How to Take Tomato Cuttings for Easy, Free Tomato Plants

How to Take Tomato Cuttings
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Last Updated on 2 years by Michelle

Taking tomato cuttings can help you spend as little money in the garden as possible.

When you are planting a garden to save money on your groceries, you want to save every penny you have.

That’s where taking tomato cuttings can help you stretch your dollar bill.

You can take some cuttings from a tomato plant to get MORE tomato plants.

You will need some scissors and just a bit of patience. It’s a good way to get free plants!

Tomatoes Are Very Popular in the Home Garden

Did you know that nine out of ten households in the United States that have a garden grow tomato plants in them?

Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables grown in home gardens.

And for good reason – they are easy to grow, and home-grown tomatoes taste completely different than store-bought tomatoes.

Let’s take a look at why you should take tomato cuttings, how to do it, and how to grow your new plants.

We’ll also go over some tips for growing tomatoes in general and answer some common questions about the process.

This post is all about taking tomato cuttings.

What are Tomato Cuttings?

Tomato cuttings are also known as suckers or side shoots.

They are side shoots that form in the middle of a side branch and the plant’s main stem. They will grow roots if you submerge them in water.

Then you can plant them in the ground like any other plant.

Tomato Cuttings
Tomato sucker on a Solar Flare heirloom tomato plant

How Many Suckers are There Per Plant?

There are usually several suckers on a single plant. You can cut any or all of those suckers off the plant.

When You Prune a Tomato Plant You Are Pruning Suckers

There are two basic areas you prune on a tomato plant. The bottom of the main stem and the suckers.

The First Part of Pruning: The Bottom of the Plant

The first part you prune is the bottom of the plant.

You remove all branches and suckers from where the stem meets the soil, up the main stem until you reach a spot on the stem about a foot high.

This helps keep water that can carry diseases off the plant.

The Second Part of Pruning: Removing the Suckers

The second kind of pruning you can do is pruning to remove suckers. Removing suckers (or side shoots) is good for the tomato plant.

Removing Suckers Helps the Tomato Plant

When you remove suckers from the tomato plant, you open up the airflow around the plant. You also help the plant direct more energy to flowering and making fruit.

What Happens if You Leave Suckers on the Plant

Each sucker can grow a whole new tomato plant. If you left them all on the plant, the plant becomes extremely heavy and air can’t flow through the plant. Blight and other diseases love these conditions.

This Sungold Cherry plant had several suckers on it. Here is one of them:

rooting tomatoes

Lack of airflow causes fungal diseases to develop in the interior of the plant. Fungal diseases can cause the plant to stunt and produce less fruit.

How to Take A Cutting

This process is pretty straightforward. You will need the following items:

  • clean, sharp garden scissors
  • a jar with clean room temperature water for each variety of tomato you want to propagate.

Just take a pair of clean, sharp garden scissors or your hands, and pull off the suckers.

The suckers should be at least 4″ long for them to have enough stem thickness to propagate well.

The Sungold Cherry tomato sucker below is a very healthy one. It has a long thick stem, tomato blossoms already, and suckers itself!

Tomato Plant Propagation: This is a photo of a cherry tomato sucker

As soon as you remove the suckers just put them in the water.

Make Sure You Label Your Cuttings

Be sure to label your jars before you take cuttings because as soon as they come off the plant, they all look the same!

Growing Your Cuttings Before You Plant in Soil

You are going to be growing the roots on these cuttings for a week or so before you can plant them in soil to grow delicious tomatoes.

Make sure you keep the stem end submerged in water and the plants in full sun at least part of the day to encourage quick growth.

To root tomato plants from cuttings, you just wait for these plants to start growing roots. It is super-easy to propagate tomato plants this way.

Planting the Suckers in the Soil

As soon as you have some strong roots on the sucker, you can plant it where ever you want, preferably in full sun.

Growing a tomato plant by using a cutting will get you a tomato plant about a month after you planted the one it came from.

Benefits of Taking Tomato Cuttings

You can save a TON of money by growing tomatoes from cuttings.

The Economics of Growing From Cuttings

I grow a ton of tomato plants from seed, and I’ve talked about that in this post.

Let’s say you have a single tomato plant that has 4 suckers on it a month after you plant it. You pull those suckers off and put them in water for a week and plant them.

Now you have 5 plants for the price of one.

Just about everyone loves juicy tomatoes, but they are some of the priciest plants you can buy for your garden.

Only paying for 1 out of 5 of your plants will leave you a nice chunk of cash left over to invest in other areas of your garden.

The suckers below came from just 2 Sungold tomato plants earlier today (5/9/2022). I will have 7 tomato plants from cuttings in about a week, and I’ll update you along the way.

You gotta love this tomato math!

Propagating Tomatoes

Tips for Growing From Cuttings

As with any process, there are some things you can do to increase your chance of success when taking cuttings.

Take the Cutting Early in the Season

If you want to grow from cuttings, I recommend that you take the cutting early in the season.

You can technically take the cutting at any time during the parent plant’s life.

However, the longer you wait to take the cutting, the greater the chance that the cutting will have developed blight or another type of disease that will just transfer to the new cutting.

I took these cuttings less than one month after planting.

Rooting Tomato Cuttings: 10 tomato suckers in water

It’s best to take that tomato plant cutting as soon as your suckers are big enough.

Take Cuttings That are at Least 4 Inches Long

You can take a cutting of any length, but you’ll have the greatest success with cuttings that are at least 4 inches long.

These side shoots will be big enough to send out vigorous roots quickly.

You certainly can take cuttings that are shorter than 4 inches long and they may do fine, especially if the stem is thick for its size.

Experiment with this yourself to see what length gives you the best results.

Plan Where you Will Grow All Your Cuttings

Be sure you have planned out where you will grow all your cuttings so you’ll be able to put them directly into your garden when they are ready.

Look Into Selling your Cuttings As New Tomato Plants

People say that growing your own garden is like printing money, and I’ve found that to be true.

You could take it a step further and sell the suckers you grow into plants.

  • Cut suckers off your tomato plants
  • Root them
  • Plant them in seedling mix with some organic fertilizer. Click here to check price.
  • Sell on Facebook Marketplace for $3 per plant or whatever your market bears.

If you have 10 tomato plants and grow 3 suckers from each, you could make $90 from free plants.

Wait to Plant Until the Suckers Have a Strong Root System

Make sure to wait until your tomato plant cutting has strong new roots system before you plant it. This will ensure healthy plants.

Concluson

Taking and rooting tomato cuttings is the key to growing a ton of free plants.

When taking tomato cuttings, it is important to take the cutting early in the season and to make sure that the sucker has developed a strong root system before you plant it in the ground.

You can then plant your new tomato plants directly into your garden.

And by selling the suckers you grow from cuttings, you can make some extra money while also expanding your garden!

I hope this post gave you everything YOU need to get started growing tomato plants from cuttings.

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