Tomatoes Rooting Depth: How Deep Do Tomato Plants Root?

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:36 pm

Did you know that tomato plants can root both shallow and deep? Learn here how to support root growth and thus achieve a more productive harvest!

A high-yield harvest depends not only on the proper care of tomato plants, but also on the development of the roots. After all, the root system is involved in vital functions and, accordingly, should be well developed. The good thing is: root growth can be influenced and significantly promoted with simple steps!

Functions of the roots

Tomatoes Rooting Depth: How Deep Do Tomato Plants Root?

The root system of tomato plants accounts for about a quarter to a third of the total weight of the plant. Accordingly, the roots not only serve as anchors for the tomato plant, but also support the above-ground parts of the plant. On top of that, a well-developed root system is essential for nutrient and water supply. This is because a well-developed, deep root system affects tomato plants in the following ways:

  • Water and nutrient uptake is maximized
  • this supports photosynthesis
  • absorbed nutrients are transported to the leaves
  • deep root growth promotes fruit production

Root system

The root system of tomato plants is not fundamentally the same: this is because the development of roots is directly related to soil conditions, but the method of propagation also directly affects the development of the root system: Tomato plants are usually propagated either by seeds or by cuttings.

If the tomato plants are propagated by seed, usually develops a central root, which grows vertically into the ground. The so-called taproot is also called “taproot” and is usually strongly developed. This root is followed by smaller lateral roots, which grow diagonally or horizontally. The lateral roots are not as strongly developed as the taproot, but again many small roots form on them.

  • Taproots reach deep soil level
  • root depth up to several meters
  • contribute to soil improvement
  • Taproots are part of the heterogeneous root system
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Cuttings – shallow roots

Tomatoes Rooting Depth: How Deep Do Tomato Plants Root?

When propagating by cuttings, a fibrous root system usually develops, which grows in width rather than in depth. This forms a regular network of root strands, which are about the same length and thickness. The filamentous roots branch many times and spread exclusively in the upper soil layers.

  • good soil conditions are especially important
  • otherwise the plants will not find a foothold
  • roots do not penetrate so deep into the soil
  • Water the plant more often

Root depth of tomatoes

Although tomato roots can develop both a taproot and a fibrous root system, a deep root system is generally preferable. This is particularly due to the improved water and nutrient supply provided by deeply branched roots. If, on the other hand, the roots develop only shallowly, the plant could dry out and produce only poorly formed fruit. Therefore, when considering the depth of the roots of tomatoes, pay attention to the following:

  • Roots of tomatoes reach up to 1m deep into the soil.
  • Adjust the planting hole for the tomatoes accordingly
  • about 1 spade deep
  • root ball should be covered with about 5 cm thick layer of soil
  • keep sufficient planting distance
  • planting distance between 50-60 cm is ideal

Note: If the tomatoes are cultivated in tubs or pots, make sure that the capacity of the containers is sufficient. Small tomato varieties require a pot size of about 3 to 10 liters, whereas large tomato varieties require a pot with a capacity of at least 20 liters.

Support deep root growth

Tomatoes Rooting Depth: How Deep Do Tomato Plants Root?

However, deep root growth can also be supported manually by taking certain precautions. These begin when the tomato seeds are sown, because at this stage the use of low-nutrient growing soil already promotes root growth. To support deep root growth afterwards, the following care steps have proven effective:

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  • first loosen the soil and mulch as deeply as possible
  • thereby increase soil moisture
  • this promotes root growth
  • Insert cuttings as deep as possible
  • only the first leaves are close to the ground


  • water tomato plants less during the first days
  • this causes the roots to search for water
  • this promotes the growth of the roots
  • always water below the leaves
  • so the roots get all the water

Soil improvement

  • loose soil offers little resistance
  • this supports root growth
  • soils with a high clay content are usually difficult to root through
  • enrich with compost


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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