confused about indet cuttings to be rooted

Need2SeeGreen(10 (SoCal))March 15, 2013

Hello all!

I have done several searches and read through multiple threads here, and I tried googling "anatomy of a tomato plant." I found either things too simple, or too complicated, not much in the middle.

I still don't understand, how do I know what is a "growth tip" or a "sucker branch," suitable for me to try to root a cutting? (And are those the same thing? It seems like they aren't but I'm not sure.)

It seems as though, on indeterminates such as I am trying to root, every branch or stem could be termed a sucker? Is this true? I believe I've seen this said here more than once.

Right now, on my Sungold (from last year, which grew funny last year so I thought I'd start over -- it was growing well, then got fried, so it has some main thick branch/stems, and then skinny little stems(?) which bore fruit, but it never grew much higher and I think it won't, or can't, now), there are some newish, low-ish stems with blossoms. Are these suckers? How do you tell?

And just because these are growing, does that mean they are growth tips? (I did find this picture online: It has a lot of information if you click on the Branch and Leaf Patterns link, here:, but, this confused me too. I am hoping someone can boil it down. If anyone wants to "go there," would you say that a vegetative stem is just a stem with no blossoms yet?)

I'm sorry if this is a dumb question. I think it probably is, but I promise, I looked around and have not reached any clarity. I ask because it seems to me that it has been said here that there are parts of the plant that will not root or grow new plants. I guess I am one of those people who learn best by being told what *not* to do!

Thanks in advance for any help.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Below is a link pictures of tomato suckers. THey are the small stems that grow between the main stem and a branch, as the pictures show.

Some reffer to a sucker as growing in the armpit between two branches,

You can take cuttings of suckers and i'd be glad to describe how, but I simply can't see the sense in taking cuttings from Sungold F1 and going through everything you have to do to get a new plant, when a packof of F1 seeds is relatively cheap, and F1 plants in the LA area are not hard to find. There are plenty of nurseries there as well as the various plant sales that Tomatomania does that take place all over S Cal.

Long Beach has several plant sales, the Fullerton Arboretum, Armstrong Nurseries at several places in LA aswell.

Your choice, though.

As I said, I'd be glad to share with you how I do cuttings but I only do them when there's been critter damage in my tomato field, not for vegetative propagation for new plants.

Growing tips means just that, the tips of side branches and the main stem grow and put out new stems and leaves, etc., and those are referred to as growing tips.

Hope that helps,


Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato suckers

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 6:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Those are a pile of different sucker pictures Carolyn. The few points I'll add are that even with indeterminate varieties you may be confused when you are suckering close to the growing point and also that you probably already know that you can get a transplant from a cutting 2-3 weeks earlier than if you start from seed. IMO starting from suckers is about the same success level as with good seeds- close to 100%. Avoid allowing blossoms since you will only hinder plant growth and fruit will be too low on the plant anyhow.

There are some plants (only heirloom varieties that I'm aware of) that have a tendency to grow forked (two) growing tips. They can't be snapped off like a sucker but there is no harm in removing one side with a snipper. Otherwise I stay clear of snapping off anything right next to the growing tip for fear of topping the plant. Wait two days when in doubt and you will then be able to tell which is the growing tip.

From the older plant you describe I suspect all the branches you describe are suckers that have grown. Sun Gold has a tendency to repeatedly send out suckers from the same stem junction faster than you can remove them and they will function to produce fruit as is the case with any sucker left on the main stem. You can also cut tips from any of them basically at any position along that stem- I'd suggest loping just past a blossom cluster.

There has always been a difference of opinion of whether to sucker plants or not and if you do to what degree. Unsuckered plants, especially cherry types like Sun Gold, will turn into unwieldy, unmanagable, tangled wreck in a hurry if left unsuckered. I don't blame you for wanting to start anew.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 7:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Need2SeeGreen(10 (SoCal))

Thanks, Carolyn, that was extremely helpful!!! I am now clear on what a sucker is. Thank goodness.

You know, I actually still have seeds, but I thought I heard that this was quicker, and I am trying to grow some heirloom seeds right now so things are getting hectic. (Or they will, if all goes well.) I might end up doing both ways. Also, the way folks here talk, you just cut it off and stick it in some dirt and it goes! We'll see if I have good luck.

Bmoser: thanks to you too! I admit I am still a bit confused on the subject of a "growing tip," since I think my plant probably had more than one. I don't plan to do much pruning, and I will read up on this "low to the ground" business.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 9:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Indeterminate plants have multiple growing tips. There is one on the end of the main stem and one on the end of any secondary stems. As long as you don't try to root leaf branches you'll do fine.

you just cut it off and stick it in some dirt and it goes

Wellll, not quite. :) Trim it down a bit if needed (in other words don't try to root a 12" long sucker when a 6" will do), damp potting mix, out of direct sun until it perks back up.


PS: there are bunch of how-to videos about it on youTube but some of them are really weird and some make it sound like brain surgery.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 9:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Indeterminate tomato plants have no branches which are not suckers. Suckers are the only branches an indeterminate tomato has.

"Growth tip" simply means the newest part of a stem, where the stem is continuously extending and future leaves and flower trusses are being created. The main stem has a growth tip -- and suckers do also. [And occasionally, for various reasons, the end of a leaf branch or flower truss will have a growth tip like a main stem or sucker!]

Once the plant's main stem puts out its first flower truss, the growth pattern on the main stem is: 3 leaf branches, 1 flower truss, and repeat that pattern. Same for suckers.

[I don't blame you for being confused by that Cal Davis page; it has long been my opinion that any agricultural school that produces anything as unclear as that should be ashamed of themselves.]

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 3:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

missingtheobvious points made the most sense.

Dont agree with the Cal Davis comment. Communication is part speaker/writer and part listener/reader. That doesn't mean one is more right than the other, just that not everyone sees the same things the same way or comprehends the way they are being told. I see it as more of an effort to "show" than to "tell".

That anatomy page was written as an undergrad class project during the relative infancy of image based web browsing. It really does reflect that time period (1995-1996) when very little good tomato information could be found on the web especially information containing "in-line" pictures. Its audience seems to be directed towards those with specific knowledge of the botanical/anatomical terms used (ie college students of biological sciences).

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 9:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Need2SeeGreen(10 (SoCal))

Thanks again, everyone! That 3 leaf stem/flower truss thing was new to me, and that will be very helpful. Though, I still plan not to prune anything ... too complicated! ; >

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 1:53PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Turbo-Tomato Mulch (Red Plastic) From Gurneys
First time poster here. I wonder if anybody has used...
Rabbit Manure for Tomatoes
Hi- There's a guy locally that is selling rabbit manure...
Solo Cups vs Ribbed Pots
Cost factor is in favor of the cups, especially if...
hoosier40 6a Southern IN
Fourth of July ....
Fourth of July is my favorite day. How about a tomato...
Seysonn_ 7b-WA/HZ1
Need Help with Hydroponic Tomatoes
I started growing tomatoes hydroponically indoors using...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™