Growing Upside Down Tomatoes

Want to plant some tomatoes, upside down? It’s easy using our Water Jelly Crystals – a special superabsorbent polymer that absorbs about 150 times its weight in water and releases it to the plant. Over the years, we’ve used Water Jelly Crystals for literally dozens of cool science projects, but this is the first time we’ve seen someone use them for upside down tomatoes.

  1. Get a big bucket with a strong, securely-attached handle, a big bag of potting soil, some Water Jelly Crystals, and a healthy tomato plant.
  2. Cut a 2-inch hole in the bottom of the bucket. Then flip the bucket over and fill it half-way with soil. Add a layer of water-soaked Water Jelly Crystals, and fill it the rest of the way with soil. Put a lid on the bucket, and flip it over. Plant the tomato through the hole in the bucket’s bottom, and water thoroughly. Let the plant’s roots get established before you turn the bucket upside down and hang it – this takes about a week.
  3. Hang the bucket, with the tomato plant on the bottom, from a clothesline pole, or a hook out on the porch or deck, or a tree – any place that gets a lot of direct sunlight, and is strong enough. That big bucket will be pretty heavy.

Your tomatoes will grow like gangbusters, and you can pick fresh tomatoes all summer long without having to deal with a tomato cage or weeds. This method works for any kind of tomato, by the way. Cherry tomatoes are especially fun.

Here are some additional gardening ideas using Water Jelly Crystals.

Many thanks to master gardener Walter Reeves, who can be heard every Saturday morning on News Talk 750 WSB-AM on “The Lawn & Garden Show with Walter Reeves,” for the use of the picture of his upside-down tomatoes.

Share this post

Comments (14)

  • Carol Shull Reply

    June 4, 2008
    Dear Steve,
    Do you think you could grow snap peas in an upside down method as well? I know that the soil would need to be well ferltilzed and that I should use the water crystals, but is there anything else I need to consider? Is it too late for this year if I live in Western Maryland?
    Thank you for your time

    June 4, 2008 at 11:20 am
  • Jane Reply

    Dear Carol,

    No, it’s not too late. Snap peas need loose, sandy soil though, so I am not sure any kind of container would work for them. However, it’s certainly worth a try! If you do try growing snap peas upside-down, we would love to know how it worked out.

    Peas need a combination of cool temperature and lots of sun – 4-6 hours a day, and coming in from all sides – and that is a tricky combination at best, even in a garden.

    Good luck with your experiment, and I hope you end up with a waterfall of snap peas on your deck! Keep us posted!

    Thank you for your question, Carol.

    June 4, 2008 at 12:08 pm
  • My Upside-Down Tomatoes Reply

    This is a really fun project; I wasn’t sure it would work, but I found the idea on Steve Spangler’s blog and it looked like it would be both fun AND easy, and so far? BOTH! If you look closely at this […]

    July 7, 2008 at 12:29 am
  • JCS Reply

    This looks really fun and that it works really well. I wonder though, with all the bad news coming out about plastics in water bottles, baby bottles, etc. – is this polymer safe? the water will sit in those crystals for so long and then get absorbed into the tomatoes. Thank you.

    July 15, 2008 at 10:08 am
  • Steve Spangler Reply

    Hi JCS,
    Rest assured that all of our polymer products are absolutely non-toxic. The Water Jelly Crystals are, in a sense, a type of plastic but the molecules are linked in such a way that they are completely non-toxic. In fact, the tomatoes like water so much that they will pull just the water out of the crystals and nothing else. The polymer works basically just as a “holder” for the water, so no exchange of plastic into the tomatoes will occur. For more information about Water Jelly Crystals, click here. Good luck and happy gardening!

    July 15, 2008 at 11:08 am
  • Still No Bugs on my Tomatoes, Thanks to Repell-em! » Repell-em Blog Reply

    […] since I read about upside-down tomatoes over on Steve Spangler’s blog, I’ve wanted to try it.  This summer, I did try it and so far, it’s still working […]

    August 12, 2008 at 11:11 pm
  • Robin J Reply

    am curious, we live in the desert & even tomatoes will burn in our summer sun – we usually shade our patio with green garden screening, do you think they would grow on our patio? also what else could we grow with this method? is there anything else?

    April 10, 2009 at 8:38 pm
  • Mamacita Reply

    Robin, I’ve grown all kinds of peppers upside-down, as well as tomatoes, and they’ve done really well, too. This summer, I’m going to try a blueberry bush and a Concord grape vine upside-down, along with the tomatoes and peppers. I think the combination of your bright sunshine, with the partial shade of your patio combined with the “shade” of being underneath a bucket :), your tomatoes should grow quite well! We’ll all be interested to know how it turns out for you!

    April 14, 2009 at 4:15 pm
  • EcoSmart Repellem and the Upside-Down Tomatoes » Repell-em Blog Reply

    […] tomatoes. This is a really fun project; I wasn’t sure it would work, but I found the idea on Steve Spangler’s blog and it looked like it would be both fun AND easy, and so far? BOTH! If you look closely at this […]

    May 10, 2009 at 11:02 pm
  • MICKSTER Reply


    May 30, 2009 at 10:18 am
  • Jane Reply

    Oh, the tomatoes were there all right! They were just really, really tiny. By the end of last summer, we had enough tomatoes to sink a ship!

    So far THIS summer, we’ve got blossoms and dozens of tiny green tomatoes, but we expect a bumper crop from our upside-down tomatoes.

    June 1, 2009 at 10:46 pm
  • bill@outdoor living furniture Reply

    We tried this and got plenty of blooms but very few tomatoes. Did we not do something right or did the blooms just not get pollinated?


    August 31, 2009 at 3:11 pm
  • green garden Reply

    It is recommended to plant your tomato plants 80% under ground for strong stalks. What about when planting upside down?Has anyone tried this?

    December 22, 2009 at 8:50 pm
  • Jane Reply

    Do you mean has anyone tried the upside-down tomatoes? I have, and it’s awesome. You are right about the strong stalks, but it’s easy to get the plants well into the dirt even upside-down. It’s still important to have a strong stalk on your plants no matter which direction they’re growing. Really, the only thing about planting upside-down tomatoes that’s different from the usual way is the fact that they’re, well, upside down! They’ll be the same size, etc, as the tomatoes you plant the regular way. It’s just a LOT handier and easier the upside-down way – no cages or bending over, for example! I’ve done my tomatoes this way ever since I first heard about it on this site, and I absolutely love it.

    December 29, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *