Roma Tomatoes: How To Grow And Care Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide)


Roma tomato is a plum tomato widely used around the world for canning and producing tomato paste because of its slender and meaty nature. It is also known as Ital-ian tomatoes or Italian plum tomatoes. The Roma tomato fruits are either red or yellow and distinguished by their egg or pear shape, meaty flesh and few seeds. Roma tomatoes are a warm-weather crop with a growing season limited by frost and cold. They can be grown in containers, pots and garden beds.

Paste tomatoes like Roma tomato variety are commonly used to make catsup and pasta sauces and are canned whole, diced and pureed. Roma is one of the top paste tomatoes grown in the United States.

To grow healthy and tasty Roma tomatoes, it is essential to understand the typical development of tomato plant, as well as the gardening requirements, harvesting and storage.  This article provides insights on important aspects that are crucial in as far as growing and caring for Roma tomato is concerned.

Roma Tomatoes
Roma Tomatoes

Roma Tomato Profile

Botanica Name Solanum lycopersicum
LightDirect Sunlight
Fruit Size3 inches long
Matures 75 to 120 days
Fruit weight Averagely 60 g
Fruit Color Red (Pink)
Fruit Shape Plum/pear/egg-shaped
Plant spacing 24 to 36 inches apart
Plant size 3 to 4 feet tall (1 meter)
Plant type Determinate

Types of Roma Tomatoes

  • Heinz
  • Martino’s Roma
  • San Marzano
  • Red Italian Pear
  • Amish Paste
  • 10 Fingers Of Naples

When Is The Best Time To Plant Roma Tomatoes?

Roma tomatoes are generally started from transplants set out after danger of frost has passed and plants have been hardened off. Spring or early summer is the ideal time to set out Roma tomatoes in your garden.

How To Grow And Care For Roma Tomatoes

To grow Roma Tomatoes, first get seeds or seedlings and then you can either grow the tomatoes in your garden bed or insider containers. Here are some important considerations that must be adhered to in as far as growing and caring for Roma tomatoes is concerned.


Sunlight plays any important role in growing successfully any type of tomato plant. Without sunlight, a tomato plant cannot produce fruits. Well, how much sunlight does Roma tomato plant need? Roma tomatoes require at least 6 hours or 8 hours of direct sunlight daily to produce the best quality of fruits. This is because, tomato plants convert the sunlight into energy, therefore the more sunlight they get, the more energy they have and the more fruit they can produce.

Therefore, if you have planted your Roma tomatoes inside containers or pots, position them in an area that receives at least 6 hours of daily direct sunlight. If you intent to plant them in a garden bed, plant the tomato in a sunny spot, that is an area with minimal shade coverage.

Soil Profile

Loam and sandy loam soils are best for growing any type of tomato, but tomato will generally grow in almost all soil types except heavy clay. If your soil is waterlogged or has lots of clay, you can improve the drainage by tilling the soil and incorporating sawdust, peat moss or other amendments such as compost or other organic matter before planting.

Frost-caring Plan

Roma tomato is plants that grow well in a warm weather, however, the tomato plant may survive a brief frost, but a hard frost, when temperatures plunge below 25oF for more than four hours, will almost certainly kill the tomato plant and harm fruit.

There are two main options that can be used to help protect the Roma tomato from an impending frost. The first method is to cover the tomato plant with a sheet or a blanket overnight and remove it during day.  In this regard, as long as the covering remains dry, the plant and the fruit should remain undamaged. The second option is to use row covers, a cheesecloth-type fabric that lies over the Roma tomato plant, offering nighttime protection from frost while also giving them access to sun.

Also Read: Difference Between Determinate and Indeterminate tomatoes


Generally, the ideal spacing for tomato plants is between 24-36 inches (61-91cm) apart. Spacing tomato plants any closer than 24 inches (61cm) will reduce air circulation around the plants and may result in diseases and poor yields.


Proper watering is a very important process to the success of growing any variety of tomato. Watering enhances a strong root system. When caring for Roma tomatoes, always ensure that the soil remain moist, but not saturated. First, when the tomato seedlings or transplants are in the ground, water consistently every day for at least 7 days.

During the entire growing season you will need to water the Roma potato plant at least once a week, however during the winter, water at least twice per week. Watering should be done early in the morning, because this gives the plant moisture it needs to make it through a hot day.


