10 Common Tomato Plant Problems and How To Fix Them
If you're growing tomatoes you most likely encountered one or more of these common plant problems. We explain how to identify and fix them.
Here at Farmers’ Almanac, we get a lot of gardening questions. What tops the list are questions about tomato plants and how to fix certain tomato plant problems. We checked in with Safer® Brand organic gardening solutions and received some great advice from their organic gardening article archives. Take a look:
If you’re one of the three million people who planted a home garden this year, you’re most likely growing tomatoes. Nine out of 10 gardeners grow tomatoes, and that number would be 10 out of 10 if the holdouts would taste a fresh garden tomato and compare it to a grocery store purchase. Nothing beats the taste of a fresh home-grown tomato!
Many gardeners who grow tomatoes, however, encounter growing problems. This list of common tomato plant problems and their solutions will help you identify an issue—whether it’s just starting or already full-blown — and show you how to correct it, so you can save your tomato plants and harvest yummy tomatoes this year.
1. Blossom End Rot
What it looks like: The tomato plants appear healthy, but as the tomatoes ripen, an ugly black patch appears on the bottoms. The black spots on tomatoes look leathery. When you try to cut off the patch to eat the tomato, the fruit inside looks mealy.
What causes it: Your plants aren’t getting enough calcium. There’s either not enough calcium in the soil, or the pH is too low for the plant to absorb the calcium available. Tomatoes need a soil pH around 6.5 in order to grow properly. This soil pH level also makes it possible for them to absorb calcium. Uneven watering habits also contribute to this problem. Hot, dry spells tend to exacerbate blossom end rot.
What to do about it: Before planting tomatoes in the spring, have your local garden center or Cooperative Extension conduct a soil test. Tell them you’ve had problems with blossom end rot in the past, and they will give you recommendations on the amendments to add to your soil. Lime and gypsum may be added for calcium, but they must be added in the proper amounts depending on your soil’s condition. That’s why a soil test is necessary. Adding crushed eggshells to your compost pile can also boost calcium naturally when you add compost to the soil. A foliar spray containing calcium chloride can prevent blossom end rot from developing on tomatoes mid-season. Apply it early in the morning or late in the day — if sprayed onto leaves midday, it can burn them. Water plants regularly at the same time daily to ensure even application of water.
2. Blossom Drop
What it looks like: Flowers appear on your tomato plants, but they fall off without tomatoes developing.
What causes it: Temperature fluctuations cause blossom drop. Tomatoes need night temperatures between 55 to 75 degrees F in order to retain their flowers. If the temperatures fall outside this range, blossom drop occurs. Other reasons for blossom drop on tomatoes are insect damage, lack of water, too much or too little nitrogen, and lack of pollination.
What to do about it: While you can’t change the weather, you can make sure the rest of the plant is strong by using fertilizer for tomatoes, drawing pollinators by planting milkweed and cosmos, and using neem oil insecticides.
3. Fruit Cracks
What they look like: Cracks appear on ripe tomatoes, usually in concentric circles. Sometimes insects use the cracks as an opportunity to eat the fruit, or birds attack cracked fruit.
What causes them: Hot, rainy weather causes fruit crack. After a long dry spell, tomatoes are thirsty. Plants may take up water rapidly after the first heavy rainfall, which swells the fruit and causes it to crack.
What to do about them: Although you can’t control the rain, you can water tomatoes evenly during the growing season. This prevents them from being so thirsty that they take up too much rainwater during a heavy downpour.
What it looks like: The plants look healthy, and the fruit develops normally. As tomatoes ripen, yellow patches form on the red skin. Yellow patches turn white and paper-thin, creating an unpleasant appearance and poor taste.
What causes it: As the name implies, the sun’s rays have actually scalded the tomato.
What to do about it: Tomato cages, or a wire support system that surrounds the plants, give the best branch support while shading the developing tomatoes naturally. Sunscald usually occurs on staked plants that have been too-vigorously pruned, exposing many of the tomatoes to the sun’s rays. Leaving some foliage and branches provides shade during the hottest part of the day.
5. Poor Fruit Set
What it looks like: You have some flowers but not many tomatoes. The tomatoes you do have on the plant are small or tasteless.
