*This post may contain affiliate links for which I earn commissions.*
A few weeks ago I read an article that explained that it was possible to grow tomatoes from cuttings rather than just from seed. I had never even thought about doing this and was a little intrigued so I decided to give it a try and it really works!
I’ll explain exactly what I did so that you can easily try this yourself and have an endless supply of tomato plants to last the entire growing season.
How Do You Take The Cuttings?
Firstly you need to take your cuttings from the parent plant, which is more commonly referred to as rootstock when it is used for cutting material.
Most people know that it’s necessary to pinch out the lateral shoots when growing tomatoes so that you have one main stem from which the fruit will grow. This encourages the plant to put more energy into fruit production rather than green growth and also produces a nice straight plant which makes it easy to attach to a stake or any other support you may be using. To explain further, a lateral is a new growth that appears between existing leaves and the main stem.
Wait until this lateral growth is about 10cm long and a little firm (not too soft), then snip off with a pair of secateurs or pruning shears. I use recyclable clear plastic containers that I’ve kept from buying packaged produce in the supermarket, as mini-greenhouses for striking my cuttings, (see photo) but you could easily use recycled takeaway coffee cups, seedling trays, or small pots. Fill your cutting container with a good quality seed raising mix, compost, or potting mix. If you’re using coffee cups or small pots you can create your own mini ‘greenhouse’ by using a plastic soft drink bottle. Cut off the bottom and place it over your cutting. This helps to keep the cutting moist and creates a lovely warm environment for optimum root production.
Preparing The Cuttings
Once you have taken your cuttings it may be necessary to trim some of the green growth to decrease transpiration. I normally just cut any large leaves in half. Then it’s just a case of pushing your cutting stems into the growing medium. You might like to make a small hole with a pencil or dibbler first to avoid damaging the stem.
Caring For The Cuttings
One thing that I did learn while doing this experiment is that tomato cuttings are just as thirsty as growing tomato plants so it’s necessary to always keep the soil moist. At first, I was only misting the cuttings but as they were continuously looking a little limp, I ended up putting a plastic tray under my mini ‘greenhouse’ and just watered the soil every day. Once I did this I soon discovered that the little cuttings started producing roots after only a few days.
Potting Up Your New Tomato Plants
Once your little cuttings have started growing roots you can pot them up into some good potting mix or compost to allow them to grow to a decent size before planting them into your vegetable garden, a raised garden bed, or a larger pot if you intend to grow them to maturity on a balcony or patio.
Remember to keep them well-watered (daily or even twice a day if the weather is hot) and feed them at least once a week as they are very heavy feeders. I would use a fertilizer high in Nitrogen, to begin with, to encourage lots of green growth, and once they start setting fruit change to one high in potassium to encourage more fruiting.
What Are The Benefits Of Growing Tomatoes From Cuttings?
Apart from being able to quickly and easily produce more tomato plants in this way another benefit of producing tomato plants from cuttings is that they will start fruiting much sooner than seed-grown plants. I’ve even had one of the little plants start fruiting while still in the cutting tray.
What’s The Next Challenge?
My next challenge will be to take some cuttings just before the end of the growing season and try to over-winter them so that I can have plants ready to go for the next season.
At the moment I have 4 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes growing in the garden so I plan to propagate at least 2 to 3 cuttings of each variety and then I’ll try growing half the plants in a small greenhouse in a sunny spot outside and the other half inside near a warm windowsill.
Depending on how this goes, I may even invest in a grow light for the indoor plants or maybe get a couple of those smartpots to keep the seedlings growing over the colder months.
If you dip the cut off lateral into flour it helps the rooting of the seedling. I’ve tried both rooting hormones and flour and the flour worked better!
Thanks for the tip Ursi. I’ve always only ever used rooting hormone but will give the flour a try.
I’ve been doing this for years but I’ve never managed to get one through the winter, I do take cuttings mid summer and have tomatoes right through autumn. Tomatoes will also root where ever they touch the ground so you can grow them right along a fence with the mother plant pegged onto the ground and the laterals going up the fence.
Thanks Sally – I didn’t know you could also root them using the layering method. Must give this a try. I managed to get one plant through the winter this year. It was in a pot under a pergola. Let’s see if it produces!