If I stuff a sprouting tomato into a pot with some dirt, will it grow into a tomato plant?

My husband just discovered a forgotten vine tomato in the kitchen under a bunch of bananas that have been ripening up for banana bread.

Now, the tomato looks fine except for the fact that it’s sprouting. There are about 4 little green shoots coming out of it.

So, we’re not eating it, 'cus ew. However, can I stick it in a pot of dirt and have it turn into something other than a pot of rotten tomato goo? Any chance it will grow into a plant?

If the answer is yes, is there are particular way I should do it? Do I need to wait for roots to appear first?

100%, since it already has. Just sticking it in some dirt (and of course, watering it and the like) should be plenty: Tomatoes are a common “volunteer” plant in gardens (meaning, it just grows on its own, but unlike a weed, it’s something the gardener likes).

Be advised that most tomatoes are hybrids, and so do not breed true. A volunteer tomato will be close to wild-type, which means cherry tomatoes.

Ooo - lovely! Should I trim extra tomato off at all, or just stuff it in dirt? Should I leave it out a bit and let a few roots pop out? FWIW, the tomato in question is quite a bit bigger than a cherry tomato.

I’m not a gardener at all but what I would probably do is carve the tomato into sections so each sprout is by itself and put each section in its own pot. If the sprout looks rooty I’d just bury it under like half an inch of dirt. If it looks like a stem I’d leave the sprout poking up and a little exposed.

Right, but the point is, it doesn’t matter what the parent is, the new tomatoes will probably be small.

They’re very sprouty - like a stick with two or three tiny little leaves at the top.

I have an avocado plant that I grew from a seed and I let it get to where the plant part at the top was about 12 inches high, and the roots filled the glass of water before I planted it to give it a head start - I’m wondering if I should do that with the tomato as well?

Chronos - I did get the ‘new tomatoes will be small thing’ - I was more curious 'cus usually vine tomatoes tend to be on the smaller side and this one was really big - I wonder if that contributed to it’s sproutyness at all.

Oh, one other point: Tomato plants like warm or hot temperatures and lots of sun. Most houses don’t get enough sun anywhere indoors, and depending on where you are, you might not get warm enough temperatures outside for long enough for it to fruit, so that might be a difficulty, starting it this late in the year.

I don’t think it’s a given that the fruit grown from seeds from hybrid parents will necessarily be small - Volunteer tomatoes normally produce fruits that differ from their parents in unpredictable ways (including size, but also colour, taste, appearance, shape, yield, and quality factors such as skin thickness and firmness) diminished size is a possibility, but not really the most common difference (in my experience).

Tomatoes left to run wild - seeding themselves repeatedly in the same place in the garden, however, will tend toward the wild type, because of the same selection factors that make them that way in the wild.

<minor hijack> The blueberries I’ve been eating have a lot of tiny seeds in them. If I buried a whole blueberry, would anything happen other than the aforementioned rotting? </ minor hijack>

The seeds from most ripe fruits are capable of being grown into new plants (this is, after all, what they are for) - in the case of blueberries, they can be grown, but planting a whole berry would probably cause the seeds to rot.

In the wild, the berry will be eaten by a bird - the seeds will pass through the relatively short and rapid-transit digestive system of the bird and will be deposited in a new place (advantage for the plant) and along with a little dollop of nutrient that will help the new plant to grow.

If you want to grow the seeds yourself, usually (and in general - there are all kinds of exceptions) the best thing is to extract them from the fruit, dry them a little on some absorbent paper and sow them in a pot of compost.

In the specific case of blueberries, you would have to use special acidic compost and water with rainwater, because the plants can’t stand dissolved calcium minerals.

So…how do I plant it then?

I’d open the tomato and select the area of sprouting seed(s), carefully separating the gelatinous goo containing the seeds and just planting the goo containing the roots. Or you could plant a chunk of goo with multiple sprouts and trim out excess sprouts after they’re growing strongly.

You don’t want to plant a whole tomato or big sections of one, because the fruity part will rot and that might be detrimental to the growing plant.

All this assumes you live in a climate where outdoor tomatoes will have a chance to fruit before frost (the earliest varieties tend to take 60 days or so from setting out good-sized seedlings to getting ripe fruit).

Of course it will.

I grow lots of tomatoes in my garden. The DAMN chipmunks love the cherry tomatoes. Helpfully, they don’t just pull one off and eat it - they pull one off, eat about a third of it, drop it and pull off another one. Repeat until half the fruits are gone.

(grumble grumble grumble…)

Anyhoo, the next year, i’ll get HUNDREDS of tomato plants that sprout from the dropped fruit. I thin them out and fertilize - never have to replant in that area unless I want to grow something different there.

Hi Alice,

Yes, you can plant the sprouts, although it’s more likely to be a science experiment than the path to luscious homegrown fruit. To produce those, tomato vines need a ton of sun, water, and fertilizer. However, tomatoes are relatively hardy in the sense of being a green thing you keep alive.

Just scoop out the goo and sprouts as described above, and split them up as much as possible without damaging them. If it’s not possible, then plant them together and thin the smallest/weakest out later. Plant in the best-quality soil you can get your mitts on, and slowly introduce the seedlings to bright sun - don’t just stick 'em out in the baking heat all at once.

Given how often tomatoes volunteer, that’s apparently not an issue for them like it is for blueberries.

Which, sadly, I do not. However, I have an idea that I could grow the plant(s) indoors over the winter under my grow lamp (I use it for my avocado as well) and then next spring/summer if I move them out there they’ll have a good head start.

They may not actually get that much of a head start. Whenever I’ve started seeds indoors, the results are so leggy that they seem very weak, while seeds started outdoors result in robust seedlings, maybe because of the initial sunlight.

That said, if you do try the grow lamp route … once you go to plant the tomato outside, bury 50 - 80 % of the stem underground. (Pick the leaves off first.) Tomatoes root from their stems very easily, so by burying so much stem you encourage a big healthy root system.

In addition to what **purplehorseshoe **has said, you can also plant the stem horizontally, using a little “pillow” of dirt to nudge the top upwards. It’ll grow straight up all by itself in a while as it seeks out the sun. The idea behind the horizontal planting is that you get more of the stem in the ground, making for a studier, well-supported plant.

We have the same problem but with squirrels. I’d be happy if they took half. Ours repeat until ALL the fruit is gone. Anything I put out to repel them either doesn’t work, or it does work but as soon as it stops raining – literally the minute it stops raining – the squirrels show up and raid the garden while the repellent is washed away.

I agree with Chronos, might be a little late in the season to get anything useful back. Still, no harm in having a go.

I spend a considerable chunk of the tomato growing season pulling up self-sown tomato plants from the previous years crop, so you shouldn’t get too many problems growing on yours alice. Feed it well once it gets going, and watch out for whitefly and blight.