Introduction: Clone a Tomato Plant (and Fill Your Garden for FREE!)

Picture of Clone a Tomato Plant (and Fill Your Garden for FREE!)

For this instructable, I will show you how to increase the amount of produce you can grow at your home for free.

Cloning may sound like a very complicated scientific process, but for the at-home gardener it is a very simple thing that anyone can do.

Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed

The actual list of items needed to clone a plant is very short and anyone who gardens will have no problem at all locating these items around the house.

Absolute must haves:

A semi-mature tomato (Donor or mother plant) A plant with good growth and that has not been diseased or stressed.

A container or containers around 2 inches deep (I used one of my wife baking dishes, Ha ha)

Razor knife

Potting soil


Other optional items :

Rooting compound (can be found @ Wal-mart for 6 dollars[U.S.])

Humidity dome

Seed heat mat

I realize that most gardeners probably have the humidity dome and seed mat, but I was aiming this instructable for the weekend warrior gardener in hopes of expanding minds and showing how simple and cost effective this act of cloning can be. The optional items will greatly speed up the cloning process BUT are not required to complete this process.

Step 2: Your Mother Plant

Picture of Your Mother Plant

The first step to cloning is to make sure the plant you are taking cuttings from is healthy and has not been affected by disease.

Now take a look at your plant where a large branch comes off of the main stem of the plant.
Where the branch comes off of the stem forming a "v" there will be new growth. This "start" or new growth is the target of our cutting.

This "start" if left on the plant will continue to grow and produce more branches. It has what is called "nodes" to start blossoms and new branches.

Important note: Selecting starts from the bottom stems of the plant have a better chance of producing roots because of increase in natural rooting hormone in the plant. ( I have had luck propagating starts from all areas of the plant though.)

Step 3: Cutting Your Mother Plant

Picture of Cutting Your Mother Plant

Once you have identified your start, using a razor knife or blade, cut the start at its base on a 45 degree angle.

IMPORTANT : As soon as you cut your start you should dip it in some tepid water

Now for the optional part. I have read, at this point you can stick it straight into moistened soil and mist and wait. the following steps are purely optional but guarantee success .

After dipping my cutting into the tepid water I use my razor and scrape the bottom inch of the cutting stem.

Step 4: Optional Step

Picture of Optional Step

At this point in the option step. I lightly scrape the base of the stem with my razor at a ninety degree angle all of the way around the stem.

After scraping the stem I dip the cutting again in the tepid water and then dip directly into the rooting compound.

Step 5: Lets Get Dirty

Picture of Lets Get Dirty

Now insert your cutting into the potting soil and lightly mist the cutting with water.

These cutting should be put under some light but not in direct sunlight. I always mist my cuttings twice a day to ensure their chances of success.

After a week (usually 2) your cuttings will have developed a root system, and can be transplanted outside.

When transplanting your cutting outside, bury it as deep as possible and more roots will grow from the stem.

Step 6: The Results

Picture of The Results

Using this exact process I have increased the amount of tomatoes plants in my garden for free.
The first picture is my "MOTHER" plant , the second picture is semi mature cuttings almost ready to produce fruit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Good Luck

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bobftx (author)2010-07-26

Be aware that most commercially available plants are patented and may not be propagated this way. If you use open-pollinated heirloom varieties you can propagate all you want, but of course the best way there is to save the seeds.

Leosmama (author)bobftx2010-07-27

I thought as long as you don't sell your propagated plants, i.e. for personal use only - then you can propagate to your hearts content, or is this not true - anyone know !!!???

DhanuV (author)Leosmama2017-01-09

Not true. Most nations have laws against "seed saving" of patented plants. Not sure about propagation from cuttings. Like many things, if it is for your home garden, you are unlikely to have problems. If it is for your home farm, you well may.

Something else to think about: A major problem with patented and GM plants is that to various degrees, they are genetic monocultures. This makes them highly vulnerable to disease. Propagating such plants even for yourself makes you as vulnerable as they are.

Something else: Many patented plants, esp Monsanto products, are designed to be very good with certain proprietary additions, rhyzobium for soy, glyphosphate for "roundup-ready" plants, heavy fertilisation for many "green revolution" plants. They often are less hardy and less productive than traditional plants (less robust) without these things.

Use traditional and heritage varieties. Work for plant diversity.

