Ahh, tomatoes. This versatile fruit is one of the most popular garden plants to grow worldwide because of its prolific yields and out-of-this-world flavours compared to store-bought tomatoes.
That being said, there are a few issues you might run into when learning to grow tomato plants.
Some of the questions you might ask are: “Should I pinch tomato flowers off my plants?” and “Is it too early for my tomato plants to have flowers on them?“.
Let’s take a look at these questions and discuss best practices around pinching tomato flowers.
You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but more tomato flowers usually mean more tomatoes. So, why would you want to pinch off tomato flowers? Keep reading to find out because I will explain why pinching flowers will benefit your tomato plants.
When should you pinch off tomato plant flowers?
These are the main situations where pinching tomato flowers off your plants makes sense:
- You haven’t transplanted your tomato seedlings outside yet, but they already have flowers.
- When your tomato plants are less than .6 meters (2 feet) tall and are starting to flower.
Pinching off tomato plant flowers that appear before the plant has been transplanted to its final growing area is generally a good idea. When a small tomato plant begins to become rootbound in its nursery pot, it might start pushing out flowers, indicating that it doesn’t have room to continue developing its root system.
Since a strong and healthy root system is so critical to the health of your tomato plant, it’s a good idea to avoid letting your tomato plants start to flower in their initial containers. This isn’t always possible, so if it does happen, simply pinch off the flowers and transplant them into the garden or wherever you plan to let them grow.
Pinching those first flowers off will allow the tomato plant to focus on expanding its root system, which is exactly what you want. Healthy roots mean that your tomato plants can access more nutrition from the soil around them. A robust root system does a lot for the stability of your plants, too – especially if you live in a relatively windy area.
If tomato plants are focusing their energy on fruiting (which happens once they start punching out flowers) before they’ve gotten the chance to develop a thick stem and strong roots, they are much more likely to struggle and produce fewer tomatoes during their lifespan.
Pros of pinching your first round of tomato flowers
There are several main benefits to allowing your tomato plants to focus on leaf, root, and stem growth before pushing out flowers and fruit. Here are 5 of the main reasons that pinching your first few tomato flowers is a good idea.
1. Potential to grow more tomatoes
The more robust, more advanced root system of a plant that had adequate time to develop its roots before focusing on flowering means that the plant will have the stability to support more tomatoes.
Along with a more extensive root system, you can also expect plants that have their first round of flowers pinched off to grow bigger, growing more branches that produce more tomatoes.
2. Better support for your tomato plants
Flimsy tomato plants that start fruiting too early are dwarfed by plants that get their first few flowers pinched off. The extra stem development means a thicker and sturdier main stem for your tomato plant, so it’s better balanced and might not need as much support as a plant left to its own devices.
3. Better tasting & more nutritious tomatoes
Another benefit of a strong root system on a tomato plant is that more roots mean more access to nutrients. Those nutrients your plant drinks through its roots get translated into more flavorful tomatoes with more significant nutritional value.
You’d be surprised at how different two tomatoes of the same species taste when one is from a thriving plant with an extensive root system and another is from a plant that struggled more and flowered too early.
4. Avoiding blossom end rot
Blossom end rot happens when your tomato plants don’t take up enough calcium through their roots. It’s super frustrating to deal with (you know this already if you’ve had experience with blossom end rot), and once it shows up, it’s difficult to correct. One way to avoid blossom end rot is by helping your tomato plants develop the most vigorous roots possible before allowing them to start flowering.
Of course, this isn’t a foolproof way to avoid blossom end rot because sometimes your soil is deficient in calcium or the pH is too low to effectively absorb the calcium, which are separate issues to address. But if your tomato plants have strong roots, they are less likely to get affected by blossom end rot.
5. More robust foliage
Plants with more foliage tend to have more branches, and as a result, they produce more fruits. In addition, the increased leaf cover helps to protect the fruits from sun damage and predators.
