It seems that almost everyone loves the little orange tomatoes known as Sungolds.
Give a Sungold to a toddler who has never tasted tomatoes, and they may exclaim they have a new favorite food.
Hand a Sungold to a self-described tomato connoisseur and watch as they come back for more.
Convince a picky adolescent to try one of these little orange cherry tomatoes, and you may find they hide their smile and secretly pop another in their mouth.
Personally, Sungold tomatoes are one of my favorites. Their flavor is remarkable and consistent, while the plants are prolific producers and relatively easy to grow.
Keep reading to learn more about Sungold tomatoes as well as how to grow them yourself.
Sungold Tomato – Quick Growing Guide
|Plant Type:||Annual vegetable||Tolerance:||Fusarium wilt, tobacco mosaic virus|
|USDA Hardiness Zone:||4–9||Maintenance:||Moderate to high|
|Season:||Summer and early fall||Soil Type:||Rich and well-aerated|
|Exposure:||Full sun||Soil pH:||6.2 to 6.8|
|Time to Maturity:||57 days from transplant||Soil Drainage:||Well-draining|
|Spacing:||24-48 inches||Companion Planting:||Basil, beets, carrots, lettuce, sweet alyssum|
|Planting Depth:||1/4 inch||Avoid Planting With:||Broccoli, corn, potatoes|
|Common Pests and Diseases:||Aphids, early blight, late blight, powdery mildew, thrips||Cultivar:||Sungold|
What Are Sungold Tomatoes?
Sungold tomatoes are a hybrid variety of cherry tomatoes. They are one of the most popular varieties of cherry tomatoes and are beloved for their sweet orange fruits.
Sungold Tomato Characteristics
If you’re new to Sungold tomatoes, check out some of the plant’s basic characteristics.
Like all tomatoes, Sungolds are cold-sensitive and will not tolerate freezing temperatures.
Sungold tomatoes can be grown in USDA Hardiness zones 4-10. However, they will benefit from the protection of a high tunnel or heated greenhouse in zones 4 and 5.
In general, you want to wait until the danger of frost has passed to plant your Sungold plants outside in the spring.
Sungold plants are indeterminate, meaning they have a vining growth form that continues to grow until the first frost arrives. The plants can easily reach over ten feet tall.
This indeterminate form also means that Sungold plants produce tomatoes throughout the growing season. As long as the plants are healthy, you can expect to harvest tomatoes for at least two or three months.
Days to Maturity
Sungold plants will begin producing ripe fruits between 55-65 days after transplant. Therefore, if you transplant seedlings in mid-May, you can expect to begin harvesting tomatoes in mid-July.
The plants will continue to produce fruits until they die.
Fruit Size, Color, and Flavor
Sungold tomatoes are a type of cherry tomato. That means they produce clusters of small and round fruits.
These tomatoes are about 3/4 of an inch in diameter, although some may be a bit smaller. The fruits start out light green before turning dull orange and then fully ripening to bright orange.
Perfectly ripe Sungolds are supremely sweet, with a touch of acidity in the background. They are easy to eat, the delightful yet not cloying sweetness begging you to eat just one more.
I remember when a customer emailed me about Sungolds saying “these are better than candy!” And while I laughed a bit at this compliment, I realized I couldn’t help but agree.
To see just how sweet these little tomatoes are, you can look at their Brix reading—a measurement of the dissolved sugars in solution. Sungolds have reported Brix readings between 9.3 and 10.5, while most cherry tomatoes report a Brix reading between 6–10.
Despite their great taste, Sungold tomatoes do not have the best shelf life. Their fruits often crack during transport, which means they are rarely found being sold in stores.
And that’s just another reason why you should try to grow your own!
Sungolds were first developed by the Japanese Tokita Seed Company in 1992. They quickly became popular after their release in Japan.
They made their way to the United Kingdom and the United States in the following years, where they also became favorites. Sungold tomatoes are now bred and sold by seed companies around the world.
How to Grow Sungold Tomatoes
Growing Sungold tomatoes is similar to growing other types of cherry tomatoes. You can read my detailed guide about growing cherry tomatoes here. In this post, we are going to detail information that is specific to Sungold plants.
Growing Sungold Tomatoes From Seed
Producing your own transplants can help you save a little bit of money and give you the satisfaction of being involved in your plant’s life from seed to harvest. However, it is more work than buying seedlings.
If you’d like to grow Sungold tomatoes from seed, you’ll need to start the seeds inside and then later transplant the seedlings outdoors.
I like to start my tomato seedlings in 72-cell trays. I find this cell size doesn’t take up too much space but gives the seedlings enough space to grow for a few weeks.
You can also use individual plastic containers, as long as these containers have drainage holes that allow excess water to escape.
Once you have your container, fill it with a well-draining potting mix designed for seed starting. Some good options include Vermont Compost Fort Vee Potting Mix and Coast of Maine Sprout Island Blend.
Plant one seed in each container, and make sure the seeds are only 1/4 of an inch deep. Water the seeds well and place the containers in an area that is at least 80ºF.
If your house is on the colder side, I find it can be helpful to utilize a heated grow mat. These will heat up the soil to encourage Sungold seed germination.
Once the Sungold seeds have germinated, ensure they have access to lots of bright, direct light.
A south-facing window may provide enough light, but most indoors spaces require you to use grow lights. Select a full-spectrum light (this and this are two good options), and place the light 2–4 inches above the top of the seedlings.
When the seedlings are about 3–4 inches tall (about a month after you plant the seeds), you can pot them up into a larger container. Allow the seedlings to continue growing until they are about 8–12 inches tall.
