No flowers on healthy plant

almcclurApril 18, 2007

I put in 3 different tomato plants (in pots) at the same time and with the same treatment every 2 weeks of compost tea, some extra stuff called "triple phosphate" that says it's great for tomatoes, or another organic fertilizer for veggies. They are all doing ok, but the two that are smallest have flowers and fruit already and the biggest, prettiest, healthiest looking one wont put out one flower. I can see the little green buds that want to be flowers, but they just never develop.

The one that wont flower is an heirloom called "Mr. Stripey" if that helps. Any ideas for a fix?



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wvtomatoman(z6 WV)

The only "bull" plant I've ever had was a Mr. Stripey. I'm not saying this is your problem, I'm just mentioning it.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 3:54PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

You don't say what the other varieties are but it may not be fair to compare them. They may be determinate plants which develop and crop sooner while Mr. Stripey is a BIG indeterminate. It is also a late season tomato while the others you have may be early season varieties. Comparing varieties is like comparing apples to oranges. :)

Also you may be over feeding and stressing it. Fertilizing is a stressor to tomatoes and often causes them to stop or delay fruit production and switch back to leaf production. Granted, tomatoes in containers require more feeding than those in the ground but it sounds as if you may be over doing it. ;)

Could be more specific if we knew the size of your containers and the other varieties of tomatoes.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 4:38PM
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Ah. I never considered the difference in varieties. Don't I feel foolish! They are all in 14-16 inch pots, which is why i fertilize every 2 weeks. You think that's too much? Can you overdo it with aerated compost tea? I do that one about every 3 days. They all do seem healthy except for the wont-flower issue on the Mr. Stripey. AND I have never heard of a "bull-plant" before. What a horrifying idea with only 3 tomatoes in pots.
Thanks everyone,

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 6:40PM
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14-16 inch pots does sound small unless they are small variety plants in them but the Mr Stripey like digdirt said is a plant that gets very big and requires a large container..say bare minimum 5 gallons, but the bigger the better.
Sounds like you may be over doing it on the compost tea. Too much nitrogen causes the plant to produce lush greenery but little if any fruit. That triple phosphate you refer to is good for the plants when they are starting to bloom and gives a lil kick start. I would lay off the compost tea and try just straight water and fertilize just once every other week.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 9:15PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Oh dear, 14-16 inch pots. I fear you may have a root bound plant already with the Mr. Stripey and if that is so, he will not produce at all. He averages 6-8 feet in height and 4-5 feet in diameter. He also requires substantial staking/caging which will be nigh on to impossible in that small a container.

As atascosta says - 5 gal. containers really is the BARE minimum for tomatoes and then the determinate varieties, not indeterminates. Try a 1/2 whiskey barrel instead for Mr. Stripey or consider going with one of the many varieties bred specifically for growing in containers.

The FAQ here (linked at the top of the forum page) has a great deal of info on varieties and determinate vs. indeterminate problems. Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 10:02PM
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I have most of my tomato plants in 14" or 16" pots. That is 14" high and 14" wide. Believe me, they hold a heck of a lot more than 5 gallons. Probably more like 25, 30 gallons.

Amanda, if that's the size pot you're talking about, then pot size is probably not the problem. As I have read frequently on this site, a lush heathly looking plant with little or no blossoms is often a sign of over fertiliziing. What kind of planting medium did you use? Many commercial potting or garden soil mixes already contain fertilizer.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 11:41PM
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jwr6404(8B Wa)

with my experience with Mr Stripey you will be better off if it don't bear fruit. Small tomatos that IMO taste awful. Worst variety I've ever grown and was dumb enough to try it twice.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 12:38AM
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wvtomatoman(z6 WV)

As others have stated, stress such as too much water or too much fertilizer (as well as other stresses) can cause a tomato plant not to flower. I've read that too much nitrogen is often the culprit, but have not seen any scientific data to back that claim. BTW, indeterminate tomato plants should enter a flowering cycle about every 3 weeks depending on growing conditions and well a lot of things. I'm just providing that information to let you know that should you decide to make changes to your fertilizing it will take up to that amount of time if not longer to see a difference. Also, do make sure that it is at least a five gallon container.

A "bull" tomato plant is one that grows big, is very green and has lots of foliage. It looks quite healthy. The only problem is that it produces either no fruit (my experience) or very few fruit (or so I've read). In other words the "bull" plant seems to put all of its energy into vegative growth and none, or almost none into reproduction. The "bull" tomato plant is actually very important in tomato history because it was the reason Dr. Charles Rick started investigating and mapping the tomato genes. I've included a link to an article that is mostly about the life of Dr. Rick but also describes and discusses the "bull" tomato plant.

Good luck and please report back if you are able to get flowers and/or fruit from the plant.


