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Does Growing Upside Down Tomatoes Work?

Updated on February 9, 2016
Top and bottom hanging planter.
Top and bottom hanging planter. | Source

Why Grow Tomatoes Upside Down

Why has it become so popular to try growing tomatoes upside down? You see articles on building your own planters, and there are a variety of commercial planters. Let's examine some of the advantages of upside down tomatoes.

No Staking - Since the tomatoes are hanging from the planter, you have no need to stake them, or bother with any other types of support other than the planter hanger. For some indeterminate types of tomatoes, you may find you need to trim them to keep them off the ground, but no need for tomato stakes.

Soil Borne Pests - Since the tomato plants don't rest on the ground, you don't have nearly the problems with slugs and other soil borne pests.

Soil Borne Disease - Since you are likely to replenish the soil annually with a planter, problems with diseases lurking in the potting soil are significantly lower.

Improved Air Circulation - Since the tomato plants are suspended in the air, you get increased and better air circulation. This results in improved pollination, higher yields, and fewer problems with rot bottom, a common tomato disease caused by too much watering.

Weeds - Since the planter has very little exposed soil, there are almost no problems with weeds which also means you don't have to weed.

Location - The beauty of container gardening is that you can create a garden almost anywhere. You can hang these planters on your apartment or condo balcony, you can hang it on your patio, or you can hang it near your back door. All of these options keep your fresh tomatoes much closer to the kitchen than a backyard garden plot.

Topsy Turvy Planter in action
Topsy Turvy Planter in action | Source

Topsy Turvy Tomato Planters

The most famous upside down tomato planter is the Topsy Turvy Planter. A few years ago it was even featured in Time Magazine as one of that year's Amazing Inventions. It's a simple construction, but it has the water retention sponge in the middle of the unit that is key to making it much easier to use than most home made planters. With that in place you don't have to worry about watering as often, which can be an issue in any type of container.

While this has been a very popular planter, it has the shortcoming of only supporting one plant at a time (or two if you try planting another plant in the top).

To get around this, the same company has introduced the Topsy Turvy Tomato Tree. This is a unit that has a built in stand, and has spots for three tomato plants. While they are not technically upside down, they are hanging plants with most of the same advantages. So you get room for three, and a built in stand so you don't have to find a place to hang it.

For those DIYers out there, you can actually make one of these hanging tomato planters with a bucket or even a milk jug. But the money you will save will not land you the water retention sponge that addresses the main problem with container gardens, and that is the problem of keeping them adequately watered. So before going home made, make sure you are able to water DIY planter adequately and regularly.

Upside Down Tomato Garden

The Upside Down Tomato Garden is the high end of tomato planters. This unit has a soil container that is supported by 4 poles, and has room for four tomatoes to be planted upside down. But, in addition to that, there is room for additional plants on the top of the container. You can fill this with flowers, or maybe smaller pepper plants, so it can be almost a whole garden on a stand on your patio. Note, this unit can be quite heavy when you fill it with soil and water it, so be careful about its placement because you don't want to be trying to move around a fully loaded unit.

Finally, if you just want a small tomato plant, you can plant one of the smaller varieties like Patio in a simple hanging planter that takes up very little room.

While all these planters are generally sold as a way to grow tomatoes, you can actually use them to grow other plants like peppers or cucumbers as well.

So, hanging tomatoes work quite well. Build one of your own, or just save the time and pick up one of the smaller ones to get started with some of the best tomatoes you've grown.

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    • johnr54 profile imageAUTHOR

      Joanie Ruppel 

      5 years ago from Texas

      I have to admit, these hanging planters need some trial and error! I'll be getting mine out soon!

    • LongTimeMother profile image


      5 years ago from Australia

      A few years ago I bought a few of the upside down planters, very much like the one in your diagram. It frustrated me because the tomato plants grew so long that I ended up having to raise the contraption so high I couldn't reach to water it. I was wishing the body was shorter because I probably didn't need so much soil, and the top may have remained within reach.

      I think I still have them. Might be worth getting them out for next season. Hmmm.

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A Johnson 

      7 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      I can't wait to try this. I've always been a skeptic about this "upside-down" gardening but now am willing to give it a try.

    • MarieOaks profile image


      7 years ago from Mexico

      We've been using this method, but making our own containers. We just use a five-gallon bucket, cut the bottom off, and the plant grows out of the top (now bottom...). So far so good, but we still haven't had any fruit yet so we'll see!

    • profile image

      Indoor Greenhouse Guy 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for an informative Hub John, I've been growing my vegetbles indoors for several years now but ive laways had a tomato plant or two outside where they seem to do much better. My problem has always been slugs which seem to decimate the leaves, but i dont like using slug pellets. This hanging method looks to be a gem! I'll be trying it next.

    • Teddletonmr profile image

      Mike Teddleton 

      8 years ago from Midwest USA

      I was simply looking for a better way to grow my tomatoes when I stumbled across your hub. Interesting concept. Growing plants upside down, hum, maybe I'll give it a go. Thanks for the imformation, hub up and useful..

