Will Tomato Plants Regrow After Being Cut to the Ground? | thegrowingleaf.com (2023)

After harvesting tomatoes, some gardeners simply cut the tomato plants to the ground instead of uprooting the whole bush. If you’ve seen this somewhere, you’re probably wondering if these tomato stumps will regrow with time.

Tomato plants will regrow after being cut to the ground if they have the right conditions to grow, i.e., enough sunlight, water, and nutrients. Also, only indeterminate tomato plants can regrow. Nonetheless, sometimes the tomato plants won’t survive.

Whether you’re planning to cut back your tomato plants on purpose or it has happened by accident due to a windstorm or an overzealous garden cart, you can regrow your tomato plants even after cutting them to the ground. Keep reading to learn more about it.

Will Tomato Plants Regrow After Being Cut to the Ground? | thegrowingleaf.com (1)

Cutting Back a Tomato Plant vs. Topping

There’s a big chance that a tomato plant will survive and regrow after being cut down to the ground. But I’ve also seen plenty that didn’t. Before you get shear-happy and cut down your tomato plant, know that it may not come back to life, depending on the situation.

Why is that?

When you cut a tomato plant to the ground, you essentially take away all its leaves and flowers. Without the leaves, there’s no photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is important as it produces the carbohydrates required by the roots to produce nutrients for the entire plant. If the decapitated plant stays without leaves for a while, it’ll eventually run out of nutrients and die.

Luckily, tomato plants sprout new leaves quite fast. It’ll start to sprout in a week or two in the right conditions. The only problem with this is that by the time enough leaves emerge to sustain the plant, the cool, wet weather might be upon you. As you may know already, tomato plants don’t do well in the cold, especially if they’re barely holding on, to begin with.

That’s why experienced farmers recommend topping instead.

Topping is simply cutting the top part of a tomato plant to encourage your fruits to grow bigger and ripen faster before frost hits.

Since the plant will wither down on its own during winter, most people don’t see the need to cut it down to the ground. Topping a tomato plant gives it a better chance of surviving the frost than cutting all of it down.

A Cut-Down Tomato Plant Can Regrow in Favorable Conditions

The good thing about cutting down a tomato plant is that you can predict whether it’ll regrow or not. That’s because there are conditions that affect the plant’s survival and regrowth. If the plant doesn’t sprout again, the conditions are likely unfavorable. These factors include:

  • The prevailing weather
  • The type of tomato plant
  • Location of the cut
  • The plant’s health

Let’s look at each of these factors in detail.

Don’t Cut Your Tomato Plant Right Before the First Fall Frost

Tomato plants are frost-tender perennials. They need warm, sunny days to thrive but not too hot. Now, if you cut down your plant when fall frost is just around the corner, the cut-back vines won’t have enough time to blossom.

You need to figure out the average date of the first fall frost before you cut down your vines to the ground. Only cut them if there are at least 4 weeks before frost begins.

Determine Whether Your Tomato Plant Is Determinate or Indeterminate

Tomato plants are either determinate or indeterminate.

The determinate variety has a lifespan of 3 to 4 months; it only grows up to 4 feet (122 cm) maximum and only produces flowers and fruits once before it dies.

Knowing this, you can already guess that cutting down a determinate tomato plant means permanent death. It only has one lifetime, so the chances of growing back are very tiny.

On the other hand, indeterminate tomatoes have unlimited lifetimes. This tomato plant will continue to sprout, grow and produce as long as the conditions are perfect—enough water, sun, and nutrients. Most of them take a break during winter, but they sprout again and return to fruit production.

Though it’s not recommended, some people cut down indeterminate tomato plants to the ground a few weeks before frost to promote new healthy growth. If the sun was too hot and has affected the plant—or if it had some visible mite damage—cutting down gives it the chance to grow afresh with healthier leaves and branches.

