Plant Tomatoes Deep, Deep, Deep

The stem of the tomato transplant will sprout roots that give the plant a better start.

Cover the stem up to the plant’s leaves. You can even cover the first few leaves with soil. Roots will grow along the buried stem to make the plant stronger.

Each Bonnie tomato label urges you to plant tomatoes deep, so that a full 2/3 of the plant is underground. That means that if you buy a 10-inch tall plant, all but the top three inches is buried. Why? Because the plant will have a better, stronger root system. Better roots mean better tomatoes.

This tomato transplant is planted deeply in the container.

Whether in a pot or in the ground, set each tomato plant so that 2/3 of the plant is buried.

We know, we know. This goes against everything you’ve ever heard about “don’t plant too deeply or you’ll kill the plant.” Tomatoes break that rule. They sprout roots along the buried stem. The extra roots strengthen a plant so that it can support more fruit and is better able to survive hot weather. (This applies whether you’re growing in the ground, in a raised bed, or in a container.)

In really heavy soil, or if you just don’t want to dig deeply, you can lay the plant on its side, provided that it is at least 5 or 6 inches deep when buried, and that the ground beneath it isn’t hard as a brick. To do this, angle the plant so that the growing tip is above ground. If your soil drains poorly, create a raised bed with potting soil that is piled at least 8 inches above ground level.

Once you’ve nearly buried it in soil, only the top few inches of the plant will be exposed. Water well, label the plant (to help you remember which variety you’re growing), and watch your tomato plant grow big and strong. Within a few weeks, your plants with super roots will delight you with a bountiful harvest of lovely fruit.

99 thoughts on “Plant Tomatoes Deep, Deep, Deep

  1. I planted my tomato plants about a week ago. I dug the hole pretty deep but the ground was pretty hard, can I build up topsoil around the plants now or just leave them alone since they have been planted that long?

    • Hello,
      If your plants are growing well and are thriving, you may want to leave them planted as they are. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  2. I planted my tomato plants in a raised bed this year. Will the roots be strong enough?

    Also There was a lite frost and I covered them with grocery bags but some leaves turned brown. Can I trim them to continue growth or are they gone.

    • Hi Sharon,
      Raised bed gardens are great for growing most all veggies. Make sure it is at least 8 inches deep – a foot is better! If a frost damaged some of the leaves, go ahead and remove the brown leaves – you will have new green ones soon. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  3. I planted my tomato plants on their sides. They are huge and healthy but stems are sprouting in several places along the ground in addition to the main stem. Should I prune them?

    • Hi Sally,
      I would prune the suckers that are coming up along the ground. It is good to keep plants spaced out to allow air to flow between the plants. I wouldn’t want them to get to crowded around the base of the plant. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  4. I just planted a Celebrity tomato plant (2.5qt size) in a clay pot that is 18″ in diameter but only 12″ deep. Because of the pot’s low depth, I was only able to bury the plant half way. Is this okay or should I get a new pot and replant? (It’s my first time trying to grow a vegetable ever!) Thank you.

    • Hi Sarah,
      Way to get into gardening! Take a look at this What Size Pot? article in the Bonnie Plants library. Celebrity is a determinate tomato so 18 inches is as small as you will want to go. One foot is the minimum depth you will want to use as well. Your tomato plant will become large, to give the roots the best environment, you may want to go a little bigger. Once the roots fill out the potting mix in the pot, keeping the plant watered well will be easier in a larger container. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  5. I bought heinz tomatoe and put in 18 inch pot the root are half the pot half high since i am pot growing what size pot should i plant the tomatoes in or can i use i 10 gallon storage container with lots of holes in it

    • Hello Barbra,
      Use a container that is 24 inches in diameter or go with the storage container. That is plenty of room if it is at least 12 inches deep. Lots of drainage is a must as is a well draining potting mix. Good luck. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  6. One question that I have not noted regarding tomatoes and that is: do rabbits or groundhogs eat or gnaw on tomato plants?

    • Hi James,
      Unfortunately, rabbits and groundhops will dine on your prized tomato plants. There are repellents available – but exclusion (a fence) is the best way to keep them out. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  7. Getting ready to plant a husky cherry red and a patio tomato plant. Should I snip the bottom branches off and bury 2/3 of the plant, like when planting indeterminates such as better boy, or should I just bury the root ball? I will be planting them in the ground instead of in pots. Thanks!

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