When Is It Too Late to Transplant Tomatoes? Tips for Successful Transplanting

When Is It Too Late to Transplant Tomatoes Main
When Is It Too Late to Transplant Tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a popular garden plant but can be tricky to grow. Transplanting tomatoes is an important part of their growth process, and getting the timing right is crucial. Getting it wrong can cause irreparable damage to your plants.

This article will explore when it’s too late to transplant tomatoes, including the best time to transplant, how to prepare your plants for the move, and tips on ensuring a successful transplant.

When Is It Too Late To Transplant Tomatoes?

When Is It Too Late To Transplant Tomatoes?
When Is It Too Late To Transplant Tomatoes?

Transplanting From Indoors To Outdoors

Tomatoes require warm temperatures to grow and thrive. After you start your plants indoors, if you transplant them too early, they may not survive the cold damage. If you transplant them too late, they may not have enough time to establish themselves before the end of the growing season.

The optimal time for transplanting tomatoes is when the soil has warmed up and the risk of frost has passed. This is usually 2 to 4 weeks after the last day of frost. Check the last day of frost for your area.

Pro Tip: If you are at the stage when it’s too late to transplant tomato plants, you should still do it. Even if you think plants will not have enough time to ripen the fruit, it is better to have your garden filled with plants than empty. And you never know! Some growing seasons are longer than others. One tomato fruit is better than none!

Transplanting From One Outdoors Location To Another

If you sow your tomato seeds directly into the outdoor soil. You should avoid transplanting them if they are 10 inches (25 cm) or higher. If you do, this can stun and weaken the plants, making them more susceptible to disease and pests. 

It’s best to transplant tomato seedlings when they are still small, and their roots have not yet become well-established in the soil.

Pro Tip: Avoid transplanting established tomato plants. If you do, they will weaken. Weak or stressed plants attract diseases and pests. So, if they do get diseased or infested by pests, all other tomato plants will suffer too.

Why Should You Transplant Tomatoes?

When Is It Too Late to Transplant Tomatoes? - Why Should You Transplant Tomatoes?
Why Should You Transplant Tomatoes?

Tomato seeds are typically started indoors. This technique gives plants a head start before it is ready to grow outdoors.

Transplanting allows plants to continue their growth in a new and more suitable environment. There are several reasons why transplanting will be necessary. These are:

  1. Outgrowing the Container. As tomato plants grow, they will eventually outgrow their current container. Transplanting them into a larger container or a spacious outdoor area will give them more room to grow. This will improve their health and productivity.
  2. Lack of Nutrients. Over time, the small amount of soil in your tomato plant container can become depleted of essential nutrients. This will result in stunted growth, a change in the color of leaves, and wilting. Transplanting your tomatoes to a new location or into a larger container with nutrient-rich soil will ensure they have the necessary resources to thrive and produce a healthy yield.
  3. Disease Prevention. Transplanting your tomatoes can help to prevent diseases. These diseases can occur when plants weaken from a lack of space in the container or a lack of nutrients. You will reduce the risk of diseases by transplanting your tomatoes to a larger container or outdoors.

Pro Tip: If you are lucky to live in an area with long summer seasons, you will probably start sowing directly into the garden. In that case, assuming the spacing between plants is correct, you will not need to worry about transplanting.

Preparing Your Tomatoes for Transplanting

When Is It Too Late to Transplant Tomatoes? - Preparing Your Tomatoes for Transplanting
Preparing Your Tomatoes for Transplanting

Hardening off tomato plants is an important step before transplanting them outside. This will reduce the shock of moving from indoor to outdoor growing conditions. It will also help your plants adjust to temperature fluctuations.

Once your tomato plants are big enough, and the temperature outside is consistently above 15oC (59oF), you can begin the hardening-off process.

Gradually introduce your tomato plants to the outside world. Start with 1 to 2 hours of outdoor time daily and gradually increase it.

During the hardening process, slightly reduce watering. This will allow tomatoes to get used to the possibility of lack of water. However, if you see leaves wilting, water your plants.

Also, it is essential not to bring your plants outside during harsh weather days. They might not survive it.

Transplanting Tomatoes Outside

When Is It Too Late to Transplant Tomatoes? - Transplanting Tomatoes Outside
Transplanting Tomatoes Outside

The hardening-off process typically takes 1 to 2 weeks, and when your plants can stay outside for the entire day, it’s time to transplant them.

Avoid transplanting during the hottest part of the day. The heat can stress the plant and increase the risk of shock. Instead, transplant early in the morning or late afternoon.

Transplanting tomatoes is a stressful experience for the plant. Still, you can ensure a successful transplant with a few simple tips.

  1. Reduce watering to allow easy dislodging of the tomato from their containers. If the soil is wet, it will be hard to remove the plant.
  2. Dig a hole in the garden deep enough to bury the roots and some of the stem. The roots will form from the stem that is under the ground.
  3. Remove the lower leaves to avoid soil-borne diseases infecting the plant. If leaves touch the soil, they can get infected.
  4. Gently remove the plant from the container by inverting it and tapping the bottom to allow it to slide out while keeping the root ball intact.
  5. Place the tomato plant in the hole and bury it deeply to promote good root growth, ensuring no roots stick out above the soil.
  6. Fill the hole and gently push down on the plant, ensuring the roots are not exposed.
  7. Water the plant heavily, but avoid wetting the foliage.

After transplanting, the plant will look wilted. Give it plenty of water and a few days to get used to its new environment.

Pro Tip: Keeping a journal with important dates such as sowing, germination, and transplanting is a good idea. In case of any issues, this information will help you adjust your sowing and transplanting schedule for the following year.


Transplanting tomatoes doesn’t have to be daunting. It can be a simple and successful process with the right timing and techniques. Following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your tomatoes thrive in their new location, providing you with a bountiful harvest for years.

I hope this article answers your questions. Check out our How to Grow Tomato Plants From Seeds – Easy Step By Step Guide to learn more and help your tomato plants only when they need your help.

Also, check out other similar articles in our Gardening How To section.

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