If your Roma tomato is grown in a container, fertilize the plant with liquid nitrogen fertilizer or a balanced slow-release fertilizer once a week. However, if it is grown in the garden bed, side dress the plant with crystal-solid nitrogen fertilizer or compost every two weeks and more so when tomato fruit begin to form. Avoid excess nitrogen fertilizer application as it can affect the quality of fruits.


Where mulching is not used, make sure you cultivate effectively to remove weeds while they are still small. Herbicides can be used in large tomato plantation but certainly not practical in small garden bed with only a few different variety of crops.

Other ways of Caring For Roma Tomatoes

  • If you have grown your Roma tomatoes in a garden bed, practice crop rotation from year to year to prevent disease that may have overwintered.
  • Mulch five weeks after transplanting to retain moisture and control weeds. Mulching also helps to keep soil from splashing the lower tomato leaves.
  • To help the Roma tomatoes through periods of drought, find some flat rocks and place one next to each plant. The rocks prevent water from evaporating from the soil.

Growing Roma Tomatoes In Containers/Pots

Roma tomatoes
  • To grow Roma tomatoes effectively in containers/pots, you will need to use a large pot or container with drainage holes in the bottom.
  • Roma tomatoes require the soil that is rich and well-drained. Always use loose, well-draining soil. A good potting mix with added organic matter or a slow release fertilizer will be ideal in this case.
  • You will then need to plant one tomato seedling per pot/container.
  • Place your seedlings into hole and cover it with organic potting soil.
  • Place the container/pot in a place that receives at least between 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight.
  • Once you have planted the tomato, water them at least once a week. Check the tomatoes weakly and provide extra water during a heat wave.
  • Once your Roma tomatoes plants are 6-12 inches (15 to 30.5 cm) high, start stalking the tomatoes up off the ground. It is important to note that, Roma tomatoes are smaller and compact in size and more often takes up less garden space and do not necessarily require  stalking or caging for support.

Growing Roma Tomatoes In The Garden Bed

  • Get your seeds or seedlings from a local nursery or garden center.
  • Within your garden bed, pick a sunny spot with at least 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. In other words, pick a spot with minimal shade coverage.
  • Prepare your garden bed thoroughly, remove any form of weeds and amend soil with compost or other organic matter prior to planting.
  • Use a garden tool to dig holes in your garden bed while ensuring that the spacing of holes is between 24 to 36 inches apart.
  • Plant your seedlings, one per hole.
  • Water the plant right away to reduce the shock to its root system.
  • Water your tomato plant every 2-3 days to keep it hydrated.

Stages Of Growth Of Roma Tomatoes

The life cycle of Roma tomato is divided into three stages of growth. They Include:

  • The Leaf
  • The Flower
  • The Fruit

The Leaf Stage

During the Roma plant’s first weeks in the ground, much of its energy is used to create new leaves and roots. During this stage young plants will grow quickly, with their size doubling every week.  Young plants selected for transplant should be 6 to 10 inches tall with several sets of early foliage.

The Flower Stage

Once the Roma tomato plant is between 12 and 18 inches tall, with between 12 to 14 leaves, it will begin to develop new stems and eventually flower buds. Once the first flower appears, the plant can be tied to their support structures. However, this is not necessary for Roma plants because they generally don’t grow taller in their entire lifespan.

Temperature extremes can affect development at this stage, resulting in poor pollination, dropping blossoms and few fruit.

Fruit Stage

If the flower stages happen without being affected by external factors, the stage brings about development of fruit. Regardless of the tomato’s final mature color, young fruits are usually all green. As the Roma tomato grows over the next 40 to 60 days, it will remain green. Only when it reaches its mature size will the tomato fruit pigment begin to change. The green will lighten and eventually turn to pink, red or yellow.

Do Roma Tomatoes Require Pruning?

Roma tomatoes belong to a category of determinate variety, which means they stop growing at a certain height; no matter the amount of fertilizer and watering you apply them.  Roma plant develops flower clusters at its terminal endpoints, which keeps its vines from continuing to sprawl and produce new offshoots and fruits.

Generally, it is usually recommended that side shoots should not be removed from determinate tomato plants including the Roma variety, because this reduces fruit yields. Therefore, Roma tomatoes don’t require pruning.

However, in the initial stages after planting, it always a good idea to remove the bottom branches near the soil. The soil might contain pests or fungus and you don’t want your plants infected by leaves touching the soil, therefore remove the branches up as high as six to eight inches from the soil.

Also Read: Different Types of Mushroom

When Is The Most Appropriate Time To Pick Roma Tomatoes?

