There’s a very particular process that goes along with planting tomatoes, especially when moving the seedlings from their initial germinating place to a permanent spot in the garden. Some gardeners swear by the idea that part of this process is picking the flowers off the tomato plants when they’re first growing. But, should you pinch off the first tomato plant flowers?
You should pinch off the first tomato plant flowers. It’s beneficial to the tomato plant to pinch off the first flowers that grow when the seedling is germinating because it allows the plant to focus its energy on growing and strengthening the roots.
The rest of this article will explain why it’s a good idea to pinch off the first tomato plant flowers that bloom early in the season, and when picking off the flowers isn’t beneficial and can harm the plant’s growth. I’ll also provide tips to ensure the plant’s growth isn’t stunted when plucking off the blossoms.
Why You Should Pinch off the First Tomato Plant Flowers
There are a few reasons why pinching off the first flowers blooming on a tomato plant ends up being beneficial for the plant in the long run. I’ll go over these reasons below.
Pinch off Tomato Flowers To Conserve Energy
Perhaps the most crucial purpose of pinching the first tomato flowers off before they can blossom is to conserve the plant’s energy. When a tomato plant (or any plant, really) is focused on growing flowers, it’ll only be able to put energy toward that process. Therefore, it won’t spend as much time sending energy to the roots, which is far more critical.
Ensuring each plant has a strong base in its roots is essential, but growing sturdy roots will not happen if the plant is working on prematurely developing flowers. The plant will be using all of its stamina to create tomato buds that probably won’t prosper, which takes away from its ability to grow substantial roots.
Removing the first batch of flowers that have grown on a tomato plant will trigger the plant’s system and remind it that it needs to be developing its roots, stems, and leaves before starting to work on yielding any fruit.
If the roots of a tomato plant are wholly energized and rejuvenated, they’ll have an easier time accessing moisture in the soil. This is crucial for the plant’s ability to keep growing and developing tomatoes throughout the season.
Solid and sturdy roots will also better hold up to natural elements like wind and heavy rain. They’ll keep the stems firmly planted in the ground and hold onto the tomatoes with a tighter grip, salvaging many more.
Pinch off Tomato Flowers Due to the Lack of Pollinators
Another completely valid reason for plucking the first blooms off a tomato plant is that they’re the least likely of all the flowers the plant creates to be pollinated.
This typically occurs because the first flowers start to grow when it’s too cold for pollinating insects to be out regularly. If the temperature is below 70°F (21°C), there will be much fewer insects actively working on spreading pollen.
Tomato plants are also much less receptive to the process of pollination occurring when the climate is too cold. If the plant is prematurely growing blossoms when the temperature is not yet above 70°F (21°C), those flowers will simply be taking up the plant’s energy supply.
During this time in the early parts of the growing season, the lack of pollinators and the plant’s desire to be left alone make it simple to understand why the first flowers are essentially useless!
Pinch off Tomato Flowers During Pest Infestations and Disease Outbreaks
The last reason it could be necessary to pluck the flowers off a tomato plant is when a natural disaster like a pest infestation or infectious disease takes the plant over.
Removing the flowers on the tomato plant that the problem has hit will be crucial to the plant’s survival. If the dead or infected parts of the plant are gone, the plant can spend its energy recovering from the trauma. Plucking the flowers will also give the plant the nudge it needs to begin growing again.
When Picking Off Tomato Plant Flowers Is a Bad Idea
There are many important reasons to remove the first tomato blooms from the plant, but are there times when picking the flowers will harm the plant more than help?
Unfortunately, there are a few instances when pinching off the early tomato blooms could stunt or even prevent the plant’s growth. I’ll go over these instances below.
The Tomato Plant Was Purchased in the Middle of the Season
Most of the time, tomato plants will be purchased at the beginning of the growing season and will need to have their first flowers picked off in order to get the roots going. However, this isn’t the case when tomatoes are purchased sometime during the growing season.
Once a tomato plant starts growing flowers, its main priority is to produce fruit from those flowers. Developing the tomatoes will take the plant some time because it has to focus its energy on that process.
If flowers are removed from a new plant during summer, the plant will most likely not have enough time to yield an abundance of fruit before fall temperatures hit and the plant is no longer producing. Thus, the first flowers should only be pinched off if the plant is bought right at the beginning of the season.
The Tomato Plant Is Already Producing Blossoms
Another time when tomato blossoms should not be removed is if the plant is already blooming when purchased.
For the most part, this will only occur if the plant is purchased when the growing season has already started. Even if the plant is selected at the beginning of the season, picking off the flowers when transplanting from the initial pot to the garden is not ideal.
The Tomato Plant Has Already Been Transplanted
While it’s helpful to pinch off the first tomato flowers when the plant is still in its original pot, it’s no longer a good idea once it’s been put into the garden and is permanently planted there.
Once the roots have taken hold of the soil in the garden, the plant will be able to begin producing fruit from its flowers. At that point, there’s no benefit to trying to help the plant conserve its energy. Plucking flowers will only prevent the plant from yielding any fruit.
How To Avoid Harming the Tomato Plant’s Growth
There are a couple of concepts to remember when deciding whether or not to pinch off the first flowers growing on a tomato plant.
Tomato Plants Naturally Shed
Many plants are intelligent enough to know that they need to shed their first layer of flowers by themselves, and tomatoes fall into that category. The tomato plant may understand what it needs to do to conserve its energy, and pinching the flowers off manually might not even be necessary.
After successfully fertilizing the plant, any flowers that survive that first natural shedding will grow into tomatoes.
Indeterminate Versus Determinate Tomato Plants
It’s important to know whether the tomatoes being produced are of the indeterminate or determinate variety.
If the tomatoes are indeterminate, the plant’s vines will continue to grow consistently and produce new leaves and fruit all summer long. These types of tomato plants will yield a steady supply throughout the season, so plucking a few of the first flowers won’t damage the plant.
On the other hand, if the tomatoes are of the determinate variety, they will grow and produce fruit in one big batch at a time. The flowers on these plants should never be pinched off because the plant will not be able to regrow fruit again before the weather becomes cold.
Ultimately, pinching off the first flowers on a tomato plant will immensely help the plant’s growth. It’ll allow the plant to grow tougher roots, stand up to the weather and the elements, and produce a bountiful fruit harvest when the temperature and timing is right.
As long as tomatoes are purchased early in the season and are planted promptly, there’s no harm in pinching off the first flowers.