How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Cherokee Purple Tomatoes

If you’re craving delectable purple heirloom tomatoes, former organic farmer Logan Hailey has all the tips you need for thriving ‘Cherokee Purple’ plants!

A rustic wooden crate holds a collection of ripe ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomatoes. Their deep purple hues catch the light, showcasing their juicy ripeness and textured skin, promising a burst of sweet and tangy flavors upon each bite.


With their dusky pink skins and multicolor interior, ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomatoes are dazzling on the vine and in the kitchen. This unique heirloom variety has a full-bodied flavor and dense, luscious texture, perfect for slicing. This is reason enough to plant and grow ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomatoes!

The large globe-shaped fruits are almost as meaty as a ‘Beefsteak’ and have similarly small seed cavities, making for an exceptionally rich culinary experience. Plus, the stout vines grow rapidly!

Heirloom tomatoes come from seeds that have been passed down for centuries. While ‘Cherokee Purple’ plants enjoy similar conditions to your favorite garden hybrids, they have a few unique requirements you’ll want to meet to maximize your yields. Let’s dig into everything you need to know about growing this flavorful tomato!

Solanum lycopersicum ‘Cherokee Purple’ Plant Overview

Nestled within the lush foliage, ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomatoes dangle from their vines. The leaves, vibrant green and veined, provide a verdant backdrop to the rich, dark orange tomatoes. Sturdy stems and delicate branches cradle the fruit, while small green grasses carpet the ground.
Plant Type Annual Vegetable
Plant Family Solanaceae
Plant Genus Solanum
Plant Species lycopersicum
Hardiness Zone 4-12
Planting Season Spring
Plant Maintenance Moderate
Plant Height 4-6’
Fertility Needs High
Temperature 60-85°F
Companion Plants Marigolds, basil, lettuce, beans
Soil Type Loamy, well-drained
Plant Spacing 24-36”
Watering Needs High
Sun Exposure Full sun
Days to Maturity 72-90 
Pests Tomato hornworms, aphids, flea beetles, and rodents
Diseases Early blight, late blight, leaf spot, Blossom end rot, and mosaic virus

History and Cultivation 

Numerous ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomato fruits sit together. They have similar sizes and circular shapes. Their shiny, deep orange skin hints at the luscious, savory-sweet taste concealed within each uniquely textured fruit.
Introduced in the 1990s by experts, this tomato variety is classified as an heirloom type.

While the ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomato carries the name of the Cherokee tribal people and stories claim that they originated with that tribe, there has never been conclusive proof of their tribal origins – only a story passed along to the man who spearheaded their popularity.

Heirloom tomato specialist Craig LeHoullier received a packet of seeds of this almost-black tomato in the mail. The sender stated the seeds had originally come from a tribal member. While the tribal origin was never proven, LeHoullier chose to keep the name to honor the statement made by its originator.

The rich flavor revealed in test trials proved that this tomato was worthy of further development. In 1993, the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange was the first seed company to offer it as a limited edition seed packet. Ironically, the owner of SESE was quoted saying the tomato “tasted fine, but was kind of ugly – people may not like it.” But the plant took the gardening world by storm.

Its uniquely brown, green, burgundy, and rose tones have captivated gardeners for decades since, warranting tremendous seed-saving efforts to maintain the heirloom flavor. It’s extremely popular and, regardless of its origins, its flavor makes it worth growing year after year!

In recent years, Craig LeHoullier has expressed regret for naming the tomato after the tribe without confirming its origination. In 2022, he and other seed growers discussed the seed naming process at the Organic Seed Alliance’s annual seed conference, as many seeds carry tribal names whether or not they actually originated with those tribal groups.

Is ‘Cherokee Purple’ An Heirloom Tomato? 

From a tangle of long, reaching stems, ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomatoes hang elegantly. Their smooth, dark skin contrasts with the vibrant green foliage in the background.
After many years of cultivation, heirloom tomatoes retain their consistent traits across generations.