Be Careful With the Location of the Cut

If you’re the one cutting the plant, make sure you make the cut at the right place—it must ensure the plant will survive. Ideally, you shouldn’t cut more than a third of the tomato plant. If you do, you should leave behind some leaves to allow photosynthesis and other processes that make a plant thrive.

But since the topic is about cutting the plant to the ground, those two rules don’t apply. Here’s what you do:

  1. Find some nodes that show potential for new growth. You can see they’re healthy, and they are beaming to sprout new suckers.
  2. Cut right above those nodes using shears.
  3. Your cutting should be 5 to 6 inches above the ground (13 to 15 cm), but you can leave more if you don’t have nodes within that length.

The nodes will sprout new suckers within a week if the temperature is okay, and your plant will begin its journey once again.

Unfortunately, you don’t control where a cut happens if it was accidental. There’s a chance it’ll grow back if some nodes are left behind, but you can never be sure until you see new growth.

Check Your Tomato Plant’s Health

Another factor that will affect the survival of the tomato plant after cutting it down is its health condition before being cut.

  • Are the roots strong and healthy?
  • Is the plant disease-free?
  • Is the plant being taken care of?
  • Does the tomato bush have enough water and nutrients?

The answer to those questions will tell you if your cut-down tomato will grow back or not. If your answer is yes to these questions, there’s a high chance the plant will regrow. However, if you don’t see any sprouting within 7 to 10 days, your plant has likely died.

Here’s a video to explain this further:

Consider the Tomato Variety

There’s one more thing you should think about if you want to cut a tomato plant to the ground and get a secondary harvest before frost sets in. What variety of tomatoes do you have? How large are those tomatoes? What’s their ripening window? Larger, slow ripening varieties are less likely to mature in time before frost is upon you.

Smaller tomatoes that mature fast and ripen even faster might be best for you.

Of course, this doesn’t matter if your plant was decapitated accidentally, but it’s something to think about if you want to cut your plants yourself.

How To Care for Your Tomato Plant After Cutting It Down

Your tomato plant goes through shock once it has been cut to the ground. Not only was the cut too much, but it also has no leaves for normal processes like breathing and photosynthesis. That means your plant is holding on to dear life, and you need to take care of the stump if it’s to have any chance of surviving.

Care for the Tomato Plant Stump

First and foremost, keep the plant well hydrated but not soaked. Tomatoes are really big on water, but they don’t like being soggy. You can have some mulch around it to keep the area moist and protect it from the harsh sun.

Some compost and fertilizer will also be necessary as they’ll provide the nutrients needed for regrowth.

Save the Cuttings

Whether the cutting was intentional or accidental, you have a few cuttings on your hands, and they probably have some tomatoes on them.

So, you put these branches in the compost and let the tomatoes go to waste? Not necessarily. You can buy the tomatoes some time to grow a little and ripen by placing the cutting in water.

Find a big container, fill it halfway with water, and put your cuttings in there. The cuttings will grow roots soon enough if you place the container in a warm, sunny place. In the meantime, your fruits won’t dry up, so they will have a chance to get a little bigger and ripen.

Alternatively, you can plant the cuttings in the soil. Keep the soil moist and allow the cutting to grow roots. You’ll have a new plant with old fruits within seven to ten days. Again, this method will only work if the conditions are right. It shouldn’t be too hot or cold because tomato plants will not survive such conditions.

The interesting thing about this is that once you harvest those plants, you can go ahead and cut the new plants to the ground again because they’ve already developed roots and suckers. It’s a great way to expand your tomato garden while skipping the seed part.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons a tomato plant can be cut to the ground. Maybe it has grown out of control, and it’s eclipsing all the neighboring plants. Or perhaps it’s starting to look yellow due to hot temperatures or mite damage. But the worst is when a storm passes with all the branches on your poor tomatoes.

The reason doesn’t matter, really. Your plant can regrow again and become better than before; however, there are instances where the plant may not survive.

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