How To Prune Tomato Plants? The RIGHT Way!

Pruning tomato plants involve removing stems and leaves from a tomato plant in order to focus the plant’s energy on growing fruit. Pruning also helps to prevent diseases by removing infected or damaged leaves and stems.

When pruning, it is essential to remove only the leaves and extra stems that are necessary. Removing too many leaves and stems can weaken the plant and reduce fruit production. But before we focus on how to prune tomato plants, let’s find out why you should do you in the first place.

Why Prune Tomatoes?

By reducing the branching and extra growth that takes resources away from fruit development, pruning indeterminate tomato plants boosts fruit yield. Fruits will mature more rapidly if additional growth is removed since it will direct energy back to the fruits and decrease fruit shading.

Better Airflow

When tomato plants are pruned correctly, airflow is created to ward against diseases and accelerate ripening in cold climates. It promotes air circulation within the foliage of the plant. Pruning will increase airflow at the base of the plant.

While pruning, it is important to remove any leaves or additional stems that are growing inwards towards the center of the plant. This will open up the plant so that air can circulate and sunlight can reach all of the fruit.

Reduced Chances of Plant Disease

Pruning will reduce the risk of attracting insects and disease with the possibility of fruits resting on the ground. This helps the plant to stay healthy and produce a greater quantity and higher quality fruit.

Bigger-sized Tomatoes

Pruning tomatoes can lead to bigger fruit because it allows the plant to direct its full energy into fruit production. This results in larger fruits. Pruning also helps to prevent diseases from spreading, as well as keeping the fruits from touching the ground where they could rot.

Determinate vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes Pruning

There are two primary types of tomatoes: determinate and indeterminate, and each kind requires a distinct training method.

Determinate tomatoes Pruning

Tomatoes that are classified as determinate have shorter, bushier plants that have the propensity to bear the majority of their fruit at the same time. They often grow to heights of 3 to 5 feet and thrive when planted in the ground as well as when grown in containers.

If you prune determinate tomato plants excessively, you will minimize the amount of fruit they produce. However, sparingly thinning them can increase airflow and make it possible for more sunlight to reach your plant, which in turn promotes the general health of the plants.

Determinate varieties include Bella Rosa, Patio, and Roma.

Indeterminate tomatoes pruning

Tomatoes that are indeterminate grow on vines and bear fruit throughout the season. They may reach a height of 12 feet and are frequently abundant. Although you may leave them to stretch on the ground, training them up off the ground and pruning them can help you avoid disease problems.

Pruning indeterminates can assist keep the sprawling vines under control and encourage the plants to produce large enough tomatoes so that you can enjoy them with your favorite recipes, like a tomato pie, as opposed to plenty of foliage and many tiny tomatoes.

Many types of cherry tomatoes are also indeterminate, so correct pruning will ensure tomato clusters the whole growing season.

Indeterminate tomato varieties include Brandywine and Beefsteak.

Why Tomato Plants Grow Side Stems and Suckers?

tomato suckers side stems

Tomatoes require a lot of energy to grow and they are fuelled by sunlight. Before blossoms appear during the first few weeks in the garden, tomato plants focus their efforts on developing new leaves. Later, more branches appear to support more leaves.

Directly arising from the main stem is a side stem. Suckers, which emerge from the tomato’s main stem immediately above a leaf branch or side stem, are new branches. Any vertically growing branches on the plant are called suckers.

Larger tomato plants create more energy through their leaves. They continue to sprout stems and suckers all season long because of this.

methods of pruning tomatoes

Simple Pruning

It is preferable to prune tomato sucker shoots when they are still fragile and young rather than when they have grown mature and tough.

Take a firm hold of the sucker’s base with your thumb and forefinger. It will snap if you pinch it or gently bend the sucker back and forth. “Simple pruning” is the name of this process.

Missouri Pruning

In Missouri pruning, you just remove the sucker’s tip, leaving one or two leaves behind. The advantage is that the plant has a larger leaf surface area, which aids in photosynthesis and guards against any damage due to intense sunlight on growing fruit.

In addition to providing shade to growing fruit, retaining a few leaves on the plant enables it to provide extra energy for ripening tomatoes. The term “Missouri pruning” refers to this method.

Plant damage is lessened by Missouri pruning. People who live in hot, sunny regions would benefit from it in particular when the suckers grow large.

The drawback of Missouri pruning is the regrowth of new suckers by the surviving suckers. When pruning only sucker tips, keep an eye on the plants.

Preparation Checklist to Prune Tomato Plants

Before getting started on any project, it is important to have the proper tools and materials on hand. Here’s what you will need for tomato pruning.

Small pruning shears

pruning shear

Pruning shears are an essential tool for anyone who grows tomatoes. Pruning shears are small cutting tools that are used to trim and shape plants. Pruning shears come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but all have sharp blades that can easily cut through plant material.

Stakes and twine

stakes and twine

Metal stakes, like T-posts used in fencing, are among the most long-lasting options. The stake may be tied with anything from garden twine to fabric strips to even a pair of old pantyhose.

Household disinfectant

household disinfectant

To help keep your plants healthy, it’s important to disinfect your pruning tools with a household disinfectant before using them.

What Exactly to Focus on While Pruning?

  • Leaves touching the ground
  • Suckers
  • Leaves underneath the ripening tomato
  • Leaves with diseases

How to Prune Tomato Plants?

