Ralstonia solanacearum is the causal agent of bacterial wilt and infects over 200 plant species in 50 families. The soilborne bacterium is lethal to many solanaceous species, including tomato. Although resistant plants can carry high pathogen loads (between 10(5) and 10(8) CFU/g fresh weight), the disease is best controlled by the use of resistant cultivars, particularly resistant rootstocks. How these plants have latent infections yet maintain resistance is not clear. R. solanacearum first infects the plant through the root system and, thus, early root colonization events may be key to understanding resistance. We hypothesized that the distribution and timing of bacterial invasion differed in roots of resistant and susceptible tomato cultivars. Here, we use a combination of scanning electron microscopy and light microscopy to investigate R. solanacearum colonization in roots of soil-grown resistant and susceptible tomato cultivars at multiple time points after inoculation. Our results show that colonization of the root vascular cylinder is delayed in resistant 'Hawaii7996' and that, once bacteria enter the root vascular tissues, colonization in the vasculature is spatially restricted. Our data suggest that resistance is due, in part, to the ability of the resistant cultivar to restrict bacterial root colonization in space and time.