Tomatoes: Removing Side Shoots or Not




The Tomato plants that we have grown from seed or purchased as plants are now growing fast. A question often asked by new gardeners is ‘Do I remove the side shoots from my tomato plant’? Well that depends, there are two basic types of tomato.

The first are called ‘Determinate’ or Bush types. These include varieties like ‘Tumbler’, ‘Totem’, ‘Minibelle’, ‘Garden Pearl’ and cascade varieties. You DO NOT remove the side shoots. These tomato plants know what they are doing, hence the name Determinate. They will grow outwards forming a mound or stay small and bushy, or cascade down. These determinate or bush types are great to grow in pots, tubs or even hanging baskets.

The second type are called ‘Indeterminate’ commonly called Cordon or Vine tomatoes. This group include varieties like ‘Moneymaker’, ‘Alicante‘, ‘Sungold‘, ‘Gardeners Delight‘ and ‘Black Krim‘ This group contains the largest number of varieties that most people grow in greenhouses and you DO remove the side shoots from these plants. The name indeterminate, describes this group of tomatoes very well. Their growth needs to be controlled and trained by us.  The side shoots that grow out from the axis of the stem and leaf, need to be pinched off. These plants will grow tall and need to be tied to canes or strings that are well secured in the greenhouse or tunnel. This training is done to leave one stem which will carry the leaves and the fruit trusses, and divert all the plants energy into the developing fruits instead of excess growth.  Depending on the height of your growhouse, the tomatoes are usually ‘stopped’ after about 7 trusses have set. This ‘stopping’ simply means cutting off the top growing point, after the maximum height has been achieved. I like to go over my cordon tomato plants once a week to remove unwanted growth.

Most seed packets and plant labels will tell you if it is ‘Determinate’ Dont remove side shoots or ‘Indeterminate’ Do remove side shoots.

If still in doubt, do ask seller or check on this site or the seedparade forum for help.

6 Responses to “Tomatoes: Removing Side Shoots or Not”

  • andylittleford:

    After many years of growingtomatoes, for a variety of very expectant employers and a holiday in Greece, I came to the definate decision, never to sideshoot ANYvariety of tomatoe ever again.

    Sideshoot removal simply provides a tidier plant, with more uniform/larger fruit, with lower taste strength!

    If you grow the plant naturaly, leaving the side shoots in place and support the plants (to avoid soil/pest damage), you will gain MANY small tastier tomatoes, in amounts that you will struggle to cope with.

    To ensure flavour/pest control and plant growth, feed well with a seaweed based solution such as SM3/6 and use well rotted garden compost as a growing media. Ignore critics, bcause once youve mastered this method, you will never look back!! xx

  • Lajos Szabo:

    Thanks Andy, sounds interesting. I have to admit I never tried to grow any variety like that but I will defenetly give this a go.

  • Elaine:

    Thanks so much for the info on side shoots on tomatoes. I had mistakenly left them on my gardeners delight, but now removed them luckily before any tomatoes set.

  • lance:

    what exactly is a sideshoot? any photos diagrams to help

  • Mrs. Ellis:

    I have spent much time establishing whether or not to remove the sideshoots on my ‘dear little plants’ having purchased cherry tomatoes this year and been unable to comprehend a number of other sites’ information………… but your explanation and site is just perfect! I now know what to do, how to spell the name correctly and quite simply the two different types. It all seems so easy now! I have been growing tomatoes for years but became confused this year between the new varieties. It would be good to finish off with a video but really, no need…… Many thanks to whoever wrote the notes and planned the site.

  • Margaret:

    What type of tomatoe is super sweet100F1 ?.do I need to pinch out side shoots ? Thank you

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