Can You Grow Tomatoes Upside Down


Can you grow tomatoes upside down? Have you ever attempted it, or wanted to? This is a method that has been trending for some time…It sounds fun, right? But does it really work? Can something like tomatoes be “trained” to grow in the opposite direction, defying nature? Some people say yes you can. It’s not foolproof so let me share the most important points to ensure more success.

I don’t know if any of you remember something called the “Topsy Turvy ” planter…In the early 2010s my late mother in law had a couple of them and was raving about hers, and she offered me her other one to try. It sounded like a gimmick…after all the “As Seen On TV” line of products is not without skepticism. (Naturally…these items are always from glitzy advertising)

It looked like a cool idea….the planter resembles kind of a narrow bag with coated vinyl case on one end. You planted your seedling (easily on) upside down, naturally, in the bag’s end and fill it with soil and hanging in an accessible spot, waiting for the magic to happen.

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upside down tomatoes

With mine, I planted cherry tomatoes, which seemed easier. I think I planted another seedling, but a little late into the game and it kind of grew out crooked. I don’t think it turned out well. I had another friend who had one of these and had a better output, so I don’t know. This thing was made of some kind of material that campsite tarps are made of which is not great long term and it eventually dry-rotted.

I checked into the Topsy Turvey planter recently to see if these were still a thing….My God, the price has really taken a jump. And that was for one planter. I could get two for less than that at the time. If you check around you can find some knockoffs made from sturdier material at a lower price.

I’m not licked, yet…I’ve started some seedlings¬† and want to give this another go. If you ever have “soft” or overripe tomatoes, you can harvest the seeds and plant them. That’s the beauty of garden keeping – a continuous cycle. Hopefully if they sprout enough, i want to try this with my own planter. I’ll update if/when I do.

Advantages of Growing Tomatoes Upside Down

Well, there are many. It’s a great space saver for one thing. If you live in an apartment with limited space and all you’ve got is a balcony, this is a great way to go. As long as there is a sturdy spot for the plants to hang. And it can be fun, too!

Second is that this approach is good to deter hungry pests. They won’t be as able to get to them when they are hanging in this manner. That includes deer, bunny rabbits, etc. and (insect) pests that can’t fly. Birds might be able to peck at them so as they grow you may want to look into some protective netting. Or supply them with nutritious seed from nearby feeders to deter them.

Weed control – easy. Weeds are unlikely to grow in these. Also the soil, because you are getting in from a fresh source, you won’t have to worry about soil-borne pathogens making their way in.

You won’t want to worry about staking them either.If this is a chore from your point of view, you will enjoy this unique approach.


And let’s not forget this too. Because tomato plants need a great deal of sunlight, you’ll need to be judicious about where you hang them, too much shade in the designated spot and the yield may be limited. Secondly, be sure they won’t get exposure to wind, either, as the limbs and stems may be delicate and too much movement could snap them off. As the laws of phototropism dictate, plants grow towards light, and there might be some u-shape formation of the limbs during the growth space.

If you want to you can make your own hanging upside down planters. I would suggest you use something sturdy and nonporous. The grow bags you hear about may not be as supportive when hanging and think about once there is soil and water combined each plant could weigh up to 25-50 pounds give or take. I’d look into buckets or planters with the traditional shape.

Guidelines for Upside Down Planting

Be sure you’ve got a sturdy place that includes a beam to hang them from.I don’t think I would use the Shepherd hooks, they’re not sturdy enough as the plants grow, although in the early first few weeks, they might be okay, if you want to test out a good location for the best growth.

Second I would focus on small and grape, cherry varieties. I would skip the beefsteaks- these big fruits will put too much stress on the location.

growing tomatoes upside down

Image credit: Image by zoe_roses

You can use the large five gallon buckets which you can get much cheaper than the Topsy Turvey planter, they will be sturdier, but some people don’t like the look of them, you could decorate them with burlap, or use a more natural looking planter like this. Personally, I like this approach better, I don’t know how well her yield turned out as this is a beginning stage, but I think the large buckets look better on the ground.

How to Create Your Planter

Now that I have my seedling and it has developed (yay!) to about 7″ in height, I will get started with this. I’ve chosen a smaller bucket that’s about 2 gallons. You may think that’s small, but when I think back on the volume of the Topsy Turvy planter, I think it will be a good fit. Use a box cutter knife to cut on opening in the bottom of the container or bucket. for the seedling to pass through.

You may also want to use a piece of mesh or newspaper covering this hole (top, left image) so it will stay in place better. Gently push the seedling through this opening -after you cut an opening in the newspaper too if you use that (large image on right). Make sure you handle it gently, plus the roots, as you are transplanting. Most tomato seedlings have little straggler leaves near the base of the stem – it’s ok to pinch those off.

making upside down tomato planter

Fill the rest of the container, right side up, about halfway, with potting soil.You may need to hold the seedling firmly outside the bucket¬† as you fill it. You can add a little mulch as I did in the form of some pinestraw. Don’t forget to water it in, too.

Hang in your designated location. where it will get plenty of sun during the day (remember tomatoes love full sun) I’ve got mine hanging from a commonplace Shepherd’s crook. It’s in a good spot where it will get a lot of sunlight, although I may later on swap it out for a taller crook than this one. For the present, it’s ok though.

Make sure you water the plants every day, as they will tend to dry out more quickly in this manner. Also like with traditional growing methods you’ll want to make use of fertilizer and apply it every two or three weeks.

upside down tomato planter finished

Best of luck and enjoy your new growing tomatoes from their unconventional method.


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