17 Shade-Friendly Tomato Varieties For Gardens With Less Sun

Are you looking for some shade-friendly tomatoes that can handle a bit less sun? If you have a shady spot in your garden, you may think that tomatoes can't be grown in your garden at all. But that isn't the case. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen shares her favorite tomato varieties that can thrive in partial shade.

shade friendly tomatoes

Contents

Tomatoes typically thrive in full sun, with at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. So what if you want to grow tomatoes but you don’t have a fully sunny location? Any tomato plant will prefer full sun, but the good news for gardeners with shady plots is that there are some tomato varieties that will tolerate a bit of shade.

Can you grow a tomato plant in full shade? The answer is… not really. Yes, you can grow a tomato plant, but it will be scraggly and leggy. It will be unlikely to flower and likely will not produce many fruits. Your best bet with tomatoes is always to give them as much sun as you can.

Now let’s take a look at some of our favorite varieties of tomato that you can grow, even if your garden isn’t 100% sunny.

Black Cherry

Close-up of female hands holding many Black Cherry tomatoes in a sunny garden. The fruits are small, round, firm, juicy inside, covered with dark red skin with shades of dark greenish and purple color.
This variety produces many small dark red fruits with dark greenish or purple coloration.
  • Plant Size: Standard
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate – fruits ripen throughout the season
  • Tomato Type: Cherry
  • Fruit Color: Dark purplish-red
  • Days to Harvest: 65 to 75 days from transplant

Black cherry tomato plants are full-size plants that produce an abundance of small, round fruits. The fruits are approximately 1 inch across, sweet, and firm. Even though these plants can grow to be quite tall, they work well for container gardening.

Black cherry tomatoes are very productive plants and should provide you with a long harvest season. The fruits grow in clusters, making them easy to pick by the handful. The fruits are small but quite attractive. They are dark red with hints of dusky greenish or purplish coloration. Enjoy these little beauties fresh off the vine or toss them into salads.

Black Krim

Close-up of two tomatoes ripening on a bush in a shady garden. The fruits are large, irregularly shaped, colorful, dark purplish red on the underside with greenish or brownish streaks above.
This is an irregularly shaped tomato that has a meaty texture and deep red skin with greenish-brown stripes on the top.
  • Plant Size: Standard
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate – fruits ripen throughout the season
  • Tomato Type: Beefsteak
  • Fruit Color: Red-green
  • Days to Harvest: 75 to 90 days from transplant

Black Krim tomatoes are big and beautiful. These irregularly shaped tomatoes have a thick and meaty texture, perfect for slicing. The tomato fruits are colorful, deep purplish-red on the underside with greenish or brownish streaks across the top. Fruits develop darker colors with intense heat and sunlight.

Black Krim is a heavy producer and a healthy plant will develop many large fruits. The fruits have a tendency to develop cracks, however.

This doesn’t affect the flavor, but freshly cracked fruits will need to be consumed quickly. The best way to try to avoid cracked fruits is to offer very consistent moisture. Fruits tend to crack when the plants receive inconsistent watering, alternating between dry and very wet.

Carmello

Close-up of a bush of ripe 'Carmello' tomatoes in a sunny garden. The bush is tall, and lush, has compound leaves, which consist of dark green leaflets with coarsely serrated edges. Large, round fruits, green and orange-red, grow in clusters on the bush.
‘Carmello’ is an ideal slicing tomato with smooth, reddish-orange skin.
  • Plant Size: Standard
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate – fruits ripen throughout the season
  • Tomato Type: Slicing
  • Fruit Color: Bright red-orange
  • Days to Harvest: 75 days from transplant

With its smooth skin and bright reddish-orange color, Carmello looks like the perfect slicing tomato. The fruits are rounded and evenly sized and shaped. Enjoy these tomatoes as slices, wedges, or diced into a salad.

Plants are disease-resistant and tomatoes are crack resistant, making these plants very easy to grow. Expect your plants to produce an abundance of tasty fruits throughout the summer. These plants will grow well in cooler climates and even in gardens with a bit of shade.

Cherokee Purple

Top view, close-up of six ripe 'Cherokee Purple' tomatoes in a crate with straw. The fruits are large, and rounded, with smooth dark red skin and a purple-green tint on top.
This unique variety produces large and sweet fruits with reddish-purple skin.
  • Plant Size: Standard
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate – fruits ripen throughout the season
  • Tomato Type: Beefsteak
  • Fruit Color: Deep reddish-orange and greenish-purple
  • Days to Harvest: 75 to 90 days from transplant

Cherokee purple is a popular tomato, and for good reason! The sweet fruits are large, attractive, and extremely tasty. Plants will tolerate some shade and are reliable producers. Compared with other tomatoes, these plants may not grow the most fruits per plant, but whatever fruits you get will be absolutely delicious.

