Removing a few lower leaves that have started to turn yellow or have been half eaten by a slug is a good idea. It helps to keep plants healthy by not giving insects and germs decaying leaves to feed on and helps create more air flow around the base of the plants.

If you are growing in a greenhouse, aeration is particularly important and helps reduce condensation and fungal/mould problems.

Remove leaf branches gradually so as not to stress plants. Snapping off their leaf branches rather than cutting them off is best because using a blade can transfer disease from plant to plant. This also applies when removing side shoot, so snap them off too!

A Common Leaf Problem
This is around the time of the season when tomato leaves begin to show signs of damage, disease or deficiency.

If you haven’t grown tomatoes before, poorly looking leaves around the bottom of a plant can be alarming. However, it is quite normal for leaves to show all sorts of spots, freckles and unexpected colours and the plant still be healthy enough to produce tomatoes.

Tomato plants send their nutrients to the growing tip (on a tall variety) or tips (on a bush variety) and the lower, older leaves get hardly any food at all!

Here’s a good example of old yellow leaves that have been removed.

yellow leaves

Nothing to worry about, just remove the leaf branches and the rest of the plant will be fine.

Yellowing in lower leaves is caused by nutrient deficiency as the plant send its food to the growing tip.

As mentioned above, keeping things tidy around the base of the stem helps to:


  • Reduce disease
  • Helps stop insects breeding
  • Increases air flow
  • Keeps lower leaves off the soil

These are especially important in wet conditions or in a greenhouse where there is condensation and less air flow.

10 Responses

  1. michael west
    | Reply

    hi, i have gone over the top with the stanley knife because of cool damp weather condensation being a worry. they look quite bare 2/3rds up i have quite a good crop my wife thinks i have done wrong. they look ok this morning i pruned yesterday 6\25\2012 what do you reckon the long term result will be? i love to experiment just hope i have not done wrong this time trouble is the wifes is usualy right. look forward to to your valued opinion and long term results [time will tell]

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Mike,
      The only danger is that they may become stressed, having had such a severe pruning all at once.
      Signs of stress include leaf curl on upper leaves – your plants only have upper leaves! also plants sometimes abort their flowers. If neither of these has happened – they’ll probably be fine!

      • mick west
        | Reply

        Thanks Nick, plants are fine good crop now. mick

  2. ron mcgowan
    | Reply

    what is the best tomato feed all round

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Ron,
      One of the best tomato feeds is Chempak Standard Tomato Food. Tomorite is also good as a general tomato feed. However, the best nutrients come from the hydroponic feeds and designed for soil application. Check out GHE and Vitalink nutrients for soil.

  3. c
    | Reply

    When the sun was on the leaves (not v.often!) the leaf branches point upwards quite a lot (Northamptonshire), but drop back down asa the sun goes (I didn’t know this was unusual as this is my first year). I was excited, but quite worried due to all the rain (can’t keep leaves dry). Haha… I do go out and gently shake them when the rain stops to help them dry quicker :o)

  4. allan
    | Reply

    dont know about the rest in the country but a couple of weeks ago i thought im going to get a good crop this year alot of flowers heads starting to appear changed maybe 20 plants into there final position and then with the weather in scotland lately it is as if they have frozen and stayed they still look healthy enough just not growing.
    sorry nick i know this was for removing leaves but getting worried it is just my crop that is doing this

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Allan,
      Some of my outdoor plants look as if they have stopped growing too. It’s the low light levels and low temperatures that have caused the problem. Try to keep your plants dry and they should start growing again as soon as the weather improves.

  5. Rhys Jaggar
    | Reply


    As an aside to the ‘poorly looking leaves around the bottom of a plant can be alarming’, one thing I’ve noticed with some of my plants this year is that the leaf stems appear to be defying gravity and pointing upward, creating the image of a ‘bunch of flowers’.

    It clearly doesn’t stop the plants growing, producing flowers or pollinating, but they do all look a bit odd.

    Have you seen this happen ever and any idea what is going on?

  6. Roy
    | Reply

    Hi Nick
    Many thanks for all the info you send.We learn somethng new everyday.

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