7 Basic Reasons Behind Common Tomato Plant Problems

When you are thinking about growing some fruits and vegetables in your backyard or container, the tomato will take the first place in your growing list naturally. 

Most beginner gardeners wish to grow some fresh juicy tomatoes in their startup gardening. That’s why tomato is the most popular fruit or vegetable, whatever you say, all over the world as well as in the United States.

Like other fruits and vegetables, tomatoes also get various types of diseases which are also new to startup gardeners. Moreover, you may fail to bring your first production to your dining table due to a lack of knowledge of growing tomatoes.

Therefore, you need to learn first the common tomato problems and diseases. Without proper knowledge and idea, you can’t treat them well and come to a solution.

Recognizing tomato problems

7 basic reasons behind the most common tomato plant problems

Tomato diseases may occur for various reasons, and some of the reasons are very sensitive.

If you are a beginner gardener this is quite unusual to know all the reasons which create tomato diseases and other problems.

Even experienced gardeners also face some problems during growing tomatoes due to a lack of knowledge. 

However, the most common reasons for tomato problems and diseases may happen for the following reasons:

01- Tomato soil problems

Soil condition plays an important role in creating tomato problems. It also encourages some pathogenic diseases and other environmental problems.

a– Poor Soil condition:

Poor soil structure doesn’t contain enough nutrients. As a result, tomato plants don’t get their required food from the soil to grow and produce healthy fruits.

b- Infertile soil condition:

If the tomatoes don’t get all the necessary nutrients from the soil, it also creates some problems.

Tomatoes don’t produce a healthy harvest if they don’t get the basic nutrients NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) accurately on time.

  • For foliar development, tomatoes need nitrogen,
  • For root development and producing flowers, they need phosphorus,
  • And for producing healthy fruits and developing disease-resistant capacity, they need potassium in different growth stages of tomato plants

If the soil is unable to provide those nutrients to the tomato plants on time, your plants will not show the expected result. 

Besides, tomatoes don’t grow well in alkaline soil as well as when the soil pH level gets down below 6.0. Somewhat they prefer slightly acidic soil and perform better when their soil pH level stays in-between 6.0 to 6.8, according to the soil pH scale.

c- Poor soil amendment:

Tomatoes perform well in loam or sandy loam soil. But it is quite impossible to get perfect quality soil for your tomato plants all the time. Most of the time, you need to amend your soil to grow tomatoes.

If you don’t amend your soil before growing tomatoes, it may create drainage problems, soil aerating system problems, and encourage soil-borne diseases.

02- Tomato environmental problems

You can’t control all the environmental hazards you face during the growing season. But some precautions can reduce the risk of spreading tomato diseases and other problems.

a- Heavy rain:

Heavy rainfall may create water logging in your garden if you haven’t a good drainage system.

Besides, over raining can wash out the surface nutrients, fertilizer, and soil. Moreover, it can also transmit some diseases.

b- Extreme hot weather:

Hot weather evaporates the water from the soil so quickly and creates a wilting problem. So, you need to water your tomatoes twice or three times a day or supply water through drip irrigation in hot weather conditions.

Besides, direct heat of the sunlight on tomato plants and fruits may cause sunscald tomato problems.

c- Windy weather conditions:

Windy weather also evaporates the water from the soil quickly, and the tomato plants get stressed. To recover from this condition, they need regular irrigation or drip irrigation.

d- Night time temperature:

Early planting doesn’t confirm your early production. Sometimes new gardeners tend to plant tomato plants a little bit earlier after the last frost date to get early production.

But this is completely a wrong idea.

Tomato plants don’t grow well and produce less if the nighttime temperature in your garden area is below 55° Fahrenheit.

No matter how long it takes, wait to transplant your tomato plants until the nighttime temperatures constantly stay above 55° Fahrenheit after the last frost date.

e- Late frost:

Unexpected late frost causes a delay in planting tomatoes. Furthermore, it also less the total frost-free days in a growing season.

As a result, gardeners get very little time to grow their tomatoes.

In that case, you need to count carefully how many frost-free days are left and then choose a tomato variety that becomes mature in-between between those frost-free days.

If you don’t find any suitable tomato variety in your local area at that time, it is better to skip the season rather than take any risk.

f- Lack of Rain:

Rainwater has some advantages and disadvantages. Rainwater is slightly acidic, and tomato plants like it most. Besides, it’s free from chlorine or fluoride and also fulfills the demand for water for your tomato plants. 

