Cloning Tomato Plants: A Gardener’s Secret to a Bountiful Harvest
Cloning from Necessity
Last year, due to significant weather and snow issues, my tomatoe plants had vastly overgrown their pots. So, in an attempt to save the nearly 2-foot-tall tomato plants, I turned to something tomatoes do naturally. Tomatoes will root along their stem however deep they are planted. I know this as I have always used a trench method of planting them and a “mounding” technique when growing my transplants. This is the basis for cloning tomatoe plants and can be used for saving near-lost plants, but it is also an excellent way to multiply your plants quickly.
If you start with one or two mother plants, as they create suckers, you can cut the suckers to form new plants. Even if the suckers are fully grown and producing flowers, you can still cut them and root them as another plant.
Last year I saved three Scotia tomato plants that were planted last summer. They have been growing in my window all winter. So now I am clipping suckers and turning those three plants into 30 or 40, some of which will be fully producing plants in another month or so. And all without having to germinate a single seed.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Cloning Tomato Plants
The Advantages of Cloning
By cloning tomato plants, gardeners can rapidly increase their production, maintain plant uniformity, and preserve hard-to-find heirloom varieties. This method involves taking stem cuttings from a healthy parent plant and encouraging them to develop roots, eventually growing into new tomato plants. Suckers make for the nest clones however nearly all parts of the stem may form new roots.
Selecting the Perfect Plant Material
- Choose a thriving parent plant: Select a robust, healthy tomato plant with desirable characteristics, such as high yield and disease resistance.
- Identify suitable stem cuttings: Look for healthy, vigorous side shoots or suckers, preferably 4-6 inches long, with at least two sets of leaves.
- Timing is key: The best time to take cuttings is in the morning when the plant is well-hydrated and full of energy.
Preparing and Rooting Your Stem Cuttings
- Make a clean cut: Use a sharp, sterile pair of pruning shears or scissors to cut the selected stem at a 45-degree angle to increase the surface area for root development.
- Remove lower leaves: Carefully remove the lower leaves from the stem cutting, leaving at least one set of leaves on the top portion of the cutting.
- Apply rooting hormone: Dip the cut end of the stem cutting into a rooting hormone powder or gel to encourage rapid root development.
- Plant in a suitable medium: Insert the treated stem cutting into a well-draining, sterile medium such as perlite, vermiculite, or coco coir. Ensure the medium is moist but not soggy.
- Provide optimal environmental conditions: Place the cuttings in a warm, humid environment with indirect light. A humidity dome or plastic bag can help maintain humidity levels. Monitor the temperature and aim for a consistent range of 70-75°F (21-24°C).
My choice for rooting hormone:
Easy Root-Cloning and Rooting Hormone
Or just look at the variety on Amazon
Rooting Stem Cuttings in Jars with Water
- Prepare the jar: Fill a clean jar with room temperature water, leaving enough space for the stem cutting to be submerged without the leaves touching the water.
- Place the stem cutting in the jar: Submerge the cut end of the stem cutting in the water, ensuring that no leaves are submerged.
- Provide optimal environmental conditions: Place the jar in a warm location with indirect light. Monitor the temperature and aim for a consistent range of 70-75°F (21-24°C).
- Change the water regularly: Replace the water in the jar every 2-3 days to maintain cleanliness and provide fresh nutrients for the developing roots.
Transplanting and Caring for Your Cloned Tomato Plants
- Monitor root development: Roots should begin to develop within 7-14 days. Gently tug on the stem cutting to check for resistance, indicating that roots have formed.
- Transplant into larger containers: Once roots have developed, transplant the cloned tomato plants into larger containers filled with high-quality potting mix.
- Gradual hardening off: Before transplanting outdoors, gradually expose the cloned tomato plants to outdoor conditions over the course of a week, increasing the amount of time they spend outside each day.
- Plant in the garden: Choose a sunny location with well-draining soil, and space the cloned tomato plants 24-36 inches apart. Provide support with stakes or cages and water regularly to maintain consistent soil moisture.
- Prune and fertilize for optimal growth: Prune the cloned tomato plants regularly to encourage healthy growth and airflow. Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions to promote healthy growth and a bountiful harvest.
Overcoming Common Challenges
Gardeners may face a few challenges when cloning tomato plants, such as poor root development, infection, or wilting leaves. However, ensuring consistent environmental conditions, using sterile tools and growing mediums, and monitoring the plants closely can help overcome these challenges and ensure a successful cloning process.
Reaping the Rewards of Cloning Tomato Plants
By following this step-by-step guide, gardeners can unlock the full potential of cloning tomato plants to enjoy a bountiful harvest. This technique allows for increased tomato production, preservation of unique heirloom varieties, and maintaining consistent quality across all plants. As the gardening season unfolds, local gardeners can use this valuable method to ensure their gardens thrive with an abundance of delicious, homegrown tomatoes.
Seeds and planting
Links and Resources
(These are some of what I use)
mybackyard.ca Seeds Page
Get a Head Start on Spring: The Benefits of Starting Your Seeds Indoors
Saving Vegetable Seeds: A Comprehensive Guide to Gardening Success
myBackyard.ca Planting Guide
Pollock Tomatoes (North hardy Tomato variety)
Tomatoes (Useful information on starting tomatoes from seed)
Individual seed and plant information is available in the "Gardening Shortcut Links" above under "North Hardy Plants to grow". I have successfully grown all of these, and most I grow year to year.
myBackyard is for recreational purposes only. Plants, mushrooms and berries cannot be 100% identified through this website alone. It is up to the reader to properly identify plants, fungi and trees. Some wild plants, berries and mushrooms are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. Even those listed as edible may cause adverse reactions in individuals.
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