Even with extreme care during transport from the nursery or during planting, snapping off the main stem of a tomato plant accidentally occurs sometimes. After planting, a misstep in the garden or a heavy thunderstorm wind also can break main tomato plant stems and seemingly render the prized plant useless. Tomato plants resprout growth from tiny buds in the axils of leaves -- the crotch pits at the base of leaf attachments to the main stem.
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When the main stem of a tomato plant is broken, the plant doesn't die. The roots continue to supply water and nutrients to remaining stems and leaves. Hormones continue to move throughout the vascular tissue and trigger dormant buds to sprout to replace the growth tip lost on the main stem. On undamaged tomato plants, gardeners usually refer to the side branches as suckers. Suckers form from leaf axils on the lower part of the broken tomato plant and become the new growing stems.
Immediate After Care
Once the tomato snaps in half, discard the upper portion if the break extends through the entire stem diameter. If the plant is a young seedling, fully remove the upper portion and the plant will quickly grow. If the tomato plant is already bearing fruit, monitor the plant portion above the break. If it begins to wilt, too much damage occurred and the entire portion should be fully removed. If leaves remain healthy in appearance, leave the upper portion but do not move or jar it. Enough vascular tissue is intact to continue development of small fruits. Expect suckers to form just under the break, however.
Encouraging Healthy Regrowth
The breakage wound on the tomato stem remains vulnerable as a point of insect or disease entry into the plant. Allow it to air dry and do not get soil into the wound as you work around and tidy up the area around the damaged tomato. Maintain an evenly moist soil to encourage timely sprouting of suckers to replace the broken stem tip on the tomato. Apply a diluted liquid fertiliser in tandem with usual watering. Keep foliage dry as you don't want to encourage any fungal diseases to take hold while the tomato is stressed and focusing energy on regrowth.
Avoiding Future Problems
After salvaging a broken tomato plant, breakage may occur again. Place a wire or wooden tomato cage over small tomato plants so growth is supported. Once fruits develop, added weight load builds up on stems and an improper step or movement of an arm can break stems. Thunderstorm rains and wind also cause random stem breaks. Tie stems to support cages, wires or stakes to give supplemental strength to the elongating tomato branches.
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