On the other hand, rainwater is the reason for a couple of tomato diseases, and hard rain also crates waterlog.

03- Tomato problems due to caring and gardening mistakes

The wrong way of caring for tomatoes also creates some problems. Right time no action or right time wrong action or right time, late action, or wrong time with the wrong action are the main reasons for tomato caring mistakes.

Moreover, laziness and carelessness of the gardeners can also create the following tomato problems:

a- Late mulching:

Mulching is an important part of tomato care which is ignored by some new gardeners. Mulching helps to hold the soil moisture for a longer time. As well it provides some necessary nutrients and protects your tomatoes from soil-borne diseases.  

So, you need to provide mulch from the beginning after transplanting tomatoes, and your plants get stressed if you make delay.

Besides, late mulching doesn’t work out if the diseases have already appeared in your garden tomatoes.

b- Overwatering:

Overwatering may cause fruit cracks, blisters, bumps, or corky on tomato leaves. In addition, it also causes tomato leaves and stems to wilting, tomato root rot, and lastly, the plants to collapse and die.

It’s true that tomato plants need a huge amount of water to grow and produce fruits. But it doesn’t mean you need to provide water constantly without considering the actual demand for your tomato plants.

So, before watering tomatoes, you just need to check the soil moisture first.

After checking the soil moisture, if your tomato plants need more water than average, then provide more. On the other hand, if they demand fewer water supplies, provide less.

c- Lack of sunlight:

Tomato needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight but 8 hours or more is better. Tomato plants turn this sunlight into energy to produce more tasty fruits. Lack of sunlight reduces tomato production. Besides, the fruits become smaller in size and less tasty. Moreover, this problem also invites different types of diseases.

d- Lack of water:

Lack of watering may cause blossom end rot or splitting of tomato plants. Likewise, it also hampers the plants’ normal growth and reduces fruit production dramatically.

Lack of water for tomato plants also causes different reasons. Such as

  • Extreme hot weather condition
  • Windy weather condition
  • Drought or dry weather conditions
  • Poor watering system  
  • Inadequate water supply  
  • Poor soil condition
  • The carelessness of the gardeners

If your tomatoes show any symptoms of lacking water supply, then find the exact reasons behind the problem and take the necessary steps.

e- Over fertilizer:

Excessive supply of fertilizer on tomato plants can create different types of problems. Such as producing over foliage, leaf burn, yellow leaf color, leaf wilting, and sometimes attracting pests and diseases. 

Tomato plants need three basic nutrients NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) and other trace minerals like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, and some micronutrients to produce healthy fruits.

They need those nutrients supplied in different stages of their plant growth. If you provide the wrong proportion of fertilizer during the plant development, it will cause the above problems to the tomato plants.

Therefore, you have to provide the supply of the right nutrients at the right time to get the best result.

Besides, your present soil condition also determines which soil nutrients your tomatoes need most. So, do the soil test first before applying any fertilizer.

f- Lack of fertilizer:

Tomato nutrients deficiencies create different types of problems:

  • Slow plants growth
  • Leaves turning yellow
  • Leaf rolling
  • Leaves turn brownish
  • Produce less flower
  • Fruits size becomes smaller than average.
  • Blossom end rot

g- Wrong place selection:

Wrong place selection is another mistake in growing tomatoes. If your place doesn’t get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, a tomato doesn’t produce fruits or produce smaller and fewer. 

Some pests and diseases also appear on tomato plants because of wrong place selection.

h- Diseases infected place selection:

Some pathogens of tomato diseases (fungal, bacterial, and viral) can survive in the soil and garden debris for several years.

So, once they appear in your garden, it is not safe to grow tomatoes and other nightshade family plants (potato and eggplant) in the infected area for the next 2-3 years. Crop rotation is the perfect solution to avoid this problem.

i- Poor drainage system:

Poor drainage systems can’t supply water inside the soil easily. Moreover, it creates water logging and encourages soil-borne diseases.  

Besides, after heavy rain or deep irrigation, it may wash out all of your surface fertilizers and soil nutrients or even log the water.

j- Natural critters eat tomatoes:

Not only you but also birds, squirrels, and other natural critters would like to eat tomatoes.

Natural critters’ attacks may vary on the geographic location. Urban areas are safer than other areas from critters.

k- Pruning mistakes:

Pruning is another essential part of tomato caring. The regular and right way of pruning can bring you a healthy harvest.

