How and When to Prune Tomato Plants Guide

Tomato crop management requires a series of tasks such as irrigation, fertilization, propagation, etc. However, an also effective technique to increase tomato production is to know how and when to prune tomato plants, remove excess parts, leave main stems, and regulate the energy balance of the plant.

We are going to give the main tips to learn how and when to prune tomato plants, regardless of the variety and their growth.

To prune tomato plants, it is recommended to use a tool as simple as pruning shears.

How and When to Prune Tomato Plants

The main objective when pruning tomato plants is to eliminate contaminated or affected parts, either because they are yellow or because of the presence of a disease.

In any case, these stems or leaves no longer photosynthesize properly and should therefore be removed.

Another objective is to regulate the growth of the tomato plant. Tomatoes require energy to produce new stems, and this energy is obtained by transforming nutrients and carbon from photosynthesis.

A very abundant aerial part of the tomato plant will reduce the capacity to improve fruit development and ripening, so it is advisable to eliminate those stems that are called “resource consumers”.

Unlike other types of pruning, pruning the tomato plant can be done during the development of the plant, at any time. Since it is a summer crop, there is no sensitive time when damage to the plant can be caused.

However, at other times you will want the tomatoes to be bigger. To make the tomatoes bigger, you will cut in certain areas of the tomato plant. Read on to learn how and when to prune tomato plants to improve tomato development.

how and when to prune tomato plants
How and When to Prune Tomato Plants? Tomato plants can be pruned at any time during plant growth. Use sharp, disinfected tools.

When to Prune Tomato Plants

Tomato plants are in constant development and there is no specific time to prune tomato plants. It is recommended to observe the tomato plant constantly in order to prune the plant.

I recommend always removing the leaves in poor condition or closer to the ground so that they do not contract diseases or pests, and distributing them to the entire tomato plant. Continue reading more to know how and when to prune tomato plants

How to Prune Tomato Plants

The first part of the guide on how and when to prune tomato plants consists of removing the leaves from the tomato plant.

You will eliminate affected leaves, very old or yellow leaves on the tomato plant. They are usually found at the bottom of the stem, very close to the substrate, and, therefore, receive more moisture and are more prone to rot. For this reason, and in the interest of improving the aeration of the tomato plant, you will remove them.

The sap with sugars (phloem) circulates downward, so the productive stem or branch that will receive these sugars will be the fruit and not the leaves. This will favor coloration, homogeneity of size, and balanced ripening of the tomato.

You will also remove any lower stems that touch the ground because of the way they grow. These stems run the risk of spreading diseases such as Botrytis or gray mold rot, fungi that tend to develop in high moisture conditions. Learn more about Prune Tomato Plants: How to Prune Tomato Plants for Maximum Yield & When.

how to prune tomato plants diagram
Diagram of the parts of the tomato plant. Look at this diagram to understand which parts of the tomato plant to prune.

Removing Suckers from Tomato Plants

If we have already defined the main stems in tomato pruning, the recommendations are to eliminate excess suckers, since more new stems imply more consumption of resources in tomato plants.

The sooner you remove these new stems that form in the axils of the main stems, the better, as you will reduce energy expenditure, the smaller the cut wound will be and the less time it will need to heal. You can also use a wound pruning sealer if there is moisture in the environment and the stem is quite thick.

These shoots are usually removed when they have not yet exceeded 2” (5 cm) in length, with a stem diameter of less than 0.2” (0.5 cm).

There is no specific date for removing suckers from tomato plants. It is usually done when these suckers are first observed and are automatically removed.

They are so thin that they can be easily removed, but be careful not to drag the epidermis and deepen the wound on the tomato plant.

removing suckers from tomato plants
Suckers can be easily removed from the tomato plant. I recommend using sharp scissors and not removing them by hand, as shown in the image above.

Topping Tomato Plants

When the tomato plants have reached a sufficient height for easy harvesting, the tomato is topped.

This technique consists of eliminating the final bud or apex so that there is no more vertical growth and the energy balance of the plant is controlled.

The result is that there will no longer be new fruits, and all the energy of the tomato plant (water plus sugars) will be used to develop the tomatoes.

How to Prune a Tomato Plants in Production

Let’s see how and when to prune tomato plants in production. Tomato, due to its growth capacity, requires continuous pruning. As mentioned above, there are no specific dates to do it, since it is in the permanent formation of new stems and flower bunches.

The earlier we eliminate the stems that we want to avoid in the plant, the better for the development of the tomato plant and to avoid the spread of diseases.

Productive stems are not usually pruned unless there is a fruit in poor condition or with the beginning of rot.

If we see that the fruits do not grow enough, it is better to improve the vegetative development of new shoots by cutting the apex, removing the branches with lower leaves, and facilitating the growth of existing fruits.

How to Prune Cherry Tomatoes

Let’s see how and when to prune cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes do not require much different pruning conditions than other varieties of tomato plants.

However, in varieties of this type where a small fruit size is more important, we are interested in having many more branches per plant than in a traditional tomato.

When pruning cherry tomatoes, you will remove the lower stems, as mentioned in the previous case, and leave more vegetative stems that consume energy and facilitate more equitable distribution of all the energy coming from the plant.

Apex stalking is delayed to the later stages of ripening of the plant.

Depending on the size of the fruits that develop, you will have to see how to prune the tomatoes to regulate their growth.

how to prune cherry tomatoes
How to Prune Cherry Tomatoes? To prune the cherry tomato plant, use sharp, disinfected pruning shears.

How to Prune Beefsteak Heirloom Tomato

The requirements of the Beefsteak Heirloom Tomato make it a small plant, with few branches, but a very good fruit quality.

The lower stems and those with chlorosis or rotting problems should be eliminated. Stems close to the axils of the productive branches should also be eliminated.

The apical bud break is also done faster than in other varieties since it is not interested in more height but in forming a good size of the fruit already set.

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We hope that this article on how and when to prune tomato plants will be of great help and that you will have excellent tomatoes. We recommend the following articles about tomato plants:

How To Fertilize Tomatoes – Big Tomatoes

Tomato Leaves Curl Up on Tomato Plant – 5 Reasons & How to Fix It

How to Use Neem Oil on Tomato Plants

How to Grow Hydroponic Tomatoes

About Henry Morgan

We are the Morgan family, Henry, and Julia, both agronomists from the University of Michigan, where we met. We are experts in putting our hands in the soil and developing organic foods and improving production processes for decades. Likewise, we have worked for companies such as Mondelez International, BASF, Monsanto, etc. currently in our role as science writers for TheGardenStyle.com as well as advisors in promoting large scale food growing in urbanized areas. In this website, we share what we are most passionate about, gardening and farming. Enjoy and see real photos on our website.