It might be intimidating to trim tomato leaves. But, research states that pruning plants can contribute to bigger yields.
Not just to double the harvest, you should cut off tomato leaves to limit the spread of disease or to enhance its appearance.
As the tomato plant grows lots of leaves, removing old or dead leaves allows new leaves to get an ample amount of sunlight and improves air circulation.
Fresh air is essential for getting enough CO2 and avoiding mold or fungal growth.
Before you rush to cut wilted tomato leaves, you must find out the cause of wilting.
If overwatering is the reason why your tomato leaves are wilting, then you must get rid of water stress to revive the plant.
So, without ado, let’s now check out the causes of tomato plant wilting.
Should I Cut Off Wilted Tomato Leaves?
Yes, you should remove the wilted leaves of the tomato plant. It can enhance the overall growth of the plant.
Cutting off dead and infected leaves can actually speed up plant growth, as the plant can efficiently use the nutrient supply.
Removing old dead leaves ensures that new leaves get enough light so that they can effectively produce food.
Though tomatoes don’t need sunlight to rip, improved lighting conditions will indirectly increase fruit production.
As mentioned above, before removing infected tomato leaves, you must first inspect the plant to determine the root cause of wilting or drooping.
If you don’t care to rectify the underlying issue, even new leaves will start to wilt. And you may end up removing all leaves from your tomato plant.
Remember, fewer leaves mean low food production.
Why Tomato Plant Wilting?
Wilting, drooping and thin leaves, in most cases, indicate the plant needs water.
Apart from underwatering, fungal wilt disease, tomato spotted wilt virus, walnut toxicity, stalk bores and overwatering can be signs of wilted leaves.
At the first sign of symptoms, you should diagnose the cause of the wilting and try to revive it.
To be able to revive, it is essential that you first understand every cause of wilting.
Overwatering is common among potted plants.
Amateur gardeners repeatedly water the plant out of curiosity. But, this extra care can result in root rotting and wilted leaves.
You can see green algae on the surface of potting soil.
To revive, stop watering and relocate the plant under better sunlight. Water the plant only when you find the top 2 inches of the soil is dry.
Similarly, not caring to water your plants can result in underwatered tomato plants.
The plant needs water to transport nutrients from the soil through roots.
Lack of required moisture makes the leaves droop and wilt.
To revive underwatered tomato plants, you have to start watering generously.
Growing medium is crucial to avoid watering stress; if required, change the potting soil mix to revive the wilting tomato plant successfully.
Fusarium wilt disease results in the blocking of water and nutrient movement in the main stem.
When water movement is halted, tomato leaves start to sag and wilt.
This fungal disease is caused when you don’t discard the infected plant from the previous crop.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this fungal disease. To stop the spread of disease, you should cut off the infected plant.
However, you can avoid such soil-borne diseases by rotating crops after 4-6 years. Gardeners with small spaces can opt to grow in containers.
Tomato Wilt Virus
Tomato plants affected by this virus show wilting and bronzing of foliage.
Even in this case, you should get rid of the infected plant to stop the spread of the virus.
To avoid this, gardeners recommend choosing disease-resistant tomatoes.
In this case, toxic material is produced by black walnuts that injure tomatoes and other plants related to the Solanaceae family.
Stunted growth, wilting of leaves and yellowing are signs of this toxicity.
To save other plants from the disease, you must destroy dead plants.
Aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies feed on tomato sap and extract nutrients, damaging the plants’ health.
When pests aren’t removed, continuous feeding results in the wilting of tomato leaves.
Extreme temperature, transplant shock, soil compaction, poor drainage and drought are some of the factors that can result in wilting of leaves.
Pros of Cutting Wilted Tomato Leaves
Leaves are crucial for plant’s food production. But old leaves can’t make food, and they survive on the food made by new leaves.
Improves plant health
When you remove dead and wilted leaves, the plant will be able to shift its energy to new leaves, stems and fruit production.
Avoid the spread of diseases
Most plant diseases are based on weak and decayed plant tissues.
Cutting the wilted leaves will reduce the spread of pathogens to other parts of the plant.
It is unsightly to have tomato plants with drooping and wilted leaves.
Removing them improves the overall appearance of your garden.
Stimulate growth of new foliage
When you cut old and dead leaves, the plant will be able to spend those nutrients on new branches and leaves.
It improves the photosynthesis process as new leaves get enough light exposure.
Check this: How worm castings adds nutrients to plant soil?
