Prune Tomato Plants

  • 01 of 03

    Why You Should Prune Tomato Plants

    Organic red tomatoes on vine
    Nacivet/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

    First, I should say that you don't prune all tomato plants. Before you start, you need to know if your tomato is a determinate or indeterminate variety. You will only want to prune an indeterminate variety because they are the type of tomato that will keep growing and producing new flowers and tomatoes all season long. If your tomato is determinate, which many tomatoes label, 'patio,' or 'tiny' often are, you do not want to prune it.

    If your tomatoes are indeterminate, you...MORE will want to prune tomato plants for several reasons.

    • Healthier Plants - Tomatoes are susceptible to all kinds of diseases and fungi, by keeping your tomatoes pruned, you increase the air circulation around the plants and reduce the chances of sickness.
    • More Tomatoes - Even though it is contrary to what one would expect if you keep your tomatoes pruned you will get more fruit. While I haven't done a scientific study on this, it is common wisdom, practiced by the best gardeners I know.
    • Tamer Plants - Even my well-pruned tomatoes can get wild and wooly when they are in full swing. This can invite staking or trellis failure and fallen over tomatoes are not pretty, or healthy.
    Continue to 2 of 3 below.
  • 02 of 03

    How To Prune Tomato Plants

    container gardening picture of pruning tomatoes
    Prune the Middle Shoot. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    It is easier than you might think to prune your tomato plants. First, you need to figure out what to take off. Look for the juncture between branches and main stems. If you see new growth sticking out in the middle of the V, that is what you want to prune off.

    It is amazing how fast they can grow, so check every day or couple of days to see what has popped out. Even if you've missed one and it has grown really big, you can still prune it off.

    Continue to 3 of 3 below.
  • 03 of 03

    Tips on How To Prune Tomato Plants

    container gardening picture of
    Pruning Tomato Plants Using Fingers. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    Once you have located the shoot you want to prune, you can either cut it off with clean scissors or garden clippers or break it off with your fingers, which is what I usually do. To break the shoot, grab it firmly, as low as you can, and break it off. Most will break off easily, but if it bends or doesn't break neatly, cut it off. Also, if the shoot is really big, you will probably want to cut it, though to be honest, I usually try breaking it off first.

    These shoots grow really quickly and...MORE will appear all season long, so you really have to be diligent about pruning your tomato plants or they will get out of hand before you know it.