Can a Tomato Plant Survive With a Broken Stem? (How to Save It)


Sometimes, a tomato stem or branch will break due to wind, heavy fruit, tall growth, or even careless handling.  Even a slight bend in a stem or branch can hurt the plant, but the extent of the damage depends on how you respond.

So, can a tomato plant survive with a broken stem?  Yes, a tomato plant with a broken stem can survive.  If you want to reattach the severed part of the stem, you will need to support it (with a splint or stake), tie it securely (with twine or tape), and give it time to heal.

Of course, you might need to take extra steps to save the plant, depending on why the stem broke.  For example, if the top part of a tall plant falls over due to lack of support, you will need to install a taller stake.  Otherwise, the same thing will happen all over again.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to treat a tomato plant with a broken stem to give it the best chance of survival.  We’ll also get into what you can do with a broken branch or stem if you don’t think you can reattach it.

Let’s get going.

Can A Tomato Plant Survive With A Broken Stem?

A tomato plant is able to survive with a broken stem, at least in some cases.  Other times, the damage will be too great for the plant to survive.

For example, if the injury is severe, it will open up the plant to disease (from bacteria, viruses, and mold) or pests (such as aphids).

aphids
Sever injury to a tomato plant’s stem or branches can open up the plant to infection or insect pests, such as aphids.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to give your tomato plant a better chance of recovery after a broken stem or branch.

The steps you take will depend on the extent of the damage and what caused it.

How to Fix a Broken Tomato Plant

No matter how badly a tomato plant is broken, you will need to take some steps to fix the damage.

However, before you even attempt a repair, you need to address the cause of the bending or breaking.  Otherwise, the same problem will keep coming up again and again.

Address the Cause

Sometimes, you can accidentally damage a tomato plant by careless handling.  However, there are a few other things that can cause damage to tomato stems and branches, such as:

  • Wind
  • Excessive Weight
  • Tall Growth

According to the University of Maryland Extension, both tomato and pepper plants can sustain damage from heavy fruit set, lack of support, and wind damage from storms.

Wind

A strong wind can damage your tomato plant by bending or breaking its branches, and possibly even the main stem.  If wind causes damage to your plant, it is important to take steps to protect it in the future.

wind sock
A strong wind can bend or break tomato plant branches or stems.

A cloche is one good way to protect young tomato plants from wind.  A cloche is a clear cover that is used to protect plants from wind, cold, and insect pests.

A cloche is usually made of plastic or glass.  You can learn more about cloches (and how to use them) in my article here.

For taller, more mature tomato plants, make sure that you are using support (cages, stakes, or trellises).  Also, use twine to tie each tomato plant to its support as it grows taller.

Remember that a support is not much good if the tomato plant is not securely attached to it!  Use twine to tie the tomato plant to its support every foot or so of growth.

This will keep the wind from bending over the top of the plant and causing damage.  You can learn more about how to protect plants from wind and storms in my article here.

Excessive Weight

Too much weight can cause a tomato branch to bend or break.  In extreme cases, the entire main stem might snap under the pressure of too much weight.

tomatoes on stem
If you leave too many heavy tomatoes on one branch, the branch could break under the weight.

Either way, you will need to lighten the load.  Otherwise, the stem or branch will bend or break again after you repair the plant.

Often, excessive weight is caused by too much fruit on the plant at once.

If a branch is damaged, remove some of the fruit from that branch before you try to repair it.

If the stem is damaged, remove some fruit from the side of the plant that the stem is bending towards.

If the fruit is ripe, be sure to harvest it as soon as it is ready.  If the fruit is not ripe, you might need to remove it a little early to prevent damage to the plant’s branches or stem.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the fruit is wasted.  If you take off a cluster of tomatoes along with the end of the branch that supports them, they will ripen on the windowsill in a few days.

tomatoes on broken off stem
If you pick tomatoes a little early, they will ripen on the windowsill in a few days.

Pruning off some branches will also reduce the weight on the stem.  However, pruning is only recommended for indeterminate varieties.  (Pruning determinate tomatoes will often result in less fruit).

If you do prune, be sure to do it evenly.  Try to remove some branches from all sides of the plant, instead of only on one side.  This will keep the weight more evenly distributed.

Tall Growth

If a tomato plant gets damaged because the plant got too tall, a lack of support is probably to blame.  When tomato plants (especially indeterminate varieties) grow taller than their supports, the stems tend to bend over.

The taller a plant grows above the top of its support, the greater the chance that the stem will bend.  There are two ways to prevent this.

The first way is to prune the tomato plant.  Any time the plant grows above its support, prune away the top of the plant with a clean knife or shears.

pruning shears
Use clean pruning shears to “top off” a tomato plant by removing the part of the stem that has grown above the support.

This will prevent the plant from outgrowing its support.  There will be less weight, which reduces the chance of bending or breaking.

The second way is to use a taller support.  For indeterminate tomato varieties, this means using a taller stake (or trellis if you go that route).

Since the tomato plant is tied to its support as it grows, it will be difficult to remove the old stake.  Instead, your best bet is to leave the old stake in place and install another taller stake close to the plant.

However, be careful when driving the new support into the ground – you don’t want to damage the plant’s roots!  After you install the new support, use twine to tie the plant to the support (I recommend spacing of a foot between ties).

You can learn more about support for tomato plants in this article from the University of Georgia Extension.

Make the Repair

Now that you have addressed the cause of the damage, it’s time to make the repair to the branch or stem.  The level of difficulty will depend on how bad the damage is: a bent branch is much easier to fix than a detached stem.

How to Fix a Bent Tomato Plant

Sometimes the stem (or a branch) of a tomato plant will bend, but not break.  This is easier to fix, since you don’t need to reattach a severed piece of the plant.

