Turning Suckers Into Free Tomato Plants

Getting something new out of something old is always satisfying, especially when it comes to tomato plants. After pruning your existing crop of its suckers, save some of them from the compost heap and start new plants with them! 

Saving Suckers

It’s very easy to do. I learned about the technique in Growing Tomatoes: Your Guide to Growing Delicious Tomatoes at Home, written by Jason Johns.

Johns recommends using a side shoot or a sucker that has already grown to about four or five inches long. I used shoots that were slightly shorter than that, and it worked just as well.

Tomato suckers
These suckers will form new roots.

The suckers you remove from the bottom of your existing plant are excellent choices for propagation because they’re closer to the plant’s energy source and are likely stronger candidates for new growth.

How It Works  

When removing the suckers from your tomato plants, use a clean pair of pruners or pinch them off gently with your thumb and forefinger.

Remove the bottom few leaves from the shoot so that you have a good chunk of bare stem. After that, drop the stem into a glass of water and place in a sunny windowsill. 

Tomato suckers in a glass of water.
Place tomato suckers in a glass of water.

In his book, Johns suggests diluting tomato food into the glass; use one part food to ten parts water to help keep the shoot healthy and strong. 

In less than a week, you’ll notice the stem has grown new roots. My tangled web was easy to spot in the glass of water. 

New roots from tomato suckers
New roots form in less than a week. These are ready to plant in a pot now.

Once the new roots have sprouted, transplant into a small pot with soil as you would a seedling. 

Why It’s Cool

Regrowing tomato shoots is an inexpensive and innovative way to boost your yields throughout the growing season. 

If you live in a warmer climate, you’ll get more late-season tomatoes. If you live in an area that gets frost, you can attempt to grow fruit despite the chilly temperatures in a sunny, warm windowsill.  

Free tomato plants? Yes, please!

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Catherine Sherriffs

Editor at Garden Culture Magazine

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her three young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.