by Callie

Starting Tomatoes from Cuttings

A few weeks ago I started a test to see just what was the best way to start tomatoes from cuttings, which in case you didn’t know is the same thing as cloning. After hunting around online for some info on what was the best way to clone tomatoes I came away with FIVE different methods. That’s pretty crazy, but every gardener has ways they prefer to do things, which can make it pretty confusing to the unknowing newcomer. All 5 ways work, but they aren’t all efficient.

The oldest method for starting cuttings has been around for centuries. You strip off the lower leaves and jam it into a pot of media, keep evenly moist without fail, and eventually it will either root or rot. You can do this with all kinds of plants – as long as you take the cutting from the right aged growth at the right time of the season. With tomatoes though you continually get fresh new growth that can be turned into new plants so it’s not so important when you take the cutting, as long as it’s not already setting flowers.

Now as I was looking for this information, everyone kept saying you root the suckers, but no one would say why. One blogger however claimed she could root even the leaf stems. Hmm curiosity abounds, but it didn’t pan out for me.

Rather than going through all the different ways to go about rooting tomato cuttings you can read them on the original post – but they really aren’t important.

The cuttings were taken on July 1st right before dark… not that the time of day is important, but I crammed this task into a really hectic day and put them in a jar of water with every intention of setting up the rest of the test the next day. But it was a crazy busy week. And then another one,  and well – here we are 3 weeks later, and they’re still exactly where they were on July 1st. I should say 2 cuttings are. One of them started looking like blight was coming on, and I tossed it.

The Best Way to Root Tomato CuttingsPlain water and there were 1/4 inch long roots on the sucker by day 4. It’s still just plain water on day 21, and look at all those roots in the top photo. The cutting isn’t suffering one bit without nutrients yet after 3 weeks. It has lost part of two leaf stems due to breakage.

I set out for the garden with a fresh jar on Sunday to collect new specimens and complete my experiment when it hit me – –


Forget adding rooting hormone to the water. Forget about dipping stems in hormones, and potting the cutting. It’s totally unnecessary. You’ll be a slave to keeping it just wet enough without causing rot in a pot. A waste of time and growing supplies too, which is not the path the efficient gardener follows. It’s not going to pump out roots any faster, and will likely take longer in potting mix. Sticking them in a cloning machine will give you roots just as fast, but then you’re wasting electricity.


The tomato is obviously digging the water treatment. It has actually grown much leafier, and developed flower buds without any nutrients. At this point it needs to be planted in the ground, potted up, or put into a hydro system. It is definitely due for some nutrients, the foliage color has lightened quite a bit, but its not turning yellow yet. I never meant to leave it in the jar this long.

Anyone can grow tomatoes from cuttings with a jar, fresh water, and the sun coming through a southern window. These were 4 feet from the back door, but it’s bright there. Do change the water a couple of times a week though, just like you should with cut flowers. And take the jar of water with you to collect your suckers to root. No need for trimming the end again, and the cutting won’t lose a drop of hydration being put in water a minute after being removed from the plant. Don’t forget to remove any leaves that will be beneath the water surface in the jar too – they will rot and foul your rooting solution 😉

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Only strangers knock on the door at Callie's house. People who know her don't bother if the sun is shining - they know to look in the garden.