What causes it: Too much nitrogen in the soil encourages plenty of green leaves but not many flowers. If there aren’t enough flowers, there won’t be enough tomatoes. Another cause may be planting tomatoes too closely together. Tomatoes are self-pollinating, meaning that each flower contains both the male (stamens) and female (pistils) parts. Wind typically pollinates tomatoes, but if plants are too close together, the wind can’t reach the flowers.
What to do about it: Have your soil tested. If you’re planting tomatoes in the spring, leave at least two feet or more between plants so that good air circulation can help pollinate them. If your plants are already in the garden, you can simply shake the flowering branches to simulate wind and get the pollen from the stamens to the pistils.
What it looks like: Catfacing makes tomatoes appear deformed. The blossom end is rippled, bumpy and lumpy.
What causes it: Plants pollinated during cool evenings, when the temperatures hover around 50 to 55 degrees F, are subject to catfacing. Blossoms fall off when temperatures drop too low. However, if the flower is pollinating before the petals begin to drop off, some stick to the developing tomato. This creates the lumps and bumps typical of catfacing.
What to do about it: If possible, plant tomatoes a little later in the season. Make sure the weather has truly warmed up enough to support proper tomato development. Devices such as a “Wall of Water”—a circle of water-filled plastic tubes—raise temperatures near the tomato and help keep them high enough on cold nights to prevent cold-related problems. Using black-plastic spread on the soil can also help. As the plastic heats during the day, it releases the heat back towards the plants at night. Black plastic can be used as a temporary measure until the temperatures warm up enough that it’s no longer needed. Catfaced tomatoes are safe to eat; simply cut away the scarred areas.
Read more on learning to eat ugly produce!
7. Leaf Roll
What it looks like: Mature tomato plants suddenly curl their leaves, especially older leaves near the bottom. Leaves roll up from the outside towards the center. Sometimes up to 75% of the plant is affected.
What causes it: High temperatures, wet soil, and too much pruning often result in leaf roll.
What to do about it: Although it looks ugly, leaf roll won’t affect tomato development, so you will still get edible tomatoes from your plants. Avoid over-pruning and make sure the soil drains excess water away.
What it looks like: The tomato plants look fine, they bloom according to schedule, and ripe red tomatoes are ready for harvest. When the tomato is sliced, the interior has large, open spaces and not much fruit inside. Tomatoes may feel light when harvested. The exterior of the tomato may have an angular, square-sided look.
What causes it: Under-fertilization, poor soil nutrition, or inadequate pollination.
What to do about it: Make sure you are feeding your tomato plants throughout the season. A balanced fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 should be fed biweekly or monthly. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and need fertilizer throughout the growing season. For gardeners, frequent top-dressings with homemade compost and compost teas are a must.
9. Early Blight
What it looks like: You’ll find brown spots on tomato leaves, starting with the older ones. Each spot starts to develop rings, like a target. Leaves turn yellow around the brown spots, then the entire leaf turns brown and falls off. Eventually the plant may have few, if any, leaves.
What causes it: A fungus called Alternaria solani. This fungus can live in the soil over the winter, so if your plants have had problems before like this, and you’ve planted tomatoes in the exact same spot, chances are good the same thing will happen to your plants this year.
What to do about it: Crop rotation prevents new plants from contracting the disease. Avoid planting tomatoes, eggplants or peppers in the same spot each year as these can all be infected with early blight. A garden fungicide can treat infected plants.
10. Viral Diseases
What they look like: Viral diseases mainly attack the tomatoes themselves. You might find black spots on tomatoes or weird stripes on them. Don’t confuse signs of disease for just how some heirloom tomatoes look with natural stripes.
What causes them: Many of these viruses spread when plants are stressed by heat, drought or poor soil.
What to do about them: If you’ve read through all of these tomato problems and think your tomatoes may be suffering from a viral disease, spray your tomato plants with neem oil. Good soil management and using organic fertilizer for tomatoes also helps keep your plants healthy, which can help them naturally resist viruses better.
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I am growing Better Boys and Romas and they are developing black spots all around the tops with some splits also. is this a virus? I’m in Texas and the weather has been scalding. are they still safe to eat when we cut off the top damaged area?
