QUESTION: How are dwarf tomato plants different from standard tomato plants? I know they’re smaller, but I’m wondering exactly what the criteria are for making a tomato plant officially a dwarf plant. — Michael C.
ANSWER: Dwarf tomato plants are those with the rare dwarfism gene, and almost all of them are indeterminate. It is so unusual for dwarfism to appear that when it does, it’s important to save seeds for breeding subsequent generations.
Facts About Dwarf Tomato Plants
- Most dwarf tomato plants are no larger than three to four feet high. However, the maximum height for a tomato plant to be considered a true dwarf tomato is four and a half feet.
- Despite the fact that dwarf tomato strains are relatively new, they are genetically stable.
- Within the spectrum of dwarf tomato plants is a variety of fruit colors and sizes to choose from. You’ll also find a range of flavors, from bright and tart to sweet.
- The Dwarf Tomato Project https://www.dwarftomatoproject.net/ is a co-operative venture that began in 2006 with the goal of crossing existing dwarf tomato strains with established heirloom varieties. It takes several generations of growth to stabilize the new varieties—more than 100 of which have been discovered. Only the tastiest and hardiest of the hybrids are selected to get official names and go through the whole generational process of stabilization.
- Dwarf tomato plants require a smaller investment of time and energy in the garden because their smaller size minimizes the amount of pruning work the plants need to thrive.
- Once plants have reached their mature size, the containers they do best in are five gallons. Alternatively, you can grow them in bales of straw.
- Most (but not all) dwarf tomato plants are indeterminate. This means the tomatoes grow on vines instead of having a bushier profile. This is a bit surprising because in general, indeterminate tomato plants grow larger than determinate varieties. However, because dwarf tomato plants have been carefully bred to encourage a compact size, they will stay small even though they’re technically indeterminate varieties.
- Even though dwarf tomato plants are small, you may want to support them with cages or stakes. Dwarf plants can be so prolific that they need stakes or other solutions to support the heavy fruit.
Micro Dwarf Tomato Plants Versus Dwarf Tomato Plants
Micro dwarf tomato plants take all the traits of dwarf tomato plants to the extreme. Most micro dwarf tomato plants top out around one foot tall, though three feet is the official limit. The plant’s size overall is limited to 12 inches across. Micro dwarf tomato plants tend to have a dense, compact shape. The main stem is thick and hearty despite the micro dwarf tomato plant’s small size.
In most micro dwarf tomato plants, foliage is dark green and the texture of leaves is thick and rippled. However, across the spectrum of dwarf tomato plants, you’ll find foliage in just about every shade and texture.
You can grow micro dwarf tomato plants in containers ranging from six inches across to one gallon. In addition to performing well in the outdoor garden, the small size of micro dwarf tomato plants makes them a good pick for container gardens indoors or even windowsill gardens.