How to Deal with Suckers on Tomato Plants


Horticulturalists typically divide tomato plants into two types: indeterminate (vine varieties) and determinate (bush varieties). Indeterminate plants require selective pruning to remove suckers--new stems growing from an existing stem--and thereby keep the vine from growing too many stems. Though a multi-stemmed tomato vine will produce more fruit, the resulting fruit will be smaller. Removing suckers helps the plant direct all its energy toward a smaller number of fruit and can add up to 2 oz. to each fruit's weight, according to Cornell University.

Step 1

Allow the tomato plant to grow one or two main stems and produce its first set of flowers.

Step 2

Identify any suckers below the first flower cluster. Wait for the suckers to grow to a length of 2 to 4 inches, according to South Dakota State University.

Step 3

Cut off the sucker with pruning shears, snipping it as close to the plant as possible. Discard the removed foliage or throw it in your compost bin.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't remove suckers on determinate tomato varieties. These varieties only have a limited number of potential fruit and blossoms, according to Cornell University. Pruning off the suckers on such plants will result in a minimal fruit harvest and a stunted plant. Additionally, the university says pruning determinate tomatoes makes the plant more susceptible to sun scald.


  • "American Tomato: The Complete Guide to Growing and Using Tomatoes"; Robert Hendrickson; 2006
  • South Dakota State University: Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden
  • Cornell University: Diagnosing Tomato Problems
Keywords: prune tomato plant, remove tomato suckers, cut off suckers

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.