What Is Too Cold for Tomato Plants?

Written by hans fredrick
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What Is Too Cold for Tomato Plants?
Tomatoes tend to do best in average climates. (Tomato and half of tomato on a white background image by Friday from Fotolia.com)

Tomato plants come in many different varieties, and certain varieties can withstand colder temperatures better than others. But there is a common thread throughout the species. If tomatoes are subjected to cold beyond their capability to withstand it, they won't thrive. Extreme temperatures, hot or cold, can damage tomato plants.

Temperature Guidelines

The average tomato plant should not be exposed to temperatures much less than 12.8 degrees Celsius. Plants that experience weather colder than that, or worse yet, those that see frost, cannot be expected to do well. Make sure your tomatoes plants are suitable for your growing zone. Tomatoes can be grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 2 and 3, but make sure to plant seeds that are recommended for those zones.


A greenhouse or other indoor growing solution can be the ideal way to grow tomato plants that might not otherwise survive in your area. Start the plants early enough so that outdoors temperatures remain within an acceptable range after planting. Use the growing time of your seed variety to determine when to start the seeds indoors. Make sure the plants will be finished producing fruit before the temperature is expected to drop or frost arrives.

Cold Resistant Varieties

Some varieties of tomatoes do better in cooler temperatures than others. In colder growing zones, plant varieties of tomatoes that are meant to withstand cooler weather. Oregon Spring, Polar Star, Prairie Fire and Sub Arctic Maxi have shorter growing seasons and are more resistant to cold than other varieties.


To seed tomatoes outside earlier in the season, set up frost barriers to help keep the tomatoes safe. For instance, set up a growing tunnel, which is a plastic that covers wire arches along a row of tomatoes. Alternatively, hang blankets over the plants. If it is late in the season and frost is a threat, throw a frost cloth over the plants on nights when the temperature is expected to plunge.

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