This plant is an heirloom, meaning its seeds have been saved and passed down through generations. After many years of regular open-pollination in cultivation, ‘Cherokee Purple’ seeds stay true to type when grown. This means collecting seeds from the fruits and replanting them next year will yield the same delicious fruits. The genetics of this variety have remained strong through hundreds of years of cultivation and sale.

This rich, old-time tomato flavor and eye-catching ribbed shape set it apart from other heirlooms. The extra-large-sized fruits are almost as big as a ‘Beefsteak,’ ranging from 3-5 inches in diameter

What is ‘Cherokee Purple’ Tomato Best For?

Held gently in a hand, a ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomato nears ripeness. Its skin is a blend of deep green and emerging purple, indicating the impending burst of flavor.
Prized for their rich flavor, color, and balanced sweetness, this variety of tomatoes stands out.

Known for their rich, classic tomato flavor and dark color, ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomatoes are ideal for fresh eating. The treasured, award-winning tomato has a balance of sweetness and slight smokiness.

The vine-ripened fruits have dusky rose-blushed skin with green, purple, or brown streaking on the interior. The seed cavities are small and don’t have the watery texture of other heirlooms, making them perfect for a sandwich or burger without the risk of soggy bread. They are delicious in salads, caprese, and fresh salsas or sliced with a sprinkling of salt on top. 

Are ‘Cherokee Purple’ Tomatoes Hard to Grow?

Amidst a backdrop of brown soil, a ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomato plant comes to life. The not-yet-ripe tomato hangs among lush green leaves, connected by long, sturdy stems.
With sturdy vines thriving in sunlight, these tomatoes are perfect for novice gardeners.

‘Cherokee Purple’ is ideal for beginner tomato growers because the stout vines are easy to maintain and thrive without much fuss. If the plant has full sunlight and plenty of warm weather (over 60°F), these tomatoes will ripen to their dark, luscious color in less than three months! This old-fashioned heirloom is adapted to intensely hot summers of the Southeast and tolerates humidity fairly well. 


You can grow this treasured tomato from seed or a pre-purchased seedling. The most critical factor in a tomato’s early growth is light. Avoid leggy tomato starts by ensuring 6-8 hours of sunlight daily.


Tender care is given as a hand places tiny tomato seeds into small brown pots. The pots, filled with rich brown soil, cradle the potential for vibrant growth.
Due to the unpredictable spring garden weather, it is advisable to start tomato seeds indoors.

‘Cherokee Purple’ tomato seeds are widely available and easy to plant. It’s best to start them indoors because spring weather is unpredictable in the garden.

About 5-6 weeks before transplanting, prepare 6-packs, cell trays, or 4-inch pots. Fill them with a quality, well-drained seed starter mix. Avoid compacting the soil too firmly.

Sow 1-2 seeds ¼” deep in each cell and lightly cover. Seeds should only be sown at a depth twice their largest dimension. Since tomato seeds are relatively flat and round, they wind up very close to the soil surface. Don’t bury them too deeply.

Thoroughly water in the seeds and keep them consistently moist but never soggy. Use a fan-nozzle hose or wide watering can to distribute the water across the surface without dislodging the seeds.

Use a soil thermometer probe to ensure the mix stays 75-85°F. For the best germination, add a seed heating mat beneath the trays.

‘Cherokee Purple’ germinates within 5-10 days. Grow the seedlings at a continuous 60-75°F ambient temperature. When plants have their first set of true leaves, thin to one seedling per cell. Fertilize with a diluted fish emulsion to encourage rapid establishment.

Supplemental Lighting

A verdant promise unfolds against a protective blue wall. Tomato plants stretch upwards, clad in leaves of varying shades of green. Their stems, sturdy and reaching, reflect the strength of growth.
Optimal grow light placement is crucial for healthy plant growth, especially for tomatoes.

If you don’t have a south-facing window or greenhouse, you will probably need to grow lights to ensure vigorous, healthy plants. Suspend your grow lights close to the trays initially, or lift the trays until they are 6-8” below the light.

As the tomatoes grow, slowly bring the light away from them. If they look spindly or like they are “reaching” upwards (long spaces of stem between new leaves), the light is too far away.

Don’t Start Too Soon!

