Tomatoes: Tomato Blossoms Falling Off

Northern, NJ(Zone 6a)

I have two Brandywine and two Big Boy tomatoes. They are planted in large plastic pots (15 gal. approx). They have many blossoms, but the blossoms are dropping off at the stem about 1/2 inch above the blossom.

This is my first year in Zone 6 and the first year I've tried to grow tomatoes in many years. I have no idea what's going on. We had an invasion of little green (not hornworms) caterpillars in May and early June. I haven't seen any more of them and there seemed to be little clear bumps on the trunks and stems that I sprayed with a combination of dishsoap and mouthwash in water and then blasted the plants with water and they seem much healthier. But the blasted blooms are falling off.

Any recommendations or diagnoses?


Benton, KY(Zone 7a)

How hot has it been Joyce?
Brandywines are notirious for blossom drop..especially in heat.The Big boys are another matter.They're hybrids and should be adapted to most temps in the US.

There is a spray that helps keep tomato blossoms from dropping,but I've never used it.I've seen it at our ag store.It comes in a little pump bottle like windex.You might ask there. I feel that you may want to have your soil analyzed..I fear that you are lacking some nutrient.I don't think the catapillars contirbuted to the blossom drop,but it's just as well that you got rid of them.

Richmond Hill, GA(Zone 8b)

Joyce, since you're in zone 6, I would suspect that low temperatures or a cold snap is the reason for your blossom drop but it can also happen because of other reasons. Here's the whole list of reasons why tomato blossom drop occurs:

1) low spring temperatures especially cold snaps, usually below 55F. Low temperatures reduce pollen production and viability. In some cases, spring blossom drop due to low temperatures may be prevented with a fruit set hormone. Hormone sprays, such as "Blossom Set", may prevent some blossom drop due to low temperatures. However, the resulting fruit are often misshapen. Hormone sprays do not prevent blossom drop due to high temperatures. The easiest solution is to wait for later flowers to set fruit. Row covers can be used to encourage earlier fruit set by increasing temperatures around the plant.

2) High summer temperatures, especially daytime temperatures above about 90 degrees or nighttime temperatures usually above about 75 degrees. High temperatures also can reduce flower development and pollen viability. High temperature hinders fruit set through pollination and/or fertilization failure. If pollination does not occur, the blossoms fall off. You could also try hand pollination by gently shaking the tomato plant or by gently tapping the tomato blooms with a small wooden dowel about 2-3 times.

3) excessive nitrogen fertilization.

4) Dry soils (drought) and/or drying winds. Water the plants deeply once a week during dry weather. Use a mulch to help retain soil moisture.

5) Heavy rains which interfer with pollination. As I said earlier, if no pollination occurs, the blossoms drop off.

6) Heavy infections by bacteria or fungi. Nematode damage can cause tomato blossom drop.

Well, I hope this list helps you. Best of luck to you with those tomatoes! :)


Northern, NJ(Zone 6a)

Thank you Melody and Terri!

I was suspecting that the low temps might have something to do with it. We had about three days of 85 degrees in early May, but for the next 4-5 weeks, the temps were in the 60s and low 70s and dropped into the low 50s and even upper 40s at night. It's warmed up now, so maybe things will improve. It's definitely not dry soil, but don't know about infection. I used a sterile soil in the containers and have not used the composted grass and leaves I found out back because of fear of "nasties." And I would know a nematode if I saw it by its. . .? :o)
I mulched with red cedar shavings.
Might be nitrogen. Used 20-20-20, but quit that. Now know to get a lower first number. Have watered with a banana peel tea at times.

Many thanks for the input. This is fun, but frustrating and I only have 4 tomatoes and 6 peppers (bell and jalapeno), all in containers spaced around the back yard. "Real" farmers must really have a time of it.


Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

What's the banana peel tea for?

Northern, NJ(Zone 6a)

Eeek. I can't recall where I read about bananas--there are so many gardening sites. But there was a thread somewhere that people said it was a great way to add nutrients (potassium?) and that flowers and veggies love it. One person even said they bake their peels crisp and put them around their veggies with great results. We eat a lot of bananas and the peels go into compost, but on occasion they go into a knee-high stocking and steep for a few days before application. Can't testify to their greatness yet. ;o)

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