Should You Pinch Off Tomato Plant Flowers?

For those new to tomato growing, it is common to have questions about the flowers on your tomato plant. The flowers play an important role for various reasons, but there may come a time when you may consider removing them.

In this article, I will discuss whether or not you should pinch off tomato plant flowers. This will depend on the growth stage, the time of the year, the plant’s age, and how long your growing season lasts.

What Are Tomato Flowers?

During my early days of gardening, I was curious about the purpose of a tomato plant’s flowers and their significance in its life cycle.

Tomato flowers transform and develop into fruits through fertilization and pollination.

Continue reading to learn about the possible reasons for curling tomato leaves.

When tomato plants start to produce flowers, it indicates the fruiting growth stage, resulting from the plant’s natural reproductive process.

These Factors Initiate Tomato Flowering.

  • Age Of A Tomato:  The age of a tomato plant determines when it will start reproducing, which is indicated by the formation of flowers. Typically, flower buds begin to form after the plant has been alive for 6-8 weeks, regardless of the size of the container it is planted in.
  • Container Size: The pot’s container can determine when your tomatoes start to flower. Smaller pots can cause earlier fruiting, so your young indoor tomatoes may flower too soon. If you don’t want early fruit, prune away the flower buds.
  • Tomato Varieties: Determinate tomato plants to produce all of their fruits at once. This means the plant will grow to its full size and produce many flowers. On the other hand, indeterminate varieties start flowering earlier and continue producing more and more trusses throughout the year.

Should I Pinch Off Early Tomato Flowers?

If tomatoes that are growing from seed indoors have not been transplanted yet, they may start to produce flowers early. In this situation, it is recommended to remove the early flower buds.

There are several reasons for harvesting early flower buds while the young plants are still indoors.

To encourage leafy growth, remove flower buds from young tomato plants. This will help the plant focus on producing more leaves and a stronger stem.

When plants are in small pots, they think they are out of soil space and begin fruiting. By removing the flowers before they bloom or get pollinated, the plant’s hormones are adjusted to keep growing foliage.

To prevent early fruiting, it is not recommended to keep an early fruit on the plant for a quick harvest.

If a flower is allowed to form a fruit, the plant will waste energy on fruit and seed production instead of growing larger. Holding off on early fruit production is important for better tomato yields in the future.

To ensure the health and proper growth of your tomatoes, it is recommended to continue removing the flower buds until they are transplanted outdoors.

How To Pick Off Tomato Flowers?

My technique for plucking flowers is straightforward. I prefer using my fingers for larger flowers, and occasionally I use tweezers for tiny buds. Tomato flowers typically grow on trusses, which are small branches that contain multiple flowers.

To promote leaf and branch growth, it is recommended to remove the entire truss before the flowers have a chance to open up, as this triggers foliage hormones and redirects the plant’s energy.

Compared to other plant varieties, tomato plants simplify the process of plucking flowers by producing flower trusses.

Plucking tomato flowers is most effective when done early, as the plant will have expended minimal energy to produce them. It is important to note that this should only be done on young plants not yet established in their final pot or garden bed.

When To Stop Picking Tomato Flowers?

So those tomato flowers are gonna turn into actual tomatoes at some point, right? I gotta stop pinching them off eventually. When should I do that?

After the plants have been outside in their permanent spot for about 1-2 weeks, you can stop picking the flowers. By then, they’ll be adjusted to being outdoors, nice and settled in their pot or garden bed, and ready to start making tomatoes.

I’m just picking the flowers for now while they’re still inside and the first couple weeks they’re outside. That way, they focus on getting big and strong instead of fruiting too early. More stems and branches will grow, so later, there will be more places for tomatoes to grow. Awesome!

Why Are My Tomato Flowers Falling Off?

There are several reasons why tomato flower buds may drop, including unintentionally removing them and other factors.

  • Excessive heat:Tomatoes can tolerate various temperatures, but they have their limits. When exposed to excessive heat (90°F/32°C), tomato plants may shed flowers. To mitigate this, provide afternoon shade for your plants during hot months. If you have potted plants, relocate them to a shaded area. For in-ground plants, consider planting them near tall plants or trees on their westside to shield them from afternoon sun.
  • Too much nitrogen: you’re fertilizing tomato plants, reduce nitrogen when they start flowering. Nitrogen promotes leafy growth, not fruit production. Instead, provide potassium and calcium for larger yields and to prevent blossom end rot.
  • Over-watering: Over-watering can be detrimental to tomato plants. The roots need oxygen to survive, and if the soil is overly saturated, the plants won’t be able to breathe. It is important to ensure that water can drain from potted or in-ground plants. Containers typically have drainage holes, but flat garden beds may require trenches to redirect excess water away from the roots during heavy rainfall.
  • Cold temperatures: Temperatures drop as the season ends. Tomato flowers falling off is normal as the plant prepares for stressful conditions. You can use garden fabric to extend the season by a few weeks if desired, but tomatoes will die in late fall due to cold temperatures.
  • Pests: Pests can harm tomato flowers, leaves, or foliage. Check under leaves or around young flowers for signs of insects. Look closely as they can be difficult to see. If you find any pests, identify them, treat the plants right away. To handle aphids, I prefer using neem oil or spraying the plants with a hose to remove sap suckers.

If you are not experiencing any of these problems, it may be advisable to examine the plants for any signs of disease. Diseases such as blight, mosaic, and others can affect your tomato plants at any time during the season. Therefore, it is important to maintain proper airflow around the base of the plants by practicing bottom pruning.

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