    • TomBlake profile image


      8 years ago

      What a great angle on gardening! It's amazing that people had time to stand guard over gardens and crops. Thankfully, there’s deer off that can keep the marauding deer away.

      Here's the spray I'm talking about: It works by targeting both the highly developed sense of smell and taste. It’s the only one that targets both.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank you Hal Hurst! I have found my plants are doing the exact same thing (growing upward). I thought I was doing something wrong. I also saw a neighbors plants growing up too. I cant figure out how they claim the plants grow down?

    • Pollyannalana profile image


      8 years ago from US

      I have been wanting to try this, thx for all info. Polly

    • CherrylPingleton profile image


      8 years ago

      This is a great idea since you don't have to worry about soil-borne pests. Do you still have to worry about aphids and other air-borne pests? If it doesn't prevent against all pests, I found this insect killer online that's good for keeping bugs away organically. It’s easily broken down by nature.

      Here's the spray:

    • profile image

      James the Bald 

      9 years ago

      I have made 3 upside-down planters from clean 5 gallon buckets and purchased one designed specifically for strawberries. Each one was hung on the side of a porch which received afternoon sun. I planted cucumbers in one and it produced cucumbers 14 - 18 inches long. My most surprising upside-down planter was the one with cherry tomatoes, which produced long after all my other plants wilted from the cold. For the 3rd one, I made 3 holes at the bottom and tried growing 2 cantelopes and a birdhouse gourde vine. They didn't do well at all, as I believe they didn't get enough sunlight. The strawberry planter has 15 holes to grow strawberry plants along the side of the planter. It did well, but not as well as I thought it would. Those 3 planters produced more veggies than any of those in my garden.

    • profile image

      Hal Hurst 

      9 years ago

      I have six tomato plants growing in six topsy-turvy planters. The claim that they need no support but grow downward is a lot of hooey as anyone who knows anything about how plants grow will realize after a little thought.

      As soon as the plants are inverted, the stems begin to grow upward again, with a u-shaped bend in the stem. but as the stems get longer, and begin to get fruit, they still begin to bend and break. I ended up tying my plants with strings from the top of the planter after two months' growth in order to keep from losing branches. Otherwise I am satisfied with the way the topsy-turvy planters are working out. But next time I might just use a hanging pot- I'll need to tie them up anyway, and the planter ends up shading half the plant from the sun.

    • GreenGardenGuy profile image


      9 years ago from Fort Myers, FL

      They do work pretty good. I prefer the homemade 5 gallon bucket planter because they hold more soil and that supports a healthier plant. We put herbs in the top of the bucket so the sun doesn't dry out the soil so fast. Get a normal dish washing sponge at a dollar store and cut it in half (now you have 2) then cut a slit halfway across and wrap that around your tomato to hold it in. The sponge helps keep the dirt in too.

    • Colebabie profile image


      9 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I bought one of the topsy turvys yesterday for $9.99. We'll see how it goes. It looks promising. Your hub has given me more confidence that it will be great! :)

    • johnr54 profile imageAUTHOR

      Joanie Ruppel 

      9 years ago from Texas

      That's pretty creative. The problem I would foresee with a 2 liter bottle is that you would have to be very vigilant about keeping it watered since that's not a lot of soil, and you need to stick with some pretty small tomato varieties like the Tumbling Toms.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I took a 2 litter bottle and cut off the bottom. Then I cut 2 inches above the bottom 1 inch to put a hose through. Then put a rope through that then put the plant through the top of the bottle with a sponge. The sponge helps hold the plant in place, helps keep the water in and supports the plant so it wont cut itself on the top of the bottle. Then I make the top the bottom and the bottom the top and add dirt into the now top of the bottle "use to be the bottom of the bottle" I also add a sponge or you could use moss to help keep the dirt damp. Then I put a black cloth on the outside of the bottle above the neck of the bottle. The cool thing is I am making use of what I would have taken to recycle. I do watch for bad weather still babying them but unless the wind starts flapping the plant/bottle around I leave it enjoy the free rain.

    • profile image

      Judy Cullins 

      9 years ago

      John, I'll take this info and share with my partner Bill, who is out in the greenhouse daily. We plant seeds, then plants to ahave a steady crop. Success all depends on weather and shade. We have a lot of Eucalyptus here in San Diego.

      Thanks for the good info.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I really enjoyed this article, John. I also love to grow tomatoes and have just finished planting three different plant varieties in our small garden. I haven't tried the hanging plant idea yet. I had never had much luck with tomatoes in my garden but a couple of years ago took the time to learn how to prune the tomato plants and that year we had an amazing bumper crop that lasted much longer than I thought they would from five plants that grew about six feet tall. It was a blast!

    • TetonRose profile image


      10 years ago from Utah

      Johnr54: Thank you. I will have to try this method. We bought tomato plants today and this would be great fun for the well as make them (the tomatoes!) more likely to survive!

