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How To Clone Tomato Plants From Cuttings

Tomato plants are pretty darn cool in that they can grow new roots anywhere along their stem.

If you’ve ever seen the knobby little bumps growing towards the bottom of your stems, these are just roots waiting to happen! The scientific name for them is root primordia.

Those knobby little bumps are baby roots.

Generally speaking, they usually only show up if your tomato plants are stressed. And it’s for this reason that you should always plant your tomatoes deeply in the soil. Those new roots will lead to healthy abundant plants.

But we can use this neat trick to our advantage.

You can root tomato plants from leaf cuttings and stems.

I’ve even accidentally snapped a tomato plant in half once and salvaged the plant by poking the top half back in the dirt.

If you want to create a few more tomato plants with those suckers you pinched off, or if your friend has an unusual heirloom tomato you’d like to grow, it’s easy enough to clone a few.

Step 1 – Remove a tomato “sucker” or side shoot

Removing “suckers” is an important pruning technique for growing high yielding tomato plants. We discuss in detail the process of removing tomato suckers in this tutorial here.

Suckers are side shoots that emerge from the “crotch” of the main stem and a branch, as shown below.

For the purposes of cloning your tomato plant from cuttings, you should allow your suckers to grow to 6 inches or more before pruning them – although for the purposes of growing healthy, productive tomato plants it is good practice to remove the suckers as soon as they emerge.

Step 2 – Root your tomato cutting

You can root your tomato cutting in water allowing the roots to form before placing into soil, or you can simply place your cutting straight in the dirt.

Water rooting or dirt rooting?

Rooting tomatoes is easy

Getting a tomato plant to root in water is easy enough. You’ll need a cutting at least six inches long. Just put the stem end in a cup of water. Make sure the leaves aren’t in the water, or they will rot. Remove any leaves if necessary. You want only the very bottom of the stem to be submerged.

In about a week or two you’ll see new roots. At this time, you can transplant your fledgling plant into dirt.

Because tomato plants naturally generate roots along their stem, you can just as easily poke your cutting or your stem into a pot of dirt. Give your new tomato clone a proper watering and call it a day.

Clone tomatoes from cuttings easily!

Either method works well, but I prefer the upfront approach of just planting straight in the dirt. It’s a lot less fuss.

If I’ve got an especially small cutting, then I might root it in water first. You’ll still want to plant it in a pot and give it a chance to get established before moving it into the garden.

Directly rooting in the dirt is quick and easy

The beautiful thing about directly rooting in the dirt, especially if you are using a substantial sized stem, is that it takes much less time to get your new plant established and on its way to producing tomatoes.

Because tomatoes are self-pollinating, you can even take a few cuttings from your plants in the fall and grow tomatoes indoors. You’ll need to fertilize them more frequently. Give the stems with flowers a little shake once a day to help pollination, or try some of these other tomato hand pollination techniques, and you’ll be enjoying fresh tomatoes in the middle of the winter.

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,