If you’ve considered growing your own food, then you’ve likely heard that cherry tomato plants are some of the most convenient edible plants that you can raise. However, not many people fully understand how quickly these plants can produce the delicious cherry tomatoes for which they are so well known.
In this article, we’ll give you a succinct answer as to how long it takes for cherry tomatoes to ripen. We’ll also walk you through the main growth stages of these plants to give you a better idea of how long the entire process takes. Before we conclude, we’ll also answer some of the most pressing questions that gardeners have about growing cherry tomato plants.
The Ripening Process for Cherry Tomato Plants
After the successful pollination of a cherry tomato plant’s flower, it will take around 30 days for the fruit to ripen to a harvestable stage. During those 30 days, the cherry tomatoes will first appear small and green before they begin growing and changing color.
As the ripening process unfolds, the cherry tomatoes will become softer and slowly transition from green to a more colorful hue. Some cherry tomatoes, depending on the tomato variety, will ripen into an orange or yellow color. However, most common cherry tomatoes will have a deep red color when they are ready for harvest.
The Typical Life Cycle for Cherry Tomato Plants
While the short answer to how long it takes to ripen cherry tomatoes is about 30 days, this prediction does not paint a complete picture of how long it takes to raise a tomato plant from seed to a harvestable form.
We’d like to give you a clearer idea of how long it will take for you to receive some tasty cherry tomatoes from your plants. To do that, we’ll need to explain the main stages of a cherry tomato plant’s life cycle. In the next sections, we’ll describe what takes place during those stages and give you an indication of how long they take.
The first step when growing a cherry tomato plant, assuming you are not starting with transplants, is to plant cherry tomato seeds. Most people who live in the United States will need to start their seeds indoors at a constant room temperature, as outdoor temperature changes will not allow your cherry tomato plant to develop properly.
Usually, it’s a good idea to plant your cherry tomato seeds about six weeks before the final frost date in your area. Of course, you’ll need to study the specific time frame in which the last frost date occurs in your area to get the timing right.
In most cases, it will take just five to ten days for your cherry tomato seed to germinate and send a shoot out of the soil. Once this occurs, your plant has entered its seedling stage.
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Once your cherry tomato plant enters the seedling stage, it will begin to grow taller, develop leaves, and produce a root system that will fuel the plant during its continued growth. You’ll likely want to keep your cherry tomato seedling indoors for much of the seedling stage. However, if the outdoor temperatures in your area rise and remain above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you have the option to transplant your seedling outdoors.
Your goal during the seedling stage is to keep your plant healthy enough so that it continues to grow and eventually produces a flower. The time it takes for your tomato plant to create a flower will vary. However, many seedlings will start to bloom after about three to six weeks of growth.
When your cherry tomato plant seedling reaches the flowering stage, it will produce a set of star-shaped yellow flowers. Once those flowers bloom, your next task is to ensure that they become pollinated. Without pollination, the fruit development stage for your plant will never occur.
If you live in an area that permits you to grow your tomato plant outdoors during the flowering stage, you may be able to rely on the wind or insects to conduct pollination. However, for a more surefire way of ensuring pollination, you should pollinate your cherry tomato plants by hand.
Fortunately, cherry tomato plants are self-pollinating, meaning that they have both male and female reproductive structures on a single plant. As such, you won’t need to have two plants in order to produce tomatoes. The pollination stage for a cherry tomato plant is not necessarily long, but it is crucial to your plant’s development.
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If you managed to raise your cherry tomato plant through the previous stages we just mentioned, all that is left to do is wait for the fruits to develop. After pollination, the yellow flowers will give way to small green fruits. As mentioned earlier, the ripening fruit will take about 30 days before they are ripe and ready to eat.
Now that you know how long it takes to ripen a cherry tomato and how long it takes for these plants to move through their other growth stages, you can estimate how long the process will take from start to finish. Based on the information above, we estimate that it will take about 10 to 12 weeks for your cherry tomato seed to become a plant that is ready for harvest.
Which cherry tomato varieties will ripen into the best flavor?
Unlike large tomatoes, cherry tomatoes are usually the sweetest when they have had a chance to reach their full ripeness. There are many different types of cherry tomatoes, and each one has its own unique flavor. These are our top 5 favorites:
- Sun Sugar: This variety is bright orange and extremely sweet. It’s perfect for snacking on or using in salads.
- Sungold: This yellow cherry tomato is one of the earliest to mature, and is known for its sweet flavor. It’s great for eating fresh or using in salsas and sauces.
