the right conditions.
The environment, climate, irrigation, and provision of essential nutrients also play a crucial role in the amount of time it takes for your tomato to grow to full maturity.
Time in the Nursery
It takes about 5 to 7 days after planting for tomatoes seeds to sprout.
To achieve these results, you will need to have a temperature of at least 24 degrees Celsius.
The soil mix needs to be kept moist and well aerated so that the seedlings can sprout quickly.
You can use LED grow lights to provide warmth to the seedlings and help them grow upright.
Lack of adequate light can lead to stunted growth and other physiological problems.
Once the seedling has two sets of leaves, it is time to start feeding it with liquid fertilizers and growth boosters.
At this stage, you could also thin out weak tomato seedlings leaving the healthy ones, to control competition.
From week 3, you need to start hardening off your tomato seedlings where you stop watering every day to doing it every other day.
This way, the plant starts getting used to the new environment it will meet when you move it away from the extra care in the nursery to the actual garden.
Transplanting Your Tomato Seedlings from the Nursery
Once they have fully germinated, you will need to wait for another two to three weeks before transplanting the seedling to the grow bags or pots where you wish to have the tomatoes growing to full maturity. At this stage, they will be at least 2 inches tall.
When removed from the nursery planter, the seedling should have a ball of soil with the roots holding the ball together. You will need to transplant the seedling with this ball.
(You may also want to read this article about the root system of a tomato plant).
You will need to plant the tomato seedling in a deeper hole than the hole in the nursery. This way, the plant can stand firmly in the soil. You should also leave a slightly sunken area under each crop to hold water.
Once the seedlings are transferred into the new pots, you will need to water them generously so that they can stick firmly to the ground.
You will continue feeding the plants with liquid fertilizer after every two weeks. Also, spray your crops with insecticides to avoid the invasion of early blight or any other pests.
Time to Harvest Tomatoes
On average, tomatoes take 60 to 80 days from the day you transplant them to the time the fruits are ready for harvest. Once you harvest your fruits, you can store your fruits in a refrigerator to ripen.
The tomato will continue producing more fruits, and so you need to continue watering and taking care of it.
The plant also needs optimal temperatures for its development lest it shrivels and dies. It goes on fruiting until it hits 2 to 3 years when it can no longer produce more fruits.
The amount of time it takes to see your first tomato harvest depends on which season you planted your tomato in.
You can harvest early-season tomatoes within 50 to 60 days and mid-season tomatoes within 60 to 80 days.
Late season tomatoes can take as much as 80 days or more before you first see your succulent fruits.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Can a Tomato Plant Live in a Greenhouse?
With proper care and all the right conditions a tomato plant can live up to 3 years in a greenhouse.
Can Tomatoes Live Forever?
The simple answer is NO, tomato plants do not live forever, but, their live span is determined by several factors including variety, region, pests and care.
Do Tomato Plants Die Each Year
Most tomato plants die each year because they are killed by frost. However, some can live beyond one year and up to 3 years depending on the variety, region and the kind of care taken to prevent frost damage such as growing them indoors or in a greenhouse under grow lights.
Do Tomato Plants Last More than One Season?
Tomato plants are perennials, meaning that they can last more than one season under the right conditions. However, being tender perennials, most of them don’t last more than one season as they are killed by frost.
Do Tomatoes Flower More than Once?
Determinate tomatoes flower only once, while indeterminate tomatoes flower more than once.
Do Tomato Plants Die After Fruiting?
Tomato plants do not necessarily die after fruiting. However, determinate tomatoes become weak after all the first set of fruits have ripened, making them vulnerable to pests and diseases, which eventually lead to their death. On the other hand, indeterminate tomatoes will continue to fruit and can live up to 3 years unless they are killed by frost.
Will Tomato Plants Regrow after Being Cut to the Ground?
No, tomato plants cannot regrow into another plant after it it cut to the ground.
How Long Does a Tomato Plant Live? Final Thoughts
Although some tomato plants may not live up to one year, tomatoes are tender perennial plants and so could grow all the way to the second or third year. In the third year, though, the plant will have stopped producing any more fruits. At this time, you can therefore cut the plants down and focus on planting new seeds.