How to multiply tomatoes from cuttings (suckers)

Tomatoes, with their juicy fruits and versatility in the kitchen, are a staple in many gardens. While they’re commonly grown from seeds, you can also propagate new tomato plants from cuttings, specifically from suckers. Follow these steps to multiply tomatoes from suckers and expand your tomato harvest:

  1. Identifying Suckers:
    • Suckers are the small shoots that develop in the crotch joints where the main stem meets the branches of a tomato plant. They often appear as small, leafy growths emerging from the junction of the main stem and branches.
  2. Selecting Healthy Suckers:
    • Choose suckers that are vigorous and healthy, typically those that are 2-4 inches long and have a few sets of leaves.
    • Avoid suckers that are too small or too large, as they may have lower success rates when propagated.
  3. Removing Suckers:
    • Use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to carefully remove the selected suckers from the parent tomato plant. Make clean cuts just below the lowest set of leaves, ensuring that each cutting has a portion of the main stem attached.
  4. Preparing Cuttings:
    • Strip off the lower leaves from each cutting, leaving only the topmost set of leaves intact.
    • If desired, dip the cut end of each sucker in rooting hormone powder to promote faster root development. While optional, rooting hormone can increase the success rate of propagation.
  5. Potting Mix:
    • Prepare a well-draining potting mix or rooting medium suitable for propagating cuttings. A mix of perlite and peat moss or a commercial rooting mix works well.
    • Fill small pots or seedling trays with the potting mix, pressing it down gently to remove any air pockets.
  6. Planting Suckers:
    • Insert the prepared tomato suckers into the potting mix, burying them about 1-2 inches deep. Ensure that the leafy portion remains above the soil surface.
    • Space the suckers evenly apart to allow room for root development and airflow.
  7. Watering and Humidity:
    • Water the newly planted suckers thoroughly to settle the soil around them.
    • Place the pots or trays in a warm, bright location with indirect sunlight. Covering the cuttings with a clear plastic dome or placing them in a humidity dome can help maintain moisture levels and encourage rooting.
  8. Root Development:
    • Keep the potting mix consistently moist, but not waterlogged, as the tomato suckers develop roots.
    • After 2-3 weeks, check for signs of root development by gently tugging on the suckers. If you feel resistance, it indicates that roots have formed.
  9. Transplanting:
    • Once the suckers have developed a healthy root system, they can be transplanted into larger pots or directly into the garden.
    • Choose a sunny location with well-draining soil for transplanting, and space the tomato plants at least 18-24 inches apart to allow for their mature size.
  10. Care and Maintenance:
    • Continue to water the newly transplanted tomato plants regularly, especially during hot, dry weather.
    • Provide support for the growing tomato plants as they mature, using stakes or cages to prevent them from toppling over under the weight of their fruits.
    • Prune the plants as needed to remove any unwanted growth and encourage strong, bushy growth.
  11. Harvesting:
    • As the propagated tomato plants mature, they will begin to produce fruits that can be harvested and enjoyed fresh or used in cooking.
    • Monitor the plants regularly for ripe tomatoes, harvesting them as they reach their peak ripeness for the best flavor and texture.

By following these steps, you can successfully multiply tomatoes from suckers and enjoy a bountiful harvest of homegrown tomatoes. With proper care and attention, your propagated tomato plants will thrive and provide you with delicious fruits throughout the growing season.

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