How Can You Save A Dying Tomato Plant?

Although tomatoes are quite easy to grow, it is also quite easy for them to become subject to a wide variety of maladies. They are susceptible to various fungus and bacterial infections, and they are also sensitive to cold temperatures and even harsh sunlight.

What can you do when your tomato plants exhibit wilted leaves and lackluster performance? In this article, we explore some of the reasons your tomato plant may seem to be dying. We also offer good advice on prevention, remedies and fixes to help you save your dying tomato plant. Read on to learn more on how to save a dying tomato plant.

Don’t Panic After Transplanting

newly transplanted seedlings

Newly transplanted seedlings and even mature plants transplanted from one pot to another or from pot to garden may wilt and suffer a bit from transplant shock. You can avoid this by handling the plants’ roots carefully during the transplanting process.

If you’re moving plants from indoors to outdoors, take care to protect them against harsh sunlight and strong winds for the first week or so of their time outdoors.

Be Sure Your Tomato Plants Are Properly Fed And Watered

tomatoes are thirsty plants

Tomatoes are thirsty plants, and the fact that they prefer full sun means that quite a bit of water evaporates from the soil around them.

Be sure to give your tomato plants at least an inch of water weekly. This is the minimum amount to prevent wilting. If your soil is very sandy, or if your environment is very windy, your plants may need more water.

Note that in an extremely hot environment, you may need to give your tomato plants more than an inch of water per week. Even so, it is possible to overwater, and this can cause wilting.

If you’re sure that your plants are getting plenty of water, yet they are still wilted, try allowing the top two inches of soil to dry thoroughly before watering again.

Before you plant, amend the soil with compost, a seaweed fertilizer or a commercial tomato plant fertilizer. It takes lots of energy for tomato plants to grow and produce fruit, so they need to be well fed. Feed them at least twice a month. Every ten days makes an ideal tomato plant feeding schedule.

Plant Your Tomatoes In The Right Location

plant your tomatoes in the right location

A setting that receives at least six hours of sun daily is desirable. Shelter from high winds reduces stress and damage to your plants. Make sure the soil your tomatoes are planted in is loose and well draining.

Don’t position your plants close to a walnut tree. These trees produce a toxin known as juglone, which spreads through the soil around them and kills nearby plants. Your tomato plant should be a minimum of 75 feet away from any walnut tree.

Don’t plant your tomatoes too close to your lawn if you use herbicides to control weeds. Herbicides that are intended to kill dandelions and several other types of weeds will also kill your tomato plants.

Don’t plant your tomatoes in the same place year after year. Rotate your crops so that pests and diseases don’t have a chance to get a firm foothold.

Don’t Let Your Tomato Plants Get Too Hot

Even though tomato plants do need lots of sun to thrive, there are places that simply have too much sun. Desert settings and very hot states such as Florida and Texas may provide an environment that simply provides too much heat and sun, even for tomatoes.

In these locations, you may want to be sure that your plants get full morning sun and shade during the heat of the afternoon.

How To Save A Potted Tomato Plant From Dying

Keep An Eye Out For Pests

Examine the leaves of your plants frequently for potential pests. Some common tomato plant pests include:

  • Tomato Horn Worms
  • Green Spider Mites
  • Red Spider Mites
  • Stalk Borers

For mites and other tiny pests, try spraying the plants with a forceful blast of water daily for a couple of days. This will knock aphids, mites and similar small pests off the plants.

Follow-up with an insecticidal soap mixture to prevent their return. Look into introducing ladybugs and other predatory insects to your garden to keep mites, aphids and other tiny bugs under control.

Stalk Borers and Tomato Horn Worms can be picked off and dropped into a bucket of soapy water as you see them. Tomato Horn worms are easy to spot, stalk borers are usually inside the plants’ stem, so you won’t see them often. If you do, pick them off and get rid of them.

Be sure to examine your plants frequently as pests tend to return again and again. A healthy population of predatory insects (such as parasitic wasps) can help keep these unwanted insects under control.

Learn To Recognize Common Tomato Plant Diseases

If your tomato plants tend to wilt during the heat of the day and then recover in the nighttime, they may be infected with fungal diseases such as Verticillium Wilt or Fusarium Wilt. These are caused by a soil dwelling fungus, and unfortunately there is no cure.

If your tomatoes are infected, you must simply pull them up and dispose of them properly. Don’t put them in your compost heap. Pack them up and set them out with the trash or burn them.

On the bright side, fungal infections that cause solid leaf spot can be treated with a foliar application of fungicides. Good foliar fungicides are made with:

  • Chlorothalonil
  • Copper
  • Maneb

These products can be used on tomato seedlings within the first month after planting. Thereafter, apply 2 to 4 times a month to kill fungus and prevent plant death.

Leaf spots that appear in the form of rings may be an indication of a viral infection known as Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. This virus causes the plant to wilt and brown or green rings to appear on the fruit. The foliage become stunted and bronzed. This viral infection cannot be cured, and you must remove and destroy the plants.

Tomato plants that are correctly watered and kept in a good location yet still exhibit yellow leaves may have a bacterial infection. In this case, you’ll need to pull the plants up and start over again.

As a general rule, any time your tomato plants are suffering from a bacterial or viral infection, don’t throw the discarded plants or their prunings into your compost heap. Always dispose of them by sending them away with the trash or by burning them.


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