Avoid These 6 Mistakes When Buying Tomato Plants

March 27, 2016 | By | Comments (7)
Tomato plants

Photo: growing-plants.com

WAHOOOOOO!!! It’s spring! And that means people are calling in sick or faking their mother’s funeral so they can get off work, rush to the garden center, and procure their tomato plants. But before buying yours, steer clear of the following common mistakes that could well make a funeral seem like a happy event.

Mistake #1. Buying plants that already have flowers or fruit. You don’t want ’em. Why? Because you want plants that will put all of their energy during the first weeks after planting into growing roots, stems, and leaves — not flowering or ripening fruit. Defer gratification now and you’ll get lots more tomatoes later. As an option, pinch off any flowers or fruit before planting.

Mistake #2. Buying plants without checking them for hitchhiking insects, especially whiteflies. Whiteflies (below) look like little, white triangles and congregate in great masses on the undersides of the leaves, sucking the sap. Infested plants are basically non-salvageable. Lightly brush the foliage of any new plant before you buy. If you see any tiny, white triangles fly off, leave that plant behind and run very fast.


Do not buy this plant! Photo: ipm.illinois.edu

Mistake #3.¬†Leaving plants outside at night or planting them before checking your area’s frost-free date. Frost kills tomato plants. Sure, you can cover them outside to protect against possible frost, if you know when that might happen. How can you find out? Come on, this is the digital age! Just Google your zip code and “last spring frost.” Then you can go back to creating a new page on MySpace. (Just kidding — I don’t know what that is either.)

Mistake #4. Not taking heed of the basic type of tomato plant. Tomato plants are either determinant or indeterminate. A determinant tomato, like ‘Celebrity,’ ‘Rutgers,’ and ‘Patio,’ grows into a little bush and ripens its fruit all at once. Choose this kind for growing in small spaces or containers. An indeterminate tomato, like ‘Better Boy’ and ‘Beefmaster,’ grows nonstop like a vine, needs support to hold it up, and ripens fruit over a long period. Choose this kind for growing in cages where you have more room.

Mistake #5. Assuming that because heirloom tomatoes like ‘Cherokee Purple’ are trendy that they’re easier to grow. They are not. They may look cool and taste great, but in general they’re more susceptible to disease and weather than newer hybrids and also lower yielding. Just like heirloom people.

Mistake #6. Attempting to pay for your tomato plants with Traveler’s Cheques. Nobody takes these any more. Stick to S&H Green Stamps.

S&H Green Stamps

Photo: newsday.com

Tell them you heard it here.



  1. Bill Crawford

    Great advice. Another thing you can do is go to the internet and find out which plants are good producers for your area via the state extension service. You can also start your own from seed which will avoid hitchhiker pests.

    March 23, 2017 at 3:21 pm
  2. I Hear the Mourning Dove and Think of Him

    […] he taught her, she’s teaching me the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomato plants and just how exactly I should put them in the ground so that they bear the best fruit. […]

    June 2, 2016 at 8:16 pm
  3. gardeningthoughts

    The ONLY tomato plant that did terribly last year in my garden was the Cherokee Purple. It produced loads of vine and leaves but only ONE sickly tomato which quickly contracted blossom end rot. Waste of money. Love the Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes as they were VERY prolific.

    May 2, 2016 at 6:36 am
  4. Rebecca Smith

    I haven’t seen S&H Green Stamps in DECADES. Do they still exist?

    March 31, 2016 at 8:45 am
  5. Ray Wallace

    Another tip dig a hole planting deep enough to cover about 80 percent of the tomato stems when you plant them..this builds a massive root systems and bigger plants.

    March 30, 2016 at 2:31 pm
  6. Mary O’Neil

    I learned when I was first getting started that I really enjoyed a particular kind of tomato plant, Purple Cherokees, and I buy some regularly from a farm which has a stand at our local farmer’s market. Welp, sure as shootin’, last year some awful little critters managed to hitchhike, and absolutely tore through not just the tomatoes, but my yellow squash. No matter who you buy from, always check the plant!!

    March 29, 2016 at 2:08 pm
  7. Darlene Bowen

    I’m recommending your post to my sister right now! All the information is very helpful and I’m sure she’ll appreciate your advises. She just started her first garden about a month ago and this year she’s buying most of the seedling she’ll need. She’s considering the tomatoes as most important this season so I think this post will be of a great help. Thanks for sharing!

    March 29, 2016 at 7:02 am

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