Best Shade Tolerant Tomato Varieties To Grow In Sunless Gardens

Growing fruit and vegetables in your garden is always a wise decision.

Not only is it great fun for the budding gardeners amongst us, but it also produces much healthier options that are devoid of all those nasty preservatives or pesticides. 

Best Shade Tolerant Tomato Varieties To Grow In Sunless Gardens

The only problem is that this can be tricky at the best of times, let alone when your backyard doesn’t seem to get many hours of sunlight and is covered in shade.

And you may have heard tomatoes often being referred to as sun-loving plants and thought well, I can’t grow them, then. 

But you can! 

Yes, many varieties of tomatoes do require around 6-7 hours of direct sunlight every day to survive, but this isn’t the case for all varieties of tomatoes.

So before you say your farewells to this faux-vegetable (actually a fruit) why not opt for a more shade-tolerant option that should be able to adapt to less sunny climates? 

In this article, we’re going to detail the best tomato varieties for relatively sunless gardens, (see also: Best Types Of Sage To Grow In Your Garden – 15 Varieties!)so if this applies to you – be sure to stick around and read on! 

Are Truly Shade-Tolerant Tomatoes Actually Real?

So, you may be wondering, are shade-tolerant tomatoes actually a thing? Like, are they real? Well, yes and no. 

Technically speaking, all tomatoes need some sunlight to be able to produce the fruit and most varieties of tomatoes will not produce any fruit at all in the shade.

Getting scientific, this is because the more sunlight there is, the higher the rate of photosynthesis, thus the more energy the plant has to produce the larger fruits.

Essentially, sunlight is food and the more the plant receives the bigger and stronger it can grow. 

Shade-tolerant tomato plants are basically tomato plants that will still produce some form of fruit while in the shade when not receiving the desired amount of sunlight.

However, if you were to put them in the sun for six or so hours, you’d get much better results. 

So, they are shade tolerant in a way, because there will still be some form of fruit produced, however, don’t expect the plant to be so tolerant that you still produce the same yield as those placed in direct sunlight. 

Some fruits will be smaller in size, such as cherry tomatoes, while others may have a much shorter maturing period.

Opting for high-yielding tomato varieties (see also: 11 Best High Yielding Tomato Varieties For Huge Harvests To Plant Today)is also a wise idea as this gives you the highest chance of growing the most fruit in slightly less preferable conditions. 

You’ll need to keep in mind, too, that sunlight is food for plants, so it will still need some access to sunlight, though usually, three hours of direct sunlight along with the tail ends of indirect sunlight should be enough to produce the desired fruit. 

Final Word Of Warning – Because the sunlight is minimal, you’ll need to put in the maximum effort to ensure that all other conditions are as close to perfect as possible, otherwise it is likely that your plant will not flower. 

Best Shade Tolerant Tomato Varieties 

1. Roma 

Often a popular choice, Roma tomatoes are a fantastic option as they can make both delicious sauces and pastes. They tend to be pretty irregular and oblong in shape and tend to have a rich and deep red color with a fleshy texture.

You’ll know they’re ready to be harvested when they become pretty firm. 

And what’s great is that they’re pretty easy to grow. They’re pretty resistant to fusarium and verticillium wilt.

And as long as you give them the helping hand required to support the somewhat heavy and moderately sized fruits, you should find that they produce a fairly decently sized yield even in shadier conditions. 

2. Siberia 

For those who lack long hours of sunshine, you couldn’t find a better variety of tomatoes than the Siberia tomato.

Not only does it fare well in shade thanks to its fairly quick maturity (it’s harvest-ready in just over 8 weeks) but it also perseveres through much colder conditions. At temperatures as low as 38F, the Siberia tomato will still produce its fruit. 

And while the yield in the shade will be fairly low, you will get pretty large and round fruits whose size is remarkably impressive considering they’ve been grown in the shade.

Because of this, though, they will require quite a lot of fertilizer and water. 

Siberia tomatoes go best on top of a salad or sandwich, though they can make a rich sauce too. 

3. Black Krim 

These popular Russian tomatoes have quite a unique appearance with their peculiar red and darkish color. They also tend to produce this almost-striped pattern along their edges that makes them easily identifiable. 