How to Fix a Bent Tomato Branch (Bent Tomato Branch Repair)

First, find a small splint to make the repair.  For example, you could use a thin branch or a pencil as your splint.

Next, place the splint parallel to the end of the branch closest to the plant.  If they were railroad tracks, the branch would be the left track, and the splint would be the right track.

(You might need a helper for this next step – an extra pair of hands makes it easier).

Then, gently bend the branch back up to the way it should be (be careful not to break it!).  After you bend the branch into place, use twine or tape to attach the branch to the splint.

jute twine
Twine is very helpful in making repairs to a bent or broken tomato plant.

Finally, cut another length of twine.  Tie one end of the twine to the end of the bent branch, and tie the other end of the twine to a sturdy branch that is higher up on the plant.

This will provide some support to the bent branch, keep it in place, and encourage it to grow straight as it heals itself.

How to Fix a Bent Tomato Stem (Bent Tomato Stem Repair)

First, find a large splint to make the repair.  For example, you could use a long, thick branch or a tomato stake as your splint.

tomato stakes
You could use an entire tomato stake as the splint to help support a bent tomato stem.

Next, place the splint parallel to the stem, the way it should be growing (that is, the splint should be vertical, pointing straight up towards the sky).  If they were railroad tracks, the stem would be the left track, and the splint would be the right track.

If you find that the stem needs extra support, you can drive one end of your splint into the ground to hold it in place.  Again, just remember to be careful about hurting the roots of your plant.

(You might need a helper for this next step – an extra pair of hands makes it easier).

Then, gently bend the stem back up to the way it should be (be careful not to break it!).  After you bend the stem into place, use twine or tape to attach the stem to the splint.

Finally, cut a few lengths of twine.  Tie the stem to its support (stake, cage, or trellis) at a few places above where it was bent.

I would recommend tying at every 6 inches so that the plant is securely attached to its support.  This prevents the plant from bending over again, and it encourages the stem to stay in place and grow straight as it heals itself.

How to Fix a Broken Tomato Plant (Detached or Severed)

Sometimes the stem (or a branch) of a tomato plant will be completely cut off from the rest of the plant.  This is a little more difficult to fix, since you will need to reattach the severed piece of the plant, and it is harder to hold it in place.

It might also make it more difficult for the plant to survive, due to the increased chance of diseases or pests getting into the wound.  However, we won’t let that stop us from trying!

How to Fix a Broken Tomato Branch (Broken Tomato Branch Repair)

First, find a small splint to make the repair.  For example, you could use a thin branch or a pencil as your splint.

Next, place the splint parallel to the end of the branch that is still attached to the plant.  If they were railroad tracks, the branch would be the left track, and the splint would be the right track.

(You might need a helper for these next steps – an extra pair of hands makes it easier).

Then, use some twine to tie the splint to the end of the branch that is still attached to the plant.

Now, take the severed branch and place it so that the broken end is just touching the tip of the branch that is still attached to the plant.  Wrap some tape around the joint where they meet to bind the pieces of the branch together.

You can use any tape you like, but flexible tape will allow for some wiggle room as the plant grows.  For example, this Vigoro stretch tie from the Home Depot is flexible and can be wrapped around the repair joint as many times as needed.

Then, cut a length of twine.  Use it to tie the other end of the splint to the part of the branch that was severed.

Finally, cut another length of twine.  Tie one end of the twine to the end of the broken branch, and tie the other end of the twine to a sturdy branch that is higher up on the plant.

This will provide some support to the bent branch, keep it in place, and encourage it to grow straight as it heals itself.

How to Fix a Broken Tomato Stem (Broken Tomato Stem Repair)

First, find a large splint to make the repair.  For example, you could use a long, thick branch or a tomato stake as your splint.

broken tomato stem repair illustration
You will need a larger splint to repair a tomato stem that is broken entirely.

(You might need a helper for this next step – an extra pair of hands makes it easier).

Next, place the splint parallel to the stem, the way it should be growing (that is, the splint should be vertical, pointing straight up towards the sky).  If they were railroad tracks, the stem would be the left track, and the splint would be the right track.

If you find that the stem needs extra support, you can drive one end of your splint into the ground to hold it in place.  Be careful when you drive the splint into the ground – you don’t want to hurt the roots of your plant.  (You can also use a 2nd splint for extra support, if necessary).

Now, use twine to tie the splint to the stem of the plant.

Then, take the severed piece of the stem and place it so that the broken end (bottom end) is just touching the tip of the stem on the plant.  Wrap some tape around the joint where they meet to bind the pieces of the stem together.

Now, use twine to tie the splint to the part of the stem that was severed.

Finally, cut a few more lengths of twine.  Tie the stem to its support (stake, cage, or trellis) at a few places above where it was broken.

I would recommend tying at every 6 inches so that the plant is securely attached to its support.  This prevents the plant from bending over or breaking again, and it encourages the stem to stay in place and grow straight as it heals itself.

Can You Replant a Broken Tomato Stem or Branch?

In some cases, reattaching a broken tomato stem or branch doesn’t look too promising.  Perhaps the plant grew too tall, the fruit got too heavy, or the wind is just too strong.

If that is the case, don’t worry.  There might still be another way!

First, if the stem or branch is not completely detached, use a clean knife or shears to prune it off.  Using clean tools will prevent the spread of disease in your tomato plants.

Next, take the severed branch or stem and replant it.  Be sure to leave some of the severed part above the ground – but not too much.

tomato seedling
Plant the broken top part of the tomato stem (or broken end of the branch) to see if it will grow into its own new plant!

If all goes well, the original (mother) plant and the propagated (child) plant from the severed branch/stem will both grow into healthy plants that will produce fruit in time.

Conclusion

Now you know how to help your tomato plant after a bent or broken stem, to give it a better chance of survival.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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