Improve air circulation
Tomato plants grow abundant leaves, as removing dead leaves increases air circulation.
With more air, plants will get enough CO2, which contributes to food production.
It also helps to avoid fungal and mold growth.
Helps to optimize resources
Getting rid of unwanted leaves allows plants to redirect the sugar and nutrients to other parts of the plant where they need the most.
Prevents plant stress
As mentioned, wilted leaves don’t produce food but get their share of nutrients from the plant. Removing them will reduce the plant’s stress.
Cons of Cutting Tomato Leaves
If not executed with proper care, you may damage the plant.
Apart from this, removing too many leaves can impact a plant’s aesthetic appeal and potentially compromise its health.
So, it is very important that you first determine the cause of wilting and then, with utmost care, remove unwanted leaves from the tomato plant.
Note: According to climatic conditions, if the sunlight is harsh in your region, then leaving a few old leaves can save younger leaves from the scorching sun. Similarly, in frost-hit areas, you must wait to trim dead leaves once the frost stops.
When to cut wilted tomato plant leaves?
To minimize the stress on plants and promote new growth, you must consider cutting leaves with care.
You can trim down dead tomato leaves in the morning or evening when the temperature is cool.
Cutting before the growing season allows the plant to thrive rapidly.
As mentioned earlier, you must leave the plant with old leaves in frost.
- Depending on the severity of wilted tomato leaves, you should get rid of them. If wilting is due to the spread of disease, then removing them at once helps to protect other parts of the plant.
- Consider the growth stage of the plant. If you notice wilted or drooping leaves in younger plants, then removing those few leaves is killing the plant. In this case, you should allow the plant to grow.
- While fruiting. As you already know, plants need leaves to make food for fruit production. If wilting isn’t serious, then stop trimming and allow the plant to fruit. However, in severe cases, it is recommended to cut wilting leaves immediately.
How to cut wilted leaves?
Pinching off leaves is fine in some cases, but you may damage them if proper care isn’t taken.
If you’ve decided to cut wilted leaves considering climatic conditions, then use a sharp cutter that is sterilized to trim.
When you’ve scissors or cutters, then it can be tempting to cut even green leaves. Halt your tool from cutting those leaves.
How do you remove dead leaves from a tomato plant?
If leaves aren’t contributing to the growth of the plant, and in return, they are feeding on plant nutrients, removing them will benefit the plant.
Just take a sharp knife or scissors to cut them off.
Consider sterilizing your tools before removing dead leaves.
Also Read: Can You Eat Tomatoes with Black Spots?
Can a Tomato Plant Survive without Leaves?
A tomato plant without leaves may survive for a short time. However, if the plant stores enough energy to grow new leaves, then it can survive.
If the drop of leaves is due to disease or pests, then probably the plant won’t survive.
Should I remove the Lower Leaves on Tomato plants?
You can remove lower plant leaves after the first fruit is set.
Removing lower leaves ensures the plant redirects its energies to plant growth and fruit production.
Also Read: Is Rabbit Manure Good for Tomatoes?
Tomato Plant Pruning Mistakes
The best time to prune tomato leaves depends on the severity of the disease.
If the wilting of tomato leaves is due to a virus or fungal disease, then it doesn’t make sense to wait.
However, there are a few mistakes that need to be stopped while pruning.
- Aggressive pruning can lead to reduced fruit production. While pruning, you should identify helpful leaves that help to maintain the plant’s overall health.
- Cutting leaves during extreme weather conditions. Removing leaves when the temperature is extreme can result in stress and prone to diseases.
- Not using sterilized tools. The disease can be transmitted through tools.
- Removing too many leaves. Leaves protect fruit and younger leaves from scorching sun; removing a bunch of them can lead to sunburn.
- Pruning in the early stages of the plant. You should refrain from pruning tomato plants in earlier stages, as the plant needs leaves to thrive.
- If you’re removing side shoots (suckers), do it gently when they’re small. Pinch or cut them to avoid hurting the main stem.
While cutting of wilted leaves benefits tomato plants, you should strike a balance between helpful foliage and plant growth.
It is essential to determine the cause of wilting before removing leaves.
Consider environmental factors such as overwatering, underwatering transplant shock and disease symptoms while cutting leaves.
Avoid mistakes while pruning tomato plant leaves for a thriving plant.
Khaja Moinuddin, a computer science graduate, finds joy in gardening and homesteading. Join him on this blog as he shares his experiences in homesteading, gardening, and composting