Delicate hand in pink gloves carefully plants a vibrant tomato seedling. A sturdy stem rises proudly, crowned with lush green leaves reaching outwards. The young plant finds its home in a bed of dark, nutrient-rich soil, setting the stage for robust growth.
Prematurely beginning tomato cultivation can result in inadequate acclimatization to the garden.

Be careful not to start your tomatoes too soon. Rootbound, leggy, or flowering transplants have difficulty adjusting in the garden. You may miss out on early production if the plants undergo a shock period.

‘Cherokee Purple’ grows surprisingly fast, and you don’t want a bunch of overgrown seedlings waiting by the windowsill for the weather to warm. If you plan to plant 1-2 weeks after your last frost date, sow the seeds no sooner than three weeks before the last frost date. For most temperate gardeners, this window is around February or March in the south and April or May in the north.

Seedling Starts

Small rectangular black pots cradle the nascent life of tomato seedlings. Each seedling stands with delicate, pale green leaves reaching towards the light. These young plants embody the promise of a future harvest.
To avoid starting tomato seeds indoors, you might want to consider purchasing these plants from nurseries.

If starting seeds indoors sounds like too much trouble, you can usually find ‘Cherokee Purple’ plants at most nurseries or garden stores. Purchasing tomato starts saves you the trouble of germination and indoor growing, but you still must harden off the plants (explained below) to prevent transplant shock.

When choosing a tomato start, pay careful attention to:

  • Leaf Color: The foliage should be vibrant green and free of yellowing or brown spots.
  • Signs of Disease: If the plant has any halo spots, wilting, or shriveled dead leaves, leave it at the garden store!
  • Root Binding: Remove the seedling from its pot and check to ensure the roots are not tangled or spiraling around the container.
  • Height: A happy tomato seedling should have a height proportionate to its container. Leggy, spindly stems indicate that the young plant didn’t have enough light.
  • Flowers or Fruit: Contrary to popular belief, you want to avoid buying a tomato seedling that is already flowering or fruiting. This is a sign of stress and may stunt early growth after transplanting.
  • Pests: Check the undersides of leaves to be sure there are no aphids or hornworms that might get imported into your garden.

Purchase your seedlings as close to your last frost date as possible. Generally, late-season tomato seedlings are rootbound, leggy, and sickly from being in a pot for too long. 


Once nighttime temperatures are consistently above 45°F, you can safely plant tomatoes in the garden. This is usually 1-3 weeks after your last spring frost date.

If your region tends to have unpredictable springs, it’s best to cover tomato seedlings with row fabric or a cold frame to protect them during the initial few weeks of establishment.

Hardening Off

On the brown table's edge sit two rectangular pots, each holding a young, green seedling in brown soil. These delicate seedlings promise new life and growth.
The acclimatization period is crucial for aiding tomato seedlings in adapting to the challenges of the outdoor environment.

One of many gardeners’ biggest mistakes with tomatoes is forgetting to harden them off. This acclimatization period is crucial for helping your tomato seedlings adjust to the harshness of the outdoors.

You wouldn’t just throw a baby bird from the nest to fend for itself! The plant must learn how to adapt to colder nights, less water, harsher sunlight, and less consistent conditions. 

Whether you grew tomatoes from seeds or purchased starts at a nursery, follow these steps to ensure the plants are ready for the garden:

  1. Remove heating mats and slightly cut back on watering without stressing the baby plants.
  2. Place seedlings outdoors in a protected area like a patio or porch.
  3. For the first few nights, you can cover them with row fabric and monitor temperatures.
  4. After 3-4 nights, move the seedlings closer to the garden without any protection.
  5. They should be ready to transplant after a week outside in their pots.

How to Transplant

Nestled in a garden of rich black soil, sturdy tomato plants thrive. Their stems stand tall, adorned with lush leaves that drink in the nourishing moisture. A translucent shield protects them.
When growing tomatoes, it’s important to choose a suitable trellising method that can handle their weight.

Before transplanting, decide what tomato trellis you’d like to use. These heirlooms cannot stand up on their own, and you probably don’t want dirty tomatoes growing on the ground.