- Sweet 100: A classic cherry tomato, Sweet 100 is bright red and very sweet. It’s perfect for eating fresh or using in salads and sandwiches. A good choice for those who want to grow their own tomatoes but don’t have a lot of space.
- Sugar Plum: A purple cherry tomato, Sugar Plum is slightly sweeter than other varieties. It’s perfect for snacking on or using in salads or salsas.
- Black Cherry: A black cherry tomato, Black Cherry is one of the sweetest and most unique varieties available. It’s perfect for eating fresh or using in salads, salsas, or sauces.
FAQs About Ripening Cherry Tomatoes
Now that we have covered the ripening process and the growth cycle of a cherry tomato plant let’s cover some of the other concerns that people have when growing these plants. Below are a few of the most important questions people ask about cherry tomatoes and their ripening process.
Ripe cherry tomatoes will look different depending on which specific tomato variety you grow. Most cherry tomatoes that are ripe will be bright red. However, there are other varieties that produce yellow or orange tomatoes. Some even produce tomatoes that are so dark that they are nearly purple. Regardless of color, when a cherry tomato is ready for harvest, it will be about one to two inches across and firm to the touch.
If your tomatoes are fully ripe, they will be incredibly easy to harvest. Ripe tomatoes will release from the plant with a simple tug. The real key is to wait until the tomatoes are fully ripe, which will not happen at the same time for all the tomatoes your plant produces. Once you identify a ripe tomato on your plant, use your hand to gently pull it off the plant.
The best way to speed up the ripening process for your cherry tomatoes is to give them the ideal growing conditions. Mainly, you should ensure that your plants receive plenty of direct sunlight and that they are not exposed to cold temperatures. There are a few other tips you can use to make a tomato plant ripen faster. However, most of the ripening speed for your plant will come down to proper care and maintenance throughout all the growth stages.
The driving force behind the cherry tomato ripening process is a gas called ethylene. When tomatoes produce ethylene, the chemical alters the appearance and quality of the fruit. Ethylene gas causes a color change in tomatoes and leads to the creation of sugars and acids that contribute to the flavor and texture of a cherry tomato.
Ripening tomatoes off the vine can be a viable option for some tomato varieties. In fact, many people have developed methods, including storing tomatoes in a paper bag, to quicken the off the vine ripening process. However, cherry tomatoes do not tend to ripen on the vine as much as other varieties. Instead, it is better to wait until the cherry tomato is fully ripe before you remove it. Harvesting unripe tomatoes too soon will likely detract from their overall texture and flavor.
The ripening characteristics of a cherry tomato can vary a bit from tomatoes of other varieties. Generally, smaller tomatoes, like cherry tomatoes, will ripen much faster and sooner in the growing season. By contrast, standard-sized tomatoes will not be ready to eat until later in the season. Cherry tomatoes and other tomatoes also have different abilities to ripen off of the vine, which should influence when you choose to harvest them.
One of the most frustrating things about gardening is when your plants don’t produce fruit. You put all that time and effort into growing healthy plants, and then you end up with a big bunch of green tomatoes. If your cherry tomatoes are staying green, there are a few possible explanations. One reason could be that they’re not getting enough sun. Tomatoes need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, so make sure they’re in a sunny spot. Another possibility is that the soil is too cold. Tomatoes won’t start to turn red until the soil temperature consistently stays above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, it could simply be that your tomatoes haven’t had enough time to ripen. Be patient and give them a few more days.
One way to get your tomatoes to turn red is by using a ripe banana. Bananas emit ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening process. Simply place a banana peel or two in the bottom of a paper bag, add your unripe fruits, seal the bag tightly and leave on your kitchen counter. Check on the tomatoes after a few days, and once they’ve turned red, remove them from the bag and enjoy.
Cherry tomatoes are plants that you can grow even if you don’t have the most gardening experience. One of the best parts of growing these plants is that they don’t take too long to produce a viable harvest. Just about 30 days after successful pollination of their flowers, a cherry tomato plant will reward you with some tasty tomatoes that you are sure to enjoy.
John Haryasz ist freiberuflicher Autor und Landschaftsarchitekt. Auf dem Gebiet der Landschaftsarchitektur hat er zu vielen erfolgreichen Designprojekten im ganzen Land beigetragen. Als Autor ist John auf die Erstellung fesselnder und informativer Webinhalte spezialisiert. Durch diese Arbeit möchte er sein Designwissen teilen und das Engagement für die Outdoor-Welt fördern.