I have 3 raised garden beds that I’m growing Roma tomatoes in. I started the plants under lights, indoors and transplanted a bit late outdoors due to cold or bad weather. (end of June) (zone 3). They were doing great, then we had large hail, then 40 mile hour winds all day one day, and another day heavy rain. Of course, we also had days in the 90’s. Those plants went through a lot but still have grown large and some smaller tomatoes. All that’s left on the vines are tomatoes, as the leaves have all dried up . My question, will the smaller tomatoes continue to grow even if there are no leaves on the vine?? I’m going to pick the large fruits as soon as I see some pink color on them, as previous years I’ve had problems with slugs and picking while not completely ripened yielded more fruit. I will continue watering them, and I have compost tea that I can give them.
My tomatoes grow thin and tall with few leaves (unhealthy) and tomatoes. Plenty of sun. I water some every day and one every other day. Some get full sun and some get partial. I did this on purpose to see how they grow here north of Houston. Just moved here from CA. I have used some manure and slight variety of soils. Only one tomato plant has somewhat full leaves but barely grows, how ever it gets a few hours of shade every day. It is give or take 100 degrees everyday.. Ca 100 degree weather never hurt my tomatoes. I am just figuring tomatoes will not succeed in my part of Texas. I thought they would since they are sold here.
They can grow well but 100 degree days (and hot nights!) can set them back or make them just stop. They restart in fall. Another thing I’ve noticed is they are very sensitive to what else is growing around them. No sunflowers, etc.
I have a nicely developed Cherokee Purple fruit that has a bit hole in it. I have not found any hornworms so it might be a squirrel bite. I wonder if it can be patched so that it does not further rot the fruit which is otherwise in good shape?
Hello. I need help with a plant that’s not growing anymore. When I got my tomato plants I planted them the next day in my large raised planter and pruned the little suckers out of both plants. Both plants look healthy and are of decent size but only one is growing fruit. The other tried to put out more suckers which I pruned and has since stopped growing. I don’t know what is wrong. Both plants get the same amount of sun and water and are spaced well in the planter. The only thing I can think of is that I pruned a sucker that seemed to have little buds growing when I first pruned it but no where says that would stagnate growth. Can someone help me figure out what is wrong?
I would stop pruning the suckers and let them grow if they are the only ones to survive. The main trunk may not be healthy or have needed buds. When I was on the farm as a kid, we cut the suckers to promote the tree health and growth. Sometimes the tree sacrifices parts of the tree due to water conditions or health of the tree.
My tomato plant looks like it’s wilting
Is it dry? I’m sure you water it but it seems like the obvious reason. Good luck.
I started my tomatoes and they are about 4″ tall. Now the tips of the leaves are beginning to show a transparent rash of sorts.
starting at the very end of the largest leaf lobe. Any idea what this could be and how to treat this?
Transparent rash? Our best suggestion would be to check with your local extension center or master gardeners as they may be able to give you a better idea based on where you live. Good luck.
My tomatoes are ripening beautifully, however when I picked my first I noticed it was heaven and tough, when I cut into it it looked grainy and did not have hardly any juice in it. It was tasteless as well and tough to eat. What could be wrong?
Sorry to hear about your tomato. Gardening can be quite the challenge. Since we don’t know what variety you’re growing or what your soil conditions are, we recommend that you check with your local extension center or greenhouse. It could be your soil. Sorry we couldn’t be more help.
My young tomato plants are alll curling tigh t I planted where cows were kept last year. Could this be what is wrong
It is hard to “diagnose” what’s wrong, but if the leaves are curling there’s definitely something going on. Maybe over or under watering? Look carefully for any insets too and perhaps have your soil tested to see if there’s something you could add to the soil to help. Best of luck.
Might be grazon in the soil the feed the cows are.
The heart is gone from one of my tomatoes, is there any way to turn it into a producing plant? My past experience has been once the heart is gone, it just becomes masses of suckers and very few tomatoes.
What is a tomato heart? I pruned my plant and now it’s only growing suckers.
Tomato plant heart
All my cherry tomato plants are dying ,any suggest.
Mine too but other tomatoes look fine!!
The stem of my tomato broke as i was getting it out of the nursery pot. It is hanging by a thread. Can I save it?
Yes absolutely, you can do a few things. When this happened to me the other month, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and then tape with some stakes to keep them upright. You can also repot them all the way down to the break and it will form into roots. They are hardy so you should be good
My tomato plants are leaning to the ground and as soon as they touch the ground it gets scalled
How to overcome this.