The easiest trellis is a classic tomato cage, but the highest-yielding trellises encourage the plant to grow from one or two “leader vines,” like a T-post or A-frame trellis.

Next, be sure your hardened-off seedlings are thoroughly watered. A nice drench before planting ensures the soil in the root ball is nicely clumped together.

Prepare a weed-free bed with very well-drained loamy soil. Blend in any compost or all-purpose granular fertilizer in advance. Use a mini trowel or Hori Hori knife to dig a hole about two times as deep and wide as the seedling’s root ball.

Massage the root zone as you grasp the plant from its base and pull it out of the container. Place the tomato in the hole so the lower parts of the stem are completely buried. Like all tomatoes, this heirloom can root all along its stem. You can remove lower leaves and plant deeper for leggier starts to encourage sturdy, bushy growth.

Gently backfill the hole and avoid pressing down too much on the soil. Give the transplants a hearty drink. A diluted kelp solution can help alleviate transplant shock and promote faster root establishment. 


Rows of small tomato seedlings find their home in the brown soil, each partnered with a trellis for guidance. The careful spacing between them speaks of a gardener's intention, ensuring equal access to sunlight and resources for their journey ahead.
For disease prevention and optimal yields, ensure proper spacing for your plants.

‘Cherokee Purple’ is an indeterminate tomato variety, meaning it grows rambling vines that produce tomatoes until the first frost. Fortunately, this heirloom grows shorter vines that don’t require as much pruning as other indeterminates.

Still, adequate spacing is vital for preventing disease and maximizing your yields. Grow plants 24-36” apart with 24-36” between rows.

If you are trellising with a cattle panel or T-post, you can try tighter spacing, like 18-20”. If using a tomato cage, I’d recommend the standard 24” spacing so there is plenty of airflow between plants.

How to Grow

As one of the easiest-to-grow heirlooms, ‘Cherokee Purple’ is a resilient plant that won’t fuss. As long as you provide a sturdy trellis, warm temperatures, and consistent water, you’ll be delighted by how abundantly these tomatoes yield.


A ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomato is shown with its hues shifting from dark orange to deep brown. It basks beneath the sun hat, surrounded by vibrant green leaves that frame this masterpiece of nature's palette.
Planting in areas partially shaded by nearby trees or structures should be avoided.

Tomatoes are native to Central and South America and evolved under bright, hot sunshine. After all, the genus name Solanum contains the Latin root sol, meaning “sun.”

They need at least 6 to 8 hours or more of full sun daily. Avoid planting in beds that receive partial shade from nearby trees or structures. A south-facing garden orientation is best.


Gentle gloved hands wield a green watering can, bestowing life upon tomato plants. Leaves shimmer with vitality, while young green fruits peek out with the promise of future harvest. Sturdy stems stand proud.
The most effective watering method is drip irrigation or soaker hoses, as they directly provide water to the plant’s root area.

While ‘Cherokee Purple’ has some drought tolerance, consistent moisture grows the best tomatoes. Infrequent or sporadic watering can cause blossom end rot, which is unsightly and gross. 

The roots of these heirlooms grow pretty deep, especially in loose, loamy soil. They can subsist on 1-2 inches of water per week. Even moisture is crucial once the plants start flowering and fruiting. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are best because they deliver water directly to the plant’s root zone. 

Avoid overhead watering with sprinklers, leading to blight, mildew, and other fungal issues. Mulching your tomato beds with shredded straw or leaf mulch can help retain moisture and keep the soil cooler in ultra-hot climates.


Lush, young tomato seedlings sprout from rich brown soil. Each delicate plant stands independently, and thoughtfully placed to encourage optimal growth and sunlight absorption.
These plants thrive when grown in soil that has high organic matter content.

Like all tomatoes, these plants love rich, loamy, well-drained soil. The higher the organic matter, the better. Heap on the compost, aged manure, and mulch to create the perfect environment for your heirlooms.

They tolerate slightly acidic soil with a pH of around 6.0 to 6.8. Peat moss or coco coir can improve the pH and drainage in alkaline soils.