Cherokee purple tomatoes will split whenever there is inconsistent watering. Do your best to keep water levels consistent during the fruiting phase to minimize fruit splits.

These tomatoes are excellent for slicing and eating fresh. Inside, they are dense and meaty. It’s no surprise these heirloom tomatoes have been around for a long time!

Early Wonder

Close-up of ripe fruit on an 'Early Wonder' tomato bush in a shady garden. The bush has round, medium-sized fruits, rich reddish-pink color, and dark green compound leaves. The bush and fruits are covered with drops of water.
This is a compact tomato variety producing rich reddish-pink firm fruit with a sweet taste.
  • Plant Size: Compact
  • Plant Type: Determinate – fruits ripen in quick succession
  • Tomato Type: Slicing
  • Fruit Color: Reddish-pink
  • Days to Harvest: 65 to 80 days from transplant

Early wonder is a fast-growing determinate plant. Plants stay relatively compact and would be a good candidate for container gardening. Despite the name, early wonder typically doesn’t produce an extremely early crop, but you should have a hearty crop of tomatoes sometime in mid-summer. Once the tomatoes start to ripen, they will all become fully ripe within a few short weeks.

Fruits are firm and excellent for slicing. They are an evenly colored deep reddish-pink color with a pleasantly sweet flavor.

Early wonder is a good choice for gardeners with a short growing season or if you got a late start with your seed planting. Stagger your plantings every few weeks to have a continuous supply of early wonder tomatoes. These plants are also a good choice for a more shaded garden plot.

Golden Sweet

View from below of climbing 'Golden Sweet' tomato bushes over white wooden beams in a garden against a blue sky. The bush has clusters of small, oval, oblong fruits, bright golden yellow.
This variety produces sweet, oblong, bright yellow fruits.
  • Plant Size: Standard
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate – fruits ripen throughout the season
  • Tomato Type: Grape
  • Fruit Color: Yellow
  • Days to Harvest: 60 days from transplant

Golden sweet tomatoes grow on tall, standard-size, indeterminate plants. The fruits are oblong and bright yellow, growing in large clusters.

These tomatoes are crack resistant and firm, so you can harvest them by the handful all summer long. Enjoy eating them straight from the plant, toss them in salads, or simply enjoy them as a tasty snack anytime.

These tomato plants grow quickly and can produce their first crop early in the season. Try growing them in containers or in a garden plot with a little bit of shade and you should still get a hearty crop of fruits. In the days leading up to harvesting, you can admire the abundance of these showy golden fruits.

Gold Medal

Close-up of a ripe 'Gold Medal' tomato on a wooden table. The fruit is large, round, and has an orange-golden skin with reddish-orange stripes below.
‘Gold Medal’ is one of the tastiest tomato varieties that has an interesting golden-yellow coloration with a reddish-orange underside.
  • Plant Size: Standard
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate – fruits ripen throughout the season
  • Tomato Type: Beefsteak
  • Fruit Color: Yellow and orange
  • Days to Harvest: 75 to 90 days from transplant

If you are looking for a tomato that is both beautiful and delicious, gold medal is a great option. Gold medal seeds are widely-available to purchase. Indeterminate plants can grow quite large and produce some jumbo-sized fruits, so be sure to give them a sturdy support.

Gold medal produces gorgeous two-tone fruits. The top half is golden yellow and the lower half is reddish-orange. These beefsteak-type tomatoes are thick and meaty inside. The inside color is primarily bright yellow but with splashes of red. Gold medal is an excellent slicing tomato to enjoy anytime!

Green Zebra

Close-up of two ripe 'Green Zebra' tomatoes in a shady garden. The fruits are small, round, green with yellowish stripes.
‘Green Zebra’ is a hardy tomato plant with small green striped fruits.
  • Plant Size: Standard
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate – fruits ripen throughout the season
  • Tomato Type: Salad tomato
  • Fruit Color: Green and yellow stripes
  • Days to Harvest: 75 to 80 days from transplant

The green zebra tomato is just a little bit different. For starters, it’s not red, or even yellow, or orange. These tomatoes are mostly green with a yellow blush. On the inside, they are primarily green, even when fully ripe. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying these zesty little fruits.

Green zebra is the perfect size to slice in half and pop them into your mouth, use them with cooking, or mix them into a salad. Plants are prolific and hardy, so you should have plenty of tasty, stripey green zebras all summer long.

