How and When To Prune Your Tomato Plants - Backyard Boss
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How and When To Prune Your Tomato Plants

Pruning your tomato plant is necessary if you want it to yield as much fruit as possible. Pruning is an easy process that involves removing dead foliage and smaller shoots to ensure all the nutrients go towards fruit production. There are a few things to consider to ensure you prune your tomato plant correctly.

In this guide, you’ll discover all the best tips and tricks you need to know to properly prune your plants. From the signs about when to prune to the tools you’ll need to the step-by-step directions, you’ll learn everything there is to know to ensure the process goes off without a hitch.

Pruning Tomato Plants

Image credits: Davor Denkovski via Unsplash

Before you begin pruning, determine whether it is the indeterminate or determinate variety. Indeterminate varieties are vining plants and require support to grow upright, while determinate varieties grow into a bush. It will be important to consider when you begin making cuts (more on that later).

If you think it’s time to prune your tomato plant, there are a few things to watch for. Signs of yellowing on the leaves below the first set of flowers, suckers, which are tiny branches that sprout from the growth spots on indeterminate plants, and flowers are all indicative that it’s time to prune.

If your tomato plant is displaying other signs or symptoms, be sure it doesn’t have one of the many common diseases found in tomato plants.

Tools You’ll Need for Pruning Tomato Plants

Gardening shears and gloves
Image credits: stux via Pixabay

Once you’ve decided it’s time to prune the plant, you’ll need to gather your supplies. Fortunately, your pointer finger and thumb will do most of the work when it comes to pinching off stems and leaves! That being said, you should add the tools listed below to your arsenal as well.

Pruning Tomato Plants: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Pinch off the Suckers

how to pinch off or prune suckers on tomato plants using fingers
Image credits: Floki via Shutterstock

Whether you have an indeterminate or determinate tomato plant variety, pinch off all the suckers below the first flower cluster. When doing this, it’s crucial to use proper pruning techniques. Simply grab the base of the sucker, pinching it between your thumb and pointer finger, and bend it back and forth until it snaps off.

Leave thicker suckers alone and focus only on shoots around three inches. It will help the plant grow a sturdy stem and focus the nutrients on fruit production.

Step 2: Remove Most Fruit Bearing Tresses (for Indeterminate Varieties Only)

้Woman's hand pruning tomato plant branches in her farm, selective focus
Image credits: chomplearn via Shutterstock

With the suckers removed, it’s time to remove most of the fruit-bearing tresses on indeterminate varieties. You’ll be able to tell if they’re fruit-bearing if they grow above the first flower cluster. You can prune them using your shears, trimming near the base of the stem at a 45-degree angle.

Do this for indeterminate varieties because of the nature of the plant. Only about four or five tresses will be able to grow and carry high-quality fruit, so it’s best to allow the plant to focus on those tresses.

Step 3: Remove Yellow Leaves

red tomato damaged by disease and pests of fall leaves and fruits of tomato
Image credits: Mironmax Studio via Canva

As your plant matures, leaves near the bottom will begin to yellow and wilt. While they are visually unappealing, they can also have adverse effects on your plant. Remove these leaves since they don’t produce as many nutrients as they use. Simply prune or pluck them to remove them from the plant.

Step 4: Top the Plant

Proper pruning suckers on tomatoes over the first sheet in the greenhouse
Image credits: Vadym Zaitsev via Canva

Topping the tomato plant will help you get the most fruit near the end of the season. Essentially, you should remove the top of the plant’s terminal or center shoot from which all the smaller shoots that produce fruit grow. Do this using disinfected pruning shears, chopping at a 45-degree angle at the stem above the highest fruit and directly above a node. Keeping some leaves above the fruit will protect them from sun exposure.

This process should be done on determinate plants about a month before the first expected frost to give the final fruits ample time to grow. By topping the plant, you’ll ensure that all of the plant’s nutrients and energy are directed towards producing the last few fruits.

Indeterminate plants can be topped at any time throughout the season when you want to focus on fruit production. It will also help with height control, unruly growth, and leggy stems. The top will continue to grow back and repeat the process at the end of the growing season.

Get to Pruning!

Knowing when to prune your tomato plant is easy, and pruning it is even easier! The process involves very minimal tools and is quite basic. All you have to do is pluck or prune unnecessary leaves and shoots to ensure the nutrients go towards creating a healthy, fruit-producing plant. And once you’ve developed the right techniques, pruning your tomato plants will be a breeze.

Looking for more tips and tricks to help your tomato plants reach their fullest potential? Check out this list of 12 easy tips for growing tomatoes. And if you’re wondering what to do with the trimmings from your tomato plant, check out this guide on composting.