Use a tomato cage to help the plants stand.
why my tomatoes are green and hard on the plant, how long it takes to ripe or to become red?
Make sure you don’t have too many leaves on your plant. They need sun to ripen and they like good air flow. Too many leaves will slow the ripening process. However, it takes some time to ripen so be patient and you will be rewarded
Hi, My tomatoes plants have started bearing fruits and the tomato skin was tight few days ago but now it’s turning wrinkly and dry. What would be the reason and how can I fix this problem
When should compost be added to the vegetable garden ?
Hi Rick, it depends on the plants, of course, and their nutritional needs. Add it to the garden in the spring for planting, and again in the fall. Then, a few times throughout the growing season, add a thin layer – no more than 1/2″ – to continue improving the soil and adding nutrients to your plants. Some types of vegetables, such as tomatoes, squash, and corn, need extra nutrients and can benefit from a monthly compost schedule.
Most of the fruit on my yellow slicer tomatoes has turned orange but otherwise appear OK. Is that a problem? What caused it?
I have something I can’t identify either growing out of or burrowing into the ends of many of my tomatoes. It’s about a quarter inch in length. On the bottom side of the tomatoes. I’ve pulled them all out/off. Any idea what it is?
This is July 31st, 2021. I planted 2 tomato plants in HOMER Buckets, and they did well, except they got so top heavy that a thunderstorm brought one of them down. This happened several times, until I simply had to take that plant down last night. Now I have 2 tomato plants sprouting in the same bucket of soil. Can I somehow preserve these sprouting plants for next spring? Or should I simply allow them to go ahead and grow….. Thank You.
Hi Jane, there’s nothing you can do to save them for next year. Just let them grow and see what comes of it.
To the contrary of what Susan said, you can save them for next year. Most tomato plants are biannual. So if they don’t do well this year, they will do great next year! You’ll need to bring them in over the winter and keep them above 50°f. I keep cuttings in the garage. I take the cuttings before they fruit and don’t let them fruit until the next spring/summer. I’ve have some success but it also opens up a lot of time for disease.
what causes a crusty, yellow area on a tomato?
Anyone know why leaves turn yellow and how to stop it?
Hi Scott, fertilize! Yellow leaves usually indicate a nitrogen deficiency. Also, be sure your water source isn’t salt-heavy, which can also cause yellowing.
Should cut off the part of the plant you think is dead to save the rest of plant?
Hi Debbie, you can. But the bigger question is why part of the plant is considered dead. Are you talking about dead leaves?
New to this site . Novice tomato grower . This year I’m getting black stain covering the top of some of my tomatoes. I can’t find a picture that resembles my issue. I can’t get a picture to attach
Got soil to top off my gardens. Since then my tomato plants are a disaster. They appear to be eaten off, any new growth especially the flowers are totally gone, nothing but stems left. What has happened to my plants? What could be in the soil causing this as I’ve never had these problems before. A neighbour bought the same soil and is having the same issues.
Where did you get the soil, was it from a reputable source? There may be zero nutrients in it. Topsoil can be just about anything. “There is no legal definition of the word topsoil. Technically, it is whatever is on the top. Sight unseen, you could order 5 yards of anything from beach sand to adobe brick material. Always go to look at what you are buying if you are unfamiliar with the soil seller to know what you are purchasing.” You can buy a soil test kit at Home Depot for about $12 and see what’s going on.
Hello, I’m seeing these spots on some of my tomato plants on the top leaves. Do yo7 know what it might be? Having trouble identifying it.
Hi Sue, did you attach a picture? Can you send it to us at Questions@FarmersAlmanac.com , attention Susan, and we’ll try to help!
Picture didn’t attach to my question…
Most of the leaves on my tomato plants have gone all mottled. They are in planters on a balcony & get 4-5 hours of direct sunshine a day (I know, probably not enough:(. They are planted in Miracle Grow potting soil & I keep them evenly moist.
Is there anything that I should be doing?
Hi Susan, this site might help. It’s from the UK but still very good information.
I have one tomato plant the leaves growing at top of the plant are a hard circular shape not a Norman thin leaf.