In terms of growth, they have a fairly short season being ready to harvest in just 80 days, which makes them an excellent option for those that lack constant direct sunlight.

They’re also indeterminate which for those who don’t know, means that they will produce fruits gradually throughout the season rather than suddenly all at once. 

These tomatoes are quite unique in taste as well as appearance. They are renowned for their underlying smokiness, the perfect option for a smoky flavor-packed sauce.

4. Paul Robeson

 The tale of how the Paul Robeson tomato got its name is a remarkable one.

They are actually named after an American musician, actor, and activist. He is most known for his support of civil rights policies during the anti-communist movement. And so the Russian tomato was named in his honor. 

And if you thought that was interesting, wait until you taste it. It has a very interesting flavor that sets it apart from other varieties. They definitely go best in salads and sandwiches! 

These plants also flower pretty well in the shade so you can be sure to get a fair few tomatoes to try. 

5. Golden Sweet 

Golden Sweet tomatoes are another example of indeterminate tomatoes that will produce fruit throughout the season.

They have a surprising shape for tomatoes, being oblong to the point they’re almost rectangular and they also tend to be a bright yellow color.

It is also harvest-ready in around 8 weeks which makes it a great option for those with more shade in their backyard.

And if big and bold flavors aren’t really your thing, you’ll be happy to know that this variety is much milder and sweeter than the others mentioned above. It’s actually very juicy though still somewhat firm. 

Oh, and to make life easier, they’re also fusarium wilt and leaf mold resistant. 

6. Black Cherry

As you can probably tell from the name, these small tomatoes are a purple-reddish color that resembles dark cherries. In terms of taste, they have this quite distinctive and rich flavor that is utterly delicious. 

They are a variety of cherry tomatoes that are coveted by many. 

In general, they have a relatively quick maturity, being ready to harvest at around the 75-day mark. They also grow in bountiful quantities and because the yield is so high, they’re perfect for those with less sunlight.

You’ll have a much larger chance of a successful harvest. 

7. Early Wonder 

Where does Early Wonder get its name? Probably from the incredibly fast maturity since these tomatoes can be ready for harvest in as little as 55 days.

The plant produces its fruit early in the season and this allows for more adoption when growing in fairly sunless spots. 

Typically, the fruit is large and juicy and has almost a pink undertone.

It may take slightly longer for your fruits to harvest in the shade but once ready, they are the perfect accompaniment to a fresh salad thanks to their mild and delicate flavor. 

8. San Marzano 

These oblong plum tomatoes are super popular in Italy. And in fact, they are considered one of the very finest canned tomato options out there.

With minimal seeds and a very fleshy texture and delicious flavor, they are the perfect option for making sauces or soups. 

With a typical harvest of around 8 weeks, though maybe slightly longer in the shade, they are usually fairly easy to grow and produce a relatively decent yield. 

9. Beauty 

Don’t be deceived by their appearance, while Beauty heirloom tomatoes may look like any regular tomato, that is certainly not the case. These huge fruits are super-duper sweet with a somewhat acidic aftertaste. 

And since the variety produces fruit by the bucketload, it’s the perfect option for those with shady gardens and backyards.

You’ll have a much higher chance of producing a decent harvest this way. You should be able to pick your fruit after around 80 days. 

10. Ildi 

It’s almost as if Ildi tomatoes were made specifically for shady gardens. They have an early maturity and can usually be harvested within 54 days or so.

Not only this but they are also one of the best high-yielding varieties around. You can be sure that even in the shade, you’ll find massive clusters of yellow tomatoes waiting to be picked. 

They also have a really scrumptious sweet flavor that goes perfectly in any salad or sandwich. 

Final Thoughts 

As you can see, there are plenty of tomato varieties that will still produce tomatoes even if you don’t get access to all that much sunlight.

You’ll still need to try and make sure they get around 3-hours of sunlight and that they are well looked after in every other aspect of maintenance, but each of these varieties produces delicious tomatoes. 

As long as they mature quickly, and produce a high yield, you should be pretty much good to go. So, what are you waiting for? Get planting your shade-tolerant tomatoes today! 

Amelia Haslehurt
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