Pinching out tomato plants – pruning side shoots

Pinching out tomato plants

The video below is all about pruning or pinching out tomato plants, in particular pinching out the side shoots of tomato plants.

If you want to know how to prune tomato plants, this is basically what you need to know.

In the video:

  • I explain what tomato plant side shoots are
  • I explain how cordon tomato plants grow and why you need to prune or pinch out the side shoots to ensure that your tomatoes will ripen and be of the best quality
  • I show where you can locate the side shoots on the tomato plant
  • I demonstrate how to pinch out and prune the tomato plant’s side shoots
  • And I explain how you need to remain vigilant because the plants will keep sending out side shoots unless you stop it.


Transcript: How to pinch out tomato plants

This is a short video about pinching out tomatoes.

When I first started growing tomatoes, I read gardening books and watched gardening programmes and they always used to talk about pinching out tomatoes.

But it was never really clear to me what that meant.

So here is a simple demonstration and explanation for those people who are new to tomato growing and for whom pinching out tomatoes might still be something of a mystery.

Although, perhaps it was just me that didn’t get it.

Anyway, the bottom line is pinching out tomato plants is just another way of describing how to prune tomato plants to get the best fruit from you plant.

So, this applies specifically to cordon tomatoes, which are tomatoes that grow long and tall and will continue to grow from the growing point at the top of the stem.

As long as you let them, they will just keep growing. And that’s really the essence of what this is all about.

tomato plants
Tomato plant by gkdavie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

These kinds of tomatoes will continue to put on growth all through the growing season, which is good because it means you get big plants and potentially more tomatoes.

But, because for most people in most places in the world, there’s a limit to the growing season, there are only so many tomatoes that are going to mature and ripen during the course of the season.

So what you need to do is to some extent limit the amount of growth that these cordon tomatoes put on.

And the way that you do that, once you’ve got, four to 6 trusses of tomatoes developing on the plant, is to stop the growing point. The growing point is the absolute top of the tomato plant where it is continuing to grow from.

You can just literally cut the top of the stem off, and that would stop the tomato plant from growing at that point.

It won’t then grow any bigger and that allows the tomato to put all the energy that it draws up from the soil into maturing the existing fruits.

Pinching out tomato plants

The other point – and this is where we come back to pinching out tomato side shoots – is that tomatoes not only want to grow upwards like this one, but they also want to put on shoots coming out from the leaf axils – the point between the leaves and the stem.

So those shoots – the side shoots – would then develop into another whole stem, with a growing point from which more fruit trusses could develop. And these cordon tomatoes will try to do that in each of the leaf axils.

Pruning out side-shoots

These are the shoots that you want to pinch out.

Because if you let them grow on, then they will again continue to take energy from what you’re really trying to achieve, which is a reasonably limited number of good fruit trusses that can develop and give you your perfect tomatoes.

[Indicates side- shoot] So this is the point. It’s these. These are the things you need to pinch out.

These are the side shoots, and pinching out is simple.

They will easily break off.

And you can see where I’ve done it previously.

Here you can see [indicates mark on stem] when I went on holiday and the side-shoot was allowed to develop for quite some time, so it became quite big.

But I could still cut that off and allow the tomato plant to develop along this line to this growing point at the top.

So that is the principal.

And the interesting thing about these about tomatoes is that they’ll somehow find a way to keep putting out these side shoots.

There’s one down here quite near the bottom of the plant that I think I probably may have pinched that one out before. But it’s grown another side shoot and it’s getting quite long.

pruning tomato plants

So out it comes. I’ll take that one out again.

So that leaves you with one clear line of growth up your plant. You may have a sort of cut off, a change of direction point like I’ve got here, but it’s still one clear line going up to the top.

Even at the top there as a side shoot developing near the growing point. And technically, you could choose to leave that side shoot and take out the current growing and the plant would grow from the [side- shoot].

But I won’t because this this main growing point has already developed a flower truss, and there’s another one developing. So, we’ll break this little one off there.

So there you: are pinching out tomatoes.

Pinch out your tomato plant side shoots to develop a single line of growth to ensure that you’ve got all the energy going into the fruit production, which is what you want.

Pinching out tomatoes
Tomatoes by Ajith_chatie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What you might need for growing tomatoes

No products found.

No products found.

What you might need for growing tomatoes – UK Buyers

Learn more about growing vegetables

Check out these posts for more on growing your edible plants:

How to grow zucchini – this is the ultimate guide to growing this delicious squash.

How to get the best from your basil.

How to prick you tour tomato seedlings.

Here is what to do if your tomatoes are not ripening and turning red.

How far apart to plant tomato plants

More on growing tomatoes

  • Why do tomatoes get black on the bottom (blossom end rot)?
    Facebook X Pinterest It feels like I invest a lot of time, energy and emotion into growing and ripening tomatoes. So, it is always a worry to see a tomato plant looking diseased or distressed in some way.  It is especially concerning when the developing fruit are …

    Read more

  • How far apart to plant tomatoes
    How far apart to plant tomatoes in your garden depends on the type of tomatoes you are growing and, to some extent, on how much space you have. A good guide for the typical home garden is as follows: Indeterminate (cordon or vine) tomatoes should be spaced …

    Read more

  • Pinching out tomato plants – pruning side shoots
    The video below is all about pruning or pinching out tomato plants, in particular pinching out the side shoots of tomato plants. If you want to know how to prune tomato plants, this is basically what you need to know. In the video: Transcript: How to pinch …

    Read more

  • Pricking out tomato seedlings: Video guide
    In the video below, I show you how to prick out tomato seedlings. Pricking out is the process of transplanting the tomato seedlings from their original seed tray into a pot so that they can grown on. Normally, they would then be grown on in the pot …

    Read more

  • Tomatoes not turning red and ripening? Here are 7 solutions
    Tomato plants will keep growing as long as you let them, and as long as they are not hit by frost. But, as you get towards the end of the growing season, you may find that your tomatoes won’t ripen and turn red. In this article, we …

    Read more

Love Dahlias?I've written the book on them

Check out my comprehensive step by step guide, with plain language explanations and ultra-useful images and illustrations. This is for you if you love dahlias and want to the best out of the dahlias you grow.

Leave a Comment