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The Best Way to Root Tomato Cuttings


The best way to root tomato cuttings

Of all the vegetable plants I could grow, tomatoes are my absolute favorite. Yes, I know tomatoes are actually a fruit, but we all refer to them as vegetables. And they grow in the vegetable garden, so that's good enough for me.

I've never met a tomato I didn't like. Unless it came from the grocery store. Or at a restaurant in the deep of winter. Vine-ripened, fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes are the best!


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The first vegetable I ever grew as a child was carrots, but after that I grew tomatoes. Dad dug up a strip of the back yard one year, added a one-foot-high picket fence to keep our pet tortoise out (he loved tomatoes too), and we planted cherry tomatoes and nasturtiums. He and I loved tomatoes, and summer evenings often found us in the little garden watering our plants and eating ripe cherry tomatoes right off the vine.

Dad taught me that too much water will result in beautiful tomato plants but few tomatoes. Well, he taught me a lot more than that. Life lessons, patience, respect for others, and how to pronounce words correctly. That was a big deal to him. He also taught me how to figure out his bowling average. I hated that chore, but I was having trouble in math class so it became my weekly task. Now that I think about it, it was my job to figure out his gas mileage too.

How to root tomato cuttings in water

Anyway, I still eat cherry tomatoes while standing in the garden, just like Dad and I did so many years ago. The larger tomatoes are saved for meals, but very few of the cherry tomatoes actually make it to the kitchen. I usually plant several different varieties of tomatoes - last year I tried Black Cherry and Snow White - and I always have more plants than I really need.

Last year my seedlings were ready to transplant to the garden when spring break arrived and I traveled to visit my grandchildren in another state. I left my hardened-off seedlings on a bench in the front yard while I was gone. We had a late freeze that lasted two days, and although hubby covered them with an upside-down pot, the cold was too intense and my tomato plants all died.

Everybody else in the area had the same problem and they all went shopping and bought replacement plants, except me because I was out of town. I was able to find a few plants of various kinds but not as many as I usually plant.

So I took some cuttings and doubled the number of tomato plants in my garden.

Did you know you can root tomato plants? And how easy it is to have twice as many tomato plants? Tomatoes are, I think, the easiest plant in the vegetable garden to propagate.

Disclaimer: I don't grow determinate varieties of tomato plants, so I have only done this with indeterminate types. Your mileage may vary if you use a determinate variety. You'll find this information on the seed packet or on the tag when you buy your transplants.


How to root tomato plants


The trickiest part is finding the suckers on your tomato plants. And that really isn't hard either.

Look at your tomato plants near the top, where two branches form a fork. Look for a third stem, one that comes out of the middle of that "fork." That new branch is a sucker.

Root your tomato cuttings in water for twice the plants!

Many tomato growers will tell you to remove the suckers, saying that pruning your tomato plants in this way will give you more delicious tomatoes.

If you're cutting the suckers off anyway, instead of throwing them away let's root them, plant them, and have a few more plants. Now that's how you get more delicious tomatoes!


Cut off the suckers


Once you've identified a sucker, cut it off with pruners or pinch it with your fingernails. A sucker about four inches or more in length is a good size. Remove the lower set of leaves, leaving two sets at the top.

How to root tomato cuttings

The sucker in the photo has a leaf node on the stem, but it isn't necessary for your cutting to have one. In fact, I cut the stem above the leaf node after taking this photo, because it was longer than I needed it to be. New roots will grow from the tiny hairs on the stem.


Grow new roots


I stick the suckers in a glass of water to grow new roots. It will take about a week, more or less.

How to root tomato cuttings

You can simply stick the suckers in the ground instead and water them well, but in my opinion, the best way to root tomato cuttings is in water.


Plant your new tomato plants


When the suckers grow roots, plant them in the ground. Keep them well-watered until the roots have become established.

Here's the best way to root tomato cuttings

OR if you prefer you can plant them in small pots (I use plastic cups with a hole punched in the bottom) until they are well-rooted and established, then transplant into the garden just like you did your original plants.

