Should You Pick the Flowers Off of Your Tomato Plants?

In order to improve the growth of young, indeterminate tomato plants, some may advise to remove the flowers as they appear.

The flowering and fruiting process is taxing on a tomato plant, as it requires a lot of energy.

But, does removing the flowers actually work, or does it harm the plant? Is this good advice?

Determinate Tomato Plants: Please Don’t Remove Their Flowers!

For determinate plants, the flowering and fruiting process happens in one flush.

As the flower buds appear on new growth, they begin to open. Once most of the flower buds have been produced, fruit grows from older flowers. Once the last flower blooms, all of the fruit ripens, and the plant reaches the end of its life cycle.

The plant will only produce so many flowers, therefore, if you cut off any flowers, you are directly harming your eventual harvest.

For determinate plants, the practice of flower removal to improve growth is actually detrimental for fruit production.

Pinching Flowers on Indeterminate Tomato Plants

Indeterminate plants work quite a bit differently from determinate tomato plants.

Indeterminate plants vine along over the duration of the summer, consistently flowering and fruiting until the first frost.

While plants may slow down during the worst of the summer heat, they won’t stop.

If you are purchasing seedlings or transplanting young plants that have flowers, you could remove the blooms in order to redirect the plant’s energy.

This process really does work, as you’re forcing the plant to redirect its energy towards the growth of foliage.

When trimming, be sure to remove entire clusters of buds, flowers, and immature fruit. The faster you can remove a budding cluster, the better your efforts will be rewarded.

As the tomato plant grows more quickly due to the lessened burden from flower and bud removal, it’ll soon be able to produce loads of larger fruit much more quickly.

When Are the Best Times to Pinch Blooms Off of Tomatoes?

If you believe your tomato plant is in a rough spot, or perhaps it’s simply blooming at an awkward time, it could be appropriate to pinch the blooms. Here are some great times to consider picking them off:

  • When you tomato seedlings start blooming indoors, well ahead of transplant time, while still under lights or greenhouse plastic.
  • When you’re transplanting plants with blooms, or dealing with plants you’ve recently transplanted that have transplant shock.
  • When indeterminate plants are still less than 30″ tall, as they will still be slow to ripen while slowing plant growth.
  • When the plant is severely stressed, by disease or pests, to allow the plant to rejuvenate itself.
  • At the end of the season, when you want fruit to ripen quickly before frost. (this is a method know as topping tomato plants, and it is incredibly useful when you know that cold weather will be arriving in the next 4 to 6 weeks.)

In short, removing the blooms and immature fruits of a tomato plant redirects its energy towards growing more foliage, and eventually more fruit. By removing new blooming clusters as they develop, you can also hurry the ripening process for green fruits.