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Rainbow Tomatoes: Yet Another Gardening Ripoff!


This photo is a scam: no tomato produces such a variety of colors! Source:

A reader sent me the photo above … after she had ordered the seed, unfortunately. She wanted to know if it was really true that she’d be getting such colorful tomatoes from what is being sold as “rainbow tomato seeds.” Unfortunately, no.

Thanks to Photoshop, it’s child’s play to change colors in photos. You can turn an elephant pure pink, a flamingo bright green … or tomatoes individual Crayola colors.

This is often done with plants to stimulate sales. Even fairly reputable plant catalogs seem to have no qualms about enhancing the photos of their product … to a certain point. Example: “pink” narcissus that are bright pink instead of the salmon shades they really come in. (See Faked Photos Indicate an Unreliable Catalog.) But no even not-quite reputable catalog would go as far as “painting” individual tomatoes designer colors: most they still have some decency!

What Did You Actually Buy?

Companies that sell seeds on the Internet using obviously unreal photos are generally fly-by-night operations: here today, gone tomorrow. Let’s hope they at least send you something, preferably viable seeds … and preferably viable tomato seeds!

20180201B Tomates en mélange
These are legitimate “rainbow tomatoes”: a mix sold as Rainbow Heirloom Mix by Different plants will each produce a tomato of a different color: these all won’t appear on the same plant. Source:

Assuming they do send you real tomato seeds, what can you expect? If they want to keep up the “rainbow” end of the bargain, you’ll probably only have received mixed seeds including tomatoes of various colors … and there really are red, pink, orange, yellow, green, “white,” “purple,” “blue” and “black” tomatoes. (The colors in quotations are not going to actually be the pure color, but a vague approximation. There are no truly white, purple, blue or black tomatoes.)

20180201C tomato-blue-beauty
So-called blue or purple tomatoes (here ‘Blue Beauty’) are actually red, but suffused with deep purple where they are exposed to the sun. Source:

There will certainly not be half a dozen colors on the same plant: most tomatoes will mature from medium green to light green to their final single color, whatever that is, so there will be more than one color on the plant at once. Also, the so-called blue or purple tomatoes are essentially red ones that take on a purplish or bluish overlay on the parts exposed to the sun, so you could count that as a fourth color. However, the seed blend may well include seeds of red tomatoes, yellow tomatoes and green tomatoes, for example. At least that would honestly give you “rainbow tomatoes,” even if the colors were absolutely nothing like those in the photo.

20180201D 'Big Rainbow'
‘Big Rainbow’ tomatoes are naturally multicoloured. Source:

I see another possibility too. Perhaps they’ll send seeds of ‘Big Rainbow’, an heirloom tomato variety with multicoloured fruit. Of course, its colours are not really rainbowlike, being mainly orange, red and pink. Nor does this big beefsteak type tomato look anything like the cherry tomatoes in the photo at the start of this article, but it could be a way for the salesperson to legitimately claim they had sent you rainbow tomato seeds.

Lessons to Be Learned

So, what lesson—indeed, lessons!—can we learn from this case?

First, that there are plenty of scam artists out there using faked photos of vegetables, fruits and flowers to bilk you out of your money. In the past, I’ve covered in this blog other gardening ripoffs that involve seeds that don’t deliver the goods, such as black strawberriesrainbow roses and cubic watermelons, but there are many others.

This is easy to fix: only order seed from reputable seed companies!

Secondly, and most importantly: If it doesn’t look real, it probably isn’t!20180201

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

8 comments on “Rainbow Tomatoes: Yet Another Gardening Ripoff!

  1. Guy the idiot

    Hi Joe, We need to have a pint. My seeds arrived today. Planted them anyway, Well see what grows. My fool’s money will be a idiot/learning lesson.

    • I planted them, too and so far have many small green tomatoes and lots of flowers!! We’ll see!

      • Yep got some also. Fertilized and looking great. Blossoms and tiny tomatoes setting on. Was hoping that we are able to can them or freeze them. Any ideas on how they will can up? Wish us luck.

  2. The moral of this story:
    A fool and their money are soon parted- even in the 21st century when every human that can order these has the entire sum of human knowledge at the tips of their thumbs and could literally fact check this in 15 seconds before plugging in their credit card number.. ??? Hard to feel too bad for people who allow themselves to be easily duped when they don’t have to.

  3. Its AMAZING !!!!!




  4. Even the reputable catalogues “enhance” the colours. Look at how bluish-purple flowers turn true-blue and salmon-coloured oriental poppies turn pink. Blue flowers are more popular, and any unusual colour sells, as your story about the tomatoes shows.

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