MatthewW267 (author)DhanuV2017-04-20

Please name me a patented gmo tomato plant. Last I checked they don't exist.

saehn (author)bobftx2010-07-26

Patented? Realistically, how could anyone patent a life-form? Don't drink the Kool-aid.

bobftx (author)saehn2010-07-27 It's the basis of the entire plant/nursery business. It's the basis of agriculture.

saehn (author)bobftx2010-07-27

More like it's the basis of the agricultural industry, the plant/nursery business as you wrote. Innovation happens without economy, and I think that the patenting of life-forms sets a dangerous precedent (commercializing life). I don't doubt that such a law exists, it just seems morally wrong to me. I was in an argumentative mood last night!

Dragonsire (author)saehn2015-02-19

Laws vary from place to place. I have never heard of that law here, but it may be a law somewhere.

DhanuV (author)Dragonsire2017-01-09

The Trade Related Intellectual Property (TRIPs) agreements within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have become de facto law, as most nations have signed onto the WTO. The WTO replaced theh General Agreement on Trade and Tarriffs (GATT) as the global trade regulation body. This organisation is, indeed, evil, with little or no representation of people, and with corporate interests seen as overriding the "trade barriers" of nations.

Some of the aspects include the right to own not only seeds and genetic material, including that of human genes, plants, and patenting of natural substances used in traditional medicine. It also includes the ownership of shape, colour, smell and other sensory cues under design law. Pink Batts own pink, for building insulation. Coke owns the shape of it's bottle.

Yes, seeds are owned. Any nation in violation of WTO risks sanctions, so most nations have embodied WTO regulation into law.

njmalhq (author)saehn2010-07-28

"An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so." - Gandhi

A wise person -- I forget who -- said that as there are unjust men, there are unjust laws. Some of us obey such laws because, being deeply immersed in unjust societies, we have lost the ability to distinguish right from wrong, just from unjust. For those of us I have no remedies, because even if I did, they would not accept them.

Others amongst us obey such laws purely out of fear. Because behind every unjust law stands a covert or overt threat of extreme violence. There is a case to be made for that kind of compliance. Who could fault a person who is by design a survival machine, that doesn't want to go to prison, to be tortured, impoverished, hanged, drawn and quartered?

Still, sometimes the fear that we submit to is an internal beast. Big brother isn't all that big. He can't watch our every move, our every action, our every small act of disobedience. Sometimes we find ourselves somewhere, in the privacy of our homes, in remote corners of our lives, where we truly are free, where no corporation, no government, no policeman, no lawyer, no judge, no jury, no executioner is watching us. In such places, at such times, if we choose to uphold unjust laws, our obedience turns from an act of understandable, justifiable cowardice to one of voluntary collaboration. So, if you find yourself in such a position, realize that disobedience of unjust laws is your moral duty. And that someday our species will look back upon the patenting of life with the same contempt we look back upon the ownership of human beings.

bobftx (author)njmalhq2010-07-28

Clearly, njmalhq owns no intellectual property.

njmalhq (author)bobftx2010-07-28

Absolutely right. I own neither ideas, nor slaves, nor women, nor nations, nor the air, nor water, and quite a few other things. And that is a good thing. Because the moment you own something, someone owns you. Good luck to you, being owned and all.

pins (author)njmalhq2010-08-16

Good luck to you, owning nothing and all.

tonysoprano6379 (author)pins2010-10-08

Ha ha ha ha, good one.

njmalhq (author)tonysoprano63792010-10-18

And this:

purplemutant (author)saehn2010-07-27

Monsanto has several patents on seeds. For example, patent # 7,294,765 B2. Which is a patent for variety of soy. There is no kool-aid. Go to the google patent search and look it up.

AzureEyes (author)2010-05-30

I love this. I think it's so neat. Do you think you could clone a pepper plant?
I would assume that tomato plants (right now ,being late May ) are too small to take cuttings from. Does anyone know if you could take a cutting from below? i have little flowers growing on my tomato plants but afraid to cut off the top, even if it grows roots, will it damage the flowers in any way?

finton (author)AzureEyes2011-04-26

AzureEyes, if you are taking cuttings you should remove all flowers and flower buds, and most/all of the leaf area, as flowers and fruit are nutrient "sinks" and your cuttings will have to provide that from stores in the stem until the roots establish - which they probably won't as the roots need those stores to get established themselves.

Dragonsire (author)finton2015-02-19

Most clones will root fastest if you remove mist the leaves, but removing all the leaves will slow things down. Leaves are needed to absorb light, which the plant turns to food.
Remove any lower leaves, but I suggest leaving the top leaves to allow for photosynthesis. Just trim them a bit if they're very large.

finton (author)Dragonsire2015-02-20

Quite so Dragonsire, hence my "most/all" phrase. Keep in mind though that while leaves are photosynthesising they are by definition also transpiring and that water has to come from somewhere. Until there are roots, one has to trim the cutting to balance the inputs and outputs.

