How To Winterize Your Tomato Plants

Growing up, I always remember my mom going outside before the winter and placing a foam cover over our tomato plants.

Tomato plants are actually perennial, meaning they will bear fruit for you every year, but you need to take some steps to ensure your tomato plants survive each winter.

So, how do you winterize your tomato plants? Remove remaining flowers before the winter, cut back on water and fertilizer, cover the base of the tomato plant with wood chips, and shorten the roots of the tomato plant.

Continue reading for additional information on what you can do with your tomato plants during the winter besides leaving them outside.

The end of tomato season

Tomato plants are perennials, but they are known as tender perennials.

They get this categorization because if they are not taken care of before winter comes, the whole plant will wither and die.

Start making preparations for what you are going to do with your tomato plants when the temperature drops into the 40s and 50s.

Soon the frost is going to come and if you do not have a plan in place, your tomato plants are going to die.

Remove flowers before the winter

Before it comes to winter, you will want as many of your tomatoes fully grown and ripe before it gets too cold.

You can help the tomato plant along by removing some of the flowers from the plant before it gets too cold.

This will help the tomato plant to focus on just those flowers that have tomatoes growing instead of all the flowers.

Cut back on water and fertilizer

Again, the main goal here is to help your tomato plant focus on just those tomatoes that need to finish growing.

Cutting back on water and fertilizer will help the tomato plant to focus on just what it needs to.

It will also help prepare it for the coming cold weather.

Without water and fertilizer, it will begin to shut down in preparation for winter.

Shorten the roots

Much of what needs to be done to prepare the tomatoes for winter deals with shocking the tomato plant into taking care of itself.

And this includes shortening the roots of the tomato plant.

Grab and shovel and gently put it into the ground about a foot away from the base of the tomato plant.

Then, very sharply put the shovel into the ground.

This action will shorten the roots of the tomato plant.

Continue around the tomato plant until you have gone around in a full circle and have covered all the area around the tomato plant.

This process will shock the tomato plant into trying harder to grow the remaining tomatoes on the plant.

Cover the base

One of the more important parts of preparing your tomato plants for the winter months includes covering them to keep them warm.

Using wood chips will give the base of the tomato plant some breathing room.

So start by removing any debris or dead leaves from around the base of the tomato plant.

This may include taking out a rake and moving everything out of the way.

Once the leaves and debris have been moved out of the way, then you can place the wood chips at the base of the tomato plant.

This will keep the tomato plant nice and warm during the winter months and protect those areas that are most important to the tomato plant growing back the next year.

Cover the plant

Most tomato plants do not like the cold and frost and that is what most of the time kills the tomato plant.

So it is important to keep your tomato plant warm.

A nice frost protection bag could be good for your tomato plant.

This will help keep the heat in for the tomato plant and also keep the frost out, which will also keep the tomato plant from dying.

Other options

You have a few other options as to what you can do with your tomato plants during the winter.

Some of these ideas include the following:

Bring the tomato plant inside

If you do not think your fragile tomato plant will survive outside during the winter, either because you think they are too tender or because you will not be able to take care of it right, you do have the option of bringing your tomato plant inside for the winter.

If you have a big enough pot, and some soil, you could bring your tomato plant inside for the winter.

As you read in previous steps, you were able to cut away at the roots to get the tomato plant to start preparing for the winter.

In the same vein, you could pull your tomato plant out of the ground and place it in a pot with some soil.

Then transport the pot into your house and place it somewhere where the plant will get plenty of sun and make sure to water.

Take some of the suckers inside

In between the stem and the branch of the tomato plant, there is something called a “sucker”.

These suckers can be taken off of the tomato plant and taken inside for the winter to be grown.

Take a sharp knife and cut the sucker as near to its base as you can get.

Gather a handful of these, maybe 4 or 5.

Then, cut off any branches that are growing off of the sucker 4 inches or lower on the sucker.

Put this sucker in a jar of water and keep in mind that some branches 4 inches or lower on the sucker will be stuck in the water and will not grow much or at all.

Once you have taken off the low branches, stick the sucker in a jar of water and place the jar in a sunny place in the house.

Change the water once a week and make sure that the water level does not drop too low.

Eventually, little white roots are going to come out of the bottom of the sucker.

Then at this time, you are going to want to place the suckers into a pot.

Find a good sized pot, probably at least 1 foot across and 1 foot deep.

Also, get some good quality soil.

Fill the pot with the soil and then bury the sucker into the pot.

And again, make sure that the pot is placed in a spot in your house that gets plenty of sun.

Dispose of the tomato plant

It can be tempting to just get rid of the tomato plant and start over the beginning of the next season.

Since tomato plants are relatively easy to take care of and give you plenty of tomatoes, you might just want to start over each year.

If that is the case, avoid the temptation to uproot your tomato plant and leave it right in the garden.

Sometimes your tomato plant can carry diseases that you do not know about and if that is the case, the last thing you want is for the disease to spread throughout your whole garden area.

So if you are going to get rid of your tomato plant, uproot it and throw it into the garbage.

That way, you avoid spreading any disease, bugs or fungus to other plants.


Tomato plants can give you tomatoes each year if you take care of them.

So make sure to cut down the branches before winter starts, slowing ease up on watering your tomato plant and make sure to cover it with a tomato bag to keep it warm during the winter.

Bill Lantz

Bill Lantz is a database analyst by day and a weekend warrior by... weekend. He's currently building up his own miniature homestead in Central Utah with his wife and six kids. Some of his interests include knowing random trivia about films, reading history books, and playing video games with the boys.

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