How to Prune Tomato Plants for Maximum Yields

How to prune tomato plant

To get healthy and more fruits from your tomato plants – it’s important that you know how to prune tomato plants correctly. Pruning not only helps the plant direct more energy in producing more ripe fruits but also helps control the size of the plant. 

However, not all tomato varieties need much pruning. For instance, determinate varieties (bush tomatoes)  such as Roma and Patio Princess grow to a certain size, flower, and produce fruits once in the growing season, and then stop growing – hence, they don’t require pruning.

Here is an easy guide to help prune your tomato plants correctly. 

When is the Best Time to Prune Tomato Plants

The right time to prune your tomato plant is equally important as knowing how to prune. Start pruning your tomato plants early in their growing season—when they are young, around 12 – 18 inches tall. This helps the plant direct its energy to fruit production.

Additionally, continue pruning throughout their growing season towards the end of the growing season. This will help control their size and increase ripe fruit production.

Prune in the mid-morning when the plant is dry to prevent the spread of diseases. Wet conditions facilitate the spread of pathogens.

Determine the Tomato variety You are Growing

A woman holding a tomato plant with gloves


Before you start pruning, find out whether your tomato plant is a determinate or indeterminate variety. 

Determinate tomato varieties don’t need pruning because they grow to a certain size, 4 to 5 feet tall. This variety produces fruits once in its growing season, and then it stops growing. Thus, don’t require pruning. 

Some common determinate varieties include Better Bush, Heinz Classic, patio Prince, Biltmore, and Ace 55.

Indeterminate tomato varieties produce fruits throughout their growing season, so regular pruning is necessary. They grow into large vines that might reach up to 20 feet tall. Pruning is necessary to control their size and encourage more fruits.

Some of the indeterminate tomatoes include heirloom, cherry, Big Boy, German Queen, Black Prince, and Beef Master. 

How to prune Tomato Plants

Step 1: Remove the Suckers

Suckers are small shoots that grow between the main stem and a branch. If left there, they can grow into full branches, causing your tomato plant to have more foliage than fruits. 

Pinch off the suckers with your fingers if they are 2 to 4 inches long. If the tomato suckers are large, use a pair of shears to remove them. But first, ensure the tools you use are disinfected to prevent the spread of diseases. 

I would recommend you remove the suckers when they are still small so you pinch them with your fingers to avoid damaging the stem or nearby leaves.

Step 2: Remove Lower Branches

Ripe and green tomatoes on a branch


Remove the lower leaves or branches of your tomato plant that are touching the ground to prevent the spread of soil-borne diseases. For branches, you can choose to stake them up instead of cutting them, as long as they are touching the ground. 

Step 3: Top the Plant

Topping is a type of pruning whereby you cut the top of the main stem of each of your plants. Prune about 4-6 weeks before the 1st expected frost. This type of pruning can be beneficial to indeterminate varieties that grow tall, although this it is optional. 

Do this when the growing season is coming to an end. This helps the plant to stop flowering and focus its energy on ripening the existing fruits. 

Final Takeaway

Knowing how to prune tomato plants can make a significant difference in the overall health of your plant and fruit production. The following steps will help you prune your tomato plants correctly for bountiful yields. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Leaves Should I Prune on My Tomato Plants?

Knowing which leaves to remove from your tomato plant is important for its health and fruit production. Remove the lower leaves touching the ground as they are prone to soil-borne diseases. Additionally, remove those that are shading the fruits to allow the sun to reach the fruits and ripen evenly. Also, remove the yellow or diseased leaves to keep your tomato plant healthy.

What Happens If I Cut All the Leaves off My Tomato Plant?

Avoid over-pruning your tomato plant by all means. Leaves help with photosynthesis, producing energy the plant uses to grow and develop. Additionally, sugars and nutrients produced through photosynthesis contribute to the quality and size of your fruits. So, with no leaves, there will be no photosynthesis, and the fruits will be low-quality. 

How Many Leaves Should Be Left on Tomato Plants?

While there is no specific number of leaves to leave intact, ensure they are at least 70% of healthy leaves for photosynthesis and fruit production. However, chop off all yellow leaves, with no flowers or diseased because they are useless to the plant. 


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🌿 Hello! I'm Mary, the nature-loving soul behind Serene Eden. Gardener, plant whisperer, compost connoisseur, sun-soaked plant enthusiast, and avid bee-watcher. Let's cultivate beauty, one bloom at a time. 🌱🌼