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With their fresh, juicy taste, tomatoes are a favorite crop in vegetable home gardens. Yet, the wait for them to ripen can feel endless—and sometimes, despite your best efforts, they don’t ripen at all.

There are several reasons why this might happen. Tomato fruits generally mature in six to eight weeks from pollination, but this duration varies with the tomato variety and the weather conditions.

So, what do you do when your tomato fruits stubbornly remain green and refuse to ripen? Here are some factors that may slow the ripening process.

Extreme Temperatures

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Tomatoes ripen best between 70 to 75F. Temperatures above 85°F or below 50°F can significantly slow or stop ripening.

When temperatures rise above 85°F, the heat can stress the plants and interfere with the enzymes responsible for ripening. Conversely, temperatures below 50°F can impede ripening by reducing the plant’s metabolic activity. Maintaining this ideal temperature range ensures that tomatoes develop their full flavor and color.

Direct Sunlight

tomato plants in garden
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Tomatoes need a lot of light to ripen, but too much sunlight can be a problem. That’s right, too much direct sun can slow ripening. Heat matters more than light for ripening, and very bright, hot sunlight can make temperatures too high, stopping the production of lycopene, which turns tomatoes red.

Lack of Sunlight

Red tomato hanging on the vine.
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Contrary to the effects of direct sunlight, insufficient sunlight can also hinder tomato ripening, particularly in shaded garden areas or when growing indoors. Tomatoes require at least eight hours of daylight to bloom and produce fruit, as sunlight is essential for energy production in plants. Without enough light, your tomatoes are less likely to bear fruit.

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors

Nitrogen Overload

Farmer giving granulated fertilizer to young tomato plants. Gardening in vegetable garden.
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Too much nitrogen promotes lush foliage at the expense of fruit development and ripening. Fertilizers high in nitrogen may cause plants to prioritize leaf growth over fruit ripening.

It’s important to use a balanced fertilizer with moderate nitrogen levels. Reduce fertilization once your plants start setting fruit, and consider fertilizing only two or three times during the season.

10 Natural Ways to Add Nitrogen to Your Garden Soil

Overcrowding

Tomato plants with ripe red tomatoes growing outdoors, outside, in a garden in England, UK
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Crowded tomato plants prioritize survival over fruit ripening because limited space and airflow can stress them. Proper spacing is crucial to prevent competition for nutrients, light, and water, which can hinder fruit development.

Providing enough room between plants is important to ensure they receive the resources for optimal fruit production.

Lack of Nutrients

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Tomatoes require a range of nutrients and micronutrients, particularly phosphorous and potassium, throughout the growing season. These elements are essential for producing lycopene in the fruits, and insufficient amounts can cause slow or uneven ripening.

Tomato Type

Tomatoes growing in the greenhouse. view of red pear type tomatoes ripening in the bush before harvesting.
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Sometimes, a tomato’s slow ripening is simply natural for its variety. Some tomatoes, especially heirlooms or larger types, ripen later than smaller or hybrid varieties. For instance, cherry tomatoes ripen faster than large heirloom tomatoes. In these cases, patience is often the key.

How to Use Green Tomatoes

Poor Pollination

Bumblebee
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Issues with pollination early in the growing season can affect fruit development and ripening. Tomatoes may struggle to flower if they aren’t adequately pollinated.

While tomato flowers can self-pollinate, bees enhance this process by dislodging pollen when they visit. Thus, indoor tomato plants may face pollination challenges without bees to help release the pollen.

12 Gorgeous Plants That Attract Bees and Other Pollinators

The Wrong Climate Zone

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You may have selected a tomato variety that doesn’t suit your region’s climate. In areas with short growing seasons, choose tomato varieties that mature quickly. If you plant tomatoes that cannot ripen within your growing season, there’s little you can do to remedy this.

Disease

Homegrown Fresh Tomato In A Garden.
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Diseases like blight, sunscald, and other pest problems can significantly stress tomato plants, leading to delayed fruit ripening. When plants are attacked by diseases or pests, they divert energy from fruit development to defense mechanisms.

This stress response can slow the ripening process as the plant focuses on survival and healing rather than maturing its fruits. Regular monitoring and appropriate treatment are crucial to minimize these impacts and ensure healthy, timely ripening.

Overload of Fruits

Rows of tomato hydroponic plants.
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A tomato plant with too many fruits may struggle to ripen them all. Removing about a quarter of the fruits can improve the ripening efficiency of the remaining tomatoes. This allows the plant to focus its energy and resources on ripening the fewer remaining fruits.

Lack of Pruning

Pruning tomato plants, removing stems.
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Pruning your tomato plants early in the growing season can significantly improve the quality of the fruit. Removing excess branches and leaves allows the plant to focus its energy on developing fewer but healthier fruits.

This concentration of resources leads to better-quality tomatoes and accelerates the ripening process, ensuring that the fruits mature faster and more evenly.

Overwatering

Watering tomatoes plant in greenhouse garden. Hand with watering can in greenhouse watering the tomato. Close up.
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Tomato plants need 1 to 2 inches of water weekly when their vines are growing and fruiting. However, the fruits ripen quicker if you reduce your watering schedule. Less water stresses the plant, prompting it to enter survival mode and focus its energy on producing viable seeds, accelerating ripening.

Blossom End Rot

Disease of tomatoes. Blossom end rot on the fruit. Damaged red tomato in the farmer hand. Close-up. Crop problems. Blurred agricultural background. Low key.
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If your tomato plant gets blossom end rot, the stress can halt fruit ripening. This plant disease, marked by black lesions on the fruit’s bottom, is due to low calcium levels in the plants. Often, inconsistent watering is to blame, as it hinders the plant’s ability to absorb calcium effectively.

Grow Juicier, Tastier Tomatoes with These 15 Companion Plants

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Companion planting is an age-old gardening method that can help prevent common plant issues and boost crop yields. By using some of the best companion plants for tomatoes, your harvests will be better than ever. Here are the 15 best companion plants for your tomato garden.

Grow Juicier, Tastier Tomatoes with These 15 Companion Plants

How to Support Tomatoes: Tomato Stakes vs. Tomato Cages

supporting tomatoes with stakes or cages
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Supporting garden tomatoes with tomato stakes or cages is necessary for all but a few varieties of tomatoes. Without some form of support, your tomato plant will sprawl out over the ground. Here, we’ll share some considerations to help you make a choice that will work for your garden.

How to Support Tomatoes: Tomato Stakes vs. Tomato Cages

How to Properly Prune Tomato Plants

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If you’re dealing with tomato plants that often get diseased, tend to droop, or look unhealthy, pruning should be on your gardening checklist. Here’s how you can properly prune your tomato plants.

How to Properly Prune Tomato Plants

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