Tomato Gardening: Prune or Let Grow?

One of the most debated topics in the world of tomato gardening is whether or not to prune tomato plants. Gardeners often find conflicting advice, making it challenging to decide on the best approach. This article will explore the pros and cons of pruning tomato plants, taking into account different climates and gardening goals.

To Prune or Not to Prune?

The decision to prune tomato plants largely depends on your gardening goals and the specific conditions of your garden. Some gardeners advocate for pruning to focus the plant's energy on producing larger tomatoes, while others prefer not to prune to maximize the total number of fruits.

Benefits of Pruning

  1. Larger Tomatoes: Pruning can help direct the plant's energy towards fewer fruits, potentially resulting in larger tomatoes. By removing the suckers (the branches that grow from the leaf axils), the plant can concentrate its resources on the main stems.
  2. Airflow and Disease Prevention: Pruning can improve airflow around the plant, reducing the risk of diseases that thrive in humid, crowded conditions. Removing the lower leaves that touch the soil can also help prevent soil-borne diseases.

Drawbacks of Pruning

  1. Fewer Fruits: Every sucker has the potential to become a fruiting branch. Removing them can reduce the overall number of tomatoes produced. For gardeners who prioritize quantity over size, minimal pruning may be preferable.
  2. Sun Protection: In hot climates, extra foliage can protect the fruit from sunburn. The leaves provide shade and help maintain a cooler microenvironment around the tomatoes.

Climate Considerations

  • Hot Climates: In regions with intense sunlight and high temperatures, it is beneficial to leave more foliage on the plants. The extra leaves protect the fruits from sunburn. Pruning should be minimal, focusing only on removing the lower leaves and occasionally thinning the center of the plant to improve airflow.
  • Mild Climates: In milder climates, pruning can help manage the plant's growth and prevent overcrowding. Gardeners may choose to prune more aggressively to promote larger fruits and reduce disease risk.

Practical Tips for Pruning

  1. Suckers: Identify suckers, which grow at a 45-degree angle from the main stem and a leaf. Decide whether to prune them based on your goals and climate.
  2. Lower Leaves: Regularly remove the lower leaves that touch the soil to prevent disease.
  3. Airflow: Thin the center of the plant occasionally to improve airflow, especially in humid conditions.
  4. Spacing: Provide ample space for each plant to grow. Proper spacing can reduce the need for pruning by preventing overcrowding.
Propagating New Plants

Pruning can also be a way to propagate new plants. Suckers that are removed can be placed in potting soil or water to develop roots. Once rooted, they can be planted in the garden, effectively increasing your tomato crop.


Pruning tomato plants is a matter of personal preference and environmental conditions. By understanding the benefits and drawbacks, as well as considering your specific climate, you can make an informed decision that best suits your gardening goals. Whether you choose to prune or not, the key is to observe your plants and adjust your approach as needed to ensure a healthy and productive tomato harvest.