Looking to add a tasty, larger-sized cherry tomato plant to your garden? So was I. And my favorite is the Black Cherry tomato.
The Black Cherry is a high-yielding, indeterminate variety, and the fruits deliver a wonderful combination of size, color, and flavor.
Quick facts: Buy plants at your local nursery or start your seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost. Harden off and plant outdoors in well-draining soil and full sun when there is no risk for frost. Black Cherry tomato plants are indeterminate and must be staked and pruned. Water your plants regularly and harvest when the tomatoes are dark-purple in color.
Black Cherry fruits are larger than your average cherry tomato, and the flavor gives any Heirloom variety a run for its money. And then we have the color – this dark, almost black or purple to dark-red hue with a delightful marbling.
As I am sure you can tell, I like to grow Black Cherry tomatoes. And if you have room on your balcony or in your garden, I highly recommend you grow a plant or two. You will not be disappointed.
- Not Convinced? Why You Should Grow Black Cherry Tomatoes.
- Preparing Your Soil for Tomatoes
- Start with Quality Seeds or Plants
- When and How to Start Your Black Cherry Tomato Seeds
- Caring for the Tomato Seedlings
- Transplanting Seedlings into Nursery Pots
- Caring for the Black Cherry Tomato Plant
- 1. Temperature
- 2. Hardening Off Tomato Plants
- 3. Light Requirements
- 4. Pot, Container, Grow Bag, or In-ground
- 5. Staking Indeterminate Tomato Plants Early
- 6. Watering Tomato Plants
- 7. Pruning Indeterminate Tomato Plants
- 8. Fertilizing Black Cherry Tomato Plants
- 9. Black Cherry Tomato Plants: Pests and Diseases
- 10. Companion Planting
- Troubleshooting Common Issues
- Harvesting Black Cherry Tomatoes
- Storing and Using Your Harvest
- Conclusion: Key Points to Remember
Not Convinced? Why You Should Grow Black Cherry Tomatoes.
The Black Cherry Tomato is not your average cherry tomato.
I do not like to use the word “unique.” After all, all plants are unique. But I will say that the combination of being relatively beginner-friendly while delivering such a strong flavor profile is, well, let’s say, “special”.
The flavor is richer than your typical snack-sized cherry tomato. And don’t get me wrong. I love to grow all types of cherry tomatoes, but the Black Cherry is a cherry tomato and more.
I will give you an example: The plant is high-yielding, and at the height of harvest time, I use the fruits to make tomato sauce.
The color is an added bonus and adds interest to any garden, salad, or dish. Look at my photos as they show it much better than any words can describe.
And these are real life photos from my garden using a my mobile phone. No editing, enhancing or photo-shopping.
Black Cherry tomatoes are larger than your typical snack-sized cherry tomatoes. The skin is slightly thicker, making the fruits perfect for grilling. I do not know if their size makes them juicier. But I will say that the flavor is unusually complex for a cherry tomato.
Before we get into the growing part, let’s take a step back and prepare for success.
Preparing Your Soil for Tomatoes
Black Cherry tomatoes can be grown in pots, containers, grow bags, or in-ground. Regardless, ensure you start with fertile, well-draining soil rich in organic matter.
- Well-draining soil: Tomato plants do not like to sit in wet soil. Adding soil amendments like perlite or coarse sand can help improve drainage and aeration.
- Fertile soil: Tomato plants are heavy feeders. Adding a well-balanced fertilizer, compost, or well-rotted manure will boost the nutrient content of your soil.
- Moisture-retention of soil: Your soil needs to hold moisture to avoid dry-outs and the need for constant watering. Soil amendments like vermiculite help retain soil moisture and aeration.
- Soil pH level: pH is directly linked to how easy it is for the roots to absorb the nutrients in your soil.  You want slightly acidic soil in the range of pH 6.2-6.7. You can buy inexpensive soil pH kits if you are unsure about your soil’s pH.
To sum it up: Focus on giving your plants fertile, well-draining soil with good moisture retention. If you are worried about pH levels, buy a kit and test your soil.
From my experience, it is usually enough to focus on drainage, moisture retention and feeding your plants. Worry about pH if you see stunted growth or leaf discoloration.
Start with Quality Seeds or Plants
Give yourself the best possible start and buy quality seeds or starter plants from a reputable supplier.
