If you’re a gardener, then you know that propagation is the key to expanding your garden. And if there’s one plant that’s easy to propagate, it’s the tomato.
All you need are a few simple supplies and a little time, and you can have a thriving tomato patch or a staggered harvest of fall tomatoes in no time. Ready to learn how? Keep reading.
What are tomato cuttings?
Have you ever wondered how to propagate your favorite tomato plants or get more tomato plants for free? Look no further than the humble tomato cutting. A tomato cutting is a small segment of a mature tomato plant that is cut off and used to grow a new plant.
And best of all, tomato cuttings are completely free. Who needs to spend money on store-bought seedlings when you can easily grow your own? Give tomato cuttings a try and witness the magic of plant propagation firsthand.
Let’s get into the fine details if you’re looking for a more extended tutorial on how to propagate tomato cuttings.
Why propagate tomato cuttings?
One of the benefits of propagating tomato cuttings is that it allows for greater genetic diversity and adaptation in your plants. Taking cuttings from multiple parent plants can create a larger genetic pool for your tomatoes to draw from. This can result in plants that have stronger disease resistance and can better withstand harsh weather conditions.
Free additional plants, more tomatoes
My favorite reason to propagate tomato cuttings is to plant those cuttings as a second round of tomato plants. I harvest these plants in the fall after the first round of tomato plants have withered away. Propagating tomato cuttings is a little less work than planting another round of seeds for a staggered harvest. Because of that, I always make time to take some cuttings from my tomato plants to add to the garden later in the season.
Keeping old heirlooms alive
Propagating tomato cuttings helps to save old heirloom varieties that may not be easily accessible through traditional seed sources. Growing tomatoes from cuttings create more seeds and ensures that these unique types can continue to thrive and be passed down for generations.
Not only does propagating tomato cuttings offer practical benefits, but it also adds a sense of adventure and excitement as you watch your new plants grow and develop distinct characteristics.
How to take cuttings from a tomato plant
Step 1: Take your cuttings
The first step is choosing a healthy “mother” plant with several stems. Cut 3-6″ strong side shoots from your tomato plants using a sharp, sanitized knife or garden clippers. Cut down the number of leaves – there should only be a few. Remove any flowers from your cuttings. The shoot should be healthy, with just a few leaves at the top.
Step 2: Root the cuttings
Next, use a rooting hormone powder to stimulate more roots to grow and increase the success rate of your propagation efforts. Dip the bottom inch of the ends of the cuttings in rooting hormone and tap off the excess. Place the cuttings into small cups, glasses, or containers full of water. Alternatively, place them straight into containers full of well-aerated potting mix. Add some well-rotted compost, perlite, or vermiculite into your garden soil if your potting mix or soil isn’t light and fluffy.
Step 3: Provide light and water
Thoroughly water the compost, then locate a warm greenhouse for the pots. If it’s too hot, the little cuttings will die before they have a chance to grow — especially if their leaves are wet. If you don’t have a greenhouse, set your cuttings on a windowsill or in an area of your home that receives lots of light. You can simulate a greenhouse effect by placing a clear plastic bag over the top of the pot.
Step 4: Harden them off
Wait for your cuttings to begin to grow roots and create new foliage before beginning the hardening-off process. After this, you can transplant them into their home for the rest of the season.
To harden off your seedlings, start placing them outdoors for small increments of time and slowly increase the amount of time they spend outdoors over the course of two weeks. Start with 1-2 hours of shaded outdoor time on the first day and increase that time by 1-2 hours per day. Introduce them to full sun during the second week. By the end of two weeks, your seedling should be ready for transplanting.
Step 5: Pot them up or transplant them into the garden
For container gardening, tomatoes can generally use 5-10 gallon containers, clay pots, or fabric grow bags. You can use a smaller container for micro dwarf tomatoes or smaller, determinate varieties.
For outdoor, in-ground gardening, dig a hole, prepare the tomato planting hole with any soil amendments as usual, and plant your tomato seedling deep, with as much of the stem buried as possible to support vigorous root growth.
Wherever you choose to plant your new tomatoes, water the seedlings deeply, mulch them, and feed them with a dose of water-soluble fertilizer so those nutrients can become available to them immediately. Then, you can treat them like any tomato plant in your garden.
When to transplant tomato cuttings?
Timing is everything. Many gardeners choose to start their tomatoes indoors, and transplants typically occur once the seedlings have at least 2-3 true leaves and a strong root system.
For cuttings, you want to see new growth on the plant as well as vigorous roots. The roots should be 2-3 inches long before attempting to transplant them into the garden.
Be careful not to keep tomato cuttings in their pots for too long. As they continue to grow, their roots may become pot-bound, and they can struggle to establish themselves in their new outdoor home.
