Why is Your Tomato Plant Wilting? Common Causes and Solutions

Why is Your Tomato Plant Wilting? Common Causes and Solutions

Lack of Water

The most common reason your tomato plants are wilting is simply a lack of water. Tomato plants have relatively shallow root systems and need steady moisture to thrive. Check the soil around your plants – if it is dry 2 inches or more below the surface, your plants are likely wilting due to thirst.

The solution is to water your tomato plants deeply but infrequently. Train yourself to water when the top 2 inches of soil is dry, and then soak the entire root zone. Use soaker hoses, drip irrigation, or a watering can for targeted watering.

The key point here is that tomatoes have shallow roots so they need regular watering to avoid drought stress.

When soils dry out more than 2 inches below the surface, tomato plants will start to droop and wilt. To fix this, you must water deeply but infrequently. Only water when the top 2 inches of soil is dry. Watering until the entire root zone is soaked will encourage tomatoes to grow deeper roots that can access water reserves.

Use targeted watering methods like soaker hoses, drip irrigation tubes or a watering can placed at the base of plants. Broadcasting water over the whole garden wastes water and leads to shallow roots. The aim is to get water directly into the soil where the roots can access it.


  • Lack of water is a key cause of tomato wilting

  • Tomatoes need regular watering due to shallow roots

  • Water deeply but infrequently, only when the top 2 inches of soil is dry

  • Targeted watering methods encourage deeper root growth

  • Thoroughly soak wilted plants and transition to less frequent, deep watering

This will encourage your tomato plants to develop a deeper root system to search for water on their own.


Extreme Heat

During very hot weather, tomato plants can wilt rapidly even if the soil is still moist. The plants simply lose water faster than their roots can replenish it. You'll likely see the lower, older leaves wilting first during a heat-induced event.

The best solutions are to provide shade and increase air circulation around your plants. Erect a shade cloth over the plants or move pots into the shade during the hottest parts of the day.

The key point here is reducing water loss and temperature around the plants. To fix heat-induced wilting, provide shade using a cloth or by moving pots to a shaded area during the hottest parts of the day. Trim excess leaves to increase air circulation and reduce moisture loss.

Watering in the morning instead of the evening can also help. Morning water allows some of the moisture to evaporate from the soil during the cooler parts of the day.


  • Heat-induced wilting occurs when plants lose water faster than roots can replace it

  • Reduce water loss and temperature around plants

  • Provide shade and increase air circulation

  • Water in the morning to avoid warming the soil


Insect Damage or Disease

Check the undersides of leaves and main stems for signs of insect damage like spider mites, aphids, or flea beetles. Larvae from certain insects also tunnel into stems, causing wilt. Scan for lesions, spots, or mildew growth that indicate a fungal or bacterial disease attacking the roots or stems.

If you suspect insects or diseases as the culprit, take preventative actions like removing affected parts and using organic pesticides. Contact a local extension office for specialist advice on how to rescue your wilted tomato plants.

With prompt action and care, you can usually revive tomato plants suffering from wilting and get them back on the path to fruitfulness. Be patient, monitor conditions closely and adjust your watering and care to match the needs of your plants. With a little TLC, even stressed tomato plants can make a full recovery.



Q: Why are the lower leaves on my tomato plant wilting?

A: The lower, older leaves are often the first to wilt when plants experience heat or drought stress. Check soil moisture and consider providing shade.

Q: How often should I water my tomato plants?

A: Water deeply but infrequently, only when the top 2 inches of soil are dry. This encourages deeper root growth. Most tomato plants need water every 3 to 5 days during the growing season, but timing depends on soil type, temperature, and plant size.

Q: My tomato plant wilted and then perked back up. Is that okay?

A: This is a common symptom of temporary drought stress. As long as the plant fully recovers after rewatering and shows no signs of permanent damage, it is likely fine. Monitor it closely for any ongoing wilting that does not improve.

Q: Can wilted tomato plants recover?

A: Yes, with proper care most wilted tomato plants can recover and continue flowering/fruiting. The key is identifying and addressing the cause of wilting, such as lack of water, heat stress or insects/disease. Remove any dead or damaged leaves and give the plant optimal growing conditions going forward.

Q: My tomato plant has been wilted for days. Is it a goner?

A: If a tomato plant has been wilted without improvement for several days, it is likely suffering from severe drought stress, root damage or disease. You can try thoroughly watering and improving growing conditions, removing any damage. But if the plant does not begin to perk up within a day or two, it may not recover and you may need to remove and replace it.

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