In most of North America tomatoes are grown as annuals and have a life cycle of 6-8 months. However, with proper care and ideal conditions, they can actually live for up to 2-5 years. Tomato plants produce fruit every year of their life, so it may be worth cultivating a tomato plant for several years. As it grows larger, it will provide you with bigger crops of tomatoes.
Why Do Tomato Plants Die Each Year?
Tomatoes are non-hardy perennial plants. This means they have difficulty surviving winter. Even in places with relatively mild winters, like Southern California, tomatoes will often die during the colder months. Most tomato plants will go dormant after fruit production to attempt to survive winter. This means that around the 6th month, harvest time, your tomatoes will stop producing fruit.
- Tomatoes are non-hardy perennials (they have trouble surviving even mild winters).
- Tomato plants go dormant in winter to try to survive but they usually die anyway.
Shortly after harvest, your dormant tomato plants will appear dead. However, tomato plants won’t actually die until winter frost sets in. If a tomato plant can survive the cold months, it will return next year.
Can You Keep a Tomato Plant Alive All Year?
With a little work, you can keep your tomatoes alive for several years. The keys to tomato plant longevity are proper care conditions and a warm climate. The best way to ensure your tomato plants survive for more than one year is by growing them in a greenhouse or inside your home.
- Tomato plants can live all year if you can simulate warmer conditions in winter.
- Try growing your tomatoes indoors or using a tarp to insulate them during winter.
Tomatoes are tender perennials that usually die out once the weather turns. However, if you simulate tropical temperatures or stave off the risk of frost, tomatoes will live longer. One cost-effective way of doing this is to use a light tarp or sheet to insulate your tomato plant in the winter months. Another option is to use a heat mat to gently warm the soil where tomatoes grow. Use this seedling heat mat to help your tomatoes grow and stay warm.
How to Keep a Tomato Plant Alive for Years
If you don’t live in a tropical climate, you can keep your tomatoes alive for years by growing them indoors. Keep your tomatoes near a south-facing window to maximize exposure to sunlight. This will both provide adequate light for growth and provide extra warmth during cold spells. Additionally, make sure the room stays heated in the winter. Tomatoes are delicate and easily killed by cold snaps that won’t harm other plants.
- Grow tomatoes indoors to prevent them from dying in winter.
- You can grow tomatoes indoors year-round or bring container tomatoes inside during winter to protect them.
- Greenhouses are the best option for extending tomato lifespan.
The most effective option for keeping tomatoes alive long-term is to grow them in a heated greenhouse. This can be an expensive option but it’s the only thing that works consistently in cold climates. A heated greenhouse can simulate tropical conditions even when the weather turns frigid. This will keep your tomato plants alive through winter and extend their average life span.
How Long Can a Tomato Plant Produce Tomatoes?
Tomato plants can produce tomatoes every year that they live. However, before you commit to cultivating a tomato plant for years, it’s important to know the two main types of tomatoes: indeterminate tomatoes and determinate tomatoes. Indeterminate tomatoes (or vine tomatoes) are the best choice for home growers. This is because each tomato on the plant will ripen at its own speed—sometimes up to weeks apart. An indeterminate tomato plant will continue to grow tomatoes for its entire lifespan. You’ll enjoy small amounts of fresh tomatoes throughout the harvest season.
- Tomato production occurs every year tomato plants are alive.
- Different tomato varieties produce tomatoes in varying amounts.
- Indeterminate tomato plants produce tomatoes over a longer period of time, ensuring a longer harvest.
- Determinate tomatoes produce all their tomatoes in a two-week span each year, making them a poor choice for home growers.
Determinate tomatoes are very different from indeterminate tomatoes. All the tomatoes on a determinate tomato plant ripen at roughly the same time. In a single season, one of these plants will produce all its ripe tomatoes within a two-week span. If you don’t can or freeze all your tomatoes then, that’s 11.5 months out of the year without tomatoes. So, if you’re planning to keep a tomato plant alive through the winter, make sure to select one of the many indeterminate varieties that are available.
Do Tomato Plants Live More than One Year?
Tomato plants can live for more than one year if they are kept in tropical conditions. However, winter temperatures in almost all of the United States are too cold for tomatoes to survive outdoors year-round. When growing tomatoes, keep the following in mind:
- The average life-span of tomatoes in an outdoor garden is 6-8 months.
- A tomato plant’s lifespan can be expanded to as much as 5 years with proper care and optimal conditions.
- Ensure a warm temperature for tomatoes in winter by growing them indoors.
- Alternate care conditions like a heated greenhouse can ensure proper growth even in winter.
- Heat mats will help keep the soil warm when sprouting tomato seeds in cold conditions.
Don’t be frustrated if you fail the first time you attempt to keep your tomatoes alive past 8 months. Tomatoes are very tender plants. It requires a lot of care and patience to get them through winter. However, with the right tips, along with sunlight and warmth, you can grow a tomato plant that produces delicious tomatoes for years.