How to Plant an Upside Down Tomato cherry tomatoes

The Secrets to Growing Upside-Down Tomatoes for a Prolific Harvest in a Tiny Space

Upside-down tomatoes make a great use of space but there are a few important things to know so that your efforts will be fruitful. Grow prolific upside-down tomato plants with these 9 essential tips and tricks.

Essential tips to Grow tomatoes upside down successfully

There are many types of upside-down tomato planters available and none are expensive in the least.  I have seen many people who use 5-gallon buckets, but I must say that once you buy all the hardware you will probably be spending more than just buying a Topsy Turvy planter or the self-watering planters I have hanging on my garage.How to grow upside-down tomato plants - advice from a master gardener

How to Plant Upside-Down Tomatoes


  • 1-2 cherry, grape or other small variety tomato plants
  • The upside-down planter of your choice (this is a nice one!)
  • Solid ring hooks
  • Bamboo stake
  • Self-watering system (see Step #8)
  • Tomato fertilizer
  • Container gardening soil or 40% peat moss / 60% soil

Make it!

1. First things first: choose the right tomato plant for the hanging planter. There is just no sense in picking a beefsteak or other large varietal. Large tomatoes generally grow on large plants and have heavy fruit. These small planters are better suited to determinate/bush forming (as opposed to indeterminate/vine growing) so that the plant can build girth rather than length below the planting bag.  Also choosing container-loving cultivars like Tumbler, Jolly Elf, or Gold Nugget will ensure fruiting is prolific even on smaller plants.

How to Plant an Upside Down Tomato cherry tomatoes

2. Location is another important factor in hanging planters. Check out site selection for Growing Strawberries in Hanging Containers / Grow Bags as it’s pretty much the same: 8-12 hours of full sun a day.

3. Prepare your soil for planting by either mixing 40% peat moss and 60% high quality organic soil mix (like Sea Soil) or a container gardening mix in a wheelbarrow with some water.  It’s best to moisten the soil before planting to ensure it will hold the water, not just run right through the planting hole.

How to Plant Upside Down Tomato Planters Topsy Turvy DIY soil mix

4. Remove your plant from the nursery pot and secure the stopper around the stem, being careful to not damage the stem.  All store-bought planters come with a stopper: either a foam ring or plastic disk with a hole in the center for the stem.

9 Things you need to know to make upside-down tomato planters a success!

5. Have a strong helper hold your planter while you gently (I repeat, GENTLY) maneuver the plant upside-down into the bottom hole from the top. Again, don’t damage the stem. If the leaves get a bit mangled it’s Okay, but if you damage the stem get a new plant and start over.Nine tricks to planting upside-down tomatoes, from staking to watering and everything in between

6. Gently fill the moistened soil around the root ball about half-full, add a handful of complete organic fertilizer and fill up the rest of the way with more soil.

7. Hang the planter up on sturdy hooks (that should be included with your planter) no less than 7-8 feet off the ground.

How to grow a tomato upside down - advice from a master gardener

**While most folks stop at this point, there are a few lessons I’ve learned from growing tomatoes successfully on my garage that I shared in this post:  Topsy Turvy: Ugly as Stink But Good Tomatoes.  These few extra steps will help with the most common problems of upside-down tomato planters: dry soil and broken plants.**

8. The challenge with an upside-down planter is that when it dries out, it is difficult to re-moisten. Water generally flows through dry soil, and with upside-down planters, it can flow right through even moist soil. Unless you want to spend most of your free time slowly watering these planters all summer long, it’s best to set up a self-watering system. Luckily, the new planters I bought have a self-watering trough at the top. Success with this system comes from to ensuring that you don’t let the wick dry out.

You can also make your own self-watering system with these plant stakes or make your own by cutting a hole in the bottom of a soda bottle and poking a few weep holes in the cap.  Screw the cap on firmly and sink into the soil.  Fill with water and let drain.  To see the bottle watering system, check out the photos in this post about Topsy Turvy Tomato Planters.

9. Tomatoes are meant to grow upwards and, left to their own devices, they will curve up toward the sky, grow big beautiful tomatoes…and then the stem will break right off in the wind or from the weight of the fruit. Easily deal with this by sticking a bamboo stake in the bottom hole with the plant, and train the plant downwards as it grows.  An easy solution to a fatal (to ripe fruit at least) problem.

Pin it!

How to Grow Tomatoes in upside-down planters (and actually get lots of fruit!)

There you have it.  All the tools you need for successfully getting an upside-down planter started this year. These instructions also apply for peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, or squash so get creative with this weekend project.


About the Author : Stephanie Rose

A city girl who learned to garden and it changed everything. Author, artist, Master Gardener. Better living through plants.

View all posts by Stephanie Rose

  1. Kristi
    KristiMay 19,12

    Great tips! I love the look of your planters. Much nicer than those topsy turvy ones!! Will be pinning this for next year (it’s already too hot where we are to try to start now!).

    • Nick
      NickOctober 22,15

      I live in Brisbane and tomatoes LOVE the summer sun…. Where are you that’s hotter? :P

  2. Tina
    TinaMay 19,12

    You can paint your planters. Use a stencil to spray paint a design.
    The paint for plastics would work nicely.

  3. Claire Splan
    Claire SplanMay 22,12

    Gen, these are great tips. I particularly like the idea of using the bamboo stake to keep the plant from turning up! I’m giving the Topsy-Turvy planter one more try this year before I give up on the upside-down thing entirely.