On the other hand, extreme pruning and irregular pruning may create different types of tomato problems and reduces plant growth and harvest.

l- Shading mistakes:

You need to provide temporary shading to protect your tomatoes from the extreme heat of direct sunlight and heavy rainfall, depending on the planting zone.

Proper shading during heat days can save your fruits and plants from cracking, wilting, burning, and other tomato physiological problems.

m- Low-quality seed:

Low-quality seeds can be a major factor behind your gardening failure. When you buy seeds from the gardening store, make sure they have the diseases resistant capacity of the particular planting zone.

Besides, you must also ensure diseases free good quality seeds for growing tomatoes.

n- Early planting or late planting:

Early planting and late planting are both harmful and create problems for tomatoes.

o- Transplanting stress:

Lack of water supply, nutrient supply, late mulching, and shading can create various tomato problems and reduce plant growth after transplanting.

p- Tomato plants wilting:

Tomato plant wilting is a common tomato problem. It may cause due to transplanting stress, temperature fluctuation, overwatering or lack of watering, and other pathogenic problems.

q- Applying herbicide:

Sometimes applying herbicide to tomato plants can also harm the tomato plants. Besides, it will take time to recover the damaged plants or even die due to extreme stress.

So, never apply imbalanced herbicides on tomato plants.

04- Tomato problems for hardiness zone effects

The United States has 13 different planting hardiness zones for growing plants. And as a matter of fact, different planting zone shows different types of weather condition as well as susceptibility to some specific regional diseases.

Tomato is a warm-weather crop. So, they perform well when the nighttime temperature becomes constant between 55°-70° Fahrenheit and day time temperature between 65°-90° Fahrenheit.

If the temperature is down below or higher than the comfortable temperature range, the tomato plants will show some problems.

Moreover, some areas are geographically and environmentally prone to some diseases.

05- Tomato pests and bugs problems

Tomato pest problems may occur for various reasons. Sometimes, unexpected temperature fluctuations, too much humidity, waterlogging, and bad companion crops may attract different types of pests and bugs in your garden.

06- Pathogenic problems

Tomato disease pathogens may be fungal, bacterial, or viral organisms. And these types of pathogens may appear in your garden due to the following reasons:

  • Hardiness zone and temperature variation
  • Poor caring of tomato plants (mulching, watering, pruning, weed control)
  • Over-fertilization or lack of nutrients supply
  • Overwatering or lack of water supply
  • Bad soil structure with no amendment
  • Staking garden debris inside the garden areas
  • Poor soil condition with no organic matters
  • Unusual wind pattern
  • Lack of air circulation into the tomato plants
  • Too much or too little humidity
  • Poor plant health
  • No crop rotation and continuing the same crops for several years
  • Tomato varieties with no disease-resistant capacity
  • Unknown and non-native seed varieties
  • Irregular monitoring

If you find any geographical, environmental, caring, or other difficulties during the growing season, your tomatoes will be highly susceptible to some pathogenic diseases. 

07- Tomato seedling problems

Tomato seedling problems are very common for tomato cultivars. Tomato seedlings may also be affected by viral, bacterial, or fungal pathogens and generate some devastating diseases like:

  • Tobacco mosaic
  • Spotted Wilt
  • Curly top
  • Early blight
  • Damping off
  • Fusarium wilt
  • Botrytis
  • Bacterial leaf spot
  • Bacterial Canker
  • Bacterial speck

Quick tips to recognize tomato plant problems:

Tomato plants are one of the most sensitive crops to grow and harvest. Moreover, they are prone to many harmful diseases.

They can be affected at any stage of their growing circle due to some caring mistakes, soil conditions, and environmental effects or attacked by some harmful pathogens.

Typically, you can explain tomato problems and diseases in many different ways. But as a beginner gardener, you may classify the tomato problems as the following orders for better understanding:

Tomato fruit problems:

Startup gardens are not familiar with all types of tomato diseases. So, it is a little bit easier to find a disease by the symptoms rather find by the disease’s name. 