It’s also important to pay attention to the weather – transplanting during a period of extreme heat or cold can shock the plants and potentially kill them. Ideally, wait for a mild day with some light rain in the forecast. This will give your tomato cuttings a chance to settle into their new soil without stress from harsh weather conditions.
Tips on how to get the most out of your tomato propagation efforts
1. Start with healthy plants
The first step to successful tomato propagation is to start with healthy plants. Look for plants that are free from disease and pests, and have strong, green leaves. Avoid any plants that look sickly or have yellowing leaves, as these will be more difficult to propagate.
2. Try different tomato varieties
Not all tomatoes are created equal when it comes to propagation. Some varieties are easier to propagate than others, so choosing a variety that is known to be easy to grow from cuttings is important. Some of the best varieties for propagation include Rutgers, Better Boy, and Brandywine. Experiment with propagating cuttings from different varieties. Don’t forget to take notes when your propagation efforts work notably well or if they don’t pan out.
3. Take cuttings in the late spring or early summer
The best time to take cuttings from your tomato plants is in the late spring or early summer when the plants are actively growing. Avoid cutting cuttings from flowering or fruiting plants since these will be more difficult to root.
4. Use a sanitized sharp knife or pair of scissors
When taking cuttings from your tomato plants, be sure to use a sharp knife or pair of scissors. This will help to prevent damage to the plant and make it easier for the cutting to take root. Sanitizing any tools you use during gardening is generally smart. Multiple common tomato diseases spread easily when using tools to propagate or prune, so always take care to clean and sterilize your tools before using them.
5. Place cuttings in water or moistened soil
Once you have taken your cuttings, immediately place them in water or moist soil, even if you plan to put them in separate containers. This will help keep the cuttings from drying until they can be rooted or placed into their own container.
6. Keep cuttings warm and humid
To encourage your tomato cuttings to root, it’s important to keep them warm and humid. One way to do this is by placing them in a plastic baggie with a few holes punched. Another option is to place them on a heat mat set on low heat – switch off the heat mat once the plants begin to root since heat mats can damage tender seedling roots.
FAQ for propagating tomato cuttings
Can I use a rooting hormone when propagating my tomato cuttings?
While some gardeners use rooting hormones, they are unnecessary for propagating tomato plants. Rooting hormones can boost your cuttings and the number of cuttings that you successfully take, but it’s not required. If you plan to propagate tomato cuttings without rooting powder, just take a few extra cuttings to account for rooting failures.
Do I need to fertilize my tomato plants after propagating them?
It is not necessary to fertilize your tomato plants after propagating them. However, if you notice that the leaves are yellowing or the plant is struggling in some way, you may want to fertilize it with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. Be sure not to over-fertilize, as this can damage the roots and stunt the plant’s growth.
What are some common problems when propagating tomato plants?
Some common problems when propagating tomato plants include root rot, which can be caused by too much moisture, and leaf spot, which is a fungal disease that can be spread easily in humid conditions. These problems can be avoided by taking care to choose healthy plants to propagate, using sterile tools, and keeping the cuttings warm and humid but not wet. If you do notice any problems with your tomato plants after propagating them, be sure to take steps to address the issue right away.
How long does it take tomato cuttings to root?
It can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks for tomato cuttings to root. The time will vary depending on the variety of tomatoes, the conditions in which the cutting is kept, and whether or not a rooting hormone is used. Be patient and keep an eye on your cuttings – you’ll know they’ve rooted when you see new growth.
Can you overwinter tomato cuttings?
Yes, you can overwinter tomato cuttings. However, it’s important to take care of the plants and ensure they get enough light and water. It’s also a good idea to fertilize them every few weeks to keep them healthy. If you live in an area with cold winters, you may want to consider bringing the plants indoors to overwinter them.
Will tomato cuttings root in water?
Yes, tomato cuttings can root in water. However, water can cause the roots to rot, so be sure to keep an eye on the cuttings and change the water regularly if you choose this method.
Why are my tomato cuttings not rooting in water?
There are a few reasons why your tomato cuttings may not be rooting in water. One possibility is that the water is too cold. Roots need warm temperatures to grow, so be sure to use water that is at least room temperature. Another possibility is that the water is too dirty. Roots need clean water to grow, so be sure to change the water regularly. It’s also possible that the cuttings are not getting enough light – roots need sunlight to grow, so be sure to place them in a bright spot.
Do I need to prune my tomato plants after propagating them?
No, you do not need to prune your tomato plants after propagating them. However, you may want to trim off any leaves that are yellowing or dying. This will help the plant focus its energy on growing roots and new leaves.
I hope these tips on propagating tomato plants from cuttings were helpful! Remember to take notes on what works well for you and your plants, and feel free to experiment with different varieties of tomatoes. With a little patience and practice, you’ll be a pro at propagating tomato plants in no time.