Determinate Tomatoes vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes

What's the Difference?

Determinate tomatoes and indeterminate tomatoes are two different types of tomato plants that have distinct growth habits. Determinate tomatoes are compact and bushy plants that grow to a predetermined height and stop growing once they reach that height. They tend to produce a large crop of tomatoes all at once, making them ideal for canning or preserving. On the other hand, indeterminate tomatoes are vining plants that continue to grow and produce fruit throughout the growing season. They require staking or trellising for support and have a longer harvest period, providing a continuous supply of tomatoes. While determinate tomatoes are suitable for smaller gardens or containers, indeterminate tomatoes are favored by gardeners who want a steady supply of fresh tomatoes throughout the season.


AttributeDeterminate TomatoesIndeterminate Tomatoes
Growth HabitCompact and bushyVine-like and sprawling
Plant SizeUsually shorter, around 3-4 feetTaller, can reach 6-10 feet or more
SupportMay not require staking or cagingUsually requires staking or caging
FloweringFlowers at the terminal end of the stemFlowers along the lateral branches
Fruit SetProduces a concentrated crop all at onceProduces fruit continuously throughout the season
PruningRequires minimal pruningMay require regular pruning to control growth
Harvest PeriodHarvested over a shorter periodHarvested over a longer period

Further Detail


Tomatoes are one of the most popular and widely grown vegetables in home gardens. They come in various types, including determinate and indeterminate varieties. Understanding the differences between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes is crucial for successful cultivation. In this article, we will explore the attributes of both types, highlighting their growth habits, fruit production, pruning requirements, and suitability for different gardening situations.

Growth Habit

Determinate tomatoes, also known as bush tomatoes, have a compact and bushy growth habit. They typically reach a predetermined height, usually around 3 to 4 feet, and stop growing once the terminal bud sets fruit. The growth of determinate tomatoes is limited, making them ideal for container gardening or small spaces where vertical growth is restricted. Their compact size also makes them easier to manage and support.

On the other hand, indeterminate tomatoes are known for their vining growth habit. They continue to grow and produce new leaves, flowers, and fruits throughout the growing season until frost or disease kills the plant. Indeterminate tomatoes can grow to impressive heights, often reaching 6 to 10 feet or more. Their vigorous growth requires sturdy support systems, such as trellises or cages, to prevent sprawling and ensure proper airflow.

Fruit Production

Determinate tomatoes tend to produce their fruit in a concentrated period, usually over a few weeks. This characteristic makes them suitable for gardeners who prefer a large harvest for canning or preserving. The majority of the fruit on determinate varieties ripen around the same time, allowing for efficient harvesting. However, once the fruit is harvested, the plant's productivity declines, and it eventually dies off.

Indeterminate tomatoes, on the other hand, provide a continuous supply of fruit throughout the growing season. They produce fruit clusters at regular intervals along the vine, ensuring a steady harvest over an extended period. This characteristic is advantageous for gardeners who enjoy fresh tomatoes throughout the summer and fall. Indeterminate varieties can keep producing until the first frost, provided they receive proper care and favorable growing conditions.

Pruning Requirements

Due to their compact growth habit, determinate tomatoes generally require less pruning. They naturally form a bushy shape and do not require extensive removal of suckers or side shoots. However, removing any damaged or diseased branches is still recommended to maintain plant health and prevent the spread of diseases.

Indeterminate tomatoes, on the other hand, benefit from regular pruning to manage their vigorous growth and promote better airflow. Pruning indeterminate varieties involves removing suckers, which are the small shoots that emerge from the leaf axils. By removing suckers, gardeners can direct the plant's energy towards fruit production and reduce the risk of diseases caused by overcrowding and poor ventilation.

Suitability for Different Gardening Situations

Considering the growth habits and fruit production characteristics, determinate tomatoes are well-suited for specific gardening situations. Their compact size makes them ideal for container gardening, patio gardens, or small raised beds. They are also suitable for gardeners who prefer a concentrated harvest for preserving or canning purposes. Additionally, determinate tomatoes are often favored by beginner gardeners due to their manageable size and less demanding pruning requirements.

Indeterminate tomatoes, on the other hand, are better suited for larger gardens or areas with ample space. Their vigorous growth and continuous fruit production make them a favorite among gardeners who enjoy fresh tomatoes throughout the growing season. Indeterminate varieties are also preferred by those who want to maximize their yield and have the resources to provide proper support structures for the plants.


In conclusion, determinate and indeterminate tomatoes have distinct attributes that make them suitable for different gardening situations. Determinate tomatoes have a compact growth habit, produce fruit in a concentrated period, require less pruning, and are ideal for small spaces or container gardening. On the other hand, indeterminate tomatoes have a vining growth habit, provide a continuous supply of fruit, benefit from regular pruning, and are better suited for larger gardens. By understanding these differences, gardeners can choose the tomato variety that best fits their needs and gardening preferences.

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