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How to Prune Tomato Bushes

Because of their intense growth and heavy fruit, many gardeners support tomato bushes with stakes, a wire cage or a string system to prevent the plant from snapping or growing along the ground. While gardeners don't normally prune tomatoes using the string system, the exact method of pruning your tomato plant will depend on if you support the bush with a stake or a cage. Before doing any pruning, sterilize your clippers with isopropyl alcohol to limit the transmission of disease around your garden.

Things You'll Need

  • Clippers


  1. Staked Tomato Plants

    • 1

      Prune back the tomato bush to one or two main stems. Cut off all the shoots -- commonly called suckers -- to force all the plant's energy into the main stems.

    • 2

      Inspect the plant weekly for new suckers.

    • 3

      Pinch off new suckers with your fingers. Any suckers left on the stem will eventually become a stem and produce fruit.

    Caged Tomato Plants

    • 4

      Prune caged plants once a month, until there are three to four main stems.

    • 5

      Allow the top of the cage to remain covered with foliage, which prevents sun damage to the fruit. Leaving the foliage also allows the plant to gather more sun and aids in photosynthesis.

    • 6

      Pinch off only the tip of the sucker; leave some of the leaves on the stem. Pinching off a thicker part of the sucker makes a larger wound and may increase the likelihood of infection or disease.