This is where your misting comes in, of course! I did this for my Horticulture thesis in a special misting/propagation tent at Massey University's Plant Growth Unit: "The effect of Air-filled Porosity on the Rooting of Woody Cuttings in Bark". One problem with misting is some fungi's predilection for moist leaves... (which is why overhead watering in the evening on warm days is discouraged).

In any case, when leaves are left on (which I usually do), and are trimmed as you suggest (which I also do but more so), it is better to snip off the tip of the cutting as that is the softest and most water-thirsty part. As the plant establishes, new shoots will appear from the base of the existing leaves in balance with the developing roots (although some plants will sprout from nodes on the stem. Shrubs that are good for hedging are often like this).

Anyway, welcome to Instructables three days ago! We look forward to what you can teach us.

Thanks for your post!

rhkramer (author)2011-03-14

I would not be concerned about using a rooting hormone (at least, a natural one), as rooting hormone is something that is normally in the plant anyway.

Perhaps some of the rooting hormones are synthetic--that might be cause for worry, but if it is an exact duplicate of rooting hormone (chemistry wise), again, I would not be worried. 

How much rooting hormone does it take to cause cancer in some test animal? 

How many tomatoes would you have to eat to get an equivalent dose?

Does it build up in your body or is it excreted regularly in some fashion?

Dragonsire (author)rhkramer2015-02-19

Eating the rooting hormone directly is probably a bad idea, but that's not what people should be doing anyways.
A plant gets watered many times before producing fruit, and grows much larger then the original clone. By the time you eat your fruit, the excess rooting horomone would be all but none existant.
There is no need for alarm, if your plant doesn't die from a high dosage, you wont from a miniscule one.

kschritter (author)2013-04-05

This is not cloning, it's just rooting. No laboratory needed. You can do this with many types of plants.

Dragonsire (author)kschritter2015-02-19

The reason people call this technique "cloning" is because the offspring is an exact copy of the mother plant, scientifically speaking.
Normally a "female" plant is pollinated by airborn pollins released by a "male" plant. Thus a seed has the mixed genetics of both plants. (And yes, plant sperm is in the air)
In this method, you produce a clone of the plant, with no other plant's genetics in the mix. An exact clone, no lab required.

Jodie123 (author)2010-03-26

 there is a good way to do cuttings from almost any plant.
after taking the cutting and doing it in grow hormone  and putting it in your soil (best 50/50 sand and peat mos ) place the container in a clear plastic bag .
Put some sticks on the side to support the bag and tie the bag close and leave for two weeks in a light but not in the sun place make sure the soil is well watered but not to wet.
no need to water them at all.
also cut half the leaves so there is less leaves to feed.
Some plants are hard to do but I know another way and will post that later.
Hope you have lots of fun doing it.

sueL2 (author)Jodie1232010-07-25

Will this work on fig trees. I've tried everything I can think of. The branch grows roots but as soon as I cut it off the tree it dies, roots and all. gma

finton (author)sueL22010-10-24

Well that's strange sueL2: I chopped up my 1.5m (5ft?) fig-in-a-barrel last autumn, cut the thumb-thick branches into 500mm lengths, more or less, took off all the leaves, and stuck the stems in spaced out groups of six or so in tyres full of garden soil; this spring I have about 20 rapidly growing figs, having lost maybe one or two. No air-layering, hormones or anything! I'll try to remember to post a photo.

finton (author)finton2011-03-26

OK. Here are the figs in a wheelie bin, and about 20 of them after cutting the branches into lengths and "stikin" them in soil filled tyres (to the left of the bath in the second pic).

slyasafox14k (author)finton2014-08-16

Finton, I love your figs. I live at an elevation of over 10,000ft and have a dwarf fig. I need to prune it and would love to start another one. I will give your method a try. Thanks.

tonysoprano6379 (author)finton2011-03-27

Very impressive. Nice work!