Isis Candy Cherry

Close-up of 'Isis Candy Cherry' tomato fruit against blurred green background. The fruit is small, round, rich orange-reddish in color with golden speckles.
‘Isis Candy Cherry’ produces clusters of small round fruits that are bright orange with speckles and have a sweetish taste.
  • Plant Size: Standard
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate – fruits ripen throughout the season
  • Tomato Type: Cherry
  • Fruit Color: Red and orange
  • Days to Harvest: 65 to 80 days from transplant

Here is a tasty cherry tomato that’s as pretty as it is sweet. Isis candy cherry tomatoes grow from large standard-size plants. The fruits are small and round, mottled bright yellow and orange, and grow in large clusters. Inside, the flesh is typically bright yellow. Pick a handful to eat now or save for a snack later.

Isis candy cherry tomatoes are prolific producers. Be careful about watering, however. Uneven watering will cause fruits to split. Splitting can be minimized by keeping moisture levels as consistent as possible and avoiding heavy watering after a period of dry soil.

Juliet Hybrid

Close-up of ripe fruit on a 'Juliet Hybrid' tomato bush in the garden. The bush is large, lush, has compound green leaves and long clusters of small, oval, oblong, smooth orange-red fruits.
This is a hardy tomato hybrid with small, elongated red-orange fruits.
  • Plant Size: Standard
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate – fruits ripen throughout the season
  • Tomato Type: Grape
  • Fruit Color: Red
  • Days to Harvest: 60 days from transplant

Juliet is a hybrid tomato that is bred to be hardy and productive. Plants are resistant to bacterial diseases and fruits are crack-resistant so you can expect some high yields. Juliet should also produce some tomatoes early in the season so you can get a head start on summer!

Juliet hybrid tomatoes are small, smooth, elongated grape tomatoes. They grow in clusters of bright red-orange fruits that are firm and sweet.

Because the fruits are sturdy, they should last a bit longer than average on the plant and in storage. Or you could chop them up and make a very tasty salsa.

Mama Leone

Close-up of harvested fresh tomato 'Mama Leone' in a bag. The fruits are plum-shaped, oblong, bright red in color with slightly pointed bottoms.
‘Mama Leone’ produces deliciously delicious plum-shaped fruits that are bright red in color with pointed bottoms.
  • Plant Size: Standard
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate – fruits ripen throughout the season
  • Tomato Type: Plum
  • Fruit Color: Red
  • Days to Harvest: 75 days from transplant

If you are looking for a plum tomato to withstand a bit of shade in the garden, Mama Leone may be the answer. This is a standard-size plant that will require staking or other support as it produces plenty of fruits throughout the summer.

Mama Leone is a bright red plum tomato. Fruits are medium-sized and tend to be a bit pointed at the bottom. They are thick and meaty inside with very few seeds. Use them for salads, sauces, and salsas, or simply eat them as they are.

Paul Robeson

Close-up of a ripe tomato 'Paul Robeson' on the kitchen table. The tomato has a dark, brick red coloration with dark green shoulders. This steak-type tomato has a round, slightly flattened shape.
‘Paul Robeson’ produces large and tasty reddish-brown fruits.
  • Plant Size: Standard
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate – fruits ripen throughout the season
  • Tomato Type: Beefsteak
  • Fruit Color: Brownish-red, orange, and green
  • Days to Harvest: 80 to 90 days from transplant

Here is a large, hefty tomato with attractively colored fruits. Paul Robeson tomatoes are big and delicious with few seeds and plenty of flavor. Fruits are deep reddish-brown inside and add some interesting variety to the typical red tomato.

Paul Robeson may not be the most productive tomato, compared to others, but you should be able to enjoy some hefty fruits, even if grown in a bit of shade. This is an excellent tomato for slicing. Display it with some other large red and yellow tomatoes for a very colorful meal!

Principe Borghese

Close-up of the ripe fruits of the Principe Borghese tomato against a blurred green leafy background. A bunch of small, oval fruits of bright red color with thin skin and fleshy pulp grows on a bush.
This is the perfect tomato variety for salads, sauces and canning.
  • Plant Size: Compact
  • Plant Type: Determinate – fruits ripen in quick succession
  • Tomato Type: Plum
  • Fruit Color: Red-orange
  • Days to Harvest: 70 to 75 days from transplant

Principe Broghese is a small plum-shaped tomato. The oblong fruits are bright reddish-orange and ripen in large clusters. They are excellent for slicing into salads or cooking into sauces. These are also ideal tomatoes for drying and preserving. 

