The Effects of Temperature on Tomato Plants

Written by danielle hill
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The Effects of Temperature on Tomato Plants
Most tomato plants thrive around 23.9 degrees Celsius. (Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Tomato plants grow well in a wide variety of climates. According to the USDA Hardiness growing zones, various tomato varieties can grow in regions throughout the continental United States. In general, however, tomato plants require temperatures of around 23.9 degrees Celsius to ripen properly. You'll need to time your planting and select tomato varieties in accordance with your local climate.

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Excessive Heat

If you expose tomato plants to excessively high temperatures, the plant will generally require greater irrigation and the leaves can be burnt. At temperatures above 32.2 degrees Celsius, the plant will not fruit properly. Heat spikes will soften tomatoes that have already begun to mature, preventing the colour and flavour from developing fully. Excessive heat is a particular risk among the First-Early Reds, those tomato varieties that are first to mature, generally ripening in 60 days or less. As the name indicates, their fruit tends to have a brilliant red colour.

Excessive Cold

If you plant tomatoes too early or too late in the season, you may expose them to excessively cold temperatures. Likewise, trying to grow slow-ripening varieties in northern climates with short growing seasons will expose the plants to cold spring or fall temperatures. In general, nighttime low temperatures shouldn't drop below 10 degrees Celsius. Otherwise, the plant may not produce fruit. If you have a short growing season to work with, you can protect tomato plants from late spring frosts by beginning them in greenhouses, then transplanting outdoors, according to the University of Illinois Extension. Even cold-resistant tomato plants are unlikely to survive frost.

Temperature Variation

While most varieties of tomato fare best with an average temperature of around 23.9 degrees Celsius, they don't necessarily thrive at that temperature continuously. Rather, a nightly temperature drop, down to 12.7 or 15.5 degrees Celsius, will favour growth and fruiting, particularly during early growth. If you begin tomato plant seedlings in a greenhouse, you can adjust the temperature accordingly for best results, reports the website Tomato Fest.

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