Can you share a picture so we can see what you mean? Are you sure it’s a tomato plant?
10 Common Tomato Plant Problems And How To Fix Them
See previous comment
The top leaves on my tomato plants are curling up and look stunted. I have 10 plants and it’s only happening on 4 in one row.
Hi, wondering if you can help me. My tomato plant is growing fast, but the bottom leaves have develop a brown patchwork in between the veins, then curl up; I’ve cut them off (they were on the bottom, and only a few) but it’s working its way up the plant. Magnesium deficiency is yellow, not brown. Any suggestions? – picture attached, see the brown?
Hi Linda, we found an outside source that might be of help. Take a look here.
I started my tomato plants indoors, and last week I moved them out to a hoop garden. Now the topmost leaves are changing color (they look like coleus!) and I am not sure what to do. See picture and help me, please.
Hi Jennifer, it looks like you have some soil deficiencies. We are big fans of this site and they address what you can do, I think you’ll find it helpful.
my tomato plants leaves are drying up and the blossoms are turning brown and drying up. The plants are not growing very fast. i am watering every day, and we have lots of wind in the area. What is the problem and solution?
Hi Stan, have you tested your soil? Are you using any pesticides nearby? What are you using for fertilizer? Here is another good site to identify tomato plants by leaf issues.
I have a beef steak tomato plant that I transplanted when it was aabt 6 inches with 2 or 3 layers of leaves that looked fine. It is in a pot that is abt 30in across and 28 in deep. It began flowering right away at about9 inches high and the leaves began to get.small like miniatures real curly and leather looking. The last plants I had did pretty much the same thing only not as extreme and when the tomatoes came in they were much smaller than they should be I have been trying to grow tom. for like four seasons, (I am in Phx., AZ) The last 2 have bourne fruit and although they are really good ( juicey and sweet) if u can help I would really appreciate it.
How do I treat a healthy tomatoes plant which drys instantly
I have potted tomatoes on my patio. The fruit is proper size but they aren’t turning red. What do I do ?
It actually takes a very long time for tomatoes to ripen, about 90 days from the time they appear on the plant for most varieties
On the bottom side of a tomato vine, there’s a straight line of what looks like little copper squares, about 20 of them, spaced apart evenly, they are all the same size…does anyone know what this could be? I wish I could upload an image to show you.
What causes the white core to pervade most of the tomato?
My yellow squash sets on then falls off the vine when it reaches 2.5 inches in size
what is a good home made recipe for a spray for white fly on tomato plants
My tomato plants were growing great starting to bear fruit but now the tomatoes appear to stop growing
We are in the middle of the growing season and it
Looks like all 6 plants literally stopped
Any ideas of cause I fertilize weekly and water 2 times a day
Tomatoes have round ulcers. Can’t find any insects on plants. Have had a lot of hot weather and have watered frequently.
My tomato plants don’t set in tomatoes.
My daughters tomato leaves look rusty.
We live in central Florida, planted our veggie plants in early April; 2 cherry and 1 beefsteak, 2 pepper, 4 zucchini summer squash & cucumbers. Lost all great looking zucchini plants except one. Lost the one cucumber after it almost matured and ripened; the plant dried up and died peppers are getting taller except no peppers yet and the cherry tomatoes are doing great producing. Now we are getting a lot of rain what can we do to rejuvenate our remaking soil and add more plants to hopefully start again?
You are planting at the wrong times. Just when your tomatoes are growing well you run into the high heat by the time your setting fruit. Zucchini hates how weather even more so then tomatoes. Start both crops outdoors in late Sept and best to use a 50% shade cloth over top in many cases.
Both types of my tomatoes Grape and Plum have yellow spotty coloring similar to scalding but no black spots or wrinkly or blistery looking. Could it be Scalding? The grape tomatoes don’t look good to eat I’m wondering if the plum is ok the skin looks perfectly healthy except the patchy yellowing.
My tomatoes are just starting to produce but there are small holes under the tomatoes. The holes are not black like blossom end rot. Why are there holes?
I planted several tomatoe plants around a big stump I been burning all year. The plants seem to be dying. Could there be to much ash or what would cause this?
yes! I bet that’s made the soil very alkaline. Probably temporary but that could be a lot.
Planting two ft. Tall plants . Soil time Valencia,Calif.