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Tomatoes overwinter

When growing tomato plants, you need to pay attention to a variety of different factors to ensure a bountiful harvest of the popular fruiting vegetable. In addition to the right location, lots of sun and pest control, overwintering is an important point to get the plant safely through the year. Winter can take a toll on them, and many gardeners who are new to tomato growing wonder if these are all annuals.



Tomatoes: annual or perennial?

The common assumption that it is Solanum lycopersicum is an annual nightshade plant because of the cool temperatures in Central Europe. The tomato itself comes from Central and South America and was brought to Europe in the 16th century, probably by Christopher Columbus. For this reason, it is used to high temperatures and sunny locations and grows perennial in its original distribution area and comparable regions. In Central Europe, on the other hand, tomato plants only grow annual due to the combination of lack of light and cold. However, it is also possible to keep perennial paradise apples in the local latitudes if you choose the right varieties.

grow tomatoes

'Red Robin'

  • fruit ripe after about 55 days, compact-limited growth
  • high yield and sweet cherry tomatoes


  • fruit ripe after about 60 to 80 days
  • very compact
  • easy to care for with a high harvest yield

'Balconi Red'

  • forms fruits with a mild taste
  • fits on every window sill


  • forms extremely sweet fruits with a maximum diameter of 2.5 cm


  • maximum growth height of 60 cm with fruits weighing an average of 20 g

'Amish Cherry'

  • endowed with orange fruits that are very small and tasty

'Red Pearl'

  • very cute
  • red fruits that are very small

All of these varieties have one common ground: they are small wild or bush tomatoes that have a compact habit with small fruits. Tomatoes put a lot of energy into developing the fruiting bodies and towards the end of the year they are completely exhausted and need rest. If there is not enough sun and warmth afterwards, they die. the short cultivars have the advantage that they do not require too much energy and, with luck, can overwinter in suitable quarters. Their robust nature gives the varieties a great advantage over other tomatoes, but the survival of the plant is not guaranteed.

Tip: As an alternative to the varieties mentioned above, you can use old German tomato varieties such as 'Besser' or 'K 54-84'. These varieties are very resistant, even to little sunlight, and are therefore perfect for you if you want to grow your tomatoes as a perennial rather than an annual.

Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family


The location of the tomato plants is particularly important for the roost in winter. This is heavily dependent on the amount of light, which can be made available to the plants. In the event of an acute lack of light, no new leaves and flowers are formed and the previously existing parts of the plant die, which ultimately leads to the death of the plant. The location must be as follows.

  • flooded with light
  • Temperature from 22°C to 24°C in the greenhouse
  • Temperature of about 15°C in the house, no higher

It is precisely a lot of light that the tomatoes need in order to be able to grow for several years and not to die once a year. Overwintering is therefore best suited and particularly recommended in the following rooms.

  • bright corridors or stairwells
  • large rooms with many windows
  • conservatories
  • Rooms with south-facing windows
  • greenhouses
Growing tomatoes in the greenhouse

lighting conditions

The best place is either directly on the windowsill or in the immediate vicinity of the windows, so that a lot of light can enter the room. All southern directions are ideal, as well as skylights if they are located in such a way that the tomato plants get a lot sunlight is available. The above varieties are great for a winter on the windowsill. If the location has too little light, you have to help with a lamp. The following variants are available for this.

  • special plant lights, which allow the plants the necessary amount of light
  • High-pressure sodium vapor lamps: Lots of light, very high heat development, expensive in the long run due to high power consumption
  • Led Lamps: Sufficient light, low heat generation, expensive to buy, but cheaper to use

When it comes to lamps, you should absolutely avoid using energy-saving lamps and fluorescent tubes. Even in large numbers, these do not provide enough light and are therefore in no way suitable for winter quarters. In addition, energy-saving lamps are expensive to buy. Be careful when purchasing one suitable lamp on the spectrum, which should resemble daylight. In Kelvin, this corresponds to a value of 5,300 K to 6,500 K. You don't have to use the wattage or the specified lumen as a guide, because when tomatoes overwinter, only the light spectrum is important so that they don't just have to grow once a year.

Tip: If you want to keep your tomato plants for several years, you can use a mirror to provide more and in many cases sufficient light. Simply place this behind your tomatoes, because this way the sunlight is also made available from the side facing away from the window.

Tomato plants in the bucket


In rooms

Tomato plants overwinter perennial in living quarters: instructions

Once you've settled on a lamp or have adequate sunlight available, the further south you live the better, you can start preparing for winter. Cuttings are best suited for overwintering in the apartment or on the windowsill, as this means that you will have more plants available in the following year than in the previous year and because the cuttings do not need quite as much light as the fully grown tomatoes.

Proceed as follows:

1. In August, take cuttings from the tomato plants that are eight to ten centimeters long. You must then defoliate the lower part of the cuttings.

2. Now the cuttings are each placed in a dark glass filled with water.

3. Wait until the cuttings form roots and plant them in a pot or bucket filled with fresh substrate suitable for tomatoes.

4. Now place the tomatoes on the windowsill or another suitable place and take care of the tomatoes as usual. Alternatively, you can place the plants on a turntable so that all sides are exposed to daylight.

You can also try to get adult plants through the winter.

Proceed as follows:

  • bring the plants indoors in late summer or early fall
  • spray the tomato plants with neem oil to prevent pests
  • use the space with the most light
  • do not remove the stinging shoots over the winter period
  • these help in capturing light
  • the soil must be moist throughout the cold season, but not wet
  • only fertilize a little
  • check for pests frequently
water sprayer

In the greenhouse

Overwinter tomato plants in a greenhouse for several years: instructions

The greenhouse is an ideal winter quarters. Use this for the Solanum lycopersicum during the winter period in the following way.

  • only bring healthy specimens into the greenhouse
  • Diseases and pests can severely affect tomato plants over the winter period
  • Again, choose the spot with the most light or help with lights
  • Temperature must be between 22°C and 24°C
  • reduce the water and fertilizer additions
  • check the crops for diseases or pests as often as possible

Do not be surprised, but over the winter the leaves of the tomato bleach a lot, but the fruit itself can continue to ripen. In the spring the plant recovers.

tomato plants

Tip: If you decide to spend the winter in the greenhouse, you should definitely check it for possible weak points or damage before winter. You should insulate the greenhouse, clean the windows to let in more light, and close any cracks or holes to keep enough heat in the greenhouse.

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