Before transplanting, I like to broad-fork my garden beds to loosen the lower layers of soil thoroughly. Then, I add 1-2 inches of compost and a few shovel-loads of vermicast to enrich the bed. Your heirloom tomato bed deserves the most soil preparation effort because plants yield significantly better with the loamiest soil possible.

Climate and Temperature

Within the expanse of a spacious greenhouse, tomato plants flourish in compact pots. Lush, green leaves sway atop slender, determined stems, showcasing their resilience. The protective enclosure shields them from external elements, nurturing their potential into thriving vitality.
To shield against rain, a few farmers construct small greenhouses or use transparent plastic covers.

Tomatoes are cold-tender plants that suffer below 55°F. They don’t typically set fruit and ripen until temperatures are consistently 65°F. While they can handle temperatures below 35°F, they do not tolerate frost. Cold damage may appear as darkening leaves and stems, wilting, yellowing, or flower drop (a real bummer for your tomato crop). 

You can harvest ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomatoes in most climates throughout late spring and peak summer. In hot southern climates, provide light afternoon shade or plant later in the fall when temperatures are slightly cooler. Triple-digit temperatures can cause flower drop and poor fruit set. Mulching and shade cloth are helpful in extreme heat.

Compared to other heirlooms, this variety is particularly adept at handling humidity. However, highly humid conditions combined with close spacing or poor airflow create a recipe for blight disaster.

If your region gets a lot of rainfall in the summer, widen your tomato spacing and try to keep the foliage as dry as possible. Some growers erect mini greenhouses or clear plastic covers to keep the rain off.


A dainty blue shovel tends to the needs of the tomato plant's roots. White granules of fertilizer intermingle with the brown soil, a silent promise of nourishment. Nearby, the stem stands strong, its connection to the earth unyielding.
For initial growth, it’s recommended to incorporate a granular all-purpose fertilizer into the soil.

Cranking out those giant, juicy fruits requires a lot of energy. These tomatoes are medium to heavy feeders and enjoy several rounds of fertilizer throughout the season. In the early stages of growth, a granular all-purpose fertilizer blend is excellent to mix in the soil during planting.

Look for a balanced fertilizer like Espoma Garden-Tone to ensure you don’t overdo the nitrogen. Too much nitrogen can cause excessive foliage growth at the expense of the coveted fruits.

When the plants begin to flower, switch to a higher phosphorus fertilizer like seaweed or bone meal to prepare for fruiting. While it’s very rare in residential soils, some garden soils may lack sufficient calcium, so a supplement of calcium carbonate in the form of powdered eggshells or garden lime can be helpful. However, most soil is not deficient in calcium, and most quality organic fertilizers include the calcium needed for your plants.

If you don’t want to over-complicate things, I suggest adding 1-2 inches of quality compost and the Garden-Tone fertilizer at planting. This should be plenty to fuel your purple heirlooms throughout the season.


Precise pruning severs a tomato plant's branch, revealing vibrant leaves and a blend of orange and green fruits. The gardener's careful choice ensures the plant's energy flows towards the future, encouraging bountiful growth.
Remove suckers using sharp and sanitized pruners from the points where each stem joins the central vine.

Pruning is not essential, but it is beneficial. Fortunately, these heirlooms don’t send out as many suckers (side shoots) as hybrid varieties. Still, the vines benefit from weekly pruning to signal them to channel their energy into more fruit production.

Suckers are aptly named because they “suck” the energy away from the pain plant. In other words, they are the tomato’s attempt to produce more vines than fruit.

Use sharp, sanitized pruners to remove suckers at the “elbows” where each stem connects with the central vine. Depending on your trellis system, you may want to prune each plant so it only has one or two “leader” vines and remove the rest. 

When the tips of vines are young, they are pliable enough to maneuver them where you want them to go easily. Use twine or plastic tomato trellis clips to weave them upward.

If you trellis your plants a little bit every week, they easily become “trained” to grow up the trellis. However, if you wait until the stems are rigid and big, it can be challenging to trellis them without snapping or bending the vines.