A good layer of compost and a handful of crushed eggshells in the bottom of the planting hole will get them off to a good start.


Feed your tomato plants


Tomatoes are heavy feeders so they need some help throughout the gardening season. You'll find some excellent advice on feeding your tomato plants at Epic Gardening.

I like to use comfrey tea or compost tea on my vegetable plants every couple of weeks. Comfrey tea is easy to make and so good for your plants.


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More on growing tomatoes


Rooting tomato cuttings isn't the only way to get more tomato plants for free - if you have volunteer tomato plants spring up in your garden, transplant those to the tomato patch too. You may or may not know what variety they will be - they might even be a hybrid between two varieties you grew last year - but they are free tomato plants that will produce free tomatoes!

When they're large enough, use one of these six ways to trellis your tomato plants. Your plants will be much healthier and you'll have a better harvest than if you let them sprawl on the ground.

You can preserve any variety of tomatoes, even if they aren't paste tomatoes. Then use some of those preserved tomatoes to make this delicious roasted tomato soup to go with your grilled cheese sandwich. There's nothing better than this taste of summer in the dead of winter.

When the gardening season draws to a close, save your tomato seeds so you can plant them next year. Plants that grow in your garden year after year from seeds you've saved adapt to your soil and your micro-climate. You'll have a bountiful harvest every year.


Root tomato cuttings in water for free plants!

You can double your tomato harvest by growing more plants, and here's how to do it for FREE!



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11 comments

  1. I'm a faithful reader and felt the first time to reply as this is definitely a wealth of information--Thank you! We grow Comfrey and must say that we found it to be a garden's number one friend. But be careful, as Comfrey is very permanent due to it's very deep root structure. And, if you happen to cut a root anywhere, you're sure to have another plant, whether you want one or not:) We keep a barrel of rain water with Comfrey leaves and goldfish (which are going on 9 yrs old - from the Comfrey?? who knows?) and the submerged "rotting" leaves combined with the goldfish "droppings," has made quite a difference in our garden - esp in Northern Michigan where summers are very short and outside planting doesn't take place until mid-June in some years. You can apply this "sucker" method to some roses, too!

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    Replies
    1. Sharon, I must ask! Do you move the goldfish indoors during the winter when the water freezes? Or does it not freeze completely in the barrel? I love this idea!

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    2. Yes, Kathi, we move them inside for winter into a simple fish tank. We keep two quart jars of Comfrey water handy so when it's clean tank time, adding some c/water isn't does not make much of a shock to them, and keeps them in familiar waters. This, of course, is a task taken on by my teenage son so see how long he can keep them alive. You can, of course, can get new ones each year, and don't feel the need to disclose what happens to them at the end of each year;)

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  2. What great information! We always plant entirely too many tomatoes each year! Maybe I need to start with less and use this method and save myself from an overabundance next year! Thanks for sharing such great info!

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    Replies
    1. I'm going light on this year's tomato plants but not out of choice. They keep dying. Sigh.

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  3. I enjoyed reading about your memories of your Dad, Kathi! I used to grow tomatoes with my late Dad too. He used to hold a competition with my Grandpa every year for who had the first tomatoes to bear fruit. There's nothing like home grown tomatoes and you've shared some wonderful tips here for growing them frugally and prolifically! Sharing on the H&S Facebook page later today. Thank you so much for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link party!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind comments, April. I loved hearing about the competition between your Dad and Grandpa!

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  4. I need to try this in the fall...starting my own seedlings in spring seems to be problematic sometimes and I get tired of buying new seeds! Thanks for sharing on Farm Fresh Tuesdays!

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad it was interesting, Lisa. I started with four purchased plants this spring plus some volunteers that came up. After rooting some cuttings I have a good size tomato garden and I gave away several to friends and family too!

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  5. Hi Kathi! Love this article, so I am going to be featuring it on tomorrow's Farm Fresh Tuesday's Blog Hop (6/25/19)! Thanks so much for participating! :-)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Tamara! I can't wait to see it!

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