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Pruning Tomato Plants

The majority of home gardeners grow tomato plants. Tomatoes are easy to grow, and are prolific producers. While many tomato gardeners do not give pruning a thought, this simple garden technique can result in bigger, better tomatoes, and a healthier plant that will produce far longer, than a plant that is not pruned.

Why Prune Tomato Plants?

It's kinda funny, as gardeners, we practice the technique of pruning roses and many other flowers. We even prune some of our garden veggies. But, when it comes to tomatoes, we often just "let 'em grow!"

The time and effort you spend pruning tomato plants, will reap big rewards. 

Before we get into how to prune tomatoes, here  are some reasons why we SHOULD prune them.

The benefits of pruning include:

  • Produce bigger tomatoes

  • Higher yield (quantity and weight)

  • Plant Health - minimize plant disease, provide more air circulation and light.

  • Re-invigorate plant leaves and branches grow faster.

  • To limit plant size of indeterminate vine types.

  • Aesthetics - to remove dead , weak, or unsightly branches.

TIP: If you are trying to grow a truly giant tomato, prune plants heavily, and leave only one or two tomatoes growing on a single vine. Record Giant Tomato

How to Prune Tomato Plants:

Pruning tomato plants is easy. All you need is a sharp hand pruner.

TIP: Wear gloves  and a long-sleeve shirt when working with tomato plants. The plant leaves and vines have a mild toxin, that can irritate your skin.

When the plants are young, about 12" tall, snip off the bottom two to four branches. This will direct the plant's energy to growing taller, and keep lower vines from creating too dense of a foliage. Prune plants so there are no vines off the main trunk below 6-8 inches from the ground. This also allows easy access for weeding and fertilizing at the base of the plant. As the season progresses, continue to remove suckers in this area.

Allow 2-4 branches (vines) to form. These are the main branches that will continue to grow all season long.  

Be watchful for suckers, a few are okay. Too many suckers will result in a plant that is too bushy.

Thin out bushy plants. When a plant is too bushy, air circulation and sunlight can not reach all of the leaves. If sunlight does not reach the inner leaves, it turns yellow and serves little purpose. Also, a lack of sunlight and air circulation provides a place for plant disease to harbor and grow.

Prune any broken, dead or damaged leaves and branches as they appear.

Snip off and remove any infected branches and leaves as soon as you spot them.. Dispose of diseased plant material, so the disease does not spread.

Topping off plants- Some growers top their plants off at a certain height. We do not encourage plants to be topped off. Cutting off the growing tips, limits the plant's potential production of flowers and fruit.

TIP: Staking or caging tomato plants is all but a must. It helps with plant health, and keeps the fruit from rotting on the ground. More on Caging Tomatoes

Learn all about growing Tomatoes:

Garden Tomato Recipes:

Other Gardening Resources:

Tomato Mania More on growing and pruning tomatoes, from Garden Hobbies

Problems with Tomatoes


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