Should I Prune My Tomato Plants? (Video)


What are the different methods and impacts of pruning tomato plants?

Side shoots, or “suckers,” are additional fruiting stems that emerge on tomato plants at the junctions of the main stems and leaf stems. Some folks recommend that gardeners prune tomato plants by removing all tomato suckers; I disagree. Contrary to what many think, suckers don’t sap energy from the main tomato plant, and allowing them to develop will not delay fruiting or ripening of any tomatoes from the main stem. Judicious removal of some suckers, however, will lead to more controlled growth and make supporting the plant easier, especially with an indeterminate variety.

Tomato Growing in a Jar 

Essentially, suckers are the tomato plant’s way of passing on its genetic heritage by producing as many seeds as possible: More branching leads to more flowers, which lead to more tomatoes, which lead to more seeds, which, to a plant, mean survival.

Removal of suckers could have implications for overall yields. Each sucker allowed to grow will provide additional flower clusters, and hence create additional chances for fruit set. Sometimes during the season, the majority of the flower clusters on a tomato plant’s main stem will open when the temperature or humidity isn’t suitable for pollination, which can result in blossom drop. If you’ve pruned tomato plants by removing all suckers, then the plant will bear only a handful of fruit, with no method available for the plant to produce additional flowers after the hot weather has passed. If suckers would’ve been maintained, the number of flower clusters would’ve increased, and flowers on those additional growing shoots likely would’ve opened later under more suitable conditions, thus increasing the yield of the plant.

6/17/2016 6:43:05 AM

I prune the indeterminate tomato plants that I grow on posts (steak). The indeterminate tomato plants I "cage" are not pruned. I do not steak determinate plants, only cage them.

5/30/2015 12:56:59 AM

I always heard you prune the suckers for fewer but larger tomatoes or leave them for more but smaller ones. When I was working I used to try and keep them pruned but always got so far behind that I would give up. Now I do not worry about them as much although sometimes I will pinch the tip of them off above their blooms. Kinda the best of both worlds as I get their fruit but they do not continue to grow. I will clip a sucker or two to root for a new plant if I feel I need additional plants or if I have lost a couple for some reason.

5/29/2015 10:39:03 AM

OR>>> pinch off the stem below the sucker! allows better air circulation, a lot more tomatoes. The plants need the air circulation to help prevent a lot of the diseases tomatoes get. like the black spots. I have been doing this for years, as my mother taught me. rarely see black spots.

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