Tomato seeds have a high germination rate, and you can expect first leaves in 5-10 days. You want seeds that are yellow to light-brown and uniform in size.
If you buy starter plants at a local nursery, look for strong, compact plants with fresh new growth. If possible, remove the pot and inspect the root system. You want an evenly distributed network of roots. Move on if the plant shows signs of being pot-pound.
When and How to Start Your Black Cherry Tomato Seeds
Black Cherry tomatoes are indeterminate and vigorous growers. This is also why I choose to start my seeds about 4 weeks before the last expected frost.
I wait even though most seed packets will tell you to start seeds 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost. And this may suit you, especially if you garden in a climate where first dates are firm. But for me, it’s a no-no.
I do not want to risk caring for large plants indoors (again).
I have, on more than one occasion, found myself waiting for the weather to turn favorable.
Days will be warm, but the cold dips at night will be well below 10 degrees Celsius / 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
And as I wait, the plants grow bigger, and suddenly, my house is overtaken by 1-meter-tall tomato plants growing indoors.
This is not an ideal situation.
Instead, I wait a few more weeks. It works better for me (and my family).
Now that we have covered the when, let’s look at the how. This is more straightforward.
How to start Black Cherry tomato seeds
- Fill small pots or seed trays with pre-moistened potting soil or seed-starting mix.
- Plant seeds 0.5 cm / 1/4 inch deep and mist lightly.
- Cover the pot with plastic or a dome to retain moisture.
- Place in a warm spot, 22-25 degrees Celsius / 72-77 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mist the pots regularly to maintain even soil moisture.
- Expect to see the first leaves sprouting in 5-10 days.
- Remove the cover and move the pots to a cooler spot (18-20 Celsius/65-68 Fahrenheit) when you see the first leaves.
- Place in a location with plenty of natural light or use a grow light
Here in zone 7, I use grow lights as my window sills do not provide enough natural sunlight in early spring.
Do not give up if your tomato seedlings grow leggy. Tomatoes are transplanted deeper than they grow, and leggy seedlings can be rescued.
You can find the seed-starting tools I use and recommend here.
Caring for the Tomato Seedlings
Seedlings are delicate and need proper care to develop. Focus your attention on light, water, nutrition, and climate.
Light: Seedlings need plenty of light to grow strong and compact. If you rely on natural sunlight, aim for a minimum of 8 hours daily. If you use grow lights, keep the light about 3 cm / 1 inch above the seedlings and set the timer to 16 hours on and 8 hours of darkness.
Your seedlings will grow tall and spindly, or “leggy”, if they do not get enough light. If your seedlings start flopping over, increase their exposure to light.
Watering: Maintain even soil moisture. Do not overwater to be kind. You will drown your seedlings if you overwater and the roots sit in wet soil.
Nutrition: When I see two pairs of true leaves, I add half the recommended dose of a well-balanced liquid organic fertilizer. This is especially important if you use a soil-less seed starting mix,
Climate: Avoid drafts and sudden shifts in temperature. Try to maintain a stable growing environment.
As your seedlings grow, they will soon need more space. Let’s demystify transplanting tomato seedlings.
Transplanting Seedlings into Nursery Pots
When you see at least two pairs of true leaves, it is time to start thinking about transplanting your seedlings into nursery pots.
But there is no need to rush this step. You can safely wait for roots to show through the drainage holes before moving your seedlings to a bigger pot.
Nursery pots come in different sizes, but I prefer to use 10 cm / 4-inch nursery pots for the first transplant for all my tomato plants. You can, of course, use any pot or container you have as long as they have drainage holes.
And I should add that I am a stickler for using food-safe plastic. My choice, you should do what you feel comfortable with.
Transplanting seedlings is not complicated. Follow the steps outlined below or watch the video.
- Fill 3/4 of your nursery with pre-moistened fertile potting soil.
- Squeeze the pot or cell holding the seedling gently.
- Lift the seedling by grabbing one of the first leaves.
- Cut the first leaves.
- Plant the seedling deep in the nursery pot, all the way up to the first pair of true leaves.
- Fill the nursery pot; avoid leaf-to-soil contact.
- Water to help settle the soil.
The key is to plant the seedling deeper than it was growing. Tomato plants develop new roots from the buried stem. This is a great way to save leggy seedlings.
