6 Simple Tips for Pruning Tomato Plants to Increase Your Harvest

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6 Simple Tips for Pruning Tomato Plants to Increase Your Harvest

Tomato plants naturally tend to produce lots of leaves and relatively fewer fruits. However, balancing leaf and fruit production by pruning tomato plants is easy. Not only will trimming off excess foliage lead to more tomatoes per plant, but the fruit produced will be larger and of higher quality.

It only takes a few minutes per plant to prune away unneeded growth. By reducing the overabundance of leaves, your tomato plants can focus more energy on growing colorful, flavor-rich fruit. Use these six simple tips to guide your tomato plant pruning efforts.

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person pruning tomato plant

1. Prune all your tomato plants.

Tomatoes are grouped by growth habit. A tomato variety is classified as either determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes grow to about 4 or 5 feet tall, stop growing, and begin producing fruit. All fruit on a determinate tomato plant ripens within about 4 to 6 weeks. Indeterminate tomatoes, on the other hand, don’t stop growing at a defined height. Instead, they continue to put on new foliage, flowers, and fruit for months until they’re killed by frost.

By nature, indeterminate tomato plants produce more foliage than determinate tomato plants. For this reason, indeterminate tomatoes benefit most from pruning to remove excess foliage, but pruning boosts the production of determinate tomatoes too. The pruning time for determinate tomatoes is simply shorter than indeterminate varieties that produce new leaves and fruit for several months.

If you’re not sure if the tomato varieties you’re growing are determinate or indeterminate, a quick Internet search of the name should clarify things. Common indeterminate varieties that especially benefit from pruning include ‘Sungold,’ ‘Sweet 100,’ ‘Juliet,’ ‘Big Boy,’ ‘Early Girl,’ ‘Big Beef,’ ‘Jet Star,’ ‘Brandywine,’ and ‘Cherokee Purple.’

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2. Start pruning after flowers appear.

Tomato plants begin to produce suckers, or extra stems with foliage you don’t need, after the first flower buds appear and open. This generally happens a couple of months after placing young transplants in the garden. Tomato plants typically begin flowering in June or July.

Pruning tomato plants in the morning after any dew or overnight rain has dried off the foliage, is best. It helps to prevent spreading plant diseases. Aim to prune plants when the suckers are between 2 and 4 inches long. Determinate tomato plants (those that reach 4 feet tall or so and stop growing) only need to be pruned once. Indeterminate tomatoes can be pruned every couple of weeks as they continue to produce new leaves.

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3. Remove suckers.

In general, tomato plants produce main stems and main leaf branches. Fruit develops on the main leaf branches. Suckers grow in the intersection between the main stem and main leaf branches. They’re easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for.

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Remove suckers by pinching them off with your thumb and forefinger, or use a pair of clean, sharp pruners. Aim to remove most suckers you see. Both an art and a science, tomato plant pruning is specific to the variety and the growing conditions in your garden. When in doubt, leave a sucker and watch the outcome over the course of the season. Then next year, make modifications to your technique based on your observations.

4. Remove lower leaves.

Pruning tomato plants to remove leaves on the lower 6 to 12 inches of the main stem helps prevent disease-causing bacteria and fungi in the soil from getting splashed up onto the plant whenever it rains or you water.

5. Thin out fruit on slicing tomatoes.

Tomato varieties that produce slicing fruit, such as ‘Celebrity,’ ‘Jet Star,’ and ‘Brandywine,’ will produce larger fruit if the plant’s fruit clusters are reduced to one or two tomatoes. Simply snip out developing fruit, leaving the largest one or two tomatoes in the cluster. This type of fruit pruning is called thinning. If bigger tomatoes are your goal, thin the fruit so your plant will direct its energy into the remaining fruit.

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6. Keep it clean.

Pruning tomato plants creates open wounds. And just like when you get a cut, wounds are entry points for infections. Wash your hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer frequently when pruning tomatoes. If you’re using pruners, keep them clean by wiping them with a diluted bleach solution or rubbing alcohol between plants.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in the USA

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
Northeast (e.g., New York, Massachusetts)Rose, Purple Lilac, Mountain LaurelSugar Maple, American Elm, White Pine
Southeast (e.g., Florida, Georgia)Orange Blossom, Cherokee Rose, Southern MagnoliaLive Oak, Spanish Moss, Saw Palmetto
Midwest (e.g., Ohio, Illinois)Carnation, Violet, Purple ConeflowerBur Oak, Prairie Grasses, Wild Bergamot
Southwest (e.g., Texas, Arizona)Bluebonnet, Saguaro Cactus Flower, Indian PaintbrushJoshua Tree, Agave, Mesquite
West (e.g., California, Washington)California Poppy, Coast Rhododendron, BitterrootGiant Sequoia, Redwood, Manzanita
Rocky Mountain (e.g., Colorado, Montana)Rocky Mountain Columbine, Bitterroot, Indian PaintbrushBlue Spruce, Aspen, Sagebrush
Great Plains (e.g., Kansas, Nebraska)Sunflower, Goldenrod, Purple ConeflowerCottonwood, Bluestem Grasses, Buffalo Grass
Pacific Northwest (e.g., Oregon, Alaska)Oregon Grape, Forget-me-not, Pacific RhododendronDouglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Ferns

This table includes the most popular flowers and plants in the USA by region, which considers a range of botanical species, including native and widely cultivated varieties.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in Australia

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
New South WalesWaratah, Bottlebrush, Flannel FlowerEucalyptus, Acacia, Banksia
VictoriaCommon Heath, Waxflower, Pink HeathMountain Ash, Silver Wattle, Victorian Blue Gum
QueenslandCooktown Orchid, Golden Penda, Umbrella Tree FlowerMoreton Bay Fig, Macadamia Nut, Queensland Bottle Tree
South AustraliaSturt's Desert Pea, Kangaroo Paw, Eucalyptus BlossomAdelaide Blue Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, Saltbush
Western AustraliaRed and Green Kangaroo Paw, Mangles Kangaroo Paw, Swan River DaisyJarrah, Marri, Karri
TasmaniaTasmanian Blue Gum, Leatherwood Flower, Tasmanian WaratahHuon Pine, Tasmanian Oak, Myrtle Beech
Northern TerritorySturt's Desert Rose, Frangipani, Desert RoseBoab, Gidgee, Spinifex
Australian Capital TerritoryRoyal Bluebell, Australian Daisy, CorreaSnow Gum, River Red Gum, Black Mountain

This table offers a basic overview of popular flowers and plants in each Australian region, focusing on a combination of state flowers, native species, and other characteristic plants. It's important to note that specific species' popularity and prevalence can vary. This table is a simplified representation. Consulting local botanical gardens or regional horticultural societies in Australia would be ideal for more detailed and accurate information.

Charlotte Gammon

By Charlotte Gammon

Meet Charlotte Gammon, our expert and author. She's our true treasure, as she has got 20+ years of experience in gardening, winery and house design. In early 2000s, she worked for today.com magazine and was in charge of the gaardening section. Later on, Charlotte opened her own designer agency and worked as a designer and decorator. We are happy to have Charlotte with us, as she is our good friend. We value her experience and we're sure you will love the articles she created for our blog.