Did you know that a new tomato plant can be grown from just a snip off of a mature tomato plant? The cells within the stems of tomato plants are capable of developing roots. Amazing, right?
This is exciting news for you tomato lovers out there who have wished you could make one particular plant produce even more. This is also good news for the frugal gardeners who would like to purchase one plant and enjoy a double harvest in the same season. While starting a new tomato plant from seed can take a month or more, a new start from a cutting can be ready to transplant to the garden in 14 days.
To start a new plant, begin in early summer. May or June is the best time to begin so that your plant will have plenty of time to grow, mature, and produce before the end of the growing season. So, find a handy mature tomato plant. Snip a 6 inch piece of stem from the growing side shoots of the plant. Pinch off any buds or flowers, and remove the leaves from the length of the stem with the exception of the two upper most leaves.
Starting Tomatoes in Soil from Cuttings
Fill a small 4 inch pot with potting soil or compost, and stick your finger down into the middle of the soil to make a hole. Tuck your stem into the hole, and bury the portion of the stem where you removed the lowest set of leaves. Moisten the soil in your pot, and place it in a bright windowsill away from direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist, and leave your cutting in the windowsill for a week.
Gradually expose your developing plant to direct light during the second week. Increase your plant’s exposure to light each day. By the end of the second week, your plant should be sitting in the sun for most of the day. Your plant should be ready to transplant into your garden where it will continue to mature. You can expect a harvest from your new plant several weeks after the mother plant has produced its fruit for the season.
Rooting Tomatoes from Cuttings
A second method for propagation of a tomato plant from a cutting is to simply place your cut stem into a jar or vase of water. Set your jar on a sunny windowsill, and replenish the water every day. You will be able to observe the growing roots daily, and this cutting will be ready for planting in soil outdoors after three or four weeks. While this method for propagation takes a little longer, you will enjoy tomatoes into September if you can protect your plants from an early freeze.
Growing Tomatoes from Cuttings in the Winter
Winter propagating methods for growing tomato plants should be considered for tomato lovers that know store bought tomatoes do not compare to homegrown. If you’d really rather have a garden fresh tomato option through winter, consider this. If you can provide the proper amount of light to your tomato plants indoors, you can grow some types year round.
While it isn’t an easy gardening feat, it can be done. The critical factor is to provide as much light as possible. Choose the largest, south-facing window in your home. A sunroom or a floor to ceiling picture window are perfect.
Take a cutting from one of your favorite plants in your garden. Propagate your cutting on your windowsill until it is ready to be moved outdoors in a small pot. Keep the small pot outside until the first frost requires you to move your plant indoors for the season. When your new plant has grown large enough, transplant it into a container that is at least 5 gallons in size to accommodate the mature size of your growing plant. Plan ahead for a method to provide support for your plant as it matures.
Once your tomato plant is indoors for the winter, water it regularly, and fertilize it often. You can aid in pollinating your indoor tomato plant by giving it a gentle shake when you water it which will encourage it to produce. Also, consider tomato plant pests before you decide to grow a tomato plant indoors. If your houseplants have often fallen prey to spider mites or other insect pests, your tomato plant will probably be very susceptible to infestations, and it may not be worth the effort.
If you do find success with an indoor tomato plant, you will be rewarded with tasty, homegrown tomatoes any time of year. Just think of how special that fresh tomato will taste in January! You will also be able to continue to propagate new tomato plants for next spring with cuttings from your healthy indoor plants.
Want to learn more about growing tomatoes from cuttings?
Check out these resources:
Winter Tomatoes from Mother Earth News
Rooting tomato suckers can provide great mid-season replacement plants, extend harvest from University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences