Broken Tomato Stems are the WORST! (Prevention + Fixes)

Discovering a broken tomato stem can be devastating. All your time and effort tending to your tomato crops, keeping up their water intake and protecting them from pests. All for nothing. Or is it?

  • Depending on the severity of the break, you may be able to salvage your plant and any tomatoes that may be fruiting.
  • Repairs from supportive plant splints to hydroponic solutions can fix the broken tomato stems.
  • Being proactive and taking preventative measures is the key to stopping any future broken tomato plants.
broken tomato stem - how to fix a broken stem

Today’s topic at the Garden Bench Top is all about saving those damaged tomato plants. We will be taking you through the process of investigating your broken tomato stem. As well as the next steps, with guides for how to fix a broken tomato plant.

In the final section, we’ll work through the common causes for broken tomato plants, and some remedies you can take to prevent any future tomato stem damage.

Can A Broken Tomato Plant be Saved?

The good news is, if you find your tomato plant looking worse for wear with a broken stem, all is not lost. In many cases, a broken tomato plant can be saved.

Tomatoes are a highly adaptable plant that can withstand a bit of a battering (not that we are suggesting you go test your plants’ mettle with a baseball bat). What we mean is, if caught early enough, you should be able to rescue your tomato plant.

Simply follow our guide below, and you and your family will be enjoying those delicious tomatoes in no time.

How to Repair a Tomato Plant Stem

Sometimes it is just a fact of gardening life that some tomato plants will break.

However, what those years of broken tomato plants have taught us, is that there are varying degrees of breakages. And each type of breakage requires a different fix.

Bent Tomato Stems (with no visible damage)

bent tomato plant
credit: Gardening Stackexchange

If you fall into this category you’re in luck.

This is the easiest of the three degrees of breakages to repair and is the most likely to produce a positive result. This is because the tomato plants’ vascular system is still intact and all that is needed is to allow the plant to heal naturally (with a little assistance).

For breakages like these, we recommend the splint method for repair. This involves attaching the broken tomato stem to a supportive splint, allowing the vascular system to continue to deliver water and nutrients to the branches and leaves above the bend.

We won’t go into too much detail for this method because we detail the steps for installing the splint in another article “How to Fix a Bent Stem“. The steps covered in the other article are the same for repairing minor breakages in tomato plants.

Damaged Stem, but Still Attached

The next type of break you can experience is when there is clear evidence of damage to the stem, however the stem is still connected or attached.

These types of breakages in the stem need to be caught early. If you haven’t caught the break early enough, the tomato plant may have already decided to sacrifice the broken part of the plant in the hopes of saving the remaining healthy sections.

credit: Rust Garden Journal

You will be able to tell if this is the case if the damaged areas of the stem have started drying out and sealing. Unfortunately, if you observe this type of activity, you should continue reading onto the last type of break – completely broken tomato stems.

If, however, you have caught the break early, then follow these steps:

  1. Align and connect the broken parts of the stems so that they touch each other neatly.
  2. Lightly wrap horticultural tape around the break to prevent any unwanted bacteria or diseases from entering the open wound.
  3. Find two splints that are of equal length and place each splint on either side of the broken stem. Ensure the break is aligned to the middle of the splints for ultimate support.
  4. Grab the grafting tape again, and wrap the two splints and the stem, securing them together.
  5. If you want to take it one step further, you could find a long splint and dig it into the soil next to the stem. Once fixed, attach the stem (with smaller splints) to the longer splint for stability.

After 2-3 weeks, check on the break to see if it has healed. You may need to progressively dismantle the repairs as the tomato plant heals itself.

Completely Broken Tomato Stems

When a tomato stem snaps completely, it can feel like a dagger through your heart! Okay – maybe that is a tad dramatic, but it still hurts.

But do not despair.

Do you remember earlier, when we said tomato plants are resilient? Well, this is where they come into their own.

credit: tumblr

Tomato plants root very quickly. In fact, you can witness this magic when you dig around the base of a tomato plant. You’ll see tiny root shooting out from any part of the plant that touches soil.

And it is this trait that is going to save your severed tomato plant.

