Some gardeners may advise you to pinch off the first set of tomato flowers. But how does it help? Does it really help? Should you pinch off tomato flowers, or this would just harm the plant?
Producing flowers and fruits, for a tomato plant requires a lot of energy, which sometimes perhaps is needed somewhere else. For example, for root growth.
In the late spring when you transplant your tomatoes to their final place, you can pluck off the flowers. This will help the plant to focus its energy on root growth.
However, there are some cases, when pinching off the tomato flowers is a bad idea, as it will just reduce the yield and there will be no benefits at all.
In this article, I will answer the questions regarding pinching off tomato flowers.
Should You Pinch Off Tomato Flowers?
As tomato flowers are self-pollinating, every flower can produce a fruit. Knowing this, you may think that I must be crazy telling you to pinch off the flowers and ripping you off of precious yield.
However, pinching off the early flowers, especially when your tomato plants are awaiting to be transplanted to their final place can be a game-changer.
In the late spring, when the tomato plants are transplanted, they need lots of energy for root and foliage growth. Without these, the plant will lack energy later to produce even more flowers and fruits.
Therefore, we can say that removing the first set of tomato flowers, can be beneficial in yield production.
Why Should You Pinch Off Tomato Flowers?
Removing the early flowers from a tomato plant can have several benefits. These are:
- Improve Root Development
Pinching off the flowers of a tomato plant before transplanting it to its final place helps the plant to focus its energy to develop a strong root system.
A tomato plant with a strong root system is a plant that will produce lots of healthy and tasty fruits by ensuring the absorption of the needed nutrients and moisture.
- Lack Of Pollination
The early flowers of the tomato plants are usually a waste of energy for the plant. I am saying this because these flowers are unlikely to be pollinated as we talk about the young plants that are still in a greenhouse or indoors and waiting for transplanting.
In the late summer, when these flowers appear, the daytime temperatures are below 70°F/21°C, therefore, these are less receptive to fertilization. Also, there are fewer pollinator insects around.
So, instead of wasting the plant’s energy on flowers that might not be pollinated, pinch them off and the plant can grow stronger roots.
- Foliage Growth
Pinching off the energy waster first set of flowers, benefits the tomato plant in leaf growth and stronger stems.
Healthy foliage helps the plant to produce even more energy for healthy fruits.
- Prevent Early Fruiting
By pinching off tomato flowers, you can prevent early fruiting. I know it can be tempting to leave them on to enjoy an early harvest.
But wasting the energy of the tomato plant on fruits and seeds, instead of using it to grow larger when it is essential, leads to lesser yield later on.
When Should You Remove Tomato Flowers ?
Up until now, in this article, I mostly talked about the first set of tomato flowers and whether it is a good idea to pinch them off or not.
However, there are some other times, you should consider picking off some flowers or immature fruits to save some energy for the plant.
Here are the best times when pinching off tomato flowers is beneficial:
- When the tomato plant is not in its final place and needs to be transplanted.
- If you transplanted a tomato plant with flowers and this suffers from transplant shock.
- When the tomato plant is still immature, but it already produces flowers. By this, I mean that if an indeterminate plant is still less than 30 inches/76 cm tall, it is a good idea to pinch off some flowers, because the energy will slow the growth down and the fruits will ripen slowly as well.
- If the tomato plant is stressed by disease, pests or inadequate weather, pinch off some flowers to let the plant invigorate itself.
- When you hit the end of the season and you still have many green fruits, pinch off the flowers. The plant will focus on the maturing of the existing fruits, instead of producing new ones. This way you ensure all the tomatoes ripen before frost.
When to STOP Pinching Off Tomato Flowers?
Before you rush to your tomato plants and start pinching off the tomato flowers, stop and continue reading.
As I said, picking off some flowers can be beneficial, but when should we stop doing it? Because, obviously, every flower pinched off is one tomato fruit in minus.
So, once the tomato plant is in its final place, healthy and happy, with a well-developed root system and healthy foliage and stem, you should stop pinching any flowers off.
You should also take into consideration the variety of your tomato plants. I don’t suggest pinching off flowers of a determinate/micro tomato variety. I repeat: DO NOT pinch off the flowers if your tomato plants are determinate varieties.
Determinate tomato varieties are meant to grow to a “determinate” size. When the flowers appear on a determinate variety, means that the plant reached its full size. Picking off its flowers will only lessen your harvest.
The main takeaway about pinching off tomato flowers is: energy saving.
Removing flowers or immature fruits of a tomato plant helps the plant redirect its energy where this is really needed, such as root growth, fruit ripening or rejuvenating.
However, as soon as the plant produced enough roots and foliage, stop picking the flowers off.
Also, do not pinch off any flowers of a determinate tomato variety, as you just rip yourself from precious fruits.