Quick Tomato Tip

by Fern on April 18, 2012

in Fruits & Vegetables,How To

Post image for Quick Tomato Tip

See that sucker there? Suckers are secondary branches that grow in the joints of existing branches. Pinch ‘em off. Suckers take energy away from growing tomatoes. No tomatoes will form on sucker branches.

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Roger April 18, 2012 at 6:13 am

How do you tell which are suckers and which are tomato bearing branches? The picture and article are not very specific on identifying them.


Fern April 18, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Hi Roger, can you see the arrow? That’s pointing to a sucker. They always grow in the joint of the main stem and an existing branch.

Ashley Hamlin April 18, 2012 at 6:34 am

Awesome! Thanks- i will go prune this afternoon! :)


Jennie April 18, 2012 at 8:31 am

Not true – suckers will grow tomatoes if left alone. I pinch them off too (it makes for a less tangled mess of a plant) unless I don’t notice them in time and they already have fruit growing. Then they get to live – I just can’t bring myself to take off a branch with fruit on it. :)


Fern April 18, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Interesting. In 2010 I was too lazy to remove suckers and I didn’t get any fruit on them? Ever since I’ve been a committed pincher.

Darla, North Florida April 18, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Regardless if the suckers produce fruit if left alone ‘long’ enough it’s better to be a pincher and get quality fruit a little faster. Love those containers in the last post!


Melissa April 18, 2012 at 5:34 pm

I’ve gotten fruit on suckers as well. However if you pinch them, you can root them and it’s an easy way to get plants for a second planting.


World Citizen June 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Melissa, this is glorious news. Do you have any secrets to rooting? 1-rooting powder as seen on public tv gardening shows: necessity or marketing ploy? 2-soil – loamy rich soil that drains well (that seems required by everything else that grows but herbs), sandy soil? please describe.

I’ve only attempted rooting twice. The first had to do with an avocado pit, toothpicks and a jar (I believe I had yet to be visited by the tooth fairy). The second root fest had to do with a spider plant in a dorm room, the details of which I don’t recall and no, I wasn’t high – the older I get, the more I want to be – I don’t make moral judgment about any herb created by our creator – I reserve my moral judgment for fossil fuels, bombs, corporate greed, lies, children who live in fear and poverty.

Thanks to you and anyone else with advice for me.
PS. If your answer begins with 1-eat an avocado, you’ll have made my day.

ioana April 19, 2012 at 12:38 am

My parents have a big garden with hundreds of tomatoes and they always prune them for the same reason you mentioned. I have 4 now and I almost always leave some because I cannot always find them in time and then it’s too late. And at least last year (now it’s too early to tell), the suckers gave me tomatoes too.
But it is really hard to see which are which


Carolyn April 19, 2012 at 5:43 am

WOW! thanks I did not know this!


Nell April 19, 2012 at 7:37 am

Suckers will get fruit on them, but it’s much easier and healthier for the suckers to be removed. Getting air all around the plant will prevent some of the tomato diseases from getting started. They can also be rooted and a new tomato plant started. Just put in water for about a week to 10 days and then plant in a starter pot. Within a month they can go out in the garden.


Kenneth April 19, 2012 at 10:08 am

I agree with Jennie, I have had some really nice fruit come from suckers. I heard that the only downfall to allowing your suckers to grow is that the overall size of the fruit be smaller because it has to provide more nutrients to places.


Barry April 19, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Yep the suckers are juvenile plants. When I grow a plant that is much Superior in quality and taste. I use the suckers as clones and regrow them. They will have the same traits as the parent plant.
Regards, Barry.


Brad April 20, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I reroot my suckers into wet soil. As long as it’s in the shade, the sucker will create roots of it’s on and become another plant. I use this method to give away to friends. And if you have a tight budget, then it’s easy way to get multiple plants if you purchase or have just one. If the suckers are left there then they’ll form what looks like a split and create a larger plant. This isn’t ideal in pots.
Another gardener told me that you can also cut your determinate tomatoes between the first 2 sets of leaves that form to create another plant. But I’ve been too chicken to try that in my garden.


L Monroe April 22, 2012 at 11:13 am

They are the ‘armpit hairs’ of the tomato world!


World Citizen June 24, 2012 at 1:55 pm

I couldn’t have said it better myself…unless I’d thought of it first! HA! ps. that came out wrong – you said that just fine!

Nermine April 22, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Hi Fern, I have a general tomato question please. I have transplanted my tomato seedlings in larger pots, but now that they’ve grown, I think they are a bit too crowded. Can I transplant them again, maybe each in a pot?
Or is it too late to transplant them again? Thank you
Regards, Nermine


Fern April 24, 2012 at 9:41 am

Tomatoes definitely need to be in their own, large pots. Since it is pretty early in the season, I think you should be able to transplant the tomatoes again and still do just fine.

