The Rosella Purple tomato is a high-yielding dwarf tomato that produces loads of medium-sized, dusky red tomatoes with intense flavor. It’s no wonder that the Rosella Purple is becoming a favorite among gardeners.
A product of the open-source Dwarf Tomato Project, the Rosella Purple was originally a cross between Budai and Stump of the World tomatoes (both also dwarfs) and the seeds were saved over generations because breeders loved the taste and prolific yields. It’s been available to the general public since 2011 but has only become more popular in recent years.
Profile: Rosella Purple Tomato
Intense flavor and big, juicy tomatoes, like a dwarf version of the Cherokee Purple
Days to Maturity: 75 days
Type: Dwarf (indeterminate), regular leaves
Tomato Size and Shape: 6 to 12 oz (medium-large), oblate-shaped
Plant Height: 3+ feet
Open Pollinated? Yes
Get seeds: Victory Seeds (US), Nature and Nurture Seeds (US), Tomatofest (US), Restoration Seeds (US)
For international readers: Some of these vendors will ship overseas.
The Rosella Purple tomato is not true purple, but more dark red with greenish brown shoulders, very similar to the Cherokee Purple tomato. Their shape is slightly flattened (oblate) and they can reach respectable size of 6 to 12 oz, making them a medium-large tomato.
Their crimson red flesh is juicy and is usually described as having a balance of sweetness, acidity, and umami savoriness, but overall having more intense flavor than other varieties. The savory notes tend to be common in other purple varieties like Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, and Black Cherry tomatoes.
Rosella Purple tomatoes are considered mid season tomatoes, typically taking around 75 days after transplanting before yielding the first ripe tomatoes. For example, if you transplant your Rosella Purple tomatoes in mid May (always transplant tomatoes after night temperatures stay at or above 50°F/10°C) then you can expect your first harvest sometime in late July, possibly early August if your transplants are still small.
One of the main reasons the Rosella Purple tomato is becoming more popular is because it’s a dwarf tomato. However, despite being a dwarf tomato, normally reaching 2 to 3 feet tall, sometimes taller, it produces full-sized tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes.
Planting Rosella Purple Tomatoes
Despite being a dwarf tomato, you can start Rosella Purple tomatoes the same way you would any other indeterminate or determinate tomato. Sow Rosella Purple seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before your last average frost date. You can still plant later but that also means you will get your first harvest later.
Tomato seeds normally germinate within a week at room temperature or slightly warmer, although it could take up to two weeks before sprouts emerge. Older seeds will take longer to germinate and have a lower rate of success. If using fresh seeds only 1 or 2 years old, you can sow 1 to 2 seeds per hole. If using older seeds, sow 2 to 4 seeds and thin out to one seedling per pot.
You can grow your seedlings in a sunny, south-facing window, but they grow best with supplemental lighting, which can be a fluorescent or CFL light a few inches above the seedlings or a newer LED grow light. Ensure the seedlings do not overheat.
Don’t worry if your tomato seedlings are leggy. It’s actually beneficial to plant your tomatoes deep, burying part of the stem. New side roots readily form on tomato stems, which will give your Rosella Purple tomatoes a more secure anchor and allow for more nutrient and water uptake.
Transplant when nighttime temperatures no longer drop below 50°F (10°C). Tomatoes are very frost tender and cold temperatures can stunt tomato plant growth.
Taking Care of Rosella Purple Tomato Plants
Always make sure your tomato plants are well-watered but not sitting on soggy soil (which can cause root rot). Tomato plants that continually go through periods of drying out can lead to blossom-end rot and tomato splitting.
Tomatoes are heavy feeders and Rosella Purple is no exception. When growing seedlings, they need little to no fertilizer, but after transplanting, you should feed your tomatoes regularly, either with liquid fertilizer every 7 to 14 days, or slow-release fertilizer granules/spikes every 1 to 3 months. Any all-purpose fertilizer will do, but the best performing ones will have NPK numbers with higher P and K values, since phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are good for flowering, fruiting, and overall plant health, while nitrogen (N) is more important for stem and leaf growth.