  4. Babs
    BabsMay 22,12

    How much fun and the tomato pots are really attractive. Thanks for the great tips.

  5. carolyn - homework
    carolyn - homeworkMay 23,12

    I love this. I’ve always wondered if the topsy turvey worked. I’m attempting my first tomatoes this year {right side up ones}…
    My link party [The Inspiration Board] is up right now. I would love for you to stop by and consider linking this up! My readers would love it.

  6. nick
    nickMay 30,12

    if you are hanging a pot anyway, why not plant your tomatoes in the top of a normal hanging basket to alleviate all the mentioned issues? did i miss something? is the up-side-down option simply for novelty? thank you.

    • Stevie
      StevieMay 30,12

      Hi Nick,

      For me, they are very useful. I hang them under the eaves of the garage as you can see in the photos with not a lot of room for them to grow up. I posted this to a commenter on Facebook who had a similar question:

      “…on a small urban lot we must do what we can. Last year I was able to fit in 20 plants in what I call “tomato alley” where I have hanging planters above and self-watering pots below. I get a great yield of all my favourite heirlooms in a teeny space. It’s how I must do it to get fresh garden tomatoes in varieties not sold in the stores or at the market. There are lots of folks with only a balcony or deck who want to grow food – so we must make do.”

      This year I’m planning to further add to my ‘system’ by removing the self-watering tray above and planting a tumbler tomato in the above tray. I’ll post about that when it’s all set up with a watering tube.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Tomato Grower
    Tomato GrowerJuly 10,12

    Thanks for sharing… I love upside down planters. I can grow much larger plants than the patio types that grow in an upright planter, and the soil bag is also larger so it will support a larger plant.

  8. Brenda
    BrendaAugust 30,12

    Plant nastursiums in the top of the planter. Nastursiums are a great companion plant for tomatoes AND they will cascade around the basket taking away from it’s plain look.

  9. Lisa
    LisaJanuary 8,13

    Yes, much better looking than the Topsy Turvy ones! But, I got some the other day for only $1.50, so I won’t complain too much! These are nice in that they are self-watering too. I am just starting to learn about self-watering containers, and have plans for my old kitty litter pails and storage boxes!

  10. Nixus00
    Nixus00February 1,13

    I really love the idea. I would like to chime in here, however, and offer a slight alternative that gives you the best of both worlds:

    If you can, purchase a slightly larger hanging chain (available at most hardware stores). Now that you have a little more sunlight from the lower hanging basket, add basil to the top half. This not only allows you to grow two plants simultaneously, but it employs a method of companion planting. It’s a well known fact that basil has the potential to boost both the growth rate of the tomato, but also the flavor as well. Furthermore, the basil will shade the top of the planter…thus preventing moisture loss through the topsoil.

    I suggest this because I’ve just recently written an article on companion planting (in which the tomato and basil feature prominently). If you think that it might help your readers, here’s the link to check out:

    I love the idea that you have goin and I hope that you can expand upon it by using the method that I have described above. Take care and have an awesome weekend! I’ll visit the site again soon!

    • Stevie
      StevieFebruary 2,13

      Thanks for the info on companion planting. While I like the idea of growing basil in the top of the planter, the water reserve at the top is essential in hot summer months. It also allows the water to slowly wick into the soil which is much better than the flooding and draining out that was happening in the other planters.To plant the water reserve with basil would take away the effectiveness of this self-watering planter.

  11. Dan "Dirty Hands" Jensen
    Dan "Dirty Hands" JensenFebruary 9,13

    Some great points, My concern has always been finding something strong enough to support the Pots. Especially when you add the weight of the water.

    I’m interested on your views on Yield from Planting them upside down to a regular pot and having them grow upwards?

    Loving the site by the way.

  12. Stevie
    StevieFebruary 10,13

    Hi Dan, the pots I have came with great hardware, the hooks anchor into the roof and the chains are strong. You can buy hooks etc at hardware stores that lists weight load capacity and has installation instructions. Installed properly, there should be no issues.

    It is always better to grow tomatoes in the ground but this project allows you to still get a strong yield of fruit in an otherwise unused space. Sometimes that is the only space available or it allows for extra growing space such as in my case where I have pots below and pots above.

  13. Children Bow Hair
    Children Bow HairFebruary 21,14

    For a submit like that i think you did a really good job.

  14. 27,14

    I go to college in Canada and we just now are learning about this in our class.
    Thanks for helping me with the conclusion of my report.

  15. KyleAnne
    KyleAnneMay 8,14

    I hot-glued an old piece of burlap around the Topsy Turvey for a rustic, natural look!

  16. Stephanie
    StephanieMay 8,14

    great idea KyleAnne! I’d love to see a picture.

  17. cindy
    cindyJune 3,14

    Hi, I have one of these baskets but can’t remember where I got it. Do you know where they are available.

  18. Stephanie
    StephanieJune 17,14

    They were available at Lee Valley but I see they are out of stock now. This one is similar:

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  22. Barbara Clinansmith
    Barbara ClinansmithApril 14,15

    I am so looking forward to using the drip watering method as we are gone several days in the summer. Question: Do you have to use tomato fertilizer as I had bought a big container of Miracle Grow last year? Thank you for the great site.

  23. Karen
    KarenSeptember 13,15

    The stake is a great idea! I planted my tomato yesterday, and sure enough this morning it had curled up into a U shape. Tonight it gets a stake. :) Thanks for the tip.

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