Although tomatoes need full sun and warm temperatures to thrive, there can be too much of a good thing. Tomatoes are extremely sensitive to temperature fluxes, both higher and lower. When temps are higher than 85 degrees F. (29 C.) during the day and the nights remain around 72 F. (22 C.), tomatoes will fail to set fruit, so growing tomatoes in hot climates has its challenges. Fear not, there are several hot to warm climate tomato varieties.
Growing Tomatoes in Hot Climates
Tomatoes do well in full sun in areas such as the Midwest, Northeast and Pacific Northwest, but in Southern California, the Deep South, the Desert Southwest and into Texas, sizzling temperatures require some special considerations when growing tomatoes in hot conditions like these.
First of all, make some shade. To grow tomatoes in warm climates, shade cloth will become your best friend. Use a shade structure that is open to the east so the plants get morning sun but are shielded from the scalding afternoon rays. Look for 50% shade cloth – that is cloth that reduces sun exposure by 50% and heat by 25%. You can also work with summer weight row covers to achieve the same shading effect; however, these only provide around 15% shade.
Second, hot climate tomatoes should be mulched; mulch around the plants with a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic material such as cotton hulls, chopped leaves, shredded bark, straw, or grass clippings. As the mulch breaks down around late summer, replenish it.
Third, hot climate tomatoes are going to need plenty of water, more than likely every day to twice a day. A drip irrigation system is the most economical option. Keeping the soil moist helps prevent blossom drop and fruit cracking.
Warm Climate Tomato Varieties
It’s possible to grow tomatoes in warm climates as long as you heed the above considerations and choose the cultivars that are specifically proven to flourish in warmer temperatures. When considering which type of tomatoes to grow in hot conditions, look at those that are suited for your climate and growing season and research maturation times. Larger tomatoes generally take more time to ripen, so in hot climates, it is best to choose small to medium sized varieties. Also, if possible, plant cultivars that are disease and pest resistant.
Lately, there has been a plethora of heat tolerant tomato varieties available. Referred to as “heat-set” or “hot-set” tomatoes, many are common hybrids such as:
- BHN 216
- Florida 91
- Heatwave II
- Solar Fire
- Summer Set
- Sun Leaper
- Sun Pride
Other heat tolerant tomatoes include Equinox, Heat Master, Mariachi, and Rapsodie.
If you prefer heirloom varieties, there are also some of these suited to warmer climates. Among these are:
- Arkansas Traveler
- Eva Purple Ball
- Hazelfield Farm
- Homestead 24
- Illinois Beauty
- Ozark Pink
Even some of the heirlooms that are typically known to thrive in cooler temps can handle warmer temperatures, such as Stupice. A few of the cherry tomato varieties will also thrive in warmer temps. These include Lollipop and Yellow Pear.
In super-heated climates such as the Desert Southwest, look for tomato varieties that mature at 60-70 days. Start thinking about which varieties you want to grow in January since transplants can be set out as early as February 15. Good choices to grow in these ultra-warm climates are:
- Cherry Sweet 100
- Small Fry
- Yellow Pear