Do Tomatoes Need Pruning?

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Perhaps it depends on where you’re trying to grow them and why.  Are these tomatoes for home use or are you going to market them all? One reason that commercial tomato growers would prune their plants it to have more uniform fruit. Sort of like if you’re growing apples, you want only certain branches producing fruit in your trees if you want nice big apples.

If you’re growing big tomato varieties in your backyard garden, space is no where near the issue it is in a greenhouse or indoor grow space. If you’ve got a garden of goodness crammed into a 4′ x 4′ grow tent, pruning will not doubt become necessary, because a slicing tomato plant can easily reach proportions of more than 4-feet wide.

However, be forewarned that if you prune your tomato plant like a bush by topping it, the reaction will be to get bushier… probably not the right method in the indoor garden.

These plants in my garden weren’t pruned at all and are way over 3-feet wide before any fruit is ready for harvest. In a grow room, this kind of unhampered growth would choke out everything else.

Backyard Garden Tomatoes

Some backyard gardeners pinch off just the sucker stems that form in the crotch between an original branches and older formed growth. Now in a colder climate with a short season, this makes no sense. You want every new growth tip you can coax out of your plants to get a good harvest before frost. In places like California and Arkansas, this pruning practice makes much more sense for outdoor growing.

Here’s some professional tips on how to prune tomatoes for indoor growing.


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  • Deusexmachina says:

    FTMP, pruning tomatoes is not only a waste of time, it also, contrary to the reasons often given, pruning not only does not increase yield, it actually makes yield less.
    Also, it has no effect on “energy” available to the plant (other than to possibly reduce it (since leaves produce energy, they don’t consume it).
    It is nice to see a site that actually discussed pruning in a more realistic context (such as this one) namely reducing surface area and sprawl to increase space available for other plants.

    • Tammy Clayton says:

      Hi Deusexmachina,

      Thanks for your kind words. I have far better things to do with my time in summer than taming my tomatoes. Having given up on growing them in the ground with the move to straw bales to improve my short season harvest, the hours spent tending the garden are far more importantly taken up with stringing up stems and spraying Serenade to battle blight. I have more tomatoes now than I know what to do with! Warmth, not pruning, determines my harvest size – though I do have to top the plants when they outgrow the support structure. The stems will just break off after that anyway before any fruit they bear up there is ripe.


Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.