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How To Prune Indeterminate Tomatoes Step By Step

by Idris Ya'u
This article was fact checked.
Helpful: 100%

There is some debate about whether or not tomato plants should be pruned, but the truth is that you won’t have any problems if you don’t. Many people grow good tomatoes even when they don’t trim at all.

Tomatoes aren’t one of those plants that have to be pruned or deadheaded to grow, but judicious trimming can increase the quality of the fruit you harvest.

The main benefit of pruning tomato plants is that it allows them to focus their efforts on producing fruit rather than growing foliage.

Unpruned foliage may ultimately grow into new branches that will bear fruit, but most expert growers recommend pruning tomatoes to not only produce larger fruit earlier in the season but also to safeguard the plants from pests and disease.

If you’re having fungal problems in your garden, make sure there’s enough airflow, and cut your tomato plants if necessary.

You generally don’t need to prune your plants if they don’t get leaf spots or other fungal diseases regularly.

You may also wish to prune your tomato plants if they are lying on the ground. The amount of sugar produced by leaves is decreased when they are put into the constant shade, including when the bushy plants are on the ground.

Rather than pruning, you can use a stake to maintain the leaves off the ground on your tomato plant.

When a tomato plant is pruned appropriately, all of the foliage receives sufficient sunlight, allowing the plant to photosynthesize more effectively, resulting in increased growth and fruit yield.

Recommended: How To Support Indeterminate Tomatoes

How To Prune Indeterminate Tomatoes

Indeterminate tomatoes should be pruned throughout the season. Here’s what you should do and when you should do it:

Planting phase

When planting, remove the bottom leaves so that the plants can be buried deeply in the soil. Read the instructions on the wrapper if you’re planting a Bonnie plant.

Remove any blooms that are present at planting time (even if they were present when you purchased the plant) so that energy is directed toward foliage development rather than fruiting at this early stage.


Remove blossoms until the plants are 12 to 18 inches tall so that more vitality can be directed to the roots.

To avoid slowing the growth of the fruit, remove all leafy suckers below the initial fruit cluster.

Suckers are the little shoots that arise when the leaf stem connects to the main growing stem (called an axil).

Several gardeners in northern areas go even further, eradicating all suckers as they emerge.

In warmer climates, however, experts generally propose Missouri pruning, which involves pinching off the leaflets at the end of each sucker and leaving only the two base leaflets.

As the leaves grow larger, they provide shelter and shield the fruit from sunscald. To avoid leaving a gaping wound on the stem, detach suckers while they’re small enough to pinch with your fingers.

If you must cut them, make a clean cut as near to the main stem as possible without injuring stem tissue with a sharp knife or pruner blade.

Late season

Tomato plants are frequently still filled with fruit as the growing season concludes.

Remove the developing tip of each main stem about four weeks before the first projected fall frost to speed up maturity late in the season.

This method of pruning, known as “topping,” stops the plant from flowering and producing new fruit, instead directing all sugars to the existing fruit.

The fruit will develop faster this way, and the green tomatoes you select before frost will be more likely to mature when you bring them inside.

It may be difficult to have the courage to do so, but it will be well worthwhile if you want ripe tomatoes! You can, of course, skip this step if you want your tomatoes to stay green for frying and jelly.

Can You Cut The Top Off Of Indeterminate Tomatoes?

Take a deep breath and try clipping some or all of the branches off around the peak of their cage support as they begin to flop over the cage from your indeterminate varieties (the ones that keep growing).

While pruning encourages new growth, cutting off tomato-laden branches requires fortitude.

Pruning your tomatoes is one of the best way to take care of your indeterminate tomatoes. If you need more gardening tips and maintenance, check our article about taking care of a garden here.

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