How to Root Tomato Cuttings and Double the Plants in Your Garden

A young Snow White tomato plant growing in the garden.

Tomato plants are super easy to root from cuttings. You can double the number of tomato plants in your garden using this method. Learn how to identify tomato suckers and how to propagate tomato plants the easy way.

How 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 everyone refers 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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Why I love growing tomatoes

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. 

Dad 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.

Six cherry tomatoes in a woman's hand

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. 

Why you might need more tomato plants

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 upside-down pots, 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.

Tomatoes are easy to grow and it's easy to root new plants

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. Learn the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomato varieties here.

How to find suckers on 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 in the middle is a sucker.

A tomato plant with blossoms. A "sucker" growing in the fork of two branches is identified with an arrow.

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

A woman's hand holding a sucker removed from a tomato plant. The lower leaves have been removed from this tomato branch.

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 in water

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

Several new roots growing from a tomato cutting

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.

Three plastic cups with soil and rooted tomato plants growing in them.

Or root them in the dirt

If you prefer you can stick the suckers 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 or around your compost pile, you can 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 delicious, 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.

Tomato plants love heat and hot weather. You'll find my recommendations for more warm-weather vegetables to grow in your summer raised bed garden here.

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 after a few seasons. You'll have a bountiful harvest every year.


How to root tomato cuttings 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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