To remove shoots or not on tomatoes

There are basically three types of tomatoes and various ways to treat them. So I will explain how to treat each type .

 Cordon or Indeterminate Tomato Variety
 Your  standard upright growing plant. Remove all side shoots once a week, unless you damage the head or have pinched it out by mistake, in this case leave one shoot to take over the head.
Leaves. Remove the tiny seedling leaves after the plant is about six inches high. The rest of the leaves should be left on as long as possible, as a rule of thumb, remove the leaves as the plant grows below the ripening truss, or if you see a damaged or weak leaf. Other leaves can be removed to give a good air circualtion, but only a few between each truss. If the fruit is exposed to too much sun, they will ripen too early.
If you are using the arch system and growing you plants over the top of the path, then only remove the leaves that are hanging down to give you head room.
Stopping the plant. Tomatoes can grow to about 20 feet in length or longer, if looked after correctly, but I do not think many gardeners will grow them that length. The best time to stop them is a month before the end of the season, or if you feel they are looking past their best. Stopping the head will let the plant concentrate on the fruit set on the plant, and they all should mature and ripen correctly. Outdoor tomatoes, are usually grown to the top of the support cane, so obviously stop these earlier.

Bush or Determinate Tomato Varieties
Bush tomatoes differ in that they do not need side shoots removing and are effectively self stopping. Remove only lower leaves if they get damages by laying on the soil.
The drawback of this is that they take up more ground room, so are better grown outdoors if you need to get a good crop form your valuable coverered space in the greenhouse. They do not generally require much or any support but the fruits are often in contact with the ground, which means more vulnerable to slugs and other pests. So it is a good idea to give them a little support with a frame.  They can, in poor years, leave you with more green and under-developed fruits but you can compensate for this if you can get them off to an early start.

Dwarf Bush or ‘Hanging Basket’ Tomatoes
Unlike the standard determinate varieties of tomato, these are smaller plants usually giving cherry tomatoes and are bred to grow in containers such as hanging baskets. and again, you not need to remove side shoots or leaves.


  1. I have a tomato dilemma Mr TK. On my latest blog I have a twin stemmed tomato as an experiment. Do you think it will work? Will I get two plants from one root?

  2. I have put a comment on your blog Matron, but as bot are cordon, take the shoots off for the best results. Of course you would have two weaker plants, but one strong one is always better.

  3. Tho' I'm keen to keep plants open to air movement by removing lower leaves, I'm always a bit concerned about the risk of disease entering the wounds. I try to do it as neatly as possible.

    Matron, how about trying growing one stem from two roots ;-)

  4. Ian, when i grew commercially, we cut or snapped thousands of leaves off a week, there is more of a risk of disease from bad air circulation or old damaged leaves than by wounds. You could get a wound on the rare occassion, but that was probably because the plants were full of disease anyway. if you actually snap the leaf off it is a lot safer.


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