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.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

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.)
1-40 of 99Next »
Jodie1234 years ago
 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 Jodie1234 years ago
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 sueL24 years ago
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 finton3 years ago
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).
Garden 071228_0003 figs.jpgHPIM4101.JPG

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)  finton3 years ago
Very impressive. Nice work!

I always taking cutting and expect to lose 10 % by default.
sueL2 finton3 years ago
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 sueL23 years ago
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 finton3 years ago
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 sueL24 years ago
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.
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 sueL24 years ago
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)  Jodie1233 years ago
Great input !!!!!!! Thanks Jodie!

tonysoprano6379 (author) 8 months ago

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!

kschritter1 year ago
This is not cloning, it's just rooting. No laboratory needed. You can do this with many types of plants.
reeding4 years ago
my friend always wants to give me his cloned dro and i never knew what that meant.
t0astt reeding2 years ago
He means he wants to give you a clone of his marijuana plant.
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-_3 years ago
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!
gogutu3 years ago
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 gogutu3 years ago
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?
jebradley3 years ago
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.
tonysoprano6379 (author)  jebradley3 years ago
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
gogutu4 years ago
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 gogutu3 years ago
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.
AzureEyes4 years ago
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?
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.
tonysoprano6379 (author)  AzureEyes4 years ago
Thanks for your post!
kea4 years ago
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
finton kea4 years ago
Gibberellin, kea. See for a far-more-scientific-than-you'd-ever-want-to-know article.
This is a good Instructable tonysoprano! Hopefully it will encourage more people to get into propagation. Your "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" is correct, but also because the shoots further away from the root/stem interface are more "adult" (less old, but more "adult") and contain more auxins - "An important principle of plant organization based upon auxin distribution is apical dominance, which means that the auxin produced by the apical bud (or growing tip) diffuses downwards and inhibits the development of ulterior lateral bud growth, which would otherwise compete with the apical tip for light and nutrients. Removing the apical tip and its suppressive hormone allows the lower dormant lateral buds to develop, and the buds between the leaf stalk and stem produce new shoots which compete to become the lead growth. This behavior is used in pruning by horticulturists." (Wikipedia); ironically auxin is also used as a rooting hormone! Plants: go figure.
If I can find the photos, I'll do an instructable on propagation using leaf base buds based on a potato propagation project from my B. Hort (Tech) (Hons) honours year - I grew thousands of plants from just two different tubers!
tonysoprano6379 (author)  finton3 years ago
Thank you very much!

Finton, your input and knowledge are greatly appreciated!
kea finton4 years ago
Yes, Great stuff. I am sure instructable on this would be good value.
rhkramer3 years ago
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?
rhkramer3 years ago
Do you wait until the suckers attain a certain minimum size (before cutting them for cloning)?

What size do you recommend?

On the plant I want to clone, the suckers are growing out exactly in the V between the main stem and a "leaf stem". In your picture, it looks like the sucker is growing from a place an inch or so out on the leaf stem.

Will that happen later on my plant?

Should I wait for that to happen before cutting the sucker?
willow branches contain an excess amount of natural rooting hormone, so if you wanted a non-carcinogenic option for edibles, you could use those!
Yeah, Salicylic acid (from the willow genus name Salix). What aspirin is made from more-or-less. I seem to remember that you can use aspirin as a rooting hormone..., must check on that...
Wikipedia's Salicylic acid article also says "It plays a role in the resistance to pathogens by inducing the production of pathogenesis-related proteins. It is involved in the systemic acquired resistance (SAR) in which a pathogenic attack on one part of the plant induces resistance in other parts." This might be interesting to research also: infuse willow bark and spray on the veges as a pathogen preventative...?
bobftx4 years ago
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.
saehn bobftx4 years ago
Patented? Realistically, how could anyone patent a life-form? Don't drink the Kool-aid.
bobftx saehn4 years ago It's the basis of the entire plant/nursery business. It's the basis of agriculture.
saehn bobftx4 years ago
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!
1-40 of 99Next »