How and Why to Prune Tomato Plants

Tomato plants are one of the most popular veggies to grow because they require very little. Plant them in the ground or even in pots on the patio! Give them some warmth, sunshine, water, something to climb, a little fertilizer, and you’ll be picking tomatoes in no time.

We caged our tomato plants into their heavy duty cages last month and soon after we saw the first fruit developing! I hope to do everything that I can to gather in a bountiful harvest in a few months time.

Pruning back my tomato plants is one way that I assist in the process.

Pruning tomato plants is a bit of a controversy. Some folks stand by it religiously while others don’t find it necessary. The important thing to know is that not pruning your tomato plants won’t cause problems, but pruning them back can improve the quality of fruit you harvest.

Please stick around if you’re interested in learning about how pruning tomato plants can lead to larger, healthier harvests. Find answers to questions such as “why to prune?”, “how to properly prune?”, “which varieties to prune and not to prune?”, and more! This is fantastic information to know if you’d like to increase your tomato production this season. Scroll all the way to the end of this post if you’d like to find more to read on gardening!

Why to Prune

Pruning off certain branches enables the plant to focus energy on producing fruit rather than expanding foliage. Unpruned branches will eventually grow out and produce fruit, but some experienced gardeners suggest that the plants should be pruned in order to produce larger, healthier fruit earlier in the season. Taking away that extra foliage will send all the energy toward the substantial, fruit-bearing branches.

Pruning also exposes the plant to adequate sunlight since there are less branches soaking up the rays. This, of coarse, will boost fruit production!

Determinate vs. Indeterminate

It is important to determine which variety of tomato plant you are growing before pruning because not all types should be pruned.

Determinate tomato plants should not be pruned. This variety produces all of its fruit at one time, so pruning would only hinder you from receiving a full harvest.

Indeterminate tomato plants benefit greatly from pruning. This variety produces fruit at different points throughout the season instead of all at once. Pruning encourages them to produce a few large tomatoes rather than lots of foliage and a many little tomatoes.

How to Prune Tomato Plants

Pruning tomato plants is actually quite simple. Begin by looking for the “suckers”.

Suckers grow in the “V” space between the main stem and branches.

What I am holding here is a sucker. See how it is growing between the main stem and a branch. This is what we want to pick off.

Suckers that are under two inches long can be pinched off with your fingers, but ones of any larger size should be cut with clean pruners. Disinfect them as you move to another plant in order to prevent spreading diseases.

How Often to Prune?

I typically check my tomato plants for suckers about once per week. I find that this is sufficient for catching them before they become too large.

I like to follow a gardening schedule (read more about it here) which rotates be through different sections of the garden over the week. I do any needed work in the tomato section on Fridays. This includes weeding, tucking branches back into the cages, and picking off suckers.

I would suggest going no longer than a week to check your tomato plants as the suckers are more difficult to remove as they grow.

Keep in Mind:

  • As previously stated, it will not hurt your plants if you decide not to prune. Just keep in mind that it can aid in maximizing your overall harvest!
  • Removing suckers is best done when they are small. Cutting large amounts of foliage at one time can stress the plant. The process is also easier when the suckers are small.

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5 thoughts on “How and Why to Prune Tomato Plants

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  1. After reading all about tomatoes it brought confidence knowing I have a better understanding on how to care for them. Just washed off the dirt and the tomatoes look great!

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