Introduction: How to Plant Hanging Upsidedown Tomatoes

Picture of How to Plant Hanging Upsidedown Tomatoes

Using hanging baskets instead of 5 gallon buckets, I will show you how to grow a hanging tomato plant. There are many instructions online to make hanging tomato plants out of 5 gallon buckets, but I think they are ugly (no offense meant). I had tomatoes in my ground garden last year, but i had a very hard time with tomato bugs. I also had cut throat bugs too. The best solution I could think of was to hand them :)

Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed

You will need the following materials:
-hanging coco basket with a hole in the bottom of the frame
-dirt (more on this later) I used peat moss, manure, and vermiculite
-something to hang it from (I used a Shepard's hook)
-and a tomato plant!!!!

The plant needs to be a baby plant, not one of those huge 1 gallon bucket plants.

Step 2: Cut the Hole

Picture of Cut the Hole

Using very large scissors, cut an "x" shaped hole in the bottom of the coco liner. This is harder them it looks, at least it is if you are female. Try to place the cut so that the basket will support it later if possible.

Step 3: Put the Plant in the Basket

Picture of Put the Plant in the Basket

Next you need to put the tomato plant in the hole. You can put it in plant first, or root first. This plant has a very small root ball, so I put it in root first. one other one I did had a much larger root ball, so I put it in plant first. When you plant tomatoes, put part of the stem int he dirt. I buried the first 2 leaves.

Step 4: Check the Placement of Your Tomato Plant

Picture of Check the Placement of Your Tomato Plant

This step is very important!!!!! Check the placement of your tomato plant. Ensure the stem is not to close to the frame. As you can see my baskets have a cross in the frame under the coco liner. I also have ones with a circle hole with no cross. These with the cross work better. They prevent the cut from opening with the weight of the dirt and water.

Step 5: Hang It Up

Picture of Hang It Up

Be Sure you hang it up now. Do not lay it on the ground or you will smash the baby tomato plant.

Step 6: Mix the Dirt

Picture of Mix the Dirt

Next you can mix your dirt. I do Square Foot Gardening, so I used that mix recipe:
1/3 Vermiculite
1/3 Peat Moss
1/3 Compost or manure

Step 7: Fill the Basket

Picture of Fill the Basket

Fill the basket with your dirt. Be sure to support your tomato stem and root ball by building up the dirt around the plant. Once the plant is supported, fill the rest up. I found it easy to hang the dirt container up next to the basket, that is what the last 2 pictures are showing.

Step 8: Plant the Top of Basket, If You Want

Picture of Plant the Top of Basket, If You Want

This step is optional.
I planted peas in the top of my pot to help as the tomatoes are growing, these will die as soon as it warms up much. I pushed the peas under the surface after I took the pictures.

Step 9: Be Sure to Water.

Picture of Be Sure to Water.

Water your tomato plants every day as they will dry out faster. I placed 3 of mine near the front door so I will see them and remember.


jennystewart (author)2015-07-21

Hi Zoe

Thank you for useful article. Tomato juice is my favorite drink and I have tried to plant a small garden of tomatoes. But this tomato juice is not sweet. As you know, I live in Vietnam, the high temperature of 30 to 40 degrees. Please give me some tips for growing tomatoes in this temperature.

AaronsL (author)jennystewart2016-03-28

Correct me if I am wrong, tomatoes are not sweet, its as vegetable, so don't expect it to be sweet as a fruit. I am from India and the temps are almost the same

rustyfox (author)AaronsL2016-12-02

Sure, I'll correct you. Tomatoes are a fruit. Although that is a technical distinction, tomatoes were first used as a dessert fruit, and only within the past 100 to 130 years started being used in salads etc. My own grandfather used to grow beautiful sweet tomatoes, and we ate them with sugar and cream. We now use them as a vegetable far more than as a fruit, and many varieties now are not very sweet. If you want sweet varieties, many of the 'cherry tomatoes' are sweet. Also old heirloom varieties such as Grosse Lisse are sweeter than modern hybrids.

