Tomato Plant Branches Growing Downward? THIS Is Why…

You probably imagined that your tomato plant would stand tall, with somewhat horizontal branches reaching for the sun.

However, your tomato plant seems to be doing quite the opposite; it’s stretching out towards the dirt, instead.

What’s going on???

Should you actually be worried?

Are Your Branches Now Loaded Down with Tomato Fruit?

If your branches are flowering and fruiting, they may not be strong enough to hold themselves up, especially if they’re young, thin branches. This is why staking or caging tomatoes is so important for their success.

If your branches simply can’t hold their own weight and are falling victim to gravity, put in a stake and tie them up. This will keep your tomatoes off the ground, and take some stress off of the plant.

You may have to support the heaviest branches with their own twine, as the largest tomatoes could potentially cause a branch to break under their weight.

Have You Allowed Suckers to Grow on Indeterminate Tomato Plants?

If you have suckers growing all over your tomato plants, they are likely the cause of downward, falling, or drooping tomato branches. They grow between the main vine and branches, growing larger and larger.

As the suckers grow and thicken, they push the branches out of the way. This causes the branches to point towards the ground over time.

Most people remove suckers, as tomato plants can become very unruly when they are left to grow. Indeterminate plants tower over (and even topple) their intended supports, later growing back towards the ground and rooting in place. Tomato vines can reach 12′ or longer, making it hard to keep them trellised.

The suckers can be cut and rooted; suckers are perfect for starting entirely new tomato plants for free.

You can see a sucker growing between the main vine and a branch in the upper right corner.

Is Your Tomato Plant Water Stressed or Wilted?

If the plant is currently water stressed, it likely needs water. A good way to check this is to stick your finger into the soil at the root zone; if your finger is 2″ in and the soil is bone dry, your plants are in dire need of water.

If the stressed plant goes much longer without water, it’ll begin to wilt very quickly. Keep your plants watered, especially during times of drought.

When stressed, you may also find that the plants won’t flower or fruit very profusely, if at all; tomatoes have a high water content, which means the plant is a heavier consumer of water than some other plants (such as peppers or herbs).

Do You See Any Signs of Disease or Damage That May Be Killing the Tomato Plant?

Inspect the plant and look for signs of disease or damage:

  • Defoliation
  • Broken stems, feeding activity on fruit or leaves
  • Spotting or discoloration of leaves
  • Fruit, leaf, or blossom drop
  • Diseased fruit, fruit with blossom end rot excluded
  • Mold-like growth or fungus growing on the plant
  • Pests (especially those in great numbers)

There are a lot of possible causes for falling and dying branches; but in most cases, it is clear what caused the branch to fall (if it is due to disease). Usually, the branch wilts or dies off before it falls, rather than simply drooping. If you see diseased or dying branches, prune them off. Remove them from the garden and throw them away, or burn them.

Instead, you should look for broken stems and feeding activity among the plant. If an animal is coming for your tomatoes, it’s very possible that they are putting pressure on the branches, forcing them downward. If this is the case, you need to put up deterrents to keep them at bay.

Does the Entire Plant Look Like It’s Drooping?

If the entire plant seems as if it is drooping, it is likely that your leaf branches are simply falling lower, out of the way of the fruiting branches that are growing upward.

This is not an issue in itself- the only risk is that the leaves closest to the ground may get splashed on during watering or storms, increasing the risk of disease. Simply prune the lowest branches if they are within 4″ to 6″ of the soil.

Overall, this is not something you should be very worried about, as long as the plant is healthy, watered, and it is not under heavy attack by pests or wildlife. Some varieties are more prone to this behavior than others, with indeterminate varieties doing it far more often than determinate varieties.