Roma tomatoes are typically ready to harvest between 100 and 120 days after seeds are planted or 75 days after seedlings are transplanted. Given that almost all tomato varieties are warm-weather crop with a growing season limited by frost and cold, a lot of care is required to ensure the tomato plant produces fruits throughout summer.

Harvesting Roma Tomatoes

  • In general, perfectly ripe tomatoes show deep color but still feel firm when gently squeezed.
  • You need to leave your Roma tomatoes on the vine until they begin to appear ripe. When they appear ripe, gently grab and twist until the tomato pulls free from the stem or use a pair of clippers. Cut stems close to the fruits.
  • In the event some fall off before they appear ripe, place them in a paper bag with the stem up and store them in a cool place. Tomatoes do continue to ripen after being picked. Avoid placing the tomatoes on a sunny windowsill to ripen because they may rot before they are ripe.
  • Regardless of the size of the Roma tomatoes, the best tomatoes for picking are those that are firm and very red in color. You can also pick those appearing yellow in color.
  • When hard frost threatens and your tomato plant still got some fruits, you will need to pull up the entire plant and hang it upside down in the basement or garage. Pick the tomatoes as they ripen.

Storage Of Roma Tomatoes

  • Once you have picked your Roma tomato fruits, store them at room temperature or in a shady place outdoors.
  • It is usually advisable never to refrigerate Roma tomatoes, because temperature below 55oF is known to cause breakdown of flavor compounds.
  • Usually, tomatoes will stay longer if you allow stems and caps to remain in place until when you will be in a position to take them to the market or use them.
  • More importantly, the storage time of Roma tomatoes depends on how ripe the picked fruits are. Fruits picked while still yellow in color, take considerably a longer time before going bad when compared to red color tomato fruits.

Also Read: Different Types of Pineapples

Problems Associated With Growing Roma Tomatoes

Common problems associated with planting and caring of Roma tomatoes include:

Tomato hornworms

Tomato hornworms are very large caterpillars that have a ‘’horn-like’’ tail. These tomato caterpillars are usually active during the month of July through September can do a significant damage to your tomato plants if not controlled early and quickly.  They chew leaves and can completely defoliate your tomato plant. They also make holes in your tomato fruits.

Given that the tomato hornworms are very large in size, they are most often controlled in home gardens by handpicking. Once removed from the plant, they can be destroyed by dropping them into a bucket of soapy water. You can also get rid of these pests by use of organic insecticide or use of diatomaceous Earth.


Slugs are widespread animals which can which can cause problems in your tomato garden. They leave irregular holes in leaves, stems, flowers and fruits.  They can cause damage throughout the year on a wide range of plants and can kill young seedlings by completely eating them.

Most slugs feed at night and the slime trails, if present, can alert you to the level of activity. Damage is usually most severe during warm humid periods.

Pill bugs

Pill bugs are sometimes referred to as Rollie pollies. This name is due to the fact that the pill bug can roll up into a tight ball when disturbed.  The pill bugs prefer dead plant matter but will eat seedling plant tissue or fruit if decaying plants are not available.


Rodents such as Squirrels and chipmunks which often feed in early morning prefer the sweet and flesh tomatoes like Roma tomatoes and often leave the main part of the plant alone. Due to the fact that squirrels and chipmunks are agile gymnasts, they are hard to control; however, placing a wire cage over your tomato plant is usually the best solution.

Early blight

Early blight is one of the most common tomato diseases, occurring nearly every season whenever tomatoes are grown. It affects leaves, fruits and stems and can severely affect your tomato yield. Early blight overwinters on infected tomato plant tissue and is spread by splashing rain, irrigation, insects and garden tools.

The best way to control early blight is to prune your tomato plants to improve air circulation and reduce fungal activity. You can also apply copper-based fungicides early, two weeks before the disease’s normal appearance time or when weather forecasts predict a long period of wet weather.

Late blight

Late blight is also another potentially devastating disease that affects tomato plants. It affects leaves, stems and fruits and spreads quickly in fields and can severely result in low yields if untreated. Late blight disease progresses through leaflets and petioles, resulting in large sections of dry brown foliage.

There is a wide range of fungicides available for management of late blight on tomato. Fungicide should be immediately applied if there is indication of late blight anywhere in the tomato garden area. More importantly, weeds such as nightshades should be controlled in and around the tomato garden. These weeds act as excellent hosts for late blight.