Dink April 26, 2012 at 9:29 pm

In the fall, you can snip the end 2/3rd of sucker branches, root them, and keep them indoors for winter tomatoes. Use the branches from a top quality plant, and you will have the same tomatoes. Then you can use suckers off of these to produce your plants the following spring as well. I use heirloom tomatoes, but have done this many times in place of saving seeds. Just be sure to use plenty of natural sunlight as well as lamps and plenty of compost and fertizer so you will have the garden fresh tomato flavor, and not the hard, tasteless hot house tomato flavor. Shut the lights off at night to stimulate the regular growth seaosn in a garden, and stress them a little between each watering…these help the flavor for indoor tomatoes.


mike May 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm

sweet 100 and celebrity are hybrids-but they are no match for septoria.


Mike the Gardener July 12, 2012 at 10:50 am

Removing suckers is such a great way to make the plant is sending the necessary nutrients to the branches that will eventually produce the fruit. Even if you spend just a minute or two every other day, you can keep your tomato plants, “sucker” free.


Robert Salko October 6, 2012 at 11:47 am

This is an answer for my under size tomato problem. Perfect!!!!


Sara October 30, 2012 at 11:14 am

This is incorrect information. Suckers fruit all the time, and it’s OK to grow two or three on indeterminate tomatoes, but pinch the rest so the main stem can produce larger fruit. All suckers should be allowed to grow on determinate tomatoes as it’ll make no difference if they’re removed or not.


Laura November 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I know this is an old post, but I had to drop in and thank you for the tip. I’m new to gardening (I live in Florida, so right now I’m working on kale) and already looking forward to my first tomato plants in the spring.


Delane February 3, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Ive always wondered about suckers.

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Lee in Iowa March 5, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Folks, the suckers on indeterminate (grow-until-frost) plants have time to make tomatoes. The suckers on determinate (grow to a certain point, make fruit, and die) plants are just parasites. That’s the difference, or so the horticulture books say.


Kimberly April 12, 2013 at 9:14 am

few years ago i tried to grow tomatoes, i had huge bushy plants, without a single fruit on them. discuraged, i haven’t done them since. this year i started some seeds again and i’m glad that i came across this post before a second failure, and i have also seen a few similar posts about doing the same thing with strawberries (that is, pulling the suckers and replanting them).


Kalin June 11, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Cherry tomatoes produce crop from the suckers as well. The other type of tomatoes – the big ones, don’t. As I am growing only cherry on the balcony – I don’t remove them and I collect tomatoes from them. In the garden, where the big fruits are, I prune them off as they are no good for the plant.


sheree in PA June 24, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Over the years I have experimented with this dilemma of whether to snip or not to snip. For two years we let half of our tomato plants grow naturally and the other half had their suckers snipped on a regular basis. What we found was that the plants that were left alone (unsnipped) actually produced more fruit than the plants that had their suckers taken off. I never snip my suckers now unless you really need the space.


alli June 30, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I’m growing tomatoes (in containers) for the first time. I’m still a little unsure in identifying suckers: the description says they grow right in the joint of a bigger branch (I’ve got a few of those), but the sucker in the photo doesn’t really look like it’s in a joint.
So… do I take every gangly (tertiary?) little branch growing on a main (secondary) branch?


Virginia July 7, 2013 at 12:55 am

Many years ago Cornell did a study on tomatoes & the suckers. The end result was that if the suckers were left on the plants then the tomatoes were a little smaller…if the plant was desuckered the tom’s were larger BUT…in the end, the overall weight of all tomatoes from both plants were the same! I prefer the larger tomatoes so I usually desucker my plants.

I like to grow my own plants from seed so I start some early and then use the suckers to fill in my plants. I just stick them in a glass of water for a week or 2 & then pot them or even put them directly in the garden. If you start your plants from seeds you can repot them as many times as you’d like; I like to repot them deeper and deeper or even lay them on their sides if I have the space….where ever the dirt touches the stem it will grow more roots.

If you live in a cold climate try planting them in the garden on their sides with a little pillow of dirt for the tops; the stem will heat up and grow faster.

Another trick is to shake your plants when they are in flower, especially if the weather is still. If you have poor soil try adding a little epsom salts to the water or if you fertilize them, add it to the fert water. {3 Tablespoons of epsom salts to a gallon of warm water, absorbs thru the leaves, stems & soil, about once a month} If you use too much manure you will get lots of leaves, tall stems but no flowers!


Grayson July 24, 2013 at 10:35 am

Those are axillary shoots. They will bear fruit if given enough time. Suckering and water-sprouting are terms reserved for woody perennial species, and in this instance they would not bear fruit (as in apples, pears, etc.)

Think of it this way. If you were to pinch off every axillary shoot of a tomato, you would get a single-stalked plant without any branching at all.

However, I would agree that with mature plants pinching off mid- and low-growing axillary shoots will produce a more manageable tomato plant (more light penetration, more air circulation), especially if you already have plenty of flowers.


Katherine August 8, 2013 at 9:42 am

I prune suckers from the first three joints at the bottom of the plant, anything above I let grow and they definitely bear fruit.


Paul August 24, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Might sound like a bit if a daft question but how do you replant these suckers? Won’t they break if you take them off?


Bao Nguyen September 17, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Hi FERN, thanks for your interest and useful tip. I’m waiting day by day but no see any flower from them ;)


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