A fruit or vegetable is determined by what part of the plant it is.

So tomatoes, chillies, and even drumsticks are fruits.

neopolitan (author)jennystewart2015-11-04

just let the tomatoes ripen fully, then cook for an hour with a little salt and sugar. will be very nice

sclpremi (author)2016-03-09

Any alternative to coir baskets? Can palm leaf baskets be used?

Razor 911 (author)2015-10-26

this is so cool i heard of people planting them up side down but could never quite figure it out thanks for the picks and advice

MMZ (author)2008-03-21

Other than space-saving (and avoiding land-based bugs), what is the advantage of growing the tomato plants upside-down? Also, have you had difficulty with any tomatoes falling off the plant as the ripen and gain weight? Also, what types of tomato plants are especially or not good (i.e., climbing vs. bush/patio types). Thanks, MMZ

Slezridr (author)MMZ2009-03-04

MMZ and others: Yes, it is my understanding that bush (determinate) tomato plants are better suited for upside down planting than vining (indeterminate) tomatoes. The reason being that vining tomatoes put more energy into growing plant than fruit and will spread as far as possible. Hence, if your planter is say, four feet off the ground and the plant wants to grow twenty feet, you will be walking on your plants on the ground, patio unless you continually raise the planter to accommodate. Haven't tried this myself yet, just my 2c.

Dilisana (author)Slezridr2015-06-09

I'm going to try wiring a cage to the planter which would be easy to do since it's also made of wire. First if you're worried about the looks, I would spray paint the cage to match the planter. After it dries fit it under the planter and bend up the ends. Next I would add my plant, soil etc. This way as the plant grows you can manipulate the branches through the cage so it doesn't grow so wild looking. Most importantly, it will stabilize the plant. Also, it would help when planting because the tomato plant wouldn't get smashed. Later as the plant grows you can manipulate the branches through the cage wires. Then you'll be able to prune the plant as needed so it doesn't waste its energy growing the plant instead of growing the fruit.
I always prune my vining (indeterminate) plants that are planted inground too. This is just my idea. When I do it I can post photos.

hishealer (author)Slezridr2009-03-31

I agree with goatgirly and slezridr, they are better in the ground. Since I live in an upstairs apartment, I got Early Girl, which is shade tolerant. I found a spot where the plant can hang out of the way and found it gets more sun on my porch than the last one I grew in a bucket. I will send pics if/when it succeeds.

goatgirly (author)MMZ2009-03-17

I don't really think it works. It looks cool and maybe it keeps the fruit from rotting but, the planter shades the plant too much and any fertilizer just runs down when you water it and can cause the poisonous fertilizer to get on your tomato. Even if you wash it the fertilizer could still be there. It's not really a good idea for anyone unless you live in an apartment and just want to grow it on your porch. If you can grow it in the ground you should.

hellmonkey (author)goatgirly2009-05-07

actually, it does work! You need full sun like you would with a normally planted tomato. I just didn't over water or over fertilize and my kids loved eating cherry tomatoes all summer long.

goatgirly (author)hellmonkey2009-06-02

Alright, maybe it works for other people but i planted 5 tomato plants in the ground last year and was OVERRUN with tomatoes so, I'm not changing. I canned them, used them for chili sauce and soups, froze them, gave them away, put them in salads and sandwhiches, and even entered some in the fair.

Broom (author)goatgirly2012-05-28

No one is asking you to change. Why are you asking others to do so?

amethysteria (author)goatgirly2011-01-31

One vote for growing upside down is that the plant gets to spend more of its energy on growing tomatoes than growing strong to hold itself upright

Broom (author)goatgirly2012-05-28

OK, here's a rebuttal.

1. You "think" it doesn't really work. The author is proving it *does* work. You're wrong.

2. The leaves will grow to reach more light. At first they'll have direct light until late morning and after early afternoon, but will quickly grow out to follow the light, and have it day-long.