Here is a link that might be useful: The life of Dr. Rick/Bull tomato description

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 8:39AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

A 16" (16x16) pot holds only 14 quarts of soil. Any nurseryman can tell you that and quality containers list that right on the label. Squash in maybe 2 more quarts once it is wet and you still only have a 4 "gallon" container. Fill it with plant roots too and soon you have little or no soil but do have 4 gallons of roots in a 16 inch pot. ;)

Pot size IS important especially when one is talking about indeterminate varieties like we are discussing here. Not only do they quickly become root bound (tomatoes are tap root plants after all), stressed, prone to disease, low in production, but they are difficult if not impossible to keep from falling over because they are so top heavy. You have an 8 foot plant and some kind of support in a 1 1/2 foot tall pot. Laws of physics kick in. ;)

I am aware that many people try to grow indeterminate varieties of tomatoes in small containers - I've tried it too so can attest to it not working. Why do it? Usually it is because they are restricted in growing options and they don't understand the differences in varieties. But it is far from the ideal situation for either the plant or the grower.

But there are many great varieties of tomatoes bred just for container growing that are readily available and they have none of the associated problems. And, if none of those appeal, then at least stick with the determinate varieties.

Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 9:56AM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

I grow stuff in semi-full 4 gallon buckets with great success--even large indeterminates. The key is regular watering and fertilizing. Advantages of small containers are less soilless mix needed as well as earlier ripening.

If you're talking about triple superphosphate, that's around 0-45-0, which should greatly help flowering, as long as it's not overapplied. Compost teas are less than 1-1-1.

What is the other fertilizer you sometimes use Amanda?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 11:19AM
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SirTanon(z9 AZ)

Call me crazy, but mathematically speaking a 14" high and 14" diameter pot will hold far more than 14 quarts.

Volumetrically, 14" x 14" works out to roughly 1.247 cubic feet... that's assuming that the sides are vertical and not tapered.

Now, if we go by the conversion that 1 cubic foot = 6.42 DRY gallons(US), then we're looking at roughly 8 gallons.

Even taking a taper into account, we're still well over 6 gallons...

.. even taking into account that a few inches at the top aren't used, we're still WELL over 5 gallons, even in a tapered container.

...and a 16" x 16" container?

Nearly 12 gallons if it's vertical-sided
Figure about 10 gallons if it's tapered
and maybe 8.8 gallons with space at the top.

To me, either of those two containers sound plenty big for a good indeterminate.

......As to the Mr. Stripey -

If it's in its own container, stop feeding it anything that's good lots of N in it, and switch over to something loaded with P... rock phosphate, Bloom Booster, etc.. Also, I'd give it a good dose of Epsom Salts to help it take up the P.

..and as to this comment:
with my experience with Mr Stripey you will be better off if it don't bear fruit. Small tomatos that IMO taste awful. Worst variety I've ever grown and was dumb enough to try it twice.

Sounds like YOU got the other Mr. Stripey (otherwise known as Tigerella). The one Amanda has is most likely the big bicolor yellow-red beefsteak variety, which is VERY different from the one you grew.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 3:04PM
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All very helpful, thanks. The other fertilizer I was using is called Espoma (not a type-o) Plant-tone, which is 5-3-3. It has Manure, feather meal, crab meal cocoa meal, corn gluten, bone meal, dried blood (gross), kelp meal, etc. But all three plants have gotten the same fertilizer treatment and I've got 5-10 fruits on each of the others. I did not realize Mr. Stripey wanted to be 6-8ft tall. Right now he's 3 feet tall and stopped growing taller. I do think his pot would hold around 5-6 gallons (thinking milk), but would it do any good to put him in the ground or transplant to a bigger pot at this point? I figured if any of them got too big for the cages I would just lop off the tops. Is that a bad idea for some reason?

I'm going to have to admit to buying this variety because the picture was so pretty--I thought the kids would like it. It came from Walmart (no nurseries here) and the tag did not say how tall it likes to get!

Epsom salts: what is a "good dose" for a 14 inch pot?
Compost tea: I was using this more to keep the soil "alive" than for fertilizer I guess. I had no idea you could ever add too much of that actually.

Thanks for pointing out the planting medium too--you're right, it contained "time release capsules" of fertilizer. It's hard to just leave them alone, but maybe that would help. Still, the other two...

I love this site. So much knowledge combined in one place, it really is a priceless resource.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 5:45PM
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SirTanon(z9 AZ)

Oh yeah, the beefsteak Mr. Stripey plants can get huge if you let them!

I have never used Espoma, but I see it mentioned so often in gardening forums that I figure it must be decent stuff. That many people can't be wrong.

5-6 gallons should be sufficient to grow that plant, but you'll want to make sure you keep it watered well and fed well. Containers that size can dry out quick with a big plant in the middle of summer. As Korney mentioned, CONSISTENCY is the key.

As to a 'good dose' of epsom salts - my personal preference is to use it like you would miracle grow.. more or less, the same dose as MG. That is to say, in a pot like that, one tablespoon of epsom salts to a gallon of water, let it thoroughly dissolve and then water the pot with it. Don't overdo it, of course, since you don't want salts to build up in the pot. I'd say once a month at most.

Compost tea is good stuff to use.. but again, not every time you water. I'd say once a week if most, but probably more like once every 2 or 3 weeks - otherwise, just water normally.