How Tell When ‘Cherokee Purple’ Tomatoes Are Ready to Pick

A close-up of 'Cherokee Purple' Tomatoes reveals their intricate beauty. Their radiant red-orange hues with hints of purple resemble a work of art. Small leaves surround the fruits, while the robust stem supports the bounty of nature's craftsmanship, all rooted in the brown soil below.
Picking heirloom tomatoes demands a keen sense of color and size variation.

Heirloom tomatoes vary in color and size, so picking them requires a special eye for hue. The fruit is close to harvest when the pale pink skin begins blushing or turning more burgundy.

The dark purple or almost black fruits will stand out from their unripened neighbors. The leaves on the top of the tomato should still appear green. Always let your ‘Cherokee Purples’ ripen on the vine for the best flavor.

Companion Plants

Tomato companion plants can dramatically reduce pest pressure, improve yields, and maximize space in a small garden. Companion planting is an ancient technique with real science-backed benefits that make your garden ecosystem more resilient and reduce your reliance on pesticides or fertilizers.


In the healthy garden, marigolds bloom with vibrant orange petals that resemble rays of sunlight. Their leaves are feathery and deep green, adding a contrasting backdrop to the colorful flowers. Nearby, tomato plants thrive, with branches bearing clusters of orange and green fruits.
They can be effortlessly planted amidst tomato rows or positioned in the raised bed’s corners.

As one of the most well-researched companion plants, marigolds are known to prevent early blight and suppress root-knot nematodes in the soil. Studies show that intercropping with marigolds can increase yields by up to 50%! 

Marigolds are also the perfect companion for ‘Cherokee Purple’ because their growth habit is complimentary. The French marigolds stay stout and close to the ground as the tomatoes vine upward.

They are easy to intersperse among tomato rows or in the four corners of a raised bed. The vibrant, fragrant flowers attract beneficial predatory insects and repel fruit borers.


Nestled in the brown soil, basil plants stand with an air of fragrant elegance. These plants have lush, green leaves. Among them, there are tomato plants with green leaves and slender stems.
Basil’s compact and bushy form is a suitable match for the lower canopy of a tomato patch.

The best pairs in the kitchen often make great pairs in the garden. Basil has a stout, bushy shape that fits perfectly in the lower canopy of a tomato bed.

The fragrant herbal leaves repel aphids and flea beetles, and the flowers attract bees to aid in pollination. Be sure that your basil plants are adequately spaced (at least 8-10”) from the base of the tomatoes.


Resting beside the bricked house wall, a wooden crate holds a thriving ecosystem. A large tomato plant rises proudly, its sturdy stem giving rise to sprawling branches adorned with vibrant green leaves. Beneath the tomato's canopy, lettuces flourish, their tender, light green leaves look healthy and fresh.
Interplanting with lettuce allows you to use the shadows created by a tomato canopy.

Take advantage of the shadows cast by a tomato canopy by interplanting with lettuce. Summer lettuce can be tricky because the hot, sunny days can trigger bolting. However, bolt-resistant varieties can produce delicious burger-worthy toppings all season long if you provide dappled shade.

Transplant lettuce seedlings at the same time as tomatoes. Provide at least 8-12” from the base of the plants and prune away lower tomato leaves so they don’t rub up against the lettuce. You can usually get away with two lettuce successions throughout the lifespan of a tomato crop.


A close-up of small, slender green beans. Surrounding them, delicate green leaves unfurl in intricate patterns, providing a protective embrace. At the tips of the vines, small white flowers add a touch of elegance to the composition.
These beans effectively utilize the empty area under tomato vines.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders, and beans are leguminous crops that fix nitrogen in the soil. Bush beans are ideal for companion planting because they won’t compete for trellis space. They also make use of that unoccupied ground beneath tomato vines.

Like the other companion plant species, you’ll want to be sure you’ve pruned away the lower tomato leaves so they don’t overburden the bean plants. Provide at least 12-18” of space between plants.

Pests and Diseases

‘Cherokee Purple’ is a super resilient heirloom, but is not invincible. It can still fall victim to all the common pests and pathogens unless you take steps to prevent and manage them.

