When choosing the right tomato plant for your garden, you may have noticed that some tomatoes are labeled as determinate while others are indeterminate.
These terms refer to variations between how the plant grows and understanding the differences between the two can help you decide which tomatoes to grow this year.
An easy way to think about these differences is that determinate tomatoes are “bush” tomatoes while indeterminate tomatoes are “vine” tomatoes.
Which you choose may depend on how long your growing season is, what you’re planning on using your tomatoes for and how much growing space you have.
What Does Indeterminate Mean?
Indeterminate tomatoes are vining plants that don’t stop growing until they are killed by frost.
Just like their name implies, they don’t have a set length and can grow to be three feet tall in an area with a short growing season or over six feet tall in a place with a long growing season.
Indeterminate tomatoes work great in areas where the tomato can comfortably grow upwards, such as along a trellis. They’re also perfect for gardeners who want to harvest smaller batches of tomatoes spread across the growing season.
What Does Determinate Mean?
Determinate tomato plants do have a fixed size and will stop growing once fruit sets on their top buds.
Most determinate varieties will grow to around four to five feet tall and it’s because of their small, compact size that they’re known as bush tomatoes.
Since determinate tomatoes stay small but are still highly productive, they are a great option for container gardeners or growers who only have a small area to garden.
How To Tell Determinate From Indeterminate Tomatoes
If you have a tomato growing in your garden, you may be wondering whether it’s a determinate or indeterminate variety. The easiest way to tell is to look at their shoots and how they grow.
Determinate varieties will stop growing and sending out shoots once flowers begin to form. Indeterminate varieties will form flowers but continue to send out shoots as well.
As the season goes by, you’ll be able to tell the two types apart simply by their size, as determinate varieties will have topped out at four to five feet, while indeterminate varieties will continue growing all season long. Some indeterminate varieties may even reach ten feet in length by fall.
Indeterminate vs Determinate Growth
Indeterminate and determinate tomatoes also grow their fruit in different ways. Since indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow new shoots and flowers all summer long, they’ll set fruit throughout the whole growing season.
Indeterminate tomatoes will provide you with a steady supply of tomatoes until the plant is killed off by frost. They will ripen a little later than determinate ones, though, as they spend more time growing in height.
Determinate tomatoes, however, will produce a lot of fruit all at once that will ripen close together, usually between two weeks of each other. This makes determinate tomatoes the best choice for canning or making tomato paste, as you need plenty of ripe tomatoes at the same time for this.
Once the first fruit on determinate tomatoes has ripened, the plant will begin to die back and won’t make many new tomatoes.
Determinate tomatoes also grow and ripen their fruit faster than indeterminate tomatoes. If you want to harvest determinate tomatoes all season long, you’ll have to stagger planting your tomatoes about two weeks apart.
Since determinate tomatoes grow short and bushy, they should be caged to help support the weight of their fruit. Indeterminates, however, need to be staked or attached to a growing surface and can also be grown upside down in hanging tomato containers.
Indeterminate tomatoes benefit from having their suckers removed and being pruned to only a few stems to stimulate the production of more fruit instead of vegetative growth. Determinate tomato varieties don’t need to have their suckers removed.
Indeterminate Tomato Varieties List
The majority of tomatoes, including most heirlooms, are considered indeterminate. Here are a few popular tomato varieties that are indeterminate:
- Amana Orange
- Better Boy
- Black Cherry
- Black Krim
- Cherokee Purple
- Red Zebra
- Speckled Roman
- Yellow Pear
Determinate Tomato Varieties List
Many of the tomatoes used for sauces or pastes are determinate tomatoes. Here are a few popular determinate tomato varieties:
- Better Bush
- Black Sea Ma
- Ida Gold
- Patio Choice Yellow
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Beefsteak Tomatoes Determinate Or Indeterminate?
Beefsteak tomatoes are well-known for their thick, meaty flesh and juicy interior and go great on sandwiches and burgers or as the base for salsa.
Most beefsteak varieties are indeterminate, but some determinate varieties are available.
Determinate beefsteaks tend to be smaller than the monster-sized indeterminate beefsteaks you can grow.
Is Rutgers Tomato Determinate Or Indeterminate?
The Rutgers tomato, an heirloom variety originally developed by a Rutgers University breeder in 1934, is another big, fleshy tomato with a wonderful flavor. The original Rutgers was indeterminate, while the “Rutgers improved” variety that was released later was determinate.
Both varieties are available, depending on whom you purchase seeds from.
Are Cherry Tomatoes determinate or indeterminate?
Cherry tomatoes are loved for being super-sweet and bite-sized fruit that makes a great solo snack as well as a delicious addition to salads and other meals.
Most cherry tomatoes are indeterminate vines, but the patio and dwarf determinate varieties are also available.
Is A San Marzano Tomato Determinate Or Indeterminate?
This delicious paste tomato is an heirloom variety that originates from a small town near Naples, Italy. It’s an indeterminate tomato with a longer season than some other paste tomatoes. Hybrid determinate varieties are also available.
Are Celebrity Tomatoes Determinate Or Indeterminate?
Celebrity tomatoes are a well-rounded disease-resistant hybrid cultivar that produces large, meaty and flavorful fruit. Celebrity tomatoes are considered to be “semi-determinate,” as they tend to grow to around three to four feet in height but produce fruit all season long.
Is Early Girl Tomato Determinate Or Indeterminate?
This medium-sized hybrid variety is popular due to its early ripening fruit, disease resistance, and ability to grow in dry conditions. It is a reliable and prolific indeterminate variety.
Are Roma Tomatoes Determinate?
This open-pollinated plum tomato variety is a descendant of San Marzano tomatoes and is prized for its disease resistance and delicious flavor in sauces. It’s a determinate variety that grows up to three feet in length.