How to Take Tomato Cuttings to Root and Grow Indoors

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Get a jumpstart on plants to grow indoors when you take tomato cuttings rather than starting new plants from seeds. Root them in water and plant them in pots. You'll get plenty of new plants. And there are other great reasons to snip the tips of your tomato plants and set them in water to root. Here's the dirt.

Tomato Growing Tip #71: take tomato cuttings to root so you can grow more plants for free with Tomato Dirt #GardeningTips #VegetableGarden

Why take tomato cuttings?

Taking tomato cuttings (also known as propagating or cloning) is a valuable gardening technique.

  • Cuttings give you more plants. By taking cuttings from a healthy tomato plant, you can create new plants that are genetically identical to the parent plant. This allows you to increase the number of tomato plants you have without having to buy additional seeds or plants.
  • Cuttings preserve desired traits. Let's say you have a tomato plant that produces particularly tasty or disease-resistant fruit. When you take cuttings from that plant, you can get more of the same. 
  • Cuttings extend your season. In regions with cold temperatures, tomato plants have a short growing season due to cold temperatures. By taking cuttings and growing them indoors, you can extend the tomato growing season and have fresh tomatoes year-round.
  • Cuttings lead to a quicker harvest. Tomato cuttings reduce the time you need to grow fruit from seed.  This can lead to an earlier tomato harvest.
  • Cuttings allow you more access to your favorite varieties. When you propagate tomato plants from cuttings, you can plant more of one type of tomato plant -- one that may not be readily available in your area or expensive. 
  • Cuttings save money. Buying tomato plants or seeds every year can add up. Propagate your own plants from cuttings and you avoid extra expenses at the start of each new gardening season.

How to take tomato cuttings

Tomato cuttings with Tomato Dirt

Use a sharp knife or garden clippers to cut a branch from a tomato plant. (If you’re in a special hurry to root a new tomato plant, cut a lower branch that already has root initials.) Section the branch to smaller cuttings that have at least two sets of leaves.

Place cuttings in a jar of water or a rooting vase on the windowsill. Label the jar with the correct tomato variety. Use a separate jar for each variety of cuttings you root.  Replace water in jars every few days to prevent the spread of algae and disease. Watch for roots to sprout from the tomato stem. They will be light-colored and extend downward into the jar.

Once a cutting develops a strong set of roots, plant it in a seed cell tray. Use a good potting mix. Move to a transplant pot after a couple of weeks.

If weather is still warm, move newly-planted tomatoes outdoors. Place them in the shade or a protected area rather than direct sunlight. Allow them to harden off for several days. Plants can remain outside until temperatures get cool.

During winter months, bring plants inside and set in a sunny window, under grow lights, or in a greenhouse (find greenhouse plans here).

Take cuttings from indoor tomatoes to grow in your spring garden

In late winter, take cuttings from indoor plants and root them as outlined above. Plant new seedlings in cell packs. Transplant them to a 4-6” pot when they have two sets of leaves.

Harden them off and set them out in the garden as soon as the forecast allows. You’ll enjoy an extra-early crop of fresh tomatoes – plus by rooting your own cuttings you’ll save money!

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