Potting up is a process where you gradually increase the pot size for your growing tomato plants. And after a few more pot-ups, the day will come when it is time to move your tomato plants outdoors.
Caring for the Black Cherry Tomato Plant
And then, one day, it is time to start planning to move your plants outdoors.
Yes, this step does require some planning to give your plants the best possible start.
Start planning to move your tomato plants outdoors when the daily minimum temperature hits a minimum of 15 degrees Celsius / 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
But you cannot just move the plants outdoors and expect them to thrive. It is oh-so-important to acclimatize your plants to their new outdoor growing environment gradually.
2. Hardening Off Tomato Plants
This step is important and easy – yet often skipped completely,
Hardening off means gradually introducing your plants to their new growing environment. Typically, this process lasts for about a week, and all you do is move plants back and forth.
It can look something like this.
- Let your plants spend a few hours in the shade on days 1 and 2.
- Introduce indirect sunlight on days 3 and 4.
- Increase time and exposure to light from day 5 and onward.
This process helps the plant to get used to wind, sunlight, changes in temperature, humidity, and a whole range of other factors that are different outdoors.
3. Light Requirements
Black Cherry tomatoes prefer warm conditions and full sun to thrive. Ensure your plants get at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.
I do not grow indeterminate tomato varieties indoors. If you do, make sure you can provide sufficient light during the darker months of the year.
4. Pot, Container, Grow Bag, or In-ground
Indeterminate tomatoes do not have to grow in-ground. But, of course, in-ground planting allows for more expansive root systems by design.
But I have grown Black Cherry plants in both containers and grow bags with great success.
The key is to ensure that there is enough space for root growth and development. Aim for a minimum of 20 liters / 5 gallons.
Related: There are several advantages to growing tomatoes in grow bags.
5. Staking Indeterminate Tomato Plants Early
Black Cherry Tomatoes are indeterminate, which means they grow tall, as in 2 meters / 6 feet and more.
Stake your plants early to provide support and prevent plants from falling over and stems from breaking.
It may look silly with tall stakes and small plants. But trust me, the plants will grow, and in only a couple of weeks, they will catch up.
6. Watering Tomato Plants
Tomatoes are thirsty, and consistent watering is key. But consistency does not necessarily mean every day all season long.
Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged or wet.
Make it a habit to water deeply and less frequently. And always water at the base of the plant.
7. Pruning Indeterminate Tomato Plants
Prune your Black Cherry tomato plants to increase airflow and control growth. Plants that are left to grow dense are much more susceptible to fungal diseases and mold.
I prune my indeterminate plants in three different ways;
- Suckers: I remove suckers as they appear. I cut or pinch them.
- Bottom pruning: I remove all side stems from the bottom 30 cm / 1 foot on all mature plants.
- Top pruning: I prune all new tops when the growing season is coming to an end.
Pruning suckers makes sense. We do not want our plants to waste energy on non-fruit-producing growth.
Bottom pruning is more about form and structure. I want one central main stem. Not a dense growing myriad of side stems and branches.
And yes, I have tried letting plants grow "wild." There was no increase in yield, but I did experience problems with fungal diseases and mildew.
Top pruning is all about helping fruits mature on the vine before the season is over. When I see flowers in August, I know there is not enough time left for fruits to form and mature. I prune this new growth to help the plant use its energy to ripen existing fruit.
Related: Read my guide to pruning tomatoes for home gardeners.
8. Fertilizing Black Cherry Tomato Plants
I fertilize my tomato plants every two weeks.
When it comes to tomato plants and nutrients, you can choose the easy or the ambitious route:
Easy: Use a water-soluble balanced liquid fertilizer to give your plants the essential macro and micronutrients.
- Balanced Fertilizers: A balanced fertilizer, like an NPK 10-10-10 or 14-14-14, ensures that while the plant gets enough nitrogen (N), it also receives enough phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and micronutrients like Calcium and Magnesium.
Ambitious: Here, we tailor the nutrients to the plant’s different growth stages.
During the initial vegetative stage, tomato plants focus on developing stems and foliage. At this stage, they require more nitrogen to support this rapid growth.
- Nitrogen-rich fertilizers promote healthy leaf and stem growth. Look for fertilizers with a higher first number in the N-P-K ratio (e.g., 24-6-12). Examples include fish emulsion, blood meal, and synthetic fertilizers designed for the vegetative growth phase.