3. Fertilizer isn't a deadly, deadly poison.

4. If fertilizer runs down when you water it, it's highly water-soluble, and washes off easily.

5. If fertilizer runs down when you water it, you're overwatering.

6. "You should" is a controlling statement. Don't be like that.

DanielSedgwick (author)goatgirly2009-06-09

Works nice..Space issue....Ground is good..or hanging..poisonous...Well what do you grow it in? that's your choice=)

alana (author)MMZ2010-10-25

this method stops the bunnies from eating them.

DanielSedgwick (author)MMZ2009-06-09

looks cool...if they fall off too ripe...compost

kricketone (author)MMZ2009-03-18

No hoeing and easy to keep weeds out.

DirCat (author)MMZ2008-06-19

I've heard that it helps also because you don't have to worry about supporting them with cages and the like.

PurpleKat (author)2012-06-08

I put up two of these this year. I'd always loved the idea of upside down tomatoes, but the 'topsy turvy' thing is so ugly. The planters that you recommended were also cheaper. I planted strawberries on top.

Thanks for the instructable! I'm looking forward to my tomatoes, french zucchinis, and strawberries.

Uncle Kudzu (author)2009-07-22

darn, i thought i invented this :-(

oh, well, i can report success with this method, having planted a 12" basket with a couple of SunGold cherry tomatoes poking through on opposite lower sides of the cocoa liner, with marigolds and basil on top. next time i'll limit it to one tomato plant per basket, but yes, my plants have done very well so far this summer, with no problems from birds or bugs. i pruned them back and fertilized them and am looking forward to more delicious little tomatoes. i will definitely do this again.

one observation: it's amazing how determined the plants are to grow up , reaching for the sun! my plants developed hellaciously strong stems using this method.

another observation: there were too many plants in my basket competing for nutrients: 3 marigolds, a bushy globe basil, and two vigorous, indeterminate tomato plants. next basket will have fewer plants.

hishealer (author)Uncle Kudzu2009-07-24

But I found out it is very important to have a plant on top to keep moisture in. I could NOT keep mine watered and it died, giving all of 2 Early Girls. I don't have enough sun on the top part to keep any plants growing, and added mulch too late, when the plant was already withering, so this may work if done early enough. *cries over my little plant*

Broom (author)hishealer2012-05-28

Thanks for the warning.

Uncle Kudzu (author)hishealer2009-07-24

for my next one, i'll limit the 12" basket to one tomato plant with one globe basil on top. over the last couple of years it seems when i plant basil with my tomatoes there's no problem with hornworms; that could just be coincidence, who knows? now, maybe if i knew how to fertilize for all the stuff that's in my current basket it could better sustain itself. it sure looks nice with all those marigolds and basil on top.

codongolev (author)2009-07-28

better than those hideous green cylinders they sell on tv that are supposed to blend in with your garden somehow. maybe people these days grow green cylinders, I dunno.

Broom (author)codongolev2012-05-28


redsauce (author)2009-08-25

Great idea, though I had a little bit of an experience with it that I'll relate. I did this using a double-hook 'shepherd's crook' design that I purchased from Home Depot. Got home, filled up the 12 inch baskets (one for each side) and the hook immediately bent over pretty far. The baskets were way too heavy (didn't think of that), but I luckily had a perfectly sized clothes-line setup so have used that. Just be careful and know how heavy these are and how bad the basic shepherd's crook is for a two basket setup (or at least the one I bought was.)

MamaSmurf (author)redsauce2012-05-03

My shepherd hooks bent, too. My son placed the brace near the concrete patio and it held better. I also took the tree support that was no longer needed for the tree and used it on the bottom of the pole.

redsauce (author)redsauce2009-08-25

And here's the picture of the clothesline set-up I have now.

suenami (author)2011-05-24

Is it because we don't have opposable thumbs?

tikiwikitikitoo (author)2010-10-09

I've been wanting to grow tomatoes upside down so I'm glad I've found this. I'm sure those green topsy turvy tomato planters do a great job but they are an eye sore. That's a huge problem for those who live in a condo, like myself, and my neighbor was asked to remove hers because of it.

