I have been removing the leafy branches from my tomato plants. Is that wrong?

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  • Two questions: Why did you do it and why do you think it might be wrong?
    – Stephie
    Nov 7, 2015 at 12:38
  • Oh, and a third one: How far apart did you plant them?
    – Stephie
    Nov 7, 2015 at 12:38
  • Hmm they look naked now! I did the brussell sprouts and thought I might do the tomatoes as well, making it easier ti thread through the mesh instead of tying them. They are planted side by side some of them, self sown from last year.
    – Tom Donald
    Nov 10, 2015 at 6:58
  • They appear to be fruiting ok, many flower buds appearing. How can I add a photo here? hmm
    – Tom Donald
    Nov 12, 2015 at 4:49

1 Answer 1


There are branches and then there are suckers. Most people remove suckers (the growth occurring in the angle between the main trunk and stem) so that this maximizes fruit production at the top of the plant. If the lower suckers are left untouched, then fruit can form on these low suckers and bend the branches so that the fruit and branch ends up on the ground, and can rot.

Suckers are also removed differently depending upon whether you have a determinate or indeterminate tomato plant.

To properly prune a determinate tomato, pinch all suckers from the ground level to the first flower cluster.

determinate pruning

To properly prune an indeterminate tomato, prune all suckers from the ground level up to the second flower cluster.

indeterminate pruning

The effect of removing the lower suckers is to increase the air flow through the plant and discourage insects and disease. If other branches are not looking healthy, you can also remove these. Removing healthy branches for no other reasons can reduce the size of your fruit.

LSU Agricultural Center

  • 1
    Suckers? You surely mean shoots, don't you - sucker is a specific term applied to growth from a rootstock, so unless the tomato plant has been grafted onto different roots (which isn't impossible, but not usual), it can't produce suckers.
    – Bamboo
    Feb 28, 2016 at 13:36
  • 2
    @Bamboo The word sucker seems to have a special meaning when applied to tomato plants. Feb 28, 2016 at 17:09
  • encyclopedia.com/topic/sucker.aspx a side shoot from an axillary bud, as in tomato plants. Feb 28, 2016 at 18:15
  • @Bamboo Seems some people think grafted tomatoes have larger yields. growingformarket.com/articles/grafted-tomatoes Feb 29, 2016 at 4:41
  • Only in America!! It appears, confusingly, you do all use the term 'suckers' for what we call 'side shoots' or 'laterals'. 'Sucker' used in this way is only listed on worldwide/American general dictionary or tomato growing sites - everywhere else, including my horticultural bible/dictionary of terms, they're side shoots. As for grafted toms, never grown 'em - have enough trouble using up the crop from 4 plants, given they all come in a short space of time...
    – Bamboo
    Feb 29, 2016 at 13:58

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