Identifying and Removing Tomato Suckers: In Pictures

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This is a quick knol that provides pictures to help you identify the sucker. They are often removed to focus growth on one main tomato stem and to prevent over-growth. You don’t have to remove them. Removing suckers is a method of tending your tomato plants. You will still get a ton of tomatoes.

Identifying and Removing Tomato Suckers: In Pictures

by Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C
 
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When it comes to tomato suckers, you don’t technically have to remove them. They don’t  directly damage your plant. It is part of the tomatoes natural sprawling growth. I do leave some of on my plants sometimes. The problem is they are new growth shoots and will branch all over. They make the tomato more dense with leaves and that could, I say could, be problematic and lead to diseases. Since a tomato is typically caged or grown on a stake, you want to tend to you tomato plant on almost a daily basis to help control its growth. Removing the suckers focuses growth on a main stem or two.

I tend my tomatoes by removing bottom growth and thin them out by removing suckers. I might run a future experiment where I actually tend a single vine up a pole and remove every sucker.  That is what you read often in books, but I rarely have that much time to get every sucker.

 
I never get them all but I remove many and that helps manage the tomato’s growth.  Here are two pictures to show you what a sucker is, so you can decide what to do with them. I suggest removing them regularly.

My Finger is Pointing Directly at the Sucker.

The sucker grows between the V of a branch and main stem. This one got a bit large. They grow fast and sometimes the get so large the don’t easily snap off. When the are small they will snap easily off.
Removed! You can See the Nub.
Try and cut as close as you can to the stem without damaging the stem or branch when they are this large. You should do this on a dry sunny day. The opening could let disease in. The sun will dry the wound and help it to heal and seal. You could also put some sulfur spray or dust on the wound. I don’t always do that but I am, more often, now pruning and tending as I carry my sprayer. I left the nub so you could see from where it was removed.
 
Just about every V section will get flowers or sucker growth. If you let a sucker grow, it will become a stem and begin to grow as a main stem in whatever direction it wants to go. If the tomato was wild and sprawling on the ground, you would want this. The tomato will actually grow extra roots from whatever parts of stems touch the ground. It is survival tactic for the sprawling tomato. The problem is, as I mention, extra wild growth can lead to diseases and other problems. Removing suckers helps manage your tomatoes growth and allows you to tend to it as it grows in a cage or up a pole.
 
 
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