Grow the Best Heirloom Tomatoes for Your Region

Make the most of your heirloom tomato efforts by growing 'maters adapted to your region.

Related To:

The secret to amazing heirloom tomatoes? Start with plants naturally adapted to your region’s growing conditions. Heirloom tomatoes are often passalong plants—plants handed down (as seeds) from one generation to the next. These plants have survived for decades and sometimes hundreds of years.

When an heirloom tomato becomes famous locally, it’s already shown adaptations to local growing conditions, such as soil type, heat, humidity or average rainfall. Capitalize on those local adaptations by learning where heirloom tomatoes originate and determining if your region serves up the same growing conditions. Sometimes the name delivers a clue about where the plant first gained popularity—for instance, ‘Arkansas Traveler’ or ‘San Francisco Fog’ tomato.

Apply these same principles to heirloom tomatoes that hail from other parts of the world. Do a little digging to learn about the local growing conditions. If it’s a Russian tomato, like ‘Anna Russian’ or ‘Azoychka,’ it’s going to grow well in cooler climates. (Russian tomatoes also work well in places like Texas to get an early crop before serious heat arrives.) Also, grab a globe and trace latitude lines. If you garden at a similar latitude to a tomato’s place of origin, chances are your conditions will favor that tomato.

What happens if you try to grow heirlooms that aren’t adapted to your region? Plants may develop disease or yield poorly. Tomato flavor will very likely diminish. For instance, ‘Pink Brandywine,’ developed in North Carolina, doesn’t bring the same punch of delicious tomato flavor when it’s grown in a cool summer-spot like Oregon.

To get started with heirloom tomatoes, look for these regionally adapted tomatoes at local plant swaps, garden centers and regional plant sales.

Heirloom Tomatoes for the Northeast

‘Amish Paste Roma’ (above), ‘Black Prince,’ ‘German Johnson,’ ‘Golden Jubilee,’ ‘Heinz Classic,’ ‘Marglobe,’ ‘Mortgage Lifter,’ ‘Pink Brandywine,’ ‘Red Beefsteak,’ ‘Rutgers’

Heirloom Tomatoes for the Mid-Atlantic

‘Amish Paste,’ ‘Arkansas Traveler,’ ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘German Johnson,’ ‘Mortgage Lifter,’ ‘Pineapple,’ ‘Red Beefsteak,’ ‘Rutgers’ (‘Brandywine’ is a given in the Mid-Atlantic, but its susceptibility to disease can be problematic—many gardeners are trying ‘Brandy Boy,’ a modern grafted tomato.)

Heirloom Tomatoes for the South

‘Arkansas Traveler,’ ‘Black Krim,’ ‘Black from Tula,’ ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘German Johnson,’ ‘Homestead,’ ‘Marglobe,’ ‘Marion,’ ‘Mr. Stripey,’ ‘Red Beefsteak,’ ‘Yellow Pear’

Heirloom Tomatoes for the Midwest

‘Amish Paste,’ ‘Black Krim,’ ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Marglobe,’ ‘Mortgage Lifter,’ ‘Nebraska Wedding,’ ‘Pink Brandywine,’ ‘Red Beefsteak,’ ‘San Marzano,’ ‘Yellow Pear’

Heirloom Tomatoes for Texas

‘Black Calabash,’ ‘Black from Tula,’ ‘Black Krim,’ ‘Black Sea Man,’ ‘Brandywine Sudduth’ (aka ‘Pink Brandywine’), ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Green Zebra,’ ‘Nyagous,’ ‘Persimmon,’ ‘Porter,’ ‘Yellow Pear’

Heirloom Tomatoes for the West

‘Ace 55,’ ‘Bradley,’ ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Homestead,’ ‘Paul Robeson,’ ‘San Francisco Fog’

Heirloom Tomatoes for the Northwest

‘Black Krim,’ ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Golden Jubilee,’ ‘Heinz Classic,’ ‘San Francisco Fog,’ ‘Seattle’s Best Heirloom,’ ‘True Black’ (a ‘Brandywine’), 'Willamette,' ‘Yellow Pear’

Heirloom Tomatoes for the Southwest

‘Amish Paste,’ ‘Black Cherry,’ ‘Brandywine,’ ‘Beefsteak,’ ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Paul Robeson,’ ‘Rutgers,’ ‘San Marzano,’ ‘Yellow Pear’

Next Up

Why Do Tomatoes Split?

When it comes to taste, homegrown tomatoes beat those hard, red supermarket orbs hands down. Learn why tomatoes crack and split and what to do about it.

How to Freeze Tomatoes From Your Garden

Extend your garden harvest by putting your tomatoes in the deep freeze.

Freezing Cherry Tomatoes

Keep fresh cherry tomato flavor on your meal-time menu well beyond the garden season by preserving excess fruits in the freezer.

How to Can Spaghetti Sauce

Learn how to can homemade spaghetti sauce that will allow you to savor ripe summer tomatoes all year long.

7 Ways to Prevent Tomato and Potato Blight

Early and late blight can affect both tomato and potato plants. Learn how to protect your garden and keep these diseases at bay by following these prevention tips.

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors

Enjoy the fruits of your gardening labor by ripening green tomatoes indoors with these easy tips.

How to Can Tomatoes

Canning tomatoes is a great, easy way to preserve the season's harvest so you'll have fresh tomatoes all year long. Learn how to can tomatoes with these simple steps for the water bath canning method.

How to Prune and Stake Tomato Plants

Try this advice on pruning, supporting and staking tomato plants for a healthier, more productive crop.

How Far Apart Should Tomatoes Be Planted?

Tomato plant spacing depends on a few factors, including the variety type and the type of garden. Follow our advice and you'll be spacing for success.

Growing Butternut Squash

Get our tips on growing butternut squash, including techniques for planting, harvesting, curing and enjoying butternut squash.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.