Starting Tomato Cuttings in a Greenhouse

Thursday, June 9, 2022

It's one of my very favorite gardening activities to do. Yet, I feel like it is often overlooked or just not known about - the wonders of propagation. 

For example, several people noticed some mason jars in the background of a photo in my greenhouse. This started an avalanche of questions. The jars were filled with tomato cuttings in water with an abundance of healthy roots. It became clear that so many didn't realize you could do this. 
Tomato Plant
I love planting seeds, AND I love growing from cuttings. I have different reasons for doing one over the other or sometimes even both. If the reason warrants, I 100% prefer propagation by cuttings over starting by seed. It's so much faster.  

Last July, I started tomato seeds in the greenhouse. 

Why, if this is not my favorite method? 

I did so because there were certain varieties I couldn't get my hands on in any manner other than seeds. So, I was happy to start those particular ones by seed. But, a few months later, I took fall cuttings from my favorite tomato plants in the garden to overwinter. These would provide tomatoes for winter. But, they would also provide cuttings for new spring plants for my summer garden. 
Tomato Plants

When I plant seeds, even in the ideal greenhouse environment, it will take 6-8 weeks to have them ready for transplant. But, if I take a cutting from an established plant, it will be ready to transplant in about 10-14 days, but closer to a week. And another fantastic benefit of going the cutting route is it's an exact clone of the parent plant. So if you have a healthy, prolific plant, your new plant will contain those same exact characteristics. It's pretty incredible. 

What do you need?

Clean glass jars.
Clean sharp shears.
A healthy tomato plant.

That's it! So simple and cost-effective. 

Why and when do I propagate tomato plants by cuttings? 

My preferred method is to cut starts from my favorite garden plants in the fall. I will then root them, pot them up and overwinter for new spring cuttings. You can get plenty of new plants from one single parent plant. And, you can do this successively as well. Tomato plants are the most productive in their first year. So having a continual supply of new plants increases your harvest ability. This also saves my greenhouse space by avoiding carrying huge plants to overwinter. They will produce throughout winter. As I prune them closer to spring, I get new batches of tomato plants for my summer garden. It's such a win-win! 

To be completely honest, I had to prune my greenhouse tomato plants so often throughout the winter due to their incredible growth - I could literally have started hundreds of tomato plants, but the excess went into my composter.  

How do I do this?

It is so simple and easy! Once I decide which plant(s) I want to use, I take cuttings of about 6-7 inches from the tip of a branch. I choose straight suckers and prefer finding those that don't contain blooms. I then remove any bottom leaves-branches and blooms and then place them in water. That's it. I keep them in a well-lit, warm space (my greenhouse), and I will have a tremendously strong root system in about a week. Then, I will pot them up and transplant them out to my garden once the danger of the last frost is gone.

Tomato Plant Propagation by Cuttings

Tomato Plant Propagation by Cuttings

Tomato Plant Propagation by Cuttings

You can propagate directly into the soil. It's not my chosen method, but I will also follow up with a blog post with those directions. However, it does save a step and is worth exploring to determine your favorite method! 

Tomato Plant Propagation by Cuttings

Tomato Plant Propagation by Cuttings

Tomato Plant Propagation by Cuttings

Tomato Plant Propagation by Cuttings

Tomato Plant Propagation by Cuttings

Happy Propagating! 

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