Determinate plants will produce a heavy crop within a short period of time. Plants are bushy and compact and could easily be grown in a raised bed or large container.

They will still need support, however, as their abundance of fruits will weigh them down. Even with some cooler temperatures and a bit of shade, Principe Broghese should still be a reliable producer.

Roma

Close-up of several lush tomato 'Roma' bushes in a sunny garden. Bush has long clusters of small, oblong, plum-shaped fruits of bright red color.
This is a popular tomato variety for sauces and canning because of its firm, fleshy and not very juicy fruit.
  • Plant Size: Compact
  • Plant Type: Determinate – fruits ripen in quick succession
  • Tomato Type: Plum
  • Fruit Color: Red
  • Days to Harvest: 75 to 80 days from transplant

Roma tomatoes are a very popular and widely available variety. These medium-sized plum-shaped tomatoes are perfect for canning, preserving, and cooking into delicious tomato sauce. The fruits are dense and meaty with very few seeds.

Roma tomatoes grow on compact vines that produce an abundance of fruits all at once. This makes them ideal for canning. They will tolerate a bit of shade, but you will get the largest harvest with full sun. Fruits tend to be sturdy and resistant to cracking.

San Marzano

Close-up of a ripe 'San Marzano' tomato bush in the garden. The bush has clusters of large, elongated-thin, oval-shaped fruits with a slightly pointed top. Some fruits are fully ripe and bright red, while others are still green.
This tomato produces large, plum-shaped, bright red fruits that are great for making sauces.
  • Plant Size: Compact
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate – fruits ripen throughout the season
  • Tomato Type: Plum
  • Fruit Color: Red
  • Days to Harvest: 75 to 80 days from transplant

San Marzano is a larger plum-shaped paste tomato. These fruits are larger than the average Roma tomato and grow in dense clusters. The bright red elongated fruits are thick and meaty and an excellent choice for cooking, preserving, and making delicious tomato sauce.

San Marzano plants will grow large but compact and produce plenty of tomatoes throughout the summer.

Give them a sturdy cage to support their abundance of fruits that will produce steadily until frost. These tomatoes are unlikely to split but may be prone to blossom end rot, so be sure to add some extra calcium to the soil when planting and try to keep water levels consistent.

Siberian

Close-up of ripening fruit on 'Siberian' tomato bush, in the garden. The fruit is small, round, smooth, bright red. The bush has thick, pale green, heavily hairy stems.
‘Siberian’ is a compact tomato variety producing small round fruits with smooth red skin.
  • Plant Size: Compact
  • Plant Type: Determinate – fruits ripen in quick succession
  • Tomato Type: Slicing
  • Fruit Color: Red
  • Days to Harvest: 60 days from transplant

The Siberian tomato plant is very compact and bushy and would be an excellent choice for container gardening. This plant will also tolerate cooler climates and a bit of shade. Siberian is an early producer so you won’t have to wait as long for fruits.

But be aware that these are determinate plants, and all the fruits will ripen in quick succession. Prolong your harvest season with this variety by starting new plants every few weeks.

Siberian tomatoes are smooth-skinned, rounded, reddish-orange fruits. Even though the plants are small, they typically produce a heavy harvest and will benefit from some structural support. Plants grown in a shadier location will produce fewer fruits than those grown in full sun, but you should still get some tasty tomatoes!

Sungold

Close-up of ripe 'Sungold' tomatoes growing in clusters on a bush in a garden. The fruits are small, round, smooth, shiny golden yellow.
This is a popular cherry tomato variety producing tiny, yellow-orange, sweet fruits.
  • Plant Size: Standard
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate – fruits ripen throughout the season
  • Tomato Type: Cherry
  • Fruit Color: Yellow-orange
  • Days to Harvest: 60 days from transplant

Sungold is a familiar sight at farmer’s markets and one of the most widely available tomato hybrids. These tiny tomatoes are packed with sweet flavor ready to burst with every bite. The tomatoes are almost perfectly round and excellent for salads and snacking.

Sungold plants are full-size and vigorous growers. They will require staking or cages to support them. Fruits develop in clusters and are highly productive all summer long.

Try to keep the watering consistent to prevent cracking and splitting. Dry soil conditions followed by a heavy rainfall will cause many fruits to split open and spoil quickly.

Final Thoughts

Unless your garden is in total shade, you should have some luck with tomatoes. There are plenty of varieties that will tolerate a bit of shade, but all tomatoes will perform best in full sun.

The adventurous gardener can try many unique and tasty tomatoes to find the varieties that work best in your particular garden conditions. Don’t be afraid to try a few different varieties each year until you find some that thrive in your garden!

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