Pruning Tomato Plants, is it Really Necessary?

Experts (mostly) agree that pruning/pinching/training your tomato plants isn’t really necessary, although there may be some benefits that this blog will review. However, before ‘digging in’ to this project, it is essential that you determine if your tomato plant is a determinate type or indeterminate type tomato plant. The growth characteristics of these plants are significantly different. For a brief refresher of the differences between these two types of tomato plants, re-visit the Plant Something  BLOGPOST PILE: Tomato Basics. 

Guidelines and Resources

Determinate Tomato Plants: Generally speaking, determinate tomato plants should not be pruned as pruning would likely reduce flowering and thus the amount of fruit the plant produces. The exception are any lower leaves that touch the ground. Removing leaves that touch the ground will help prevent disease.

Indeterminate Tomato Plants:  Indeterminate tomato plants continue to grow extremely long and generally only set flowers and fruit on the newest growth, usually about the last 3 feet of growth.  Proper pruning will help build a stronger plant that will be better able to support the heavy fruit. Regardless of pruning, a sturdy tomato cage is highly recommended.

Pruning should focus on removing the suckers. Generally, we think of suckers as new growth near the base of a tree or shrub.  On indeterminate tomato plants the suckers appear between the main stem/ branch and the leaf branch. The tomato plant diagram below (courtesy of Scott Head – Black Gumbo Southern Gardening) is a clear example of what a tomato sucker is and where it grows on the plant.

Tomato Pruning 1.JPG

If suckers are left on the plant, they will flower and grow fruit. However, the plant is unlikely to be able to support the extra weight.   Additional benefits of pruning, are increase air flow and sunlight to the interior of the plant. As a result of pruning, the plant will be healthy, and the fruit will be tastier.

To learn more about pruning tomato plants check out the video links below:

Short video by Bonnie Plants on pruning tomato plants

10 minute video by Black Gumbo Gardening Guy

Watch for our BLOGPOST PILE in September about what to do with any green tomatoes you still have on the vine!


Allison Gault