Follow these steps to breathe new life into your broken tomato stem:

  1. Pick up the part of the plant that broke away from the main plant.
  2. If the break is not a clean break (straggly bits of the stem are present), then use a sterilized sharp knife and cut the stem in a place where it is healthy.
  3. Find a sterilized glass jar or bottle and fill it with distilled water. Place the stem into the water, making sure the stem reaches into the water far enough to be covered. If you have a tall piece of tomato plant, use a tall thin jar that will balance your plant.
  4. Replace the distilled water every few days to avoid any bacterial growth and prevent your tomato stem from rotting.

Before long, you should be able to see tiny roots forming on the stem. Once the roots have matured (a few inches long), transition the plant into a pot of moist soil, and then finally into the ground.

Causes of Broken Tomato Stems

Those that have been around the Garden Bench Top will know one of our biggest philosophies in the garden is prevention.

We always encourage our community to take a proactive approach in their projects. It often saves you a lot of heartache and avoids future issues with your plants.

So, with that in mind, we thought it would be useful to understand why tomato plants break and what you can do to prevent it from happening.

Tall Growth

Tomato plants are aggressive growers. If they didn’t produce those delicious, vibrant fruits, they would likely be considered a weed.

When it comes to the world of plants, aggression is a good thing. It often means a tomato plant will reach those sunny positions in the garden first. But, there is a flaw that comes attached with their aggression. Tomato plants often grow too high for their own good, resulting in bends and breaks in their stems.

To help your tomato plants, we suggest implementing a support structure around the plants. Experienced gardeners will plant tomato plants along a wire trellis. As the tomatoes grow, they can use garden ties to attach the plants to the wire trellis, providing ample support for any future growth, and more importantly, preventing future stem breaks.

Too much Weight

Another problem associated with a tomato plants’ aggressive growth is excessive weight. Their prolific growth often results in a lot of smaller branches and fruits towards the top of the plant.

This makes the plants top-heavy, especially when the tomatoes ripen and mature.

You can remedy this issue by using the method discussed above – a formal support structure around your tomato plants.

Another solution is to harvest the fruits off the top of the plant. This will reduce the strain on the tomato stem, hopefully preventing future bends or breaks.

TOP TIP – harvest your tomatoes when they are mature green (just about to change color), and allow them to ripen off the vine. This prevents pests from eating them, plus avoids the fruits from splitting or over-ripening.

Too much Wind

Excessive wind is another cause of broken tomato stems.

As resilient and tenacious tomato plants are, standing up to strong winds is always going to be a challenge.

There are a few things you can do to help them survive wind damage.

Small tomato plants are easy. Simply surrounding them with clear plastic tubing helps to provide them with protection from the wind, while also allowing them access to the necessary sunlight.

Mature plants are a bit tricker.

Support trellises, tomato cages and stakes will help provide your mature tomato plant with support. It is best to ensure the main stem is securely fastened to the support structures. However, securing the smaller tomato branches isn’t always practical, so they may be at the mercy of the winds, and you may find a few broken branches.

Frequently Asked Questions for Broken Tomato Stem

In this section we tackle all the odd questions that may crop up while you are trying to fix your tomato plants.

On a side note – if we don’t answer your question below, please reach out to us via our contact page and we;’ll be sure to respond as soon as we can. We’ll even feature your question in this FAQ section so other fellow gardeners can benefit.

Should I pick tomatoes off the broken part of a tomato plant?

To work out whether you should pick tomatoes off a broken part of a plant, you need to first work out whether you can fix the plant. Our first recommendation is to use our guides (above) to fix your broken tomato stems. In our mind, the best outcome is to allow the fruits to ripen on the plant until they almost mature.

If you do not think the plant is salvageable, then there is nothing really to lose but picking the fruits and hoping they ripen on a sunny window sill.

Can a Tomato Plant Heal a Broken Stem?

YES – a tomato plant can definitely heal and thrive from a broken stem. The first step is to diagnose the extent of the damage. Use our guides above to determine the appropriate steps to repair and save your tomato plant, so you can continue to enjoy those delicious home grown tomatoes.