Container tomato leaves are curling

anjnJuly 12, 2014

Hi everyone,

I'm brand new to gardening and I started a container tomato plant a month ago. The plant seems to be doing fairly well - lots of blossoms and a few tiny tomatoes emerging. However, the leaves are curling up. Any ideas of why this might be? I have no idea if it's too much or too little water, fertilizer, etc. Pictures are attached.

A little more info: the plant is in the full sun on a deck and I generally water the plant every day until a tiny bit of water comes out the holes in the bottom. Whenever I check the soil with my finger, it is moist up to the first or second knuckle. The weather has not been the greatest - lots of rain and the nights have been a bit cool, but I think there has been some good sun most days (70s and 80s, though perhaps a few days of 60s here and there).

The plant was first (in a container) in garden soil that continuously feeds for a few weeks until I realized my mistake. I then transplanted to a bigger pot with potting mix made for containers around week 3 and added some organic plant food.

Thanks so much for the advice!

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an...this is an issue that is common with tomatoes in containers. I have one potted mater doing the same thing (8 mater plants). This curling is usually caused by a physiological problem like too much or too little water (stress). Other ideas of cause: calcium needed, or black pot getting planting mix too hot. Those leaves will never un-curl. But, you can still have good fruit. In the future...investigate using a wick in the pot. Sorry I can't give you a definite answer...

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 9:29AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

It is called Physiological Leaf Roll (see link below). Many discussions here about it and its causes - plant stress. In containers it is primarily a soil moisture level issue - inconsistent soil moisture - but other contributing factors listed in the article.


Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato Physiological Leaf Roll

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 9:29AM
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funny....dig and I answered in the same minute! His answer is better...haha

This post was edited by fireduck on Sat, Jul 12, 14 at 9:36

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 9:31AM
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Thanks, digdirt and fireduck - great minds think alike! :)

How do you feel about self-watering containers in the future? Does that help the plant get the right amount of water instead of too much / too little?

Also, any tips for knowing how much to water? I've heard every day, sometimes twice for tomatoes OR only when up to the first knuckle feels dry OR when only up to the second knuckle feels dry, etc... As a newbie, I'm having a hard time knowing (so I default to every day except the days it rains). Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 9:40AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Self-watering containers are always better, especially when used with a good water-wicking mix (not the Moisture Control mixes).

As for watering, the key is not when or how often or any sort of schedule. Those don't work. It needs to be available when the plant needs it - that's why self-watering container works. A drip irrigation system is even better as it delivers small amounts on a regular hourly basis and can be adjusted as the weather requires. No way a person can match that type of regular delivery and moisture control.

As is often discussed here, the bigger the container the better and the easier it is to stabilize the moisture levels. Yours is a small container for anything other than one of the dwarf or 'patio' type plants - you don't give the variety - so next time go bigger.

Whenever I check the soil with my finger, it is moist up to the first or second knuckle. l

In that case it doesn't need water nearly as often as you have been watering. Too little water is always better than too much. Stick your finger full down in the soil, better yet use a wooden dowel 8-10" deep.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 10:56AM
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Thank you, Dave! I will try a self-watering container next year (my deck doesn't have a water source, so drip irrigation unfortunately isn't an option). The pot is much bigger than it looks in the picture, but will go even bigger next year as well.

Thanks for the watering advice - your input is extremely valuable to an extreme newbie like me!!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 10:35AM
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