Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tomato Cloning Experiment

When you buy a tomato plant at a store, the chances are the plant wasn't started from seed. It was likely grown from the cutting of another plant. There are many plants that can be cloned in this fashion, but tomatoes are arguably the easiest plant to clone.

The experiment was simple and easy to do. All that is required is a branch from the mother plant. Take that cutting, snip off all of the lower leaves and branches, and stick it in wet soil or a hydroponic grow medium. I chose the soil path since I do not have any space for more hydro experiments. Some recommend using root growth hormone to help the cutting establish itself, but I don't have that on me.
Tomato cloning mother plant
Day 1 Mother Plant
In a similar fashion to the pepper pruning video I watched, I figured that the same method would work just as well for tomato plants. Using my smallest cherry tomato plant, I lopped off all but the bottom 2 branches. I cleaned up the end of the top of the plant and inserted it into a cup of soil. I placed some other leaves of different sizes in other cups to see if they would also clone.

Tomato cuttings for cloning
Day 1 Cuttings
The idea of cloning plants seemed so awesome to me (it still is pretty awesome), that I decided to try it with my Ace tomato downstairs.
Tomato cuttings 2
Day 3 (I rearrange these often)
As expected of the mother plant, it began to focus its energy into growing "suckers" out of the stem to replace the removed part of the plant. In this fashion the plant will have a lower center of gravity and room for more yield.
Tomato mother plant regrowing
Day 3 Mother plant
I can't say that I was successful with the cuttings from the Ace Tomato, those began to wilt and rot quickly, prompting me to remove them.
Tomato cuttings day 4
Day 4
After about 10 days of growth, I could tell which of the cuttings took root as they had not wilted away. I added some basil cuttings and a cutting from my Sweet 100 tomato plant I was given to take the place of the wilted leaves.
Tomato cuttings day 10
Day 10
By the 12th day, it was time to transplant the biggest cutting. As you can see in the image below, a nice root ball formed out of the stem.
Tomato cloning roots
Day 12; The biggest cutting
Comparison of clone to mother plant
Mother plant (left) and clone (right)
It's that simple to get two plants for the price of one. It is possible to clone these again once they are bigger, but I am limited by both space and length of the growing season. This experiment proved that it is definitely possible to quickly propagate tomatoes without needing to buy root hormone. If I were to acquire some, I'd use it to experiment with other plants and smaller tomato cuttings. Aside from allowing for and easy way to increase the number of tomato plants in the garden, these clones do make good gifts for plant-savvy friends. I think it will be interesting to see which of the two plants grows better.

Works with basil, too.

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