How to clone tomato plants and save money
Do you grow your own tomato plants? I do and love it – there is such a wide selection of tomato plants (over 275 different species or types of tomatoes) out there and the vast majority of these you will never find at your local grocer or supermarket. Especially the rare types like yellow, reduced acid tomatoes, pinks, purples, black and whites. Heirloom Cherokee purple tomatoes along with pinks are amongst the best tasting tomatoes out there yet you will never find them anywhere (not even at farmer’s markets which tend to have Better Boy’s grape and other red, large tomatoes) unless you grow them in your own backyard
So, when you have decided to grow your own tomatoes you need to either start from seeds which can take quite a while (months) before you see any results or tomatoes start to form. You can also buy small or medium sized tomato plants at your local Home Depot, Lowes or Walmart (even BJs Wholesale Club has them for $3 each and $9 for three) during the early summer. But if you are going to grow a lot of tomatoes this can quickly add up. There is a better way – clone the tomatoes.
What is cloning?
What is cloning you might ask? Well, its basically making an exact replica of the tomato plant by removing a growth shoot from the plant. With some indoor plants cloning can be very hard and requires absolute sterile conditions as the young clones can become very susceptible to disease and fungus or mold. But most any tomato plant is quite strong and actually impervious to most diseases (except for brown or wilting disease which comes about early in the fall and won’t hurt your harvest one bit).
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How do you clone a tomato plant?
So, how do you clone a tomato plant? Cut off a healthy looking section with leaves and a growth shoot. Be sure to have a long enough bottom section of stem (3-4″ long is good) to put at least 3 inches underground and cut it at a 45 degree angle. Sharp scissors work great at this and cleanliness is not a big factor with cloning tomatoes as it is with many indoor houseplants. So, a little dirt on the plant won’t hurt anything. Below are several pictures showing the ideal cutting size, stem length and how the process for making a clone is actually done from start to finish.
Next take a pot filled with top soil or even just regular dirt (tomatoes are not picky) and, with a stick, poke a hole in the dirt deep enough to put the bottom 3 to 4 inches of the stem in. There is no need for growth hormones which they sell in stores like Home Depot to promote rooting. The tomato plant (regardless of what type you are cloning) will do fine without it. Place the stem in the whole and then push the dirt around the stem to seal off the whole and provide support to your clone.
Watering your clones
Next, is the easy part. Just water the clone or clones once or twice a day. Use a spray bottle or hose attachment that more or less mists them. The clone will need to take the moisture in through its leaves until it has rooted and then you will only have to water the surrounding soil as needed. That’s it. There will be wilting, but during this time the plant will be putting its energies into growing new roots. In about 4 or 5 days the clone will start to root and this will be obvious as the leaves stop wilting and the plant starts to grow again. Now you will have a new tomato plant that will be exactly the same as the one your cut it from – a virtual clone. And the best part is that you didn’t have to buy it at the store or wait for it to grow from seed.
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This is what greenhouses do all the time. They clone their tomato plants as it is much quicker to get them large enough for resale or to grow tomatoes. You will find that if you are going to clone one tomato plant then you might as well clone several at the same time. It isn’t any harder and you will multiply your results and yield. The other cool thing about cloning tomato plants is that if a friend of yours has some neat tomatoes and you would like to grow that variety all you need to do is get a cutting from them (a cutting has both leaves and a growth shoot on it). This won’t cost your friend a thing nor will it hurt his plant or reduce their yield in the least.
This easy cloning method does not work with all other plants – only tomatoes and other easy to grow plants!
But remember, cloning is easy and works great with little effort for tomato plants, but this is not true for other plants. So, if you try this for roses, other vegetables or orchids, you may find disappointment and frustration. Other plants will need extreme cleanliness, rooting hormones, possibly a small hothouse with regulated humidity and moisture, etc. For tomatoes, though, you will find this method is easy and works great. I, to this day, have never had a tomato clone die or not produce well. And I have used this cloning on all types of tomatoes.