Tomato Fruit Problems
Symptoms Possible reasons behind the tomato fruit problems
Soil Environment Caring Mistakes Planting zones Bugs Pathogens Nutrient Deficiency
Poor fruit set or no fruit in plants          
Unripe or green tomatoes          
Partial ripe or blotchy ripening in tomatoes      
Tomato yellow shoulder disorder      
Tomatoes turning yellow instead of red      
Tomato yellow inside        
Tomato internal black mold          
Black seeds in tomatoes        
Tomato white inside          
Mottled tomatoes        
Seeds sprouting inside tomato fruit            
Blossom end rot in tomato          
Catfacing tomatoes          
Puffiness in tomato        
Tomato zippering          
Malformed or Deformed tomatoes    
Tomato fruitworm          
Tomato fruit or skin cracking          
Tomato tops cracking          
Tomato anthracnose        
Buckeye Rot of tomatoes        
Bacterial spots on tomatoes          
Bacterial speck fruit lesions        
Bacterial canker on tomatoes          
Cloudy spot on tomatoes          
Sunscald on tomatoes        
Tomato viruses        
Early blight of tomato        
Late blight of tomato          
Fruit rot of tomato        
Tomato hornworm            
Squirrels eat tomatoes          
Birds eat tomatoes          
Other natural critters eat tomatoes          
Leaf-footed bug          
Tomato mosaic virus ToMV          

|| Read More: 15 Common Tomato Fruit Problems and Solutions

Tomato leaf problems:

This is quite difficult to find out the exact reasons for all the foliage problems accurately. But it is easy to guess the possible reasons behind the tomato leaf problems.

Tomato Leaf Problems
Symptoms Possible reasons behind the tomato leaf problems
Soil Environment Caring Mistakes Planting zones Bugs Pathogens Nutrient Deficiency
Early blight of tomato        
Late Blight of tomato        
Septoria leaf spot of tomato      
Bacterial spots on tomatoes        
Tomato leaf mold          
Tomato black leaf mold        
Tomato grey leaf mold          
A bacterial speck on tomatoes          
Bacterial canker on tomato leaves          
Bacterial wilt of tomato        
Tomato pith necrosis        
Sunscald tomato leaves          
Tomato leaves cracking          
Tomato leaf burn            
Tomato leaves brown spots      
Tomato leaf black spot      
Tomato leaf bugs
Tomato leaf bleaching        
Tomato leaf spot  
Tomato leaf miner        
Tomato leaf roll      
tomato leaf edema        
tomato leaf holes      
tomato leaf fungus    
Tomato leaf edges brown          
Tomato leaf edges turning yellow          
Tomato plant leaves crispy            
White spots on tomato leaves          
Yellow spots on tomato leaves        
Purple tomato leaves      
Tomato leaves not growing    
Tomato plant leaves turning brown and curling      
Bacterial speck          
Tomato Pith Necrosis        
Fusarium Wilt            
Verticillium Wilt        
Pepino mosaic virus (PepMV)            
Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV)            
Tobacco mosaic virus TMV and tomato mosaic virus ToMV          
Tomato apex necrosis virus (ToANV)        
Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV)          
Tomato/potato psyllid          
Potato flea beetle          
Silverleaf Whitefly          
Two-spotted Spider Mites            
Bacterial spot      
Southern Blight of Tomato        
Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV)          
Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus (TYLCV)        

|| Read More: 10 Common Tomato Leaf Problems and Solutions

Tomato Stem problems:

Your tomato plant stems are also susceptible to some diseases. It may cause due by different reason as follows:

Tomato Stem Problems
Symptoms Possible reasons behind the tomato stem problems
Soil Environment Caring Mistakes Planting zones Bugs Pathogens Nutrient Deficiency
Tomato stem problems
Tomato bacterial speck, spot, wilt      
Tomato stem rot          
Tomato stem bumps        
Tomato stem split    
Tomato stem canker      
Tomato stem end rot      
Tomato plant stem rot      
Tomato stem fungus      
Tomato stem primordia          
Alternia stem canker          
Cankers, lesions on stems        
Dark streaks on stems          

|| Read More: 5 Common Tomato Stem Problems and Solutions

Tomato root problems:

Tomato root diseases are very dangerous and difficult to identify at the preliminary stages. It can cause serious economic losses for commercial tomato growers.

Tomato Root Problems
Symptoms Possible reasons behind the tomato root problems
Soil Environment Caring Mistakes Planting zones Bugs Pathogens Nutrient Deficiency
Phytophthora root rot of tomatoes        
Black dot root rot          
Root-knot nematode of tomato    
Corky root rot tomato    
Colletotrichum coccodes tomato      
Fusarium Crown Rot      

|| Read More: 5 Common Tomato Root Problems and Solutions


You can’t control or solve all the tomato problems and diseases you face during the growing season.

But half of your tomato problems can be resolved by proper tomato caring. The right way of caring for tomato plants can make the best out of your afford.

Sources and Citations:


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