How Long Does It Take Tomatoes To Grow After Flowers?

How Long Does It Take Tomatoes To Grow After Flowers?

I love growing tomatoes during summer and always have a few different tomato varieties on the go in my garden. But, if you’re new to homegrown tomatoes you might ask “How long does it take tomatoes to grow after flowers?”

The answer to this question is not cut and dried. It can depend on various environmental factors such as the weather and the temperature as well as the variety of tomatoes you’re growing.

Before we discuss these varying factors, let’s first understand the life cycle of a tomato plant.

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Understanding The Life Cycle Of A Tomato Plant

tomato plant flowers

A tomato plant always starts off as a tiny seed. Even if you purchased tomato seedlings from your local nursery, these will have most likely been grown from seed.

In saying that, you can actually grow tomatoes from cuttings and I’ve done this myself and have written an article about it. I’ve also recently learnt that commercially produced tomato plants can be grafted. You can even find these available at garden centers now. The benefit of this is to produce a healthier plant with more disease resistance and a bumper harvest.

But, even grafted tomatoes will start with a seedling that’s either grown from a seed or a cutting.

For this explanation, let’s just focus on tomatoes grown from tomato seeds. 

When the seed germinates, it will produce two leaves that are nothing like a normal tomato leaf. These are commonly referred to as seed leaves or cotyledons.

After these leaves appear, the plant will start to produce true leaves and a stem. Now, we need to differentiate between the type of tomato that we’re growing. There are determinate and indeterminate tomatoes and these have different growth patterns.

Determinate Tomatoes

tomato plant with ripe and unripe fruit

Determinate tomatoes are commonly known as bush tomatoes as they have a fairly compact growth habit. The main stem will only grow to a certain height before it stops growing and starts to produce tomato flowers.

It’s also not common for determinate tomatoes to produce lateral stems. This makes them ideal for growing in pots and many are marketed as patio tomatoes.

Another unique thing about determinate tomatoes is that they will usually produce their fruit all at once. So, you’ll have a whole bunch of ripe tomatoes at the same time. 

However, if you’re lucky, like I was last year when I grew some Roma tomatoes, you might get a second flush of tomato fruit later in the season.

These types of tomatoes are usually the quickest to produce ripe fruits after flowering. I have a patio tomato growing in a pot and it produced tomatoes well before the indeterminate varieties that are growing in the ground.

The only drawback of these is that you won’t get nearly as many juicy fruits as you would with indeterminate varieties.

Indeterminate Tomatoes

tomato vine with lots of green fruits

Indeterminate tomatoes can also be referred to as vining tomatoes because their main stem just keeps growing. In addition to that, tomato vines also produce lots of lateral stems that can grow just as extensively.

Lateral stems are those that grow as side shoots off the main stem at the junction where a leaf is attached to the stem.

The only drawback with these varieties is that they’ll require a bit more maintenance than determinate tomatoes.

Because the main stem will just continue to grow as high as you let it, it will need to be staked. This is because, when the stem is full of fruit, it can easily bend over from all that weight. This could result in it breaking or your fruit sitting on the ground.

The other important thing that you have to do is pinch out all those lateral stems. And, there’s a very important reason for this. You want to encourage your plant to start flowering and producing fruit. But, if you let the lateral stems grow, it will put all its energy into growing those stems.

I usually just pinch out the lateral stems with my thumb and forefinger. This is really easy when the laterals are just starting to grow. But, if you’ve missed one or two, you can just snip them off with a pair of secateurs. 

While this might seem like a bit of work, it’s well worth it because you’ll encourage your plant to flower and produce fruit. This means you’ll be rewarded with a continuous bumper crop.

Tomato Flowering And Fruiting

tomato plant with both flowers and fruit

Once your tomato plant starts to flower, you’ll know that the fruit won’t be far behind. Although all flowers need to be pollinated for successful fruit production, many common tomato varieties are self-pollinating. This means that you don’t have to worry about the bees coming along and doing the job for you.

