The Easy Technique That Makes Propagating Cherry Tomatoes A Breeze

Few things are as disappointing as realizing your cherry tomato (Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme) plants haven't grown as prolifically as you expected, and you're already well into the growing season. Whether you didn't have the space to start multiple plants from seed, had fewer seedlings thrive than expected, or just couldn't justify the cost of buying multiple young tomato plants to transplant, by the time you realize you're dealing with a tomato plant deficit, it's often too late in the season to start more seeds. Luckily, as long as you have one healthy cherry tomato plant, you can easily propagate more. All you need are some sharp shears, a glass of water, and somewhere to plant the tomato once it's ready.

While plenty of plants can be propagated from cuttings, tomatoes are some of the easiest, as their stems are extremely willing to produce roots, even without the use of rooting hormones. Even better, it's generally recommended that you prune your cherry tomato plants to keep them healthy and productive anyway. This allows for more airflow, lets the plant focus on setting fruit, and prevents the tomato vine from becoming too heavy. Instead of tossing these suckers in the compost, you can just use them to make yourself more tomato plants. While this technique can work on all types of tomatoes, cherry tomatoes are the best option as they often mature more quickly, ensuring you'll be able to harvest from your new plants before the end of the growing season.

Removing suckers from cherry tomatoes

Avoid making crucial mistakes when pruning your tomatoes, like using dull tools or pruning when the plants are wet or under stress. Once you, your tools, and your tomatoes are ready to prune, the first thing you need to do is identify the suckers on your tomato plant. When the plant is upright and supported (the recommended way to grow tomatoes), you should see the growing tip at the top of the stem and many branches coming off of that stem. The main leaf branches come off the stem at an almost 90-degree angle, and the suckers grow right above those main leaf branches. 

Don't remove the sucker right below your lowest cluster of fruits or flowers, but all others can and should be removed from the plant. The ideal-sized sucker for propagating cherry tomatoes is between 4 and 6 inches long. To remove the suckers, you can use sharp pruning shears or a garden knife to cut them right where they connect to the plant. Be sure not to damage the stem or main leaf branch in the process.

Helping your new tomato plant thrive

As soon as you cut off your suckers, put them immediately into a cup or glass with 1 to 2 inches of water in the bottom. Put the cup in a cool spot where it receives plenty of light and add water as needed to keep the water level consistent. A popular alternate method is propagating your plant in sand. As long as you keep the sand moist, it should work just as well as a glass of water. One advantage of a glass, though, is that you can watch the roots develop. You should begin to see roots quickly, and within a few days, your new tomato should be ready to plant in the soil.

You can either plant your tomato directly into your garden or allow it to grow in a smaller pot first. Either way, keeping the young plant out of direct sun while it is getting established is important, so use a shade cover if necessary to protect your plant. Once your new cherry tomato plant is growing well, you can move it to its final location and provide it with full sun.