How to Prune Tomato Plant Leaves


One aspect of caring for your tomato plants is knowing when and how to prune them. Proper pruning can affect the amount of tomatoes yielded and the quality of individual tomatoes on your plants. You can increase the fruit size by pruning vegetative growth at the proper time so your plants can put more energy into tomato production. However, if you prune your plants too much it can cause your plants to become sunburned or the blossoms to rot.

Step 1

Determine whether you have a determinate or indeterminate plant species. Determinate tomatoes are typically the shorter varieties that grow up to 5 feet tall and are self-pruning. They include such species as the Roma or Colonial varieties. Indeterminate tomatoes tend to need more pruning since they can grow up to 8 feet tall. They include varieties such as the Big Boy or Cherokee tomato.

Step 2

Check with the nursery or supplier you bought your tomato seeds or plants from to be sure there are no specific pruning requirements for the variety of tomato you are growing. The requirements can sometimes vary between species.

Step 3

Clean your pruning scissors with rubbing alcohol to prevent diseases from passing between plants as you work. Begin pruning your tomato plants when it is time to stake them. Make sure the leaves of your tomato plant are not wet. Locate the first cluster of flowers from the bottom up of you first tomato plant.

Step 4

Locate the first shoot below your cluster of flowers, which grows between the main stem and a branch. Remove all shoots that occur below this first one on your plant by cutting it off at the base with your pruning scissors.

Step 5

Use your scissors to snip off any individual leaves that appear browned, diseased or eaten by insects to help maintain the health of the rest of your tomato plant. Continue to prune the rest of your tomato plants in the same manner.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning scissors
  • Rubbing alcohol


  • University of Missouri: Growing Home Garden Tomatoes
  • North Carolina State University: Pruning and Supporting Home Garden Tomatoes
  • Michigan State University: Training Systems and Pruning in Organic Tomato Production
Keywords: pruning tomatoes, pruning garden vegetables, removing leaves

About this Author

Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Robin Coe has reported on a variety of subjects for more than 15 years. Coe has worked on environmental health and safety issues in communities across Ohio and Michigan. Coe holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism with a double-major in international politics from Bowling Green State University. She has also received training and experience as a nurse aide.