While more foliage does mean that the plants require more water and nutrients, the increased yield is often worth the extra effort. As any gardener knows, a healthy tomato plant can produce an abundance of delicious fruits that can be enjoyed all summer long.
Why is a tomato plant’s root development so important?
The roots of a tomato plant are critical for absorbing the nutrients that the plant needs to grow. The roots are typically located in the top six inches of soil, where they can access a high concentration of nutrients.
The roots are covered in tiny hairs, which help to increase the surface area that can come into contact with nutrient-rich soil. Once the roots have absorbed nutrients, they transport them to the rest of the plant through the stem. A bigger root system is generally better than a smaller one because it can absorb more nutrients.
What happens if your tomato plants flower too early?
If the plants flower too early, they may not have enough time to develop tomatoes. This can stunt the plant’s growth and prevent it from bearing fruit at all. In some cases, early flowering can also lead to more petite, less flavorful tomatoes.
To avoid this problem, gardeners should make sure their tomato plants have enough sun and water. They should also fertilize regularly and pinch off any early flowers that appear. By taking these precautions, gardeners can ensure that their tomato plants will produce an abundant harvest of tasty fruits.
FAQs About Tomato Flowers
It’s no secret that growing tomatoes can present difficulties, especially your first few times or after moving to a new climate. So, it’s normal to have some questions!
Let’s go over some of the most commonly asked questions about pinching tomato flowers and related questions you might be wondering about.
When should I pinch my tomato flowers?
Pinching off the first round of tomato flowers is typically done right before the plant is translated outdoors or within the following couple of weeks, before reaching around 0.6 meters (2 feet) tall. This is the ideal time to pinch off your tomato flowers and let your plants focus on the root, leaf, and stem development.
Should I remove some tomato flowers from my plants?
Only if your tomato plants are small! Once they are over 2 feet tall, it’s questionable if removing the flowers will help them. Once your tomato plants are well-established, there is rarely a need to pinch off tomato flowers.
What to do when tomatoes start flowering?
If your tomato plants have started flowering and they are less than 2 feet tall, you should pinch off the flowers to encourage root growth. If they are taller than 2 feet, be patient and enjoy your tomatoes when they finally show up!
When to stop tomato plants growing?
This is going to depend on how much space you have available to grow your tomato plants, as well as what variety of tomatoes you’re growing. Determinate tomato plants (also called bush tomatoes) usually only grow to about 3-4 feet tall and should rarely be pruned, as they will stop growing on their own.
Indeterminate tomato plants will grow until they are killed off by frost, pests, or disease, so you might have to reign them in. For indeterminate tomato plants, you can stop them from growing too tall or wide by pruning them so that they fit into their allotted garden space.
Can there be too many flowers on my tomato plants?
Nope! Flowers on tomato plants are an excellent sign that your tomatoes are doing well. Too many tomato flowers on a plant can cause too much competition for nutrients for all those tomatoes to develop, but the plant will typically drop the flowers it cannot support. So, don’t worry about stepping in if you notice this issue – the tomato plant will correct itself.
How to pinch tomato plant flowers?
You can use a pair of garden scissors or clippers to pinch flowers off your tomato plants. You can also pinch flowers off by gently using your thumb and forefinger to pull the flower off the tomato plant. Either way is effective – it’s a personal preference situation.
Does pinching early tomato flowers hurt my plants?
One of the most challenging tasks for many gardeners is pinching early flowers off their tomato plants. Pinching early flowers off your tomato plants is beneficial for the plant’s health.
The extra energy that would have gone into producing fruit is instead redirected into developing a strong root system and robust foliage. So while it may be difficult to do at first, pinching early flowers off your tomato plants is actually good for the health of the plant—and your eventual harvest.
Tomato plants can be tricky to get right at first, but with a little care and some know-how, you can produce an abundant harvest of these delicious fruits. In this article, we’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about pinching tomato flowers – when to do it and what happens if you don’t pinch them off. So, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, we hope this article has been helpful!