Just my $0.02

    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 11:37AM
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Here's a followup for those who are interested:

This plant continues to grow--it's huge. 4 times the size of the other tomato plants I have and way more healthy, except for that pesky lack of fruit. It does flower but nothing comes of it. I have even hand pollinated it a few times out of curiosity, though there are bees, wasps, and flies in abundance. I sort of gave up on it a few weeks ago, and now only water it a couple of times a week (that's in S. Texas too), but it just looks healthier every day. Frustrating, except that it's so huge and sprawling and healthy looking that it makes me smile. I guess I'm going with the "bull-plant" description.

Thanks for all the help.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 6:02PM
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Thanks so much for posting a follow-up! I thought this was a dead thread until I got to your progress report. I also planted a Mr. Stripey this year for the first time. It's in a 16" container with slow release fertilizer. I haven't done anything but water it. This is definitely my first experience with a 'bull' plant --- perfect way to describe it. I'll be so disappointed if I get no fruit. is the consensus to transplant it if possible??

KC in PA

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 8:00PM
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I had a Cherokee Purple that started out like that, but it eventually started setting fruit. I had purchased two other plants labeled indeterminates, which were actually determinates, and I was comparing their growth and wondering what the heck was wrong with the fruitless, 4 foot tall CP when my others were 2 feet tall and had over 10 tomatoes each. But eventually the CP started producing tomatoes. :)

I also think some plants don't set fruit as well with heat and some don't do as well with humidity, so maybe Mr. Stripey just isn't as good as the others for your climate??? (I'm not one of the experts here, lol.) I have one of those Mr. Stripeys, as well. It's not really doing anything at all yet. We'll see.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 10:36AM
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jbann23(6 RI)

Just measured a 5 gal. pail and they're 11" by 14" deep. It only stands to reason a 14" by 14" pot would hold more. Had me curious there.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 2:52PM
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I just did a garden walk through and I think that Mr. Stripey is starting to form some flowers! Maybe things are looking up :) or maybe I'm just seeing things I want to see :)

KC in PA

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 4:35PM
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Well, I Would love to hold out hope, but this plant has had flowers on it for at least a month now. They come. They go. There are no fruit. Before I knew the dire diagnosis I had even plucked a few of the suckers as transplants. They are doing great by the way, but I know I might as well toss them. It's against (my) nature to dump these perfectly healthy looking plants though.

I don't think I'll transplant. The plant looks happy and healthy. I'd rather not waste my very limited ground space on a dud.

I would love to know how y'all's Stripeys do though.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 4:34PM
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I'm a pretty novice gardener, but I was looking through this thread because I have the same concern. My roma has tons of fruit, and my 2 Mr. Stripeys have no flowers.

However, I wanted to point out that the reason I bought Mr. Stripey this year was because it did so well for me last year. I grew it in a pot, got several tomatoes, and I thought they were yummy! Just my opinion though....

I did have a problem with blossom rot last year and was told to add eggshells for calcium. It really helped. This year I haven't fertilized at all yet except for putting in some eggshells. So, I'm hoping a little fertilizer will give it the boost it needs.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2007 at 4:51PM
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the answer is simple take tbsp spoon of crushed triple phosphate and water in well you will have flowers with in 2 weeks

    Bookmark   June 9, 2007 at 5:07PM
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I had a Mr. Stripey one year (and never again), and had the same problem . Huge plant and no tomatoes. All the other tomatoes did well that year, so I don't think it was anything I did wrong. By the way, I was at a garden shop today and the only tomatoes they had left were Mr. Stripeys. so maybe they are not selling very well anymore....

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 12:55AM
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I have 2 very healthy looking mr stripey plants in the ground. Flowers a lot but they fall off. Any ideas?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 9:08AM
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Many great suggestions above. The one thing touched on that many don't pay enough attention to is many tomatoes don't set well in the heat. I have that problem here and why I've finally gave up on Brandywine Sudduth. And the Wallyworlds and Home Depots carry a lot of plants that don't do well in an area. That is why I start most of mine and if I need to pick up more go to a local nursery unless I know which variety I want and the big stores have it. As to Mr. Stripey I planted it last year but lost it due to hail I believe so can't comment on it. And it did have fruit set when I lost it. But can say of the heirlooms/OP's that I've found way more which don't produce well here than does. I've planted around 60 varieties this year so hopefully will know more come fall. Best of luck gardening. Jay

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 10:56AM
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I suspect the problem is the Espoma Plant Tone you're using. At 5-3-3, it's too high in N for Tomatoes (the three numbers stand for N-P-K, or Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium). Excess N causes lush vegetative growth with no fruit production. I've seen guys fertilize in June and July with freakish quantities of N, and end up with plants 7+ feet tall, but only a couple tomatoes. Espoma makes Tomato Tone, which is, IIRC, 4-7-10, which is a good balance for Tomatoes.

Try discontinuing all fertilization and use some Tomato Blossom Set Spray. It's probably too late to do much, but with the small pot, hopefully most of the N is in the plant or has leeched from the soil. Next year, stick with Tomato Tone or something with a similar nutrient balance, and go light. It is better to fertilize too little than too much.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 1:58PM
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