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How to Clone Tomato Plants From Cuttings in Water

Samuel Barrett lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and has far too many hobbies, many of which you can read about here.

You can clone your tomato plants by growing cuttings in water. Learn how to do it.

You can clone your tomato plants by growing cuttings in water. Learn how to do it.

Save Time and Money by Cloning Your Tomato Plants

Every year, in addition to the classic tomato varieties that we are all familiar with, there are more and more new varieties of tomatoes available. These include exotic heirloom cultivars that span all the colors of the rainbow, each with their own unique texture and flavor.

Filling your garden with some of these varieties can be quite pricey if you are purchasing many full-sized plants or larger starts. Meanwhile, growing from seed, while rewarding, is a much more labor-intensive and lengthy process. This is why I recommend starting with one large, healthy, full-sized plant of each variety you wish to grow and taking multiple cutting from each one in order to clone them.

"If you find a variety of tomato that you like and that grows well in your climate and suits your cooking purposes, you need only purchase one plant and let it get grow large."

Quick Guide to Cloning Tomatoes

  1. Purchase a strong, healthy tomato plant.
  2. Plant your tomato outdoors in the same area you plan to grow the clones.
  3. Water and fertilize your tomato and let it acclimate to your climate and soil.
  4. Take cuttings from your established plant and place them in clean water (use rooting hormone if desired).
  5. Wait for roots to develop, then transfer the plants to soil.
  6. Water heavily when first planted, then put the clones on the same watering schedule as the mother plant.

Read more detail about these steps below.

A Selection of Homegrown Heirloom Tomato varieties

A Selection of Homegrown Heirloom Tomato varieties

How to Select a Mother Plant

The easiest way to clone tomatoes is to take cuttings from a large, healthy, established plant. This plant is called the mother plant.

The idea here is that if you find a variety of tomato that you like and that grows well in your climate and suits your cooking purposes, you need only purchase one plant and let it get grow large. Do not do any pruning until you are ready to take your cuttings for clones. It is best to buy a plant from a local nursery that grows varieties with a proven track record of success in your area.

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Read More From Dengarden

Green tomatoes ripening in the sun.

Green tomatoes ripening in the sun.

How Should I Take the Cuttings From the Mother Plant?

You will ideally want to take “suckers” as cuttings, although any branch can be used. These are the new shoots that develop between branch unions and form new flowering tops. These are usually pruned down to a few branches to allow the plant to focus it's energy and nutrients to a smaller number of flowers, to assure that they turn into larger, better-developed fruits.

I know, it sounds like a daunting task, and surely you must have an advanced degree and tons of cutting edge equipment to accomplish this, right? It can actually be as simple as taking a cutting and placing it in some fresh water and waiting a week or two. Although unnecessary, using a rooting hormone (available at most plant nurseries) can expedite the process. Indole-3-butyric acid is the hormone that plants naturally use to form roots and this is usually the key ingredient in rooting formulas.

Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing the Cuttings

  1. With this process, you simply let the suckers or branches grow until they are about 18–24 inches tall and about the diameter of a pencil, then cut them with a clean, sharp blade at an angle.
  2. You will then remove the two lowest leaf sets to allow roots to form.
  3. You can now optionally dip each cutting in a rooting compound, or simply put each one in a container of clean water. The cuttings usually have enough of the rooting hormone in them to produce roots on their own.
  4. Voila! You have now completed the hardest part of the process. This whole process is best done in the early part of the growing season to allow the plants to have a long, healthy vegetative state before going into flowering.

Rooting Hormone

How to Transplant the Clones

All that is left to do is change the water every two to three days until roots form. Let the roots get at least 2 inches long and then transplant them into your garden. You will want to remove any leaf sets or side branches other than the two or three sets at the very top, then bury the cutting, so about 75% is underground.

Water heavily for the first two days without any fertilizer to let the clones acclimate to the soil, then water and feed as you would with any other tomato plants. If all goes well, you should have an 80%–100% success rate and have a garden full of your favorite variety or varieties of tomato at a fraction of the cost and time of other propagation methods.

Everyone Loves Homegrown Tomatoes

Harvesting your own homegrown tomatoes easily tops the list of reasons to grow your own vegetable garden. They really do taste better than what you will find in a grocery store, partly due to the fact that they are allowed to fully ripen on the vine before they are used. Most large farms harvest when tomatoes are still a little under-ripe, so they don't spoil during transport.

Aside from that, there is a great sense of pride in knowing that the fresh salsa you bring to a summer barbecue is made from tomatoes that you grew yourself, or that the tomatoes in the marinara sauce for your pasta dinner were growing in your garden only hours ago! If you are crafty and resourceful, you can even can them in large quantities for a taste of summer in the cold, winter months.

Here's to a healthy, successful tomato patch. Cheers!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Samuel Barrett

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