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How To Prune Tomato Plants: Tips & Tricks

tomatoes in vertical trellis

Tomatoes might be one of the easiest vegetables you can plant in your garden. Even inexperienced growers can have great success with these plants. However, do they require pruning? You can absolutely prune your tomato plants, but it’s not mandatory.

Some people prune their tomato plants, while others like to let them grow. However, pruning has its upsides. You can prune your tomato plants to preserve the plant’s energy so they can use it towards the actual fruit instead of producing more stems.

garden flower dividerWhat Are Side Stems and Suckers?

Tomatoes are constantly expanding and growing new leaves and stems. The side stems or suckers are the tiny sprouts that extend from the crotch of the stem and leaf. Shoots are generally small in size and are easy to identify.

There are pros and cons to keeping suckers on your tomato plants and allowing them to grow. If you leave them to grow, the shoots will grow into a full-size branch which will cause your tomato plant to thicken outward in a bushy fashion.

However, it might result in fewer tomatoes. So this is entirely up to you as a gardener.

Image By: jag2020, Pixabay

Why Do Tomatoes Grow These Sprouts?

The suckers on a tomato plant cannot harm the plant in any way. These fresh growths of new branches will develop into fruit-bearing additions to the plant.

However, it isn’t a feature every gardener wants to leave on their tomatoes. These additional growths use an abundance of energy, which takes away from the fruit production of the tomatoes. To achieve excellent growth, many gardeners pluck the suckers from the plants to allow the tomato to use all of its energy sources to create fruit instead.

Why Should You Prune Suckers?

Suckers are new life growths that use a tremendous amount of energy from the plant to develop. Many gardeners remove this portion of their plants to keep their original stems healthy and strong.

Suckers are a naturally occurring part of the growth process for tomatoes, and it will be fine if you allow them to go as they are. If you are a beginner, you might not mind so much about mass production. However, it’s something to consider if you are an experienced gardener trying to get a substantial harvest from your plants.

Ultimately, pruning the sucker parts of your tomato plant is up to you. It all depends on the type of growth you are trying to achieve and how much time you want to spend maintaining your plants. Keep in mind that having suckers on the plant can potentially cause energy and nutrient loss but not in large enough quantities to affect the production noticeably.

close up blossoming tomato plant
Image Credit: Schwoaze, Pixabay

Pinching Off Suckers

If you choose to remove the suckers from the plant, it is incredibly simple. You simply pinch the base of the new growth between the stock end stem and squeeze to pull it off.

Some tomato growers only let a singular stem grow and harvest the tomatoes off of that. Other growers allow up to three stems before trimming down on the access.

Pruning Staked Plants

When you consider pruning your tomato plants, you have to do it in a way that promotes the growth you seek. If you choose not to prune your tomatoes, this is perfectly acceptable. Tomatoes are hearty plants that will still grow regardless of whether or not you prune them. However, pruning your plants enhances flavor, increases production, and creates an overall appealing aesthetic.

If you use a trellis or stakes to support your plants, you might want to prune the suckers from the crotch of your branches to keep the plants streamlined. It’s already going to be a challenge to manipulate the plants to grow as you wish, so having a little more control over the fullness of the plant can help you yield the success you seek.

cherry tomatoes
Image Credit: Pixabay

Aesthetics of Your Plants

Now you understand that the sucker’s sprouts take a lot of energy from the base plant. But another reason some growers want to remove these part portions is for directional purposes. Tomato plants are classically heavy, awkward plants that can’t support themselves. If you want your plant to grow upright in a robust fashion, they are going to need reinforcements.

That’s because the vining plants are not meant to be completely upright. However, when you have tomatoes lying on the ground, they are susceptible to pests, insects, and excess moisture that leads to rotting. If you stake your plants upright, pruning the suckers on the plant helps create a more streamlined experience.

That is because there are one to three main stems that can grow hearty and healthy while the branches of fruit billow around it. It strengthens the growing experience and makes everything look uniform without droopiness.

garden flower dividerConclusion

So, what do you think? Pruning your tomato plants isn’t a must, but it can significantly improve fruit production and strengthen the main stalks. It’s also incredibly easy.

Pruning can preserve your plant’s energy, and it grows sleeker and hardier. So, if that would make your garden look and grow better, then pruning should be a seamless process to master. Tomatoes, either way, proliferate and produce beautifully.

See also: When and How to Prune Spireas (5 Expert Tips)


Featured Image Credit: Trong Nguyen, Shutterstock

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