tomato tops drying out

Asked June 22, 2014, 4:43 PM EDT

Hello, I have different species of tomato plants in my garden. The plants looked great until this morning. Probably 30 plants in all, 15 small tomatoes. The top of two plants look to be wilting, one more then the other at this point, hope it is not a chain reaction. They just look like they are drying out from the top, going downward. Is there anything I can do to save them.

Somerset County Pennsylvania

1 Response

Thanks for using the Ask an Expert System.
I apologize for the delay in addressing your question. It got lost in the system and was given to me about an hour ago.

It is very difficult for me to diagnose your problem with the limited information you provided in your question. There are quite a few different diseases of tomatoes. I am sure that in the time since you first ask the question that the problem has resolved itself, or that you are looking at more symptoms on more plants.

I am attaching a link to a very good publication from the University of Iowa that covers the major diseases, and provides good descriptions and photos to simplify diagnosis. It is available free at

As I said above I cannot be sure of the nature of your problem. However, since your problem is attaching the tops of the plants first, there is a possibility that you are seeing late blight of tomatoes.
Here is some advice for home gardeners on late blight from Penn State Extension Educator John Esslinger;

Late Blight is Back
Late blight has been confirmed on potato plants in Cambria County, Pennsylvania. It has also been confirmed on potatoes in Long Island, New York. The late blight strain identified with these two outbreaks will attack both tomato and potato plants and the fruit they produce. Late blight is a death sentence to an infected tomato or potato plant. Late blight spores have the ability to move significant distances through the air. They can move 40 miles or more on a rainy day. It prefers temperatures in the sixties and low seventies. Late blight infect tomatoes and potatoes only. So what can a gardener do when late blight is to our east and west?

First, keeps the weeds out of your garden. Late blight develops more quickly in damp areas. Weeds make the canopy denser which reduces air movement and drying around plants. Weeds can also shade plants creating a more humid condition that allows late blight to develop.

Second, avoid over fertilization. Lush, excessively large plants are more prone to get late blight.

Third, when watering your garden avoid wetting the foliage as much as possible.

Forth, if you plan to protect your plants with a fungicide the fungicide should be applied before the late blight spores land on the plant. Fungicides get washed off over time. If an inch or more of rain has fallen the fungicide will need to be reapplied. Always read the label and follow the directions. Products containing chlorothalonil or mancozeb are effective for preventing blight. Fungicides are not effective at curing an infection after it starts.

Finally, watch your garden closely. If you find a plant that has late blight it should be removed immediately. It is best to put the plant in a trash bag so the spread of spores will be reduced. If you are not sure if what you see is late blight or not, take a sample to your local Penn State Extension office and ask them to help you identify the problem.

John Esslinger, Extension Educator Penn State Extension

If you think you have late blight or have additional questions contact your local Penn State Extension office.

Somerset County Penn State Extension
6024 Glades Pike, Suite 101 Somerset, PA 15501

Phone: 814-445-8911, Ext. 7

Office Hours: Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.