How to Prune Tomato Plants for More Yield


Tomatoes vary by type in their response to pruning. While pruning improves yields in some cultivars, others produce larger fruits but less overall yield, according to a study at Iowa State University. Horticulturalists agree that pruning the suckers, in addition to conserving garden space, strengthens the plant. The trimming of foliage permits more sun to reach the leaves, so that the plant fruits well and resists diseases related to dampness. You can also prune the flowers to produce larger fruits.


Step 1

Examine the tomato's flower clusters, which typically contain one to 10 flowers. About six to eight flowers might form fruits under ideal pollination conditions, according to the University of Florida.

Step 2

Thin the flower cluster to three to four fruits by pinching out the extra fruits if the tomato cultivar produces large fruits, and four or five fruits for intermediate-sized varieties.

Step 3

Repeat the cluster pruning about once per week.


Step 1

Snap off by hand the suckers that grow just above of the leaf axils of the plant when they are 1 to 3 inches long. Do this early in the day when the plant is dry so the wound can heal.

Step 2

Remove pruned plant material by placing it in a bag and removing it from the growing area.

Step 3

Repeat every three to four days.

Tips and Warnings

  • Early tomatoes, such as Early Girl and Quick Pick that mature in 60 days or fewer, are not suitable for pruning, according to the University of Illinois Extension, nor are dwarf and container tomatoes.

Things You'll Need

  • Bag


  • Production of Greenhouse Tomatoes: Florida Greenhouse Vegetable Production Handbook, Vol 3
  • Iowa State University: Tomato Cultivar Trial and Pruning Observation
  • International Society for Horticultural Science: The Effect of Pruning and Training on the Yield of Tomato Cultivars Grown for Export in the Sudan
  • University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service: Greenhouse Tomato Production Practices
  • University of Illinois Extension: Tomatoes

Who Can Help

  • Fine Gardening: Pruning Tomatoes
  • GardenWeb: Pruning Tomatoes
Keywords: pruning tomatoes yield, tomato yield tips, tomato crop yields

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.