Pruning for thicker tomatoes stems

Not talking about pruning the suckers, but topping the tomatoes young seedlings (before any blossoms appear). I read in a forum that this is how one obtains the look of brushy young plants with thick stems on sale in gardening centres.

Have anybody tried that? How should this be done? I try to read more on this subject but couldn’t find more information.

Make sure you know if your tomato is determinate or indeterminate . Some tomatoes are meant to be pruned and stems can be snapped off, others will be hurt by this. This information will be found on the seed packet, or seedling label, and can be found online/in books.

If you want a short, bushy tomato plant, choose a variety that is meant to be short and bushy. There are 100s of types of tomato plants available.

Lol! Thanks for the reminder. I’m grafting some tomatoes tomorrow, just wondering I should keep the seedlings without the tops. Guess I should, and will report back.

What at forum?

I like , but think it might be frustrating to register.

I almost always top peppers, but I have never topped tomatoes. Interesting . Removing all but the top row or so of leaves and planting that deep is what I usually do with tomatoes, so I’ll be interested to read about your results!

For short and bushy I love Dwarf Tomato Project

1 Like

This is similar to what I do. I don’t remove the leaves, but I do plant pretty deep. My understanding was that it led to better rooting. And my tomatoes have been quite successful for the past few years (100+ sungolds from one plant!).


I wish I had tried this as an experiment last year when I had all the tomato plants!

I read it so long ago I don’t remember where. If you can’t dig a deep enough hole, because of rocky soil or whatever, you’re supposed to dig a trench and lay the plant in it, carefully bending the top up and covering the rest of the stem. That works, too.

Oh not that part - I buried the stems. I meant the topping off part.

Oh, I don’t do that. It seems violent!

1 Like

Ha. But it appears to be very effective at strengthening the main stem and increasing overall yield for both tomatoes and small peppers.

I topped a few seedlings that have 4-6 leaves. They have 2-3 leaves left. Will report back how things go.

About burying of roots, there are years I buried the stems deeply without benting, there were years I did the benting. General feeling it worked slightly better like you said if the stem is bent to L shape to root.

Another point even more important is the health of the young plants. If left too long in a small pot and the stem starts to be stiff and thin, then L shape stem planting won’t change much, like @shrinkrap mentioned in the other thread, pot up is important for tomatoes, for more sturdy plants.

How much do you cut? I’ve a few peppers this year too.

Brushing the seedlings or using a fan to create motion seems useful.

1 Like

I use a few techniques, depending on the plant and how its growing. I used to get my ideas from a Google group including Khang Starr, aka the double cup guy, but alas, Google groups is no more.

Here’s one of his YouTube

This is from a different source.

Hopefully it’s obvious we are talking about a different species, but it’s a similar idea.

1 Like

Here’s some peppers I pruned sort of like the video. 2019. These are chinenses. Look at the size of those leaves!

A few weeks later, on the right. Seedling from @bogman 's Aji Amarillo seeds on the left.

Now I’m thinking my overwintered Aji Amarillo and Scotch Bonnet from the 2021 veggie thread were seeded in 2019, and are on their third season.

When I could garden reliably, I well remember visiting seedlings in the basement and just running my hands over them. It wasn’t intended to strengthen them. It was purely because it felt good to me.

1 Like

Indeed, air movement shakes the stem and causes the plants to produce more structural support and fiber; cells are toughened. This is true with foliage, as well. Alliums benefit from air. Indoors, as naf suggests, a fan works well. You want the plants shaking just a little bit.

I never bother pruning tomatoes or peppers and the yields always seem excellent. The only tomato or pepper pruning are the branches too close to the soil get cut off. In very hot, sunny places like CA, it may make sense to prune and make a shady leafy covering so the fruits don’t sun scald.

1 Like

Those chinense leaves are huge! As they say out here “day-um”!

1 Like

Here the same species growing under the light, the right one is top pruned about 10 days ago, you can see a lot of new growth.

New growth even at the place where the false leaf fell off.

Can’t see big differences in stem thickness between the pruned and un-pruned plants yet.

Another top pruned plant…

This year is particularly cold, will wait a few more days to transplant them outdoor…

1 Like
“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold