How to Pinch the Tops of Tomato Plants


Tomato plants grow quickly when properly cared for and require pruning maintenance to increase the amount and size of tomatoes produced. Both determinate and indeterminate varieties benefit from pinching off branches and leaves during the growing season. Determinate tomato varieties produce all their fruit during a short period while indeterminate produce a smaller amount of fruit over a longer period. Begin the pruning process early in the season, continue to pinch off growth during fruit production and follow up with pinching in the fall to increase the amount of ripe fruit harvested.

Step 1

Pinch all blossoms that form on the tomato plant before it is a mature size. This will force the tomato plant to focus energy into growing strong, fruit-bearing branches instead of producing fruit.

Step 2

Pinch sucker branches that form in the branch joints below the first stem of flower clusters. Suckers are the beginning of new branches and need removing to prevent a heavily branched plant with low fruit production.

Step 3

Pinch off fruiting branches that form close to the first stem of flower clusters on indeterminate tomato plants. Remove branches so there are four to five main stems left on the indeterminate plants as this increases fruit size and production.

Step 4

Pinch the leaf tip ends in late summer to early fall when the end of the growing season is near. Remove the top of the tomato plant and several inches off each branch to force the plant to stop growing in size. This will force the plant energy toward ripening fruit before the first frost.


  • Fine Gardening: Pruning Tomatoes
  • Cornell University: Plant Doctors
  • Mississippi State University: Staking and Training Tomatoes
Keywords: pinch tomato plants, prune tomato plants, tomato plant maintenance

About this Author

Jennifer Loucks has over 10 years of experience as a former technical writer for a software development company in Wisconsin. Her writing experience includes creating software documentation and help documents for clients and staff along with training curriculum. Loucks holds a Bachelor of Science major from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls specializing in animal science and business.