Tomatoes are known as sun-loving plants, needing at least six hours of direct sunlight in order to thrive. Unfortunately, not every gardener has the perfect sunny spot available to grow these popular edibles.
That doesn’t mean you should give up on growing tomatoes altogether.
If you have a little less sunlight than required, or perhaps a spot in dappled sunlight, there are a few tomato varieties that will adapt to those conditions better than others.
One of these 13 varieties will manage lower sunlight levels well to produce the sought-after delicious fruits we all love.
Do Truly Shade Tolerant Tomatoes Exist?
The first question to address is – is there such a thing as a shade-tolerant tomato?
Technically, tomatoes are full sun plants not known to produce fruits in the shade. They require full sunlight for higher rates of photosynthesis to ensure the plant has enough energy to produce large fruits.
The term shade-tolerant-tomato is a slight misnomer. Shade-tolerant tomatoes are those varieties that will still produce some fruit when not planted in the desired six hours of direct light per day.
They may have smaller fruits to produce, as with cherry tomato varieties, or have shorter maturing periods that allow the plant to adapt better to lower light levels. High-yielding tomatoes are also suitable as they ensure the greatest chances of fruiting in less than optimal conditions.
These varieties will still grow best in higher sunlight and produce far more fruits, but they will not completely fail without it. More than three hours of direct sun, plus a few hours of dappled sunlight if it is available, should be enough to encourage these plants to fruit.
That does come with one caveat though – all the other conditions need to be close to perfect. Temperature stress, incorrect watering, or lack of airflow can all cause major issues with fruiting. When there is little light and therefore, fewer fruits, any problems can completely ruin a harvest.
With all other conditions met, and the right amount of fertilizer in the soil, you shouldn’t need to worry about your harvest if you choose one of these 13 varieties.
13 Shade Tolerant Tomato Varieties
Roma tomatoes are one of the most popular types available, regularly used to produce tomato sauces and pastes. The oblong fruits have a deep red color and fleshy texture, quite firm when ready for harvesting.
Due to their moderate size and resistance to fusarium and verticillium wilt, Roma tomatoes are not particularly difficult to grow. When given enough support to hold up the heavy fruits, you should still see a few peek out of the foliage, even in slightly shady conditions.
Those in colder regions will appreciate the hardy nature of Siberia. This variety can produce fruits in temperatures as low as 38F. But, what makes it great for growing in partial shade is its quick maturity. From planting, Siberia fruits will be ready to harvest in just over 2 months.
The fruits are large and rounded, requiring plenty of watering and fertilizing throughout the season. They are great for slicing to eat fresh or for sauces. Their large fruits mean even with a lower yield in the shade, you will have plenty of tomato to go around.
3. Black Krim
A popular heirloom tomato from Russia, Black Krim fruits are easy to identify due to their interesting color. The red fruits have a darkish tint to them, producing striped patterns along the rounded edges.
This variety is prized for its slightly smoky flavor unlike any other tomato on the market. Their shorter season makes them a candidate for shade growth, typically ready for harvest in about 80 days. These heirlooms are also indeterminate, providing you with produce throughout the season rather than all at once.
4. Paul Robeson
If you’re looking for an interesting tasting tomato with an even more interesting story, Paul Robeson is for you.
This variety is named after an American actor, musician and activist born in 1898. Robeson was flagged by the FBI for his support of civil rights and Soviet Union policies during the height of the anti-communist movement. This Russian tomato variety was named in his honor.
Like Black Krim, Paul Robeson also has a distinctive flavor that makes a great addition to fresh sandwiches or salads. Many who attempt to grow these tomatoes, even in slight shade, cannot resist growing them again year after year.
5. Golden Sweet
These hybrid indeterminate tomatoes have an interesting shape and color, with bright yellow fruits and an oblong, almost rectangular grape shape. But what makes Golden Sweet great for partial shade growing is its quick maturity, reaching harvest in about two months.
Unlike the intensity of the previous two tomatoes, Golden Sweet has a mildly sweet flavor and a wonderful balance between juiciness and firmness. They are also resistant to both fusarium wilt and leaf mold.
6. Black Cherry
The sought-after purple-red fruits of the Black Cherry are hard to miss in your veggie garden. An incredibly popular cherry tomato, these plants produce fruits ready for harvesting in about 75 days. Besides their color, they are also grown for their rich and unique flavor.
Black Cherries are suitable for growth in partial shade due to their very high yields. This gives you a much higher chance of a successful harvest, even in lower light conditions.
7. Early Wonder
True to the name, Early Wonder tomatoes have incredibly short seasons. They are ready for harvest in as little as 55 days, with juicy large fruits that have a pinkish hue. Their short season provides plenty of room for adaption when growing in partial shade.
This determinate variety will ripen all at once, likely closer to 70 days when planted in a shady spot. Use these juicy tomatoes fresh in sandwiches to make the most of their delicate flavor.
8. San Marzano
San Marzano is a plum tomato with a unique oblong shape. This Italian favorite is revered around the world and is considered one of the best canned tomato varieties on the market. The fruits are perfect for sauces due to their fleshy texture and fewer seeds.
This plant is ready to harvest within about two months, allowing for some adjustments when planting in partial shade. Use the fruits to make a professional quality tomato sauce or can at home to make the delicious flavors last even longer.
Beauty heirloom tomatoes may look like your standard pinkish-red fleshy tomato, but they are anything but. These plants produce large fruits that have an irresistibly sweet flavor, complemented by the kick of acidity.
Beauty is a very high-yielding variety, a property that lands it firmly on this list. With some support, this indeterminate tomato will be ready to harvest after about 80 days, with plenty of fruits to pick – even in partial shade.
No mention of high-yielding tomatoes is complete without the bright yellow Ildi tomato. When it comes to partial shade growth, you couldn’t choose a better type. Not only does the plant produce massive clusters of small yellow fruits, but it also produces these fruits very early – in about 54 days.
Ildi can produce hundreds of tomatoes every season. Thanks to their delicious, sweet flavor (almost like tomato candy), you won’t have any trouble using your abundance of fruits.
11. Mama Leone
Another heirloom tomato, Mama Leone is grown largely for sauces and tomato paste production. The oblong fruits are very fleshy and ready to harvest in about 80 days.
The high yield of this plant makes it suitable for growing in partial shade. The fruits may be slightly smaller than they would in full sun but still make a great base for your famous tomato sauce recipe.
12. Gold Medal
For some variety in color and texture in your tomato patch, try growing Gold Medal. The fruits are a golden yellow, dotted with spots of red and orange to produce an interesting patchwork of color. The fruits are firm and sweet, perfect for slicing and eating fresh.
This plant doesn’t only win medals in color and taste, but also in yield. Producing a few pounds of fruits each season in the right conditions, Gold Medal is ideal for partial shade growth.
13. Cherokee Purple
The slightly purple fruits of the Cherokee Purple variety are incredibly popular among tomato growers and heirloom enthusiasts. This plant produces very large fruits with a high yield in the right conditions.
The fruits may not reach their massive size in lower lighting conditions, but they will retain their wonderful flavor and color. The plants are easily adaptable and generally resistant to a few common tomato diseases.