I always taking cutting and expect to lose 10 % by default.

sueL2 (author)finton2011-03-27

I also have 4 apple trees I started from seeds. They're about 2 inches tall. How old or tall do they have to be before I can plant them outdoors?

finton (author)sueL22011-04-26

Sorry about the delay sueL2: just got back from PNG. Well strictly speaking, any old age/height you like; they do grow from seed in the ground after all! :] The answer depends on pot size, climate, site, intensity of after-planting care, etc, so let's see: personally, I'd grow them on in the pots until the roots are filling the pot space, but have not started to get crowded. This will give them a head-start over weeds etc, and give them a bigger volume to extract moisture from. I'm assuming you'll use standard planting methods, rather than just bunging them in the ground...
Keep in mind that apple trees started from seed rarely produce true to type, unless they are an heirloom variety that has not cross pollinated with any other variety. Most nursery-produced trees will be a good fruit-producing scion grafted onto disease-resistant and/or dwarfing rootstock (do a Google search). If your seedlings grow well in your site, you could always top-graft them with another variety when they're big enough.
I have some apple seedlings growing from broken roots left when I shifted my two grafted apple trees - these will be from the rootstock, so I intend to do just what I suggested above. I have also grafted scions from a old heirloom variety onto the existing trees; the grafts have taken but I've had no fruit yet.

sueL2 (author)finton2011-03-27

Hi Finton
I tried your method. It looks like it worked. No leaves yet but it looks like it has buds. So easy after everything else I tried didn't work.
Thank you!

Jodie123 (author)sueL22010-10-24

Don't know what went wrong with your figs but try another way of doing it.
There are more way's then one to skin a cat lol
Sorry for the late reply was not aware of it it was the first time i ever posted anything.

AbstractDragon (author)sueL22010-07-25

The other poster is right about needing to Air Layer a tree, but it's not as difficult as he makes it sound. Message me if you can't find good info, and I'll explain the process. All you'll need is a knife, sphagnum moss, string and plastic wrap.

saintneko (author)sueL22010-07-25

Most trees can't be cloned this way. You should look up the technique known as "air layering" (the way many bonsai are cloned) however, be warned, the technique is difficult.

tonysoprano6379 (author)Jodie1232011-03-27

Great input !!!!!!! Thanks Jodie!

tonysoprano6379 (author)2014-05-20

I wanted to log back on and give a big thank you to the folks over at for mentioning this instructable and giving me the credit for the project! You guys rock!!!!! Check out their awesome website!

reeding (author)2010-02-23

my friend always wants to give me his cloned dro and i never knew what that meant.

t0astt (author)reeding2012-06-06

He means he wants to give you a clone of his marijuana plant.

marushkalynn (author)2011-11-09

Tomato plants do not need to be cloned, all the little nodules on the stems are the beginnings of roots. You can break a stem off stick it in dirt or water and it will take root.

_-A7X-_ (author)2011-09-17

I would have given it a try this year but an early unexpected frost killed all my three mother plants :( next year my mom and I are going to try this. You're right about showing gardening to kids; I love working out in the garden with my mom!

gogutu (author)2011-04-28

da am cerut mai multe explicatii la modul cum a fost obtinuita acea pasta sunt un om sarac nu ma la batut in fata destinului tot ce vreau sa fac e ca sa pot sa supravetuiesc eu si familia citit comentariile ,dar as vrea sa stiu daca aceste plante supravetuiesc in solarii sau pe camp mult respect pebtru voi,"gelu"

finton (author)gogutu2011-08-03

Google Translate sort of says: "so we asked for more explanation on how that white paste was obtained though a poor man does not beat me in front of destiny all I want to make is that I can survive my family and I have read comments, but I want to know if these plants survive in greenhouses or open fields with great respect for you, "Gelu"".
Gogutu, do you have someone who can translate to English?

jebradley (author)2011-04-30

Has anyone tried grafting tomatoes to cloned rootstock?

I am beginning to play with cloning, but I'm playing with OTC varieties, and not the expensive rootstock, such as maxifort or beaufort. This is also for my own personal garden, and not a commercial endeavour. If I get successful with my grafting, I might play with grafting clones myself.

Please let me know if you have success with grafting. It is something I would love to learn more about myself........... Thanks for the comment

gogutu (author)2010-07-25

Va Rog sa fiti Nu Mai explicită a UE am inteles cum aceasta se confruntă cu clonare si CE FEL de pamant ati folosit , puroi CE ATI în el ? Rezervor te

finton (author)gogutu2011-04-26

Google Translate says "Please be more explicit EU I do not understand how it is dealing with cloning and what kind of soil you used, pus à ® n What did he? Tank you" This is from Romainian.

kea (author)2010-07-25

You should use a rooting hormone for all cuttings & tissue culture work. The name is"Giberallen" it works about 95% of time. God one. Cheers Kiwi

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