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How to Deleaf a Tomato Plant

Tomatoes Closeup image by John Walsh from

Growing tomatoes at home is a serious gardener or chef's dream. But it is important to care for tomato plants properly and focus on how you can help them reach optimum growth and health. Pruning (done regularly) and deleafing (done minimally) are similar operations that are necessary when growing tomatoes. Deleafing is essentially cutting back the older leaves from the lower parts of the tomato plant to provide more sunlight to the fruit for ripening, increased air circulation and to remove dead or diseased leaves. While deleafing can benefit your plant, it should only be done about once a year (except for cutting back dead or diseased foliage) as too much deleafing can end up slowing the fruit production.

Cut back all suckers, also known as side shoots, that are 2 inches in length or longer. These grow from the leaf joints and the main stem, drawing nutrients from the parts of the plant that need it more for fruit production.

Cut back any leaves that are dead, yellowing or diseased throughout the growing season.

Trim back the tomato leaves that are tangled or overcrowded in certain areas, back to the main stem. Cutting these out will provide more air circulation and sunlight exposure. This is a part of the deleafing process that should only be done sparingly when the overcrowding is quite bad.

Remove no more than one-third of the leaves and branches along the main stem.

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