How to Prune Tomato Plants for the Best Harvest

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Tips on how to prune your tomato plants for the best harvest. Learn which branches to prune and how to do it for the best yield.

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Pruning tomato plants may seem like a counterintuitive gardening practice, but it actually has several benefits. Pruning can encourage increased fruit production, improved air circulation, and enhanced flavor. With the right techniques, you can ensure a bountiful harvest of delicious tomatoes.

The Benefits of Pruning Tomato Plants

Pruning your tomato plants can seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually pretty simple. By pruning your plants, you are encouraging new growth, which means more tomatoes! Pruning also allows the plant to direct its energy to the fruit, rather than the leaves. This results in larger, healthier fruit.

Pruning Increases Air Circulation

Pruning increases air circulation and sunlight penetration to the center of the plant. This allows the plant to dry off quickly after a rain or irrigation, which helps prevent diseases.

Pruning Reduces the Risk of Disease

Pruning is essential to keeping your tomato plants healthy and productive. By removing dead and diseased leaves, you reduce the risk of disease spread. That’s especially important with tomato plants, which are susceptible to a number of fungal diseases, such as early blight, septoria leaf spot, and anthracnose. These diseases can quickly spread through the plant, causing leaves to turn brown and drop off. Pruning also helps improve air circulation around the plant, which can further help prevent disease spread.

Pruning Promotes Fruit Production

Pruning tomato plants may seem like a counterproductive way to increase your harvest, but in reality, it encourages fruit production. By pruning away some of the foliage, you are increasing air circulation and allowing more sunlight to reach the fruit. This also reduces the risk of disease and pests.

To prune your plants, simply remove any dead or yellow leaves, as well as any suckers (side shoots) that are growing from the main stem. You can do this by hand or with sharp shears. Be sure to sterilize your shears before using them on your plants to prevent the spread of disease.

Pruning tomato plants will result in a smaller plant overall, but it will produce tastier and healthier fruit. So don’t be afraid to give your plants a little trimming!

How to Prune Tomato Plants

Pruning your tomato plants can seem daunting, but it’s actually quite simple! Pruning helps to encourage plant growth and prevent diseases. It also allows you to get the best possible harvest from your plants.

When to Prune

Most tomato growers wait until the plants are about 2 feet tall and have six to eight leaves before they start pruning. At this point, you should see side shoots (or suckers) developing in the leaf axils (where the leaves attach to the stem). Once these side shoots are about 4 inches long, you can prune them away.

Pruning suckers early encourages the plant to direct its energy into fruit production rather than foliage growth. However, if you wait too long to prune, the plant will become leggy and produce fewer fruits.

The Pruning Process

Pruning tomato plants can seem like a daunting task, but it’s really quite simple. By pruning your plants, you are encouraging them to produce healthier fruit with a better flavor. Here is a step-by-step guide to pruning your tomato plants for the best harvest:

1. Wait until your plants have reached a height of 18-24 inches before you start pruning.
2. Cut off the suckers that grow in the leaf axils (the point where the leaves meet the stem).
3. Pinch off any flowers that appear on the plant.
4. Once your plant has reached its desired height, cut off the tips of the main stems to encourage lateral growth.
5. Prune any lateral branches that are longer than 24 inches.
6. Remove any leaves that are yellowing or dead.
7. Water your plants thoroughly after pruning to encourage new growth.

How to Dispose of Pruned Tomato Plants

After you’ve pruned your tomato plants, you may be wondering what to do with the pruned plants. The best way to dispose of them is to compost them. Composting will recycle the nutrients back into the soil, which will benefit your tomato plants (and other plants in your garden).

If you don’t have a compost bin, you can simply bury the pruned plants in the ground. Be sure to bury them deep enough so that they won’t attract animals (such as dogs or deer) that might dig them up.

You can also add the pruned tomato plants to your municipal green waste bin (if your city or town has one). The plants will then be taken to a landfill where they will decompose.


As you can see, there are a few different ways to prune your tomato plants. Some people prefer to do no pruning at all, while others like to remove the suckers and leaves. And still others want to carefully select which fruit clusters to keep and which to remove.

The best way to find out what works best for you is to experiment. Try different pruning techniques on different plants and see how they respond. With a little trial and error, you’ll soon find the method that gives you the biggest, best-tasting tomatoes!

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books