1. Remove Any Dead Leaves

First, you should get rid of any leaves that appear to be dying or yellowing. When the stems and leaves located below the first blossoms begin to turn yellow, this is a good indication that it is time to begin pruning.

Carry out this step regardless of the type of tomato plant you have. This helps the plant maintain its sturdiness by fostering the development of a strong central stem.

This should guarantee that the majority of the nutrients are directed to the fruits, rather than being spent on the undesired growing tips of the plant.

2. Locate the Suckers

The next step is to find the tomato suckers, which are the side shoots that grow in the ‘V’ area between the branch of the tomato plant and the stem.

In the case that these suckers are not trimmed, they will ultimately develop into full-sized branches, which will result in an increase in the amount of foliage as well as the decreased production of fruits. In addition to this, the tomato plant will rapidly outgrow its area in the garden as a consequence of this action.

3. Remove the Suckers

Make use of your pruning shears to cut off the suckers. Simply pinching off suckers that are less than 2 inches long with your fingers is an effective method for removing smaller suckers, but for bigger suckers, you should use a pair of clean pruners and disinfect them as you travel from one plant to another to prevent the transmission of infections. This is where your household disinfectant will come in handy.

It is advisable to remove the suckers while they are still quite young. It is stressful for the plant to have huge portions of its leaves removed all at once.

4. Remove or Stake Low-Hanging Branches

After that, the next step is to get rid of any long, low-hanging branches that are making contact with the ground. Alternatively, those branches can be staked up as well.

When a plant’s leaves come in contact with the ground, the plant is more likely to get infected with fungi and other types of bacterial viruses.

The remaining vines should be trained to grow on stakes. Cut back any new shoots or suckers that emerge on the vines as they continue to expand. This becomes an increasingly significant consideration as the season progresses and the weight of the tomatoes that have grown on the vines increases.

5. Leave the Thicker Shoots

It is not recommended to break off the thicker suckers since this might cause harm to the whole plant. If it is thicker than a child’s finger, use the “Missouri pruning” approach, in which you pinch off only the tip of the sucker, leaving one or two leaves intact for photosynthesis and to shield growing fruit from sun-scald.

The disadvantage is that new stems will grow from the portion of the stem that is left behind, which will need repeated pruning.

6. Tip: Prune Early in the Day

Pruning tomato plants should be done early in the day before the temperature outdoors becomes too warm. This helps the plant to recover better during the day.

How Often to Prune Tomato Plants?

It is dependent on the time of year as well as the pace at which they are growing. Initially, it should be good to do so once a week; however, when the summer heat is at its peak, it is preferable to do so twice a week. All that is required of you is to inspect each tomato plant for suckers and remove them as soon as you become aware of their presence.

Tomato Pruning Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t be frightened to trim your tomato plants since it’s essential to their overall health.  Simply be aware of the appropriate time and method to trim a tomato plant in order to prevent causing damage to the plant and putting your crop at risk.

To help you avoid making these frequent tomato-pruning errors, here are some pointers.

Under Pruning or Over Pruning

When tomato plants are pruned excessively, too many of the leaves that provide shade are removed. This results in the fruit being exposed to the intense heat of the sun. If you take off more than one-third of the plant’s leaves at once, you run the risk of not only destroying the fruit but also killing the plant itself.

Instead, do some mild pruning on them once they have finished producing fruit. This will keep the plants more manageable in size and will promote new growth, which will result in more blooming and fruiting.

Under pruning is also an issue when you are trying to prune lightly. It leaves the job half-done and does not provide the intended benefit. So, one must be mindful of under-pruning as well.

Must Not Prune Without Disinfecting Tools

When working with tomato plants, the most effective tool to employ is a pruner or garden clipper. However, the more you use them, the more likely it is that they may gather dirt, debris, and moisture, which will eventually lead them to become rusty.

Additionally, they are able to transmit diseases from one plant to another. By applying a lubricant to the blades, you may prevent rust from forming on them. You should also be using household disinfectant while pruning.

Must Not Prune Determinate Tomato Plants

Pruning is not necessary for determinate tomato plants; the only exception is the elimination of suckers that grow below the first flower cluster.

Because determinate tomato plants are genetically fixed to develop a certain number of stems, leaves, and flowers, any pruning done beyond the first flower cluster would result in the loss of prospective fruit. Indeterminate tomato plants do not share such a genetic structure.

Must Not Prune When the Plants Are Wet

It is best to avoid pruning tomato plants while it is raining or when they are damp since doing so encourages the spread of diseases, particularly bacterial and fungal infections. Especially since one of the reasons for pruning tomato plants is to increase air circulation, which helps prevent the growth of fungus.

You should cut the lower leaves of the plant if they are touching the ground in order to further limit the risks of moisture-causing disease. This is especially important in rainy areas where heavy rain saturates the soil.

Procrastinating to Prune the Plants

If you wait too long before doing any pruning, those small suckers can mature into big branches that are capable of weighing the plant down and preventing sunlight and air from reaching the plant’s heart.

When the suckers are still young, early pruning is much simpler. Keep in mind that when new suckers form, you will need to check on the plant and trim it many times.


Pruning your tomatoes will result in a healthier plant that is better able to resist disease and produce more fruit. You should prune your plants when they are young, and continue to do so throughout the growing season.

Pruning your tomatoes is an important step in ensuring a bountiful harvest. By following the tips in this article, you can prune your tomato plants efficiently and avoid common mistakes. With a little bit of care and attention, you can expect to collect a delicious crop of tomatoes all season long.