If you take a close look at a bunch of perfect flowers, you should be able to see the tiny green fruit as the flower matures. These tiny fruits come from the female parts of the flower. The female part of the flower is commonly known as the ovary.

So, now the waiting game begins. Not only do you have to wait for the green fruit to reach mature size, but you also have to be patient as the fruit starts to change colour as it ripens.

And, ripe tomatoes aren’t just red. You can get yellow ones, orange ones and even stripey green ones.

The ripening of tomatoes is influenced by two factors. The temperature and the presence of ethylene gas. The perfect temperature for ripening tomatoes is a minimum of around 20 degrees Celsius or 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, that’s why we mostly grow tomatoes in our garden during summer. Or, in heated greenhouses or by using row covers in cooler areas. 

On the other hand, ethylene gas is a hormone that is produced by the tomatoes themselves. It’s also commonly found in many other fruits.

Tomato Growth And Ripening Time

truss of ripe red tomatoes on a vine

So, how long does it take for tomatoes to grow and ripen once the plant is flowering? As I mentioned, the time can vary quite significantly depending on the tomato variety.

Essentially, smaller varieties such as cherry tomatoes, can reach maturity in around 30 days. You’ll also find that they’ll ripen in stages even when they’re on the same truss.

On the other hand, larger varieties may take as long as 60 to 80 days to ripen fully after flowering has commenced.

It usually takes between 3 to 5 weeks for tomatoes to reach full size. After that, they’ll start to ripen and change colour.

Can You Speed Up The Ripening Process?

five tomatoes of various sizes sitting on a sunny windowsill

You can certainly speed up the ripening process by taking some green tomatoes that have reached their mature size and placing them in a brown paper bag with a ripening banana.

The banana will produce the ethylene gas to help finish the ripening process. I’ve even had success by putting semi-ripe tomatoes on a sunny windowsill and within a couple of days, they’re fully ripe.

You can also use this method at the end of the season if you still have a bunch of unripe tomatoes.

How To Care For Your Tomatoes For Optimum Fruit Production

Indigo rose tomato plant

There are two things your tomato plants need for optimum fruit production. Plenty of water and adequate amounts of fertiliser.

Tomatoes are thirsty plants and need plenty of moisture to grow well. In summer, if we haven’t had any rain, I will water my tomato plants at least daily with a good soaking, especially if we’re experiencing high temperatures.

Before planting my tomatoes, I like to add lots of compost to the garden beds. I make my own compost, so there’s always plenty available for me to use. This is usually enough for my tomato plants to produce a good harvest.

However, if you don’t have a ready supply of compost, you’ll need to supplement your plants with an organic commercial fertiliser. Choose one that has almost equal amounts of nitrogen and potassium for optimum flower production and ripe fruit growth.

Of course, tomatoes aren’t without their issues but if they’re growing in rich, well-drained soil and ideal conditions you shouldn’t have too many problems with fungal diseases. Just remember to only water your plants at the soil level and avoid getting the leaves wet.

Frequently Asked Questions

How quickly do tomatoes grow?

Depending on the variety, you can wait anywhere from 30 to 60, or more, days for your tomatoes to grow to full size and perfect ripeness once you see the small yellow flowers appear.

How can I make my tomatoes grow faster?

One trick to making your tomato plants grow faster is to warm up the soil by placing some black plastic around the base of your plants. 

Does picking tomatoes make more grow?

If you pick your delicious tomatoes when they’re just ripe, chances are the plant will produce more fruit because it can shift its energy into this rather than further ripening the fruit already present.

Can you speed up the ripening process while the fruits are still on the vine?

Yes, it’s possible to speed up the ripening and colour change process by removing any excess foliage so that the plant puts all its energy into ripening the fruit. I commonly remove many of the lower leaves of my tomato plants to encourage more crop production and faster ripening.

Final Thoughts

The amount of time it takes for tomatoes to grow and ripen after flowering will depend on the variety that you’re growing. Many small varieties will have fruit ready to eat within thirty days while some of the larger varieties may take 60 to 80 days to ripen fully.

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