Tomato Hornworms

A close-up of a crawling hornworm graces a slender, brown branch. Its plump body moves with purpose, covered in shades of green that blend harmoniously with the foliage.
Interplanting with certain flowers may attract parasitic wasps for natural pest management.

The most voracious tomato pest is the hornworm. This caterpillar is the larval stage of the hawk moth. If you’re not checking your plants regularly, these fat caterpillars can defoliate an entire plant in one day.

They are super camouflaged, so if you notice stripped leaves, you may need to shake the plant to find where the hornworm is hiding. They usually “hiss” to give themselves away.

Hand-picking is the most common removal method. You can also use neem oil, Bt, or diatomaceous earth. Interplanting with marigolds, white alyssum, or nearby yarrow may attract parasitic wasps that parasitize the voracious caterpillars.


A close-up of a plant's tips adorned with yellow flowers, revealing an aphid infestation in progress. These tiny purple aphids cluster along the green stems.
Although they are not likely to inflict severe damage, aphids impede growth and pose a nuisance.

These sap-sucking pests are unlikely to severely harm your ‘Cherokee Purple’ plants, but they are still a nuisance that reduces growth. Unfortunately, aphids are also a vector for many diseases, including mosaic viruses.

Companion planting is the best way to prevent them. If an infestation occurs, use a heavy spray of water to blast them from the undersides of the leaves. Then, apply diluted neem oil or horticultural oil to keep the aphids away. An insecticidal soap is also effective against most aphid species.

Flea Beetles

In a table, the back of a green leaf is shown. Flea beetles traverse the leaf's surface, their iridescent bodies catching the light as they embark on their miniature journeys.
It is advisable to use row covers during the early growth stage of the plants.

These tiny leaping beetles don’t only attack brassicas! They can leave behind thousands of little shotgun holes in your tomato leaves, causing them to be more vulnerable to early blight disease.

The best prevention is row cover in the early season while plants are still small. If they are still around after that, you can dust your plants in diatomaceous earth or talcum powder to deter and dehydrate them.


An squirrel savors an orange tomato while perched in a tree with dark, rugged bark. Its agile fingers hold the fruit as it takes nourishment amid the arboreal expanse.
Prune to ensure higher fruit placement on the vines to reduce access to the fruit for rodents.

We aren’t the only ones who love delicious heirloom fruits. If you notice chunks of tomatoes missing, you probably have a hungry rabbit, vole, rat, or mouse trying to share in the feast.

The easiest prevention is pruning to ensure the fruit is set higher on the vines. If the leaves are attacked, you can use a critter cage while the plants are young. Coyote urine or a garden cat can help repel rodents to prevent future issues. You should also clean up any fallen fruits that may attract unwanted visitors.

Early Blight

A close-up of a tomato plant's leaves. Its vibrant green leaves, once a picture of health, now bear the marks of early blight's infestation. The blight appears as small, dark spots surrounded by yellow halos, gradually affecting the plant's vitality.
Swift removal of infected plants is crucial to halt the spread of early blight.

This common tomato disease is caused by an aggressive fungus that overwinters in tomato plant debris. Early blight is best prevented by sanitation. Never leave trimmings or old plants in the garden. Remove them to the trash, burn pile, or compost pile (if not infected).

The yellow and brown bullseye marks of this disease make it very noticeable. It can also spread from potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Unfortunately, you’ll need to remove infected plants to prevent further spread. Treat remaining plants with an application of fungicide as a preventative.

Late Blight

A close-up captures the aftermath of late blight's relentless advance. Leaves, once lush and vibrant, now appear withered and dry, their edges curling in a somber display of the toll taken by this destructive disease.
Blight manifests later in the season, thriving in warm and moist weather.

Another dismal incurable tomato disease, this blight attacks even more quickly than early blight. It occurs later in the season when the weather is moist and warm.

Brown lesions and fuzzy undergrowth on the leaves are the key symptoms. If you see them, remove the plant immediately and cross your fingers it won’t spread to the rest of your heirlooms.