During the Flowering and Fruiting Stages, the emphasis is on flower production, fruit set, and fruit development.
- Phosphorus-rich fertilizers support strong flower and fruit development. Look for fertilizers with a higher second number in the N-P-K ratio (e.g., 5-10-5). Bone meal is a popular organic source of phosphorus.
- Potassium-rich fertilizers ensure the overall vitality of the plant and improve fruit quality. Wood ash and kelp meal are organic sources of potassium.
- Lower Nitrogen: While you still want some nitrogen, too much at this stage can promote foliage growth over fruit production. Switch to a fertilizer with a lower first number in the N-P-K ratio.
- Using a water-soluble fertilizer helps the soil absorb the nutrients and prevents root burn.
- It’s a good practice to check soil pH and nutrient levels periodically. Soil pH levels have a direct link to nutrient uptake. 
- Over-fertilizing is almost worse than under-fertilizing. After all, you can always add, but it is hard to remove what has already been given. Follow recommended application rates, and if anything, give less than recommended, not more.
Related: Read my guide to fertilizing tomatoes for ambitous home gardeners.
9. Black Cherry Tomato Plants: Pests and Diseases
Monitor for common tomato pests and diseases like aphids, blight, and tomato hornworms. Early detection and intervention are crucial.
I am mostly troubled by leaf miners, aphids, and leaf hoppers. Find the 7 most common pests and diseases below.
- Tomato Hornworm: Large green caterpillars with a horn-like tail. If left unchecked, they can eat large quantities of leaves and even fruit. Easy to spot and remove from plants.
- Aphids: Small, pear-shaped insects that can be green, black, brown, yellow, or red. Aphids suck sap from the plant, leaving a trail of curled and yellowing leaves. Spray with water to knock them off the plant or introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs. Soap or Neem oil water solutions can also be effective.
- Early Blight: Dark spots with concentric rings on older leaves. Yellowing may occur around the spots. Early blight causes leaves to turn yellow and drop off. It can also affect fruit. Remove and destroy infected leaves. Use fungicides, rotate crops, and avoid getting leaves wet when watering.
The term "concentric rings" is a school book description that basically means that the rings form a bullseye shape as the disease spreads outward in a circular pattern from the initial point of infection. Think rings on water.
- Late Blight: Dark spots on leaves, stems, and fruit. White mold can appear under humid conditions. Serious and will kill your plants. Spreads easily under humid conditions. Remove and destroy affected plants. Apply fungicides, avoid getting leaves wet when watering, and prune plants to ensure good air circulation.
- Fusarium Wilt: Yellowing and wilting of leaves, usually on one side of the plant. Causes plants to wilt and die. Remove and destroy affected plants. Choose resistant varieties next season if you have suffered from fusarium wilt. Practice crop rotation.
- Whiteflies: Tiny white-winged insects, usually found on the underside of leaves. These sap-sucking insects cause yellowing and droopy-looking leaves. Use yellow sticky traps, introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs, or use soap and Neem oil and water solutions.
- Bacterial Spot: Small, dark spots on leaves, stems, and fruit. Reduces yield and quality of fruit. Common in warm, wet conditions, avoid overhead watering or use disease-free seeds and transplants.
10. Companion Planting
Companion planting can help protect your tomato plants from pests and diseases.
Popular companion plants include aromatic herbs like basil that will deter pests. But also pollinator-friendly flowers like marigolds and nasturtiums.
I have also been taught never to plant tomato plants close to potatoes. Your plants will compete for the same nutrients and will also attract the same type of pests and diseases.
Troubleshooting Common Issues
No matter how well I prepare, every new season will throw me a curve ball.
And you must recognize that nature will do what nature does, and all we can do is to adapt.
Here are some examples of issues you may encounter when growing Black Cherry tomatoes in your garden.
- Blossom End Rot: Easy to spot with the telltale dark, sunken spot at the fruit’s bottom. Blossom end rot is a result of calcium imbalances in the plant and is most often caused by irregular watering. Remember that we talked about the importance of consistent watering earlier.
- Yellowing Leaves: Leaves can turn yellow for various reasons: nutrient deficiencies, overwatering, pests, and diseases like early blight. Maintain even soil moisture, and remember to feed your plants. Make it a rule to remove yellow leaves to prevent spreading potential diseases.