Selecting Sungold Transplants
Since the Sungold is a popular tomato variety, many nurseries and greenhouses carry these plants. Try to buy your tomato transplants right around the last frost date for the best selection.
Look for plants that are dark green in color and have thick stems. Avoid any plants with discolored foliage, signs of disease, or pests like aphids.
You should also choose plants without flowers or fruit, as these plants may be stressed.
Hardening Off Sungold Plants
Whether you grow your own seedlings or purchase them from an outside source, you should acclimate them to the outdoors before planting them in the ground. This process is known as hardening off.
Leave the seedlings in their containers but place them outdoors. Keep them outside for just a few hours and bring them inside at night.
Gradually increase the amount of time the plants spend outdoors until they are outside for a whole day and night (provided temperatures remain above 50ºF during this time). At this point, you can plant the tomatoes.
Planting Sungold Plants
You can plant Sungold plants outdoors once nighttime temperatures are reliably staying above 50ºF. Choose a location that receives at least eight hours of sun each day.
Since Sungolds are indeterminate plants, they can sprawl quite a bit. If you are planting more than one Sungold plant, space them 24 inches apart.
Dig a hole that is a few inches deeper and wider than the seedling’s root ball. Add the plant and cover with soil.
It’s okay if the soil is covering a bit of the plant’s stem—tomato plants will develop adventitious roots on portions that are covered with soil. However, at least four inches of the plant should be above the ground.
Caring for Sungold Tomatoes
After you plant your Sungolds, you’ll need to care for them so they thrive. This is where the work begins!
You can expect to water your Sungold plants multiple times a week. However, the exact amount you’ll need to water will depend on rainfall, temperature, and humidity.
In general, Sungold plants will require two inches of water per week. This water should be spread out over 2–3 waterings in order to keep the soil moisture level relatively consistent.
If soil switches from dry to wet in a short time, fruits may split and crack. Therefore, consistent watering is crucial for the crack-prone Sungold.
You should also water at the base of the plant to avoid wetting the foliage.
The fall before you plant your Sungolds, you should collect soil samples and submit them to a soils testing lab. These labs will give you information about the soil pH, nutrient levels, and organic matter levels.
The results will also give you recommendations on how to amend your soil so it is ideal for tomato plants. Follow these recommendations for the best results.
Even if you fertilize your soil prior to planting Sungold plants, you will still need to apply fertilizer throughout the growing season.
Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer (like this) once every two weeks until the plant reaches about two feet tall. Then, switch over to a low-nitrogen, high-phosphorus fertilizer such as this one.
While you can grow Sungolds with any type of trellis system, I have never done so. These plants easily reach ten feet tall, and trellising is essential to keep them contained and organized.
If you are growing your Sungold plants outdoors, my favorite way to trellis is the Florida stake and weave method. This type of trellis can be used for a single plant or for a whole row of tomatoes.
To start, insert two stakes on either side of your Sungold plant. The stakes should be at least six feet tall and at least six inches in the ground.
If you are growing more than one Sungold plant, you can place three to four plants between the two stakes.
Next, tie a piece of tomato twine to one of the stakes, run it along one side of the tomato plant(s), pull it taut, and tie it to the other stake. Repeat on the other side of the plant(s).
This first set of strings should be about six inches above the ground. As the plants grow, you will repeat this process to continue to support the plant(s).
Other trellising methods include metal tomato cages and tying each plant to a single stake.
Pruning Sungold plants is optional, but it can help with airflow and fruit set.
If you only choose one pruning step, remove the lower leaves. These leaves are the most likely to become diseased, since they are often splashed with water from the ground.
You can also choose to remove plant shoots, known as ‘suckers’, that emerge from between the main stem and the leaves. This will decrease overall fruit production, but it can help keep the plants more manageable.
When you are pruning, make sure to use a sharp and sanitized pair of pruning shears to prevent the spread of disease.
Harvesting Sungold Tomatoes
Sungold plants will begin to produce ripe tomatoes about two months after you transplant the seedlings.
The first ripe fruits will develop on the clusters near the bottom of the plant. Additionally, the fruits at the base of each cluster will ripen before those at the tips of the clusters.
Sungold tomatoes start out light green, turn pale yellow-orange, and eventually ripen to a vibrant orange. You should harvest when the fruits are at least 80% ripe.
To harvest, simply grasp a ripe fruit in your hand and gently pull. If the tomato doesn’t easily come off the plant, it is likely not ripe enough.
I find that harvesting twice a week is best. This will allow you to pick the fruits before they overripe while also allowing time for more tomatoes to ripen.
Since changes in soil moisture can cause Sungolds to crack, I also like to harvest before predicted storms arrive.
Storing Sungold Tomatoes
Sungold tomatoes do not have a superb shelf life—that’s one of the reasons they’re a great choice for the home garden!
If you pick your Sungolds fully ripe, you can expect them to store well for about 3–5 days. Store the tomatoes in a cool, dry place, but don’t put them in the refrigerator.
How to Eat Sungold Tomatoes
If you’re like me, you’ll love popping Sungolds in your mouth as a snack. However, these tomatoes are quite versatile!
You can roast them in the oven until they become jammy, toss them in pasta salads, or chop them up for salsas.
Where to Buy Sungold Tomatoes
If you want to buy Sungold tomato seeds, you’ll have lots of options. Many seed companies produce and sell this popular cherry tomato variety.
One thing to consider when you’re buying seeds is whether or not you care if the seeds are organic. Organic seeds come from plants that were grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
However, you can still use organic growing methods even if you buy conventional seeds. If a seed packet is not labeled as USDA Organic, you can assume it is not organic.
Some seed companies that carry Sungold seeds include Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Osbourne Quality Seeds, and Totally Tomatoes.