Indeterminate Vs Determinate Tomato

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Main Keyword (in italic): indeterminate tomato, determinate tomato
Secondary Keywords (in italic): Throughout Content.

Indeterminate Vs Determinate TomatoTomatoes are a very versatile vegetable/fruit. They can be used in salads, grilled, or in stews. But I bet you didn’t know that tomato plants come in two different varieties. As an amateur or professional gardener, you should be aware of the two different types of tomatoes. We will go through the differences between Indeterminate tomato and Determinate tomato and help you plant and grow both. We will also discuss the traits of tomato plants determinate vs indeterminate.

Difference between Determinate and Indeterminate tomatoes

What is the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes? Tomato growing season is usually in the warmer months. The decision to growDeterminate or Indeterminate tomatoes boils down to certain questions: What will they taste like? How big will they get? What do they look like? Will they be determinate or indeterminate? We will go through the determinate vs indeterminate tomatoes list of traits.

The last question is very important and most amateur gardeners don’t know what it means. This question can mean the difference between producing a good harvest or a super one.

The meaning of the two varieties

The words Determinate and indeterminate regarding plants simply refer to the growth habit. In essence, these words relate to how the plant behaves during the growth stage and how it develops. Although tomatoes are known for having both varieties, potatoes, cucumbers, and beans also exhibit determinate and indeterminate characteristics.

The overall height of the plant

Determinate plants grow to a certain point, and then stop. They have a short height overall. Indeterminate tomato plants keep growing and produce fruit all season. Then there is the semi-determinate varieties that keep growing through the season but stay small and somewhat bushy.

So in terms of the general definition of the two phrases, we can relate the words to how humans grow and how hair grows. Humans have a determinate height, we stop growing when we reach adulthood. Human head hair is indeterminate because you can grow it indefinitely.

Impact on gardening tasks

Whether you choose Determinate, Indeterminate or semi-determinate plants will change the way you go about your tomato gardening tasks. Your choice will affect: pruning, removing suckers, staking, growing in containers, harvesting and canning.

Growing Determinate Tomatoes

Growing Determinate Tomatoes
We will go through why determinate tomatoes are better and their traits. One of the main differences between Indeterminate and Determinate tomatoes is the height of the plant and when they ripen. Determinate tomatoes grow to a set height. Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing to an In-determined height.

Determinate Tomatoes Characteristics

Determinate Tomato plants are also called “Bush” cultivars because of their bush shapes and characteristics. There is a cause to that bushiness. It has to do with the fact that Determinate plants have a self-pruning gene. This gene affects the plant’s growing tip (shoot). These tomato plants have growing tips that end in flower clusters and eventually fruit (this is evidence of the self-pruning gene). When these flower clusters bloom foliage growth stops. This allows the plant to concentrate its energy on reproduction (turning pollinated flowers into fruit).

Smaller Size and stronger

Since the plant’s stem and foliage stop growing, the overall size of the plant stays smaller and more compact. So when you grow determinate plants in your garden, you can use a pre-determined cage height of around 4 feet or less depending on your plant. Determinate Tomatoes have stronger stems and require only minimal support. You can grow them without stakes or even cages. But you can support determinate varieties if you want, it does help them bear a bigger load of fruit.


Because Determinate tomatoes are not going to grow endlessly, you don’t have to prune them throughout the growing season. The lower part of the plant may need to be pruned initially to avoid the spread of disease.

Fruit Maturity

If you prefer short-season growth, the fruits of most determinate plants tend to mature earlier than indeterminate ones. Early fruiting can mean the difference between a harvest or no harvest at all. In truth, each variety of tomato has a set number of days to maturity so it is up to you to check.

Flowers and Fruits

Determinate tomatoes produce most of their fruiting flowers at the same time. That means that visibly, all of the flowers of the plant should look like they are on the same schedule. The flowers will bloom at the same time. The fruits will ripen at the same time too. This means that the bulk of your harvest will come in over a short period of time. This is perfect for canning tomatoes in bulk. The determinate variety of tomatoes is most definitely then used in canned tomato products because of this definite produce timing. Determinate tomatoes are also handy for home gardeners too.


There are several determinate tomato varieties. One popular determinate variety is called “Roma”. The Roma tomato is “open pollinated”. The Roma tomato is ideal for cooking because they are meaty and contain less liquid inside. There are juicier tomato varieties perfect for a burger. Are heirloom tomatoes determinate or indeterminate? They are determinate.

Growing Indeterminate Tomatoes

Growing Indeterminate Tomatoes
Indeterminate Tomatoes are also called vine, pole, or climbing tomatoes. This variety just keeps growing and growing. They will grow until you stop them. If you are a gardener that wants a long growing season then this is the variety for you. Indeterminate plants usually yield small but frequent harvests from each plant.

Earlier we stated that Determinate varieties grow flowers at the end of their shoots. Indeterminate tomato plants grow flower clusters along the side of their stems instead. This allows the shoot to keep growing.

The energy of the plant concentrates on growing more foliage as well as producing fruit. Hence there are smaller quantities of fruit over an extended period of time.

Indeterminate Tomato Characteristics

Over a period of time, indeterminate tomato plants can grow to be about 10 to 12 feet in height if well-supported with a pole and wire. A container wouldn’t suit an Indeterminate plant. Vertical gardening equipment suits this type of plant because these plants need their vines managed. The gardener must prune and train these plants to keep disease away when in humid climates. You must find appropriate indeterminate tomatoes for containers.


With indeterminate varieties, you must prune and remove suckers. This will allow the plant to focus energy on fruit production for the remaining stems. Hence, the plant will focus less energy on just foliage growth. If you leave an indeterminate plant to overgrow, the fruits may fail to run red on the vine.

Flowers and Fruits

For indeterminate varieties you will notice that these plants may have flowers, growing fruit, and ripe fruit on the plant all at once. Remember that determinate plants produce all their fruit at once. Indeterminate plants produce smaller but more frequent harvests over the growing season.


One popular Indeterminate variety is called “San Marzano”. They can also be canned. If you grow several San Marzano plants at once then you should have enough fruit ripening at the same time for canning.

Most large-fruited tomatoes are indeterminate. Some small-fruited tomatoes are also indeterminate. Are cherry tomatoes determinate? No. Everybody is now familiar with cherry tomatoes and they are also indeterminate. The cherry tomato is a late-maturing type of plant that can reach 5 feet.

Are black cherry tomato determinate or indeterminate? They are indeterminate. Are beefsteak tomatoes determinate or indeterminate? They are indeterminate. Are yellow pear tomato determinate or indeterminate? They are indeterminate.

Try Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes

Both varieties are easy to grow. Whether you choose one or the other has to do with how much fruit you want and the timing of the yield. Be prepared for some pruning and support work too. For more tips try our Garden Resources category. For more on where to place your tomato plant, go to our Structures and Decor category. The tomato is such a versatile fruit. You can can it or eat it fresh on a salad or burger. Simply wonderful.

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