- Cracking Fruits: Did you know that irregular watering or sudden growth spurts cause tomatoes to split? The fruits are still edible if you catch them early, but controlling moisture levels is once again the key.
- Drooping Leaves: This is a tricky one as it can be a sign of too much water or not enough water. Your plants could also suffer from shock if you have just given them a hefty dose of fertilizer. Ask yourself what you have done lately and adjust. This one is usually down to us gardeners.
- Leaf Curl: Leaves can curl due to environmental stress, like extreme temperatures or wind, or due to pests like aphids. Inspect your plants and ensure they are well protected from extreme conditions. Consider using shade cloths to protect your Black Cherry plants during hot days.
- Pests and Diseases: Here, inspection and early detection are key. Look for all the common tomato pests like aphids, hornworms, and whiteflies. Make it a habit to inspect your plants daily and look for changes in growth, form, and color.
More often than not, catching the issues early is the difference between losing a plant and a healthy, high-yielding Black Cherry tomato plant.
Harvesting Black Cherry Tomatoes
Black Cherry tomatoes are typically ready for harvest 65-75 days after transplanting. Knowing when to harvest is not difficult if you know what to look for.
- Color: Ripe Black Cherry tomatoes have a deep, almost black-purple hue with a slight shine. It is tempting to pick them when they’re slightly lighter in color, but waiting those extra days will give you maximum flavor.
- Touch: Squeeze the tomato gently. A ripe tomato will have a slight give under pressure. If it is hard, it needs more time on the vine.
- Ease of Removal: A ripe tomato will detach from the stem with a gentle twist. If you have to tug or pull, you are too early.
- Regular Harvesting: But do not wait too long. Harvesting regularly encourages the plant to produce more fruit.
- Taste: Still unsure, pick apne and taste. If it is all you want, then you are good to go. After all, they are your tomatoes.
Use clean, sharp scissors or pruners to harvest tomatoes from the vine, and always leave a small portion of the stem attached to the fruit.
Harvesting with the stem prolongs the shelf life and also avoids squishing the tomato by mistake. Handle your Black Cherry tomatoes gently to prevent bruising, and make it a rule to harvest during the cooler parts of the day.
Storing and Using Your Harvest
I primarily use my Black Cherry tomatoes in three different ways. But the possibilities are, of course, endless.
- Immediate Use: Place the harvested tomatoes with the stem still attached in a bowl on your kitchen counter, away from direct sunlight. I never wash my tomatoes; I know their entire life story, and there is no need. Avoid refrigerating fresh tomatoes unless they are overripe or damaged. Cold temperatures affect their flavor and texture.
- Sauces and salsas: Fresh tomatoes, salt, and some balsamic vinegar are the only ingredients you need to make a great-tasting and fresh tomato sauce. Store in your refrigerator or freeze for later use.
- Preservation: If you have a bumper crop, consider preserving your tomatoes. I prefer to preserve my Black Cherry tomatoes in salsas with peppers or “sun-dried” in the oven for later use.
In short, the possibilities are endless. Black Cherry tomatoes taste great in salads, salsas, sauces, and smeared on bruschettas. Or why not try roasting or grilling them for a fresh pasta dish?
Conclusion: Key Points to Remember
- Quality Counts: Start with high-quality seeds or strong plants
- Soil Preparation: Black Cherry tomato plants prefer fertile, well-draining soil with good moisture retention.
- Transplanting: Moving your plants to larger pots is a gradual process. Moving to an oversized pot too early makes it harder to maintain even soil moisture.
- Watering: Water regularly and maintain moist, not wet soil. Water at the base of the plant.
- Fertilization: Use a balanced fertilizer or separate fertilizers to cater to the specific needs of the plants during the vegetative and flowering stages.
- Inspect Pants: Inspect your plants daily to stay on top of pests and diseases. Look for discoloration of foliage, stunted growth, and curling leaves.
- Support and Pruning: Stake indeterminate tomato plants early to provide support. Prune to promote airflow and direct energy towards fruit production.
- Harvesting: Harvest fruits when they are deep purple-black in color. Ripe fruits are easy to remove from the vine.
- Storage and Use: Eat fresh or store away from direct sunlight. Popular uses include sauces and salsas and “sundried” using your oven or dehydrator.