I know that this reply is months after your comment - but I hoped it would make it's way to you anyway. I, myself, have been dreaming of planting tomatos (and other things) upside down for a while now. I had a really difficult time obtaining an upside planter - I first got an off brand from Big Lots with an even louder print than the topsy turvy. Anyway, I did finally find a wide array of Topsy Turvys at my local Home Depot - they even had a hose attachment bell shaped wand, to easily water your upside down plant.

Like you, I've had the same concerns in terms of whether or not the apartment management where I live was going to have a problem with the design on the planter (too bright, etc.). They're pretty layed back here, but still it's a concern. In addition, some of the Topsy Turvy (and knock-offs) seem somewhat flimsy and I wondered whether or not they were going to make it through a second season or if the roots might be able to grow right through them. At $10 a pop for the actual Topsy Turvy - this is a valid concern.

I wanted to let you know about an online company, Gardener's Supply ( that has a really great upside down system (Revolution Planters) as well as numerous wholistic, fabulous looking planting/gardening aids (for both full garden growers and patio growers).

The upside down planters offered by Gardener's supply have several features, including a way to zip and unzip (helpful during planting process), steel wire cages that the bag sits in, and a dark green attractive growing bag. Currently, the Revolution Planters are on sale at a 'Buy One, Get One' price - so you get two of these very sturdy planters for $14.99. I haven't researched it fully, but these are so sturdy that I'm sure you could problaby get at least two years out of them.They also have an 'Aquascale' that you can purchase separately to help you gauge how much to water your tomato (an important concern with any hanging planter).

Anyway . . . for this year I have decided to return my unused Topsy Turvy and to do a lot of research towards getting a more attractive and functional system for next year. I am physically disabled with mobility impairments and the poor little tomato plant didn't fare well with my delays in getting it repotted (I had planned on planting it into a topsy turvy). It seems to have the early blight as all the leaves have darkened and the few flower buds are also very dark. Sorry little tomato :-(.

I have enough to do right now anyway. I would like to research how to grow Campari Tomatos in an upside planter for next year, as they are my favorite tomato. I may go ahead and get the Gardener's Supply system - while it's on sale - and that way I'll be all ready for early Spring next year. Best of luck on your upside down tomato venture and on all of your gardening forays :-).

mcaliber.50 (author)2011-05-15

how would gender effect the difficulty of this exactly?

Nick_Zouein (author)2011-04-03

What to do with the roots when they start growing out of the soil ?

auntienursey (author)2010-06-27

Hi,I bought 4 planters on sale for $3.99 each and have set them up using the advice given here. I'm not sure I've got the soil mix right, but, only time will tell. I used newspaper to "anchor" the plant inside the "x" to try and insure the plant wouldn't fall out. I'm currently using plastic wrap to create a green house on the top to try and keep moisture in, but the herb/flower idea sounds great. I have been lucky so far this season that I have been able to remove the wrap when it was raining and putting it back after it stopped. When I picked the plants up at the green house I grabbed a summer squash plant by mistake and decided to plant it like the rest as I figured I had nothing to lose. We'll see how it goes. Thanks for all the good ideas.

myowndenouement (author)2010-05-03

my friend and i used this method and it. worked. amazingly! it was cheap, very quick and has brightened up our backyard significantly. thank you!

appieh58 (author)2010-04-25

This is a great tip.
I found a video about upside down tomatoes.
You can watch it on my website. Its only a few minutes and very instructable.

zenilorac (author)2010-04-23

gardening tip- push the plants through leaf-first, not root first as  plants with damaged leaves will still grow,  damage roots however may kill the plant.

teraharvey (author)2010-02-26

I have been trying to grow tomatoes upside down for the last 3 years and have gotten a bit better each year but I would seem to have problems with drying out and blight. Last year another gardener told me about making sure there was alot of vermiculite at the top of the bucket (at the top when upside down) -this is to keep the moisture where the drinking roots of the tomato tend to be - they are generally deeper when grown the right way up but at the top of the upside down planter.

