How to Remove the Side Shoots From Tomato Plants

Overview

Removing the side shoots of indeterminate tomatoes, which bear fruits continuously from mid-summer to the frost, can prevent them from becoming too bushy and tall, according to the University of Missouri Extension. Note that determinate or early-season varieties with maturity less than 70 days often don't require pruning. Proceed conservatively when removing side shoots, as the resulting wounds to the plant can spread disease.

Staked Tomatoes

Step 1

Train the young tomato plant to have no more than two main stems. As the plant grows, at the junction of each leaf and the original main stem, a new shoot will appear. Choose a shoot at the first or second leaf junction and allow it to develop to a second main stem.

Step 2

Pinch all the other shoots, called suckers, off with your fingers as they appear. Bend them sideways until they snap.

Step 3

Support the main stems by tying them with plant ties to a stake or trellis.

Caged Tomatoes

Step 1

Allow the developing tomato plant to keep three or four main stems arising from the plant's lower leaf junctions, say horticulturalists at North Carolina State University.

Step 2

Pinch additional suckers off with your fingers.

Step 3

Support the stems by surrounding them with a wire or plastic cage.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't use scissors or a cutter to remove the shoots, which may transmit disease, advise Jerry M. Parsons and colleagues at the Texas Cooperative Extension.

Things You'll Need

  • Stakes
  • Trellis
  • Tomato cages

References

  • The University of Arizona: Tomatoes
  • N.C. State University Cooperative Extension: Tomato Time
  • University of Missouri Extension: Growing Home Garden Tomatoes
  • Texas A&M Agrilife Extension: Key Factors Considered Important by Successful Vegetable Gardeners
  • Clemson University Extension: Tomatoes
Keywords: removing tomato shoots, tomatoes suckers, tomato side shoots, suckering determinate tomatoes, suckering indeterminate tomatoes

About this Author

Rogue Parrish has written two travel books and edited at the "The Baltimore Sun," "The Washington Post" and the Alaska Newspapers company. She began writing professionally in 1975. Parrish holds a summa cum laude Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.