    • glassvisage profile image


      10 years ago from Northern California

      I saw this advertised on a TV commercial, and I was totally skeptical at first because I've grown up with genuine gardening and farming, but it seems like a pretty good idea the more I learn about it. The only thing I would worry about it if the environment and climate is acceptable everywhere for this to work...

    • inkcarts profile image


      10 years ago from Louisiana

      Thanks John! I'm going to try growing Romas this way. I love making salsa with Roma tomatoes!

    • johnr54 profile imageAUTHOR

      Joanie Ruppel 

      10 years ago from Texas

      I don't think strawberries would do well, they are short plants that send out runners in a bed. If you are looking for other plants that might do well, they would tend to be vining types of plants, or at least large main stalks, like peppers or eggplant.

      Actually, the last planters I got did not have the internal water retention disk, I don't know if that is permanent. You can buy water retaining crystals to do the same job for a home made one.

      The bottom disk is simply a strong spongy material, maybe 1/2 inch thick, with a slit to put the stem in.

      Make sure they drain well. Don't count on the stem hole for drainage.

      An a fully loaded one with watered soil is very heavy, make sure you have a place in mind to hang it that will take the weight. One of the shepherds crooks from the nursery won't do the trick.

    • TetonRose profile image


      10 years ago from Utah

      This looks like something my granddaughters and I would have a lot of fun doing. They will probably each want to make one.

      What kind of foam is used for the diffusion disks and foam clamp? Is this some kind of styrofoam or a soft sponge type of foam?

      Do you know if strawberries would also do well with this kind of planting arrangement?

      Are there any "Dos and don'ts" we'll need to be aware of if we make some of these?

    • 13Ruby profile image


      10 years ago

      I have a couple of these planters (the high end "garden" ones from Hammacher Schlemmer!) that I've used for 2 years. They are fabulous! I have planted 4 different types of tomato plants in each one, and have harvested more tomatoes than you can imagine.

      After the first year I did learn to add the stuff that makes water remain in the soil, because these babies need constant watering as they grow. When they are set with tomatoes, I still have to water almost daily, but at least they are not wilting in between times. This is one reason that I think I will reduce down to 3 plants in each planter. They grow so profusely that they completely use up the 80 lbs of potting soil that the containers hold.

      I hope this helps anyone interested in try them out! I highly recommend them.

    • AndyBaker profile image


      10 years ago from UK

      I never knew you could grow tomatoes upside down!

      @TravelMonkey - monkeys eating tomatoes? I suppose they will try to eat pretty much anything.

    • oscarmecp4 profile image


      10 years ago from South Africa

      Mate johnr54 you deserve a 100 on your hubscore. First off all it's a small price for good tomatoes and all the trouble you got in planting them in soil. I'm a fanatic gardener myself. I want to put it on hubpages but my writing skills isn't so good but one of these days it will be up on hubpages. I only got the photos to brag about my gardening expierence. We don't get cold winters in the northern part of South Africa but sometimes we do get frost and I'm searching for those parrifine lamps they use in California to break the frost at night if you could assist me or any hubber can please feel free to visit my webpage and at the bottom you will get my e mail. Regards

    • TravelMonkey profile image


      10 years ago from United Kingdom

      It is a little known fact but monkeys are avid gardeners and hungry consumers of ripe, pert tomoates. These gizmos are just the ticket for us arboreal gardeners!!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Tomatoes are actually vines. You don't even have to grow them upside down. You can just put them into a large basket and grow them. I have found that if you plant the larger varieties of tomatoes, you need to make sure you use a very large container, and that you hang it by and on something that will support the weight. I did a couple in five gallon plastic buckets, not upside down, but hung by chains from a large post. Even still, the weight of the plant eventually started breaking off the limbs of the plant. The grape or cherry tomatoes, or smaller varieties do better grown like this.

      As far as soil borne diseases, you can simply open the top of a bag of topsoil, plop in a tomato plant, and grow it like that. Not pretty, but it works, and there are no soil borne diseases.

    • monitor profile image


      10 years ago from The world.

      This is for real. I heard about it but thougt it was a humorous rumour. Gotta get me one and try. THnaks.

      Your fan.


    • Adriana C. profile image

      Adriana C. 

      10 years ago

      I may try one of these for myself: we plant tomatoes every year in our small backyard, but they never do really well: I think our soil is not very good. Great hub! thanks for all the reasons you came up to grow these upside down tomatoes.

    • caspar profile image


      10 years ago from UK

      I'd never heard of these - they seem to be worth a go. I have only ever used a grow-bag for my tomatoes before (my one and only attempt at growing stuff to eat)!

    • C.S.Alexis profile image


      10 years ago from NW Indiana

      My brother told me about this contraption and I thought it was an awesome idea. I had never heard of it or seen it before last spring. Now that I have read your hub I want to purchase one as a gift for my tomato friend. I will have him give it a try. Tomatoes are a vining plant so it makes common sense. Great info. Thanks John.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      10 years ago from San Francisco

      I bought one of these for my parents a couple of years ago, and they did like it a lot. They live in the desert where the ground is too dry, and the Topsy Turvy retained water in the soil much better. Great hub!


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