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How to Prune Tomato Plants the Right Way


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Learn how to prune tomatoes with our easy to follow how-to guide! You'll learn about the five different areas that need pruned on indeterminate tomato plants, best practices when pruning tomato suckers, and how to get the most fruit from your tomato plant this summer! Find more great tips like these on our blog

Published in: Food
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How to Prune Tomato Plants the Right Way

  1. 1. How to Prune Tomato Plants the Right Way
  2. 2. Tomato plants can become large, unruly, and disease-ridden when not cared for properly. Learn how to avoid these by pruning your tomato plants.
  3. 3. Should You Prune Your Tomatoes? Yes – Indeterminate tomato plants (aka vining plants) No – Determinate tomato plants (aka patio or bush plants)
  4. 4. 4 Benefits of Pruning Indeterminate Tomato Plants 1) Grow larger, more flavorful tomatoes. 2) Protect your plant from insect damage and diseases. 3) Ripen your tomatoes quicker. 4) Increase your tomato harvest.
  5. 5. Pruning ensures all the nutrients, water, and light go to the main fruit and not to growing more branches and leaves
  6. 6. When to Prune Tomato Plants? Prune your tomato plants once a week. Aim to do it in the morning when the suckers will snap off easily.
  7. 7. What to Prune? -The top before first frost -Suckers -Dead or diseased leaves -Overlapping stems and leaves -The main terminal’s bottom branches
  8. 8. Topping Last reason to prune is to get the most out of your plant before frost kills it. A month before the first frost, remove the top of the terminal to make sure all nutrients go straight to the fruit to quickly ripen it.
  9. 9. Dead or Diseased Leaves The lower leaves of a mature tomato plant eventually turn yellow. This is the plant’s natural way of conserving nutrients for the leaves and fruit that matter. You’ll also need to prune leaves if they look diseased or show signs of blight.
  10. 10. Sucker Shoots Pinch suckers off that grow between the terminal and branches. Cut off suckers after the last fruit flower that grow out of the end of a stem.
  11. 11. Bottom Branches Pruning the branches at the bottom of the terminal keeps pests away, avoids diseases like blight, and allows you to water and fertilize easily.
  12. 12. Overlapping Stems and Leaves When you are growing multiple tomato plants together, prune any overlapping branches that have no fruit. This ensures all leaves get light and increases air flow, which will help prevent diseases. Don’t over-prune! Leave enough leaves to protect tomatoes from sunscald.
  13. 13. How to Prune a Tomato Plant
  14. 14. Simple Pruning You can pinch young suckers off between the main and side stems by grabbing the sucker between your index finger and thumb and bending it back and forth until it is loose to pull off.
  15. 15. Avoid using a blade unless the sucker is too big to pinch off. When you cut a sucker off, the wound is more perceptible to disease than pinching smaller suckers early. It’s best to use a razor knife to cut off any larger suckers.
  16. 16. When pruning multiple plants with a blade, use a sterol cleaner like Safer® Brand Garden Fungicide on your scissors between plants to reduce the spread of plant disease. Dirty Tip: Spray your plants with our organic fungicide from the middle to end of July to prevent blight.
  17. 17. Remove sucker stems thinner than a pencil. If the sucker stem is thicker than a pencil it’s better to leave it on the plant. It could do more damage than good by removing it. Missouri pruning keeps the stem from stealing too many nutrients.
  18. 18. Missouri Pruning Cut off the top of the sucker but leave a few leaves. This method gives you more leaves for photosynthesis and to protect tomatoes from sunscald, but the downside is that it will cause more work as it continues to grow and produce other sucker shoots.
  19. 19. Take It or Leave It? For most tomato varieties, you can leave one sucker on to produce new growth for the tomato plant each time you prune, until you reach 4-5 fruit bearing stems. Allow 2-3 suckers to stay on cherry and brandywine tomato plants.
  20. 20. Tomato suckers and leaves are great to add to your compost pile but burn any leaves that have signs of blight or other diseases. Get our free guide on how to compost here.
  21. 21. Remove Suckers Early! Don’t be fooled into thinking more stems equal more fruit. It’s important to cut off any suckers or unnecessary shoots from your branches even if they could flower into tomatoes because they are sucking the valuable nutrients away from already existing fruit.
  22. 22. Pruning isn’t absolutely necessary but it does help produce better fruit and keep your plants from pests and diseases.
  23. 23. Pruning will help your plant feel good from its head To-Ma-Toes! Visit us online at