Blossom End Rot

Amidst a lush gathering of green leaves, a tomato plant stands as a testament to nature's struggles. Its lower body seems to melt away, damaged by the relentless advance of blossom end rot. Adjacent, the tomatoes, once vibrant, exhibit the unmistakable signs of decay, a stark contrast to the surrounding foliage.
Avoid feast-or-famine watering practices to ensure your plants can absorb the nutrients in their soil.

Heirlooms with rotten “butts” are a major bummer. You worked so hard to grow those tomatoes; now they seem to rot on the vine! Fortunately, this issue is not a disease but a physiological ailment. In this circumstance, the plants cannot uptake the calcium in their soil; this can be caused by infrequent watering, soil nutrient imbalances, and in very rare circumstances, a calcium deficiency in the soil.

Ensure that your tomato plants have regular moisture rather than long periods of drought followed by heavy watering. Moderation is key! Avoiding feast-or-famine watering often “cures” blossom end rot; your plants need consistently damp soil to absorb all the soil’s nutrients.

An annual soil test will also identify if your soil nutrients are off-kilter. Applying more calcium is only necessary if you know your soil is low in calcium; it takes so long for calcium to become plant-available that powdered eggshell or garden lime may not repair the issue during your plant’s lifespan.

Tobacco Mosaic Virus

A close-up of lance-shaped green leaves reveals the insidious presence of the tobacco mosaic virus. The once-uniform surface is now marred by mottled patterns of light and dark, a haunting reminder of the intricate battles waged between plants and pathogens.
Remove infected plants promptly and implement strict crop rotation practices.

This viral disease causes sickly, curled leaves with green mosaic patterns. The distortion on the plants is usually pretty noticeable.

It is often spread by pests, particularly sucking pests like aphids that pierce foliage. There is no cure, so you must remove infected plants ASAP to prevent the virus’ spread.

Mosaic viruses are a wide category; other forms, like tomato mosaic virus, may be indistinguishable from tobacco mosaic in how they distort plants. The best practice here is to keep plants pest-free as much as possible to reduce their risk from insect-carried viral diseases.

Plant Uses

A girl in a dress wields a knife to slice through a tomato's brown-hued skin. As the blade reveals the inner flesh, the tomato's rich, red core emerges, ready to contribute its juicy sweetness to culinary endeavors.
Their dense texture remains perfectly balanced, avoiding excessive wateriness or softness.

Enjoy ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomatoes in any recipe. They especially shine when sliced thickly on sandwiches and burgers. Their rich, dense texture isn’t too watery or soft. 

At the same time, their uniquely sweet, savory, slightly acidic, and subtly smoky flavor complements almost any meal. For the full flavor experience, slice up a hearty fruit and sprinkle salt on top.

Final Thoughts

Growing a ‘Cherokee Purple’ plant is similar to other tomato varieties and often even more straightforward. As long as they get plenty of sunshine, rich soil, and regular water, these vines yield dozens of pounds of fruit per season. Always let your fruits ripen on the vine and harvest them when they appear dark burgundy or red.

plants to avoid planting with tomatoes

Companion Planting

13 Plants to Avoid Planting With Tomatoes This Season

Are you planning on companion planting your tomatoes this season, but aren't sure which plants to avoid? There are several plants that can compete with tomatoes for nutrients or attract unwelcome diseases into your garden. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares the plants you should avoid growing near your tomatoes this season.

Emerging seedlings thrive within the embrace of rich brown soil, cradled by repurposed eggshells. Nestled within an orderly egg tray, these nascent plants await their journey to the world. A backdrop of blurred tray hints at the garden's bustling anticipation.


Are Eggshells Good or Bad for Tomatoes?

From coffee grounds to banana peels to tea bags, there are many strange gardening hacks circulating the internet. Purportedly, adding these household materials to your garden soil can improve plant growth. Many sources recommend adding eggshells to tomato plants for a fertilizer boost. Is this claim backed by science or is it an urban soil myth?

tomatoes and squash


Can You Grow Tomatoes With Squash in Your Garden?

Tomatoes and squash are garden staples. But do they perform well as companion plants? In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss looks at if these two popular vegetables should be planted near one another in your garden, or if there are better options.