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A Classic Approach to Pruning Tomatoes

Learn how to trim your plants for better health and better fruit

The rapid growth of a healthy tomato plant can sometimes lead to problems. Often you’ll end up with a plant full of leaves but no fruit. Or your plant will become riddled with disease before summer even starts. Pruning can ensure these problems don’t occur.

A properly pruned and supported single-stem tomato plant presents all of its leaves to the sun. Most of the sugar produced is directed to the developing fruit since the only competition is a single growing tip. The result is large fruits that are steadily produced until frost. If more stems are allowed to develop, some of the precious sugar production is diverted from fruit to multiple growing tips. Fruit production, although slowed, never stops. The result is a nearly continuous supply of fruits throughout the season. In general, more stems means more but smaller fruits, which are produced increasingly later in the season. (This is much less applicable to determinate plants, due to their shortened growing season and better-defined fruiting period. Therefore, determinate plants require little pruning.

Pruning can be as simple or as hard as you make it. The first step is pruning out all of the suckers that appear on the plant. Next is making sure enough light is reaching the interior of the plant for proper ripening of the fruit. And finally, you’ll want to be sure that no foliage is touching the ground since this can be a catalyst for disease. Cut those long stems off.

About 30 days before the first frost, there is one last pruning chore: The plants must be topped. The fruit that has set must be given every opportunity to mature. Removing all the growing tips directs all sugar produced by the plant to the fruit.

To learn how to prune your tomatoes for better health and better fruit, check out this video with Lee Reich, author of The Pruning Book.

Previous: Tomato Pruning in Four Simple Steps Next: How to Train Tomato Plants
View Comments


  1. FourtyWasters 06/11/2014

    Thanks for the video.

  2. sandrapelletiergray 06/19/2014

    very helpful - glad I checked this before I started - I didn't realize you don't do this for determinants!!! Thank you so much!

  3. bertkinchen 07/27/2014

    Good idea, but if you live in a climate where the un is strong you will put the fruit at a grater risk of getting sunburned.

  4. andrew_richmond 07/27/2014

    How to get bigger cukecumbers~use chicken poop ?

  5. judithgrossbier 05/10/2015

    The suckers can be held in water, root, and I give to friends for their own tomato gardens. I have done that dozens of times. and the friends LOVE to not have to start theirs from scratch. I really have to pay attention to determinate vs indeterminate varieties.

    1. user-7678246 04/18/2020

      Didn’t know that! Thanks for sharing.

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