Examples of Liquid Fertilizers for Rosella Purple Tomatoes
- Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Plant Food Vegetables and Herbs (18-18-21)
- Neptune’s Harvest Fish Fertilizer (2-4-1)
- Neptune’s Harvest Organic Hydrolized Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer (2-3-1)
Examples of Slow-Release Fertilizers for Rosella Purple Tomatoes
- Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food (10-5-15)
- Dr. Earth Organic Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer (4-6-3)
- Jobe’s Tomato Fertilizer Spikes (6-18-6)
Harvesting Rosella Purple Tomatoes
Normally, you want to pick tomatoes when they’ve reached their final color (usually red). However, for Rosella Purple tomatoes, it can be more difficult to tell when they are ripe because the green/brown shoulders tend to stay that way even when the tomatoes are fully ripe.
When to Pick Rosella Purple Tomatoes
Pick Rosella Purple tomatoes when most of the tomato has turned deep crimson red, the top of the tomatoes (shoulders) have lost most of their green color and turned brown, and the tomato starts to feel soft when you squeeze the sides.
Even if you pick them too early, you can finish ripening the tomatoes on the kitchen counter for a few days. Picking tomatoes when they are around 90-95% ripe makes little impact the flavor or nutritional value when they finish ripening inside.
Related Questions About Rosella Purple Tomatoes
Rosella Purple vs. Cherokee Purple: What’s the Difference?
The main difference between Rosella Purple tomatoes and Cherokee Purple tomatoes is that Rosella Purple is a dwarf tomato, while Cherokee Purple is indeterminate. In a normal growing season, Rosella Purple plants will grow to 2 to 3 feet tall, sometimes taller. Cherokee Purple plants can easily get over 6 feet tall.
Rosella Purple and Cherokee Purple tomato fruits can grow to around the same size, but Rosella Purple tomatoes are slightly smaller on average, ranging from 6 to 12 oz. In contrast, Cherokee Purple tomatoes reach 8 to 16 oz.
Taste-wise, both taste very similar: balanced yet intensely flavored.
Can You Grow Rosella Purple Tomatoes in a Pot?
Rosella Purple tomatoes, like all dwarf tomatoes, grows exceptionally well in a container. Since they can grow to 3 feet or more, use a minimum of 5 gallons for your container. Ideal container size is around 7 to 10 gallons.
Smaller containers dry out much more quickly, which can lead to splitting or blossom-end rot. To ensure greater water retention, you can mulch your container tomatoes.
How Are Dwarf Tomatoes Different from Other Tomatoes?
Dwarf tomatoes vary in height, from 6-inch Orange Hat cherry tomatoes, to larger dwarfs like the Rosella Purple, which normally reaches 2 to 4 feet and can get larger in longer growing seasons. Dwarf tomatoes are technically indeterminate tomatoes, but grow much more slowly and much more compact than true indeterminate tomatoes, which can easily reach 6 to 8 feet (or more) in a normal growing season.
Read more about growing dwarf tomatoes.
There is a misconception that all dwarf tomatoes are cherry tomatoes. In fact, dwarf tomatoes can grow full-sized fruits, such as the Rosella Purple, Dwarf Awesome, and Dwarf Emerald Giant tomatoes.
One key feature of dwarf tomatoes is the presence of dark green, stiff, rugose (crinkly) leaves. This has no impact on the growth or health of the plant, but it is a common characteristic of dwarf tomatoes.
If you want to learn more about dwarf tomatoes, check out the Dwarf Tomato Project, which is a community-driven, open source tomato breeding project. There are dwarf tomatoes of all kinds, different colors, shapes, sizes, and flavor profiles. The Dwarf Tomato Project site does not sell seeds directly, but they do provide a list of vendors who sell lots of dwarf tomatoes.