So I would stress the importance of point 6 - mixing the compost with vermiculite. This tip really seemd to bring my crop on last season. This site I found has a couple of informative articles on this whole subject of growing tomatoes upside down -

Anianna (author)teraharvey2010-04-23

I would just like to add that horticultural vermiculite can be difficult to find in many locations.  If you can not find horticultural vermiculite, pearlite is easier to find and performs the same basic function, though the vermiculite does it better in my opinion.  Keep in mind that the peat moss also helps with moisture balance.

I was determined to use the SFG mix in my gardening and it took me three years to get a local lawn and garden shop to carry it in the bulk size and now the local Lowes carries the small bags that would be sufficient for a hanging planter. 

atombomb1945 (author)2010-04-13

Granted, I am just trying this out this year, but one thing that I do really well is researching something before I do it.  I have seen a lot of sites that, when using a 5 gal bucket, suggest leaving the lid on the top, and cutting a hole in it.  Until I saw all the posts about the dirt drying out, I couldn't figure out what that was for.  I would imagine that even with a regular basket, you could still put a lid or cover on it with a hole for watering on top. 

1-2BGardening (author)2010-04-11

I love this concept and hope to implement it this year. For the person who wanted a solution for what to do about water while away...I think one could prop a soda bottle with tiny holes in it to "self" water a bit while away for a couple of days maybe??? For the people concerned about fertilizer dripping on the plant... use organic types like worm poo (okay okay...castings!) or compost tea. You can even spray either on the plants. I've heard that the worm castings even provide some deterrent to pests. Google and you'll find plenty of advice on how to "make" your own.

marysaint (author)2009-10-22

I just wanted to let you know how successful we were - actually my husband.  We live in Florida and he started this in August, our hottest month.  He is now going through his 3rd yield and it appears that there is another one coming.  He did have to hang it from the overhang because the shepherd's hook wasn't strong enough.  He waters them 2 times a day and fertilizes them regularly also.  He has had plenty to share with family and friends.  So with all that...Thank you. 

samg1965 (author)2009-07-22

I am glad I found this!!! I have no gardening experience, but want to start a small garden on my deck. I was considering the very same method for hanging tomatoes. I agree that this is more decorative that the Topsy Turvy. I do have three questions.... 1)What is the minimum basket size required to adequately soil the root system? I've seen these baskets in 12", 14", 16", etc.... I have space limitations so the smaller the better, however, I want them to be productive. 2)Do standard tomatoes require larger basket capacity than cherry tomatoes? 3)I also thought it might be decorative to plant basil out of the top of the basket while the tomatoes hang thru the bottom. Is this advisable or will the roots choke one another??? Thanks for the ideas and feedback!!!

patchouli71 (author)2009-05-19

I hate to say this, but the Topsy Turvy product is only about ten dollars. Not much of an investment. Unless you're attempting to re purpose some materials you have laying around, the by all means do it. I have one Topsy Turvy and four hanging baskets currently growing and have to admit that TT gets the best grade!

macrumpton (author)patchouli712009-06-26

The TT might work better, but I think this method (especially with the herb garden on top) is much more decorative.

luv2homestead (author)2009-03-02

I was wondering if you ended up having enough dirt for roots in the end. What size hanging planter did you use? What is the purpose of planting the peas - what is the benefit to the tomato plants? Thanks!

hishealer (author)luv2homestead2009-03-20

I think I'll do this with basil plants on top. They do add to the taste of the tomatoes and both take the same fertilizer.

About This Instructable




More by zoe_roses:how to plant hanging upsidedown tomatoes
Add instructable to: