What to Look For When You Buy Tomato Plants

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Updated 4.3.24

It’s easier to buy tomato plants than to start them from seeds. You save several steps and get your tomato crop underway much sooner. What should you be aware of when you buy them?

Know what a healthy tomato plant should look like

  • Look for dark green foliage. Pale green or yellow coloration indicates a nutrient deficiency.
  • Check for a sturdy central stem, which means the plant will likely be strong when it is transplanted into the garden.
  • Avoid plants with blossoms or fruit already formed, especially when selecting plants early in the season. Advanced growth in small containers can be a tip off that the plant was over-fertilized as a seedling.
  • Inspect leaves for curling or discoloration which could indicate a disease, poor lighting, under-watering, or over-watering.
  • Check foliage for holes and damaged stalks. Look underneath leaves to make sure the plant isn’t infested with pests.

What to be aware of when you buy locally

Healthy tomato seedlings

There are several advantages to buying tomato plants at a local nursery or home improvement center:

  • you can inspect the stock for yourself
  • you can choose which plants you prefer
  • you save on shipping costs
  • you may pay less, especially if you buy plants in a 6 pack
  • you may even receive a “money-back guarantee” or replacement credit if your tomatoes don’t survive transplanting

However, nurseries and stores may have limited stock and may not carry many different tomato varieties.

What to be aware of when you buy through the mail

There are advantages to buying tomato plants through garden catalogs or on the internet:

  • you have an unlimited selection of varieties, particularly when you view online garden catalogs 
  • you can try unusual or hard-to-find varieties
  • you can enjoy the convenience of shopping at home and having your plants delivered to your door

When you buy tomato plants from garden catalogs, you may pay more per plant plus shipping costs. Also, you cannot inspect the stock before ordering.

Read carefully reviews that other gardeners share about a specific vendor. Look to see if a vendor has a return or replacement fee for damaged stock.

(Get more specifics about how to buy tomato plants through the mail.)

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