Determinate vs. Indeterminate Tomato Plants

The end of the winter and the beginning of spring is seedling time. Probably most of you will plant seeds to get seedling, and some of you will buy the seedling from nurseries.

Either way is good. The main idea is to get the tastiest fruits and vegetables from your garden.

determinate vs indeterminate tomato plants

However, if you don’t have a garden, but you have a balcony or patio, you can still plant some veggies. Luckily tomatoes are plants that can be planted even in containers or growing bags.

If you were wondering which tomato plant characteristic is right for you, and which variety you should plant considering your conditions, in this article I will introduce you some info about determinate and indeterminate tomatoes.

What is the Difference?

There are two categories of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate tomatoes.

Determinate tomatoes are bush-type plants that are usually growing to a “determinate” size. These tomatoes will grow around 3 to 4 feet/ 0,9 m to 1,2 m tall and will grow wide such as a bush.

When flowers appear on the tips of the branches, means that the plant reached its full height. Usually, the determinate tomato fruits are ripening in the early summer and these will ripen all at once (1- or 2-weeks period).

After ripening all the fruits, most of the determinate tomato plants will not produce new ones and will start to die slowly.

Indeterminate tomatoes are vining tomato plants that grow to an “indeterminate” size. Depending on the variety, these can grow quite large, from 6 to 20 feet/ 1,8 m to 6 m.

Indeterminate tomatoes will produce fruits all season, and these will ripen gradually one by one until the frost comes in.

Which is Easier to Grow?

If you are not sure which type of tomato to plant, you should consider factors that could help you to decide.

You should think about the available space for your plants. As indeterminate tomatoes can grow large, these might be not suitable for you if you don’t have a garden. Indeterminate tomatoes grow best when planted in the ground.

Also, indeterminate tomatoes should be trained to grow on a trellis, which is not easy if you don’t have enough space. However, the trellis can be replaced with stakes, and these occupy less space.

Determinate tomatoes are more likely to survive in containers because these will not grow as big as an indeterminate plant. These tomatoes are called “patio” tomatoes for a reason.

Neither determinate nor indeterminate are easier to grow. They just need to care for a bit differently. However, both types need full sun and enough water to have tasty tomatoes.

Which Tastes Better?

This is a very subjective question, but I will try to answer it. Just like determinate tomatoes, the indeterminate ones can be packed full of flavor and nutrition.

Choosing which one to grow for its taste depends on how do you want to use the tomato fruits.

So, as we know, determinate tomatoes bloom, mature and ripen their fruits all in a specific time. When all the fruits are ripened, the determinate tomato plants finished their job and this will not produce fruits anymore.

Determinate tomatoes can produce a high yield in a short period of time. Usually, this time frame is not more than 2-3 weeks.

Many determinate tomato varieties are delicious when if you want to eat them fresh, but keep in mind, that this will last only a few weeks.

However, is you want to preserve tomatoes, then determinate varieties are perfect for this, as they produce many fruits at once.

Many determinate tomatoes varieties are perfect if you want to make salsa, tomato sauce, tomato soup, chilli, or other tomato-based recipes.

Indeterminate tomatoes, on the other hand, bloom, mature, produce and ripen fruits through the entire season, until the first frost.

Therefore, if you want to have fresh tomatoes during the whole season, you should grow indeterminate tomatoes. These can also be used for canning and sauces. However, you can make smaller batches, as indeterminate tomatoes ripen fewer fruits at once.

Or you can grow more plants to have more fruits at once. In my garden, you can find both, determinate and indeterminate tomatoes as well.

How to Grow Determinate Tomato?

Determinate tomatoes can grow in containers and normal garden bed as well. Now, if you use pots, containers or growing bags for your determinate tomatoes, then you should consider using one which is big enough.

A container that is too small, can cause the tomato plant to struggle and not having high yields.

However, other factors should be taken into consideration if you want to get the most out of your determinate tomato plants.


Many people are confused when it comes to pruning tomatoes.

Determinate tomatoes don’t need to be pruned, as they will grow to a certain size only. If you prune these varieties from new branches, you lose the opportunity to have a high yield, as each branch can produce fruits.

However, determinate tomatoes still need some trimming and pruning. If the foliage is too dense, then you can remove some leaves to encourage the airflow and sun to reach the fruits.

The bottom leaves and branches which has no flowers or fruits can be removed because these can touch the ground and you don’t want that.

If any leave is touching the ground, you should remove it.  Or if there are any yellow leaves, you should remove those as well. By this, you can prevent fungal and bacterial diseases.


Determinate tomato plants are smaller than the indeterminate ones. Therefore, these will not need as much support.

However, the bad weather, like heavy rain or strong wind, can make the plant fall over, or when the fruits are maturing, these will get heavier and could break the branch.

A stake or a small cage can prevent all this to happen.


Determinate tomato plants need at least 6 to 8 hours of full, direct sunlight every day. So, you should think about where you plant it.

If the plants are not getting enough sunlight, you will end up with lots of unripe fruits at the end of the season, or the fruits will not be as tasty as when they get enough sun.


Before transplanting the seedlings outside, you should take into consideration the temperature of the soil and air of course.

If the night temperatures are at least 10°C/ 50°F, then you can proceed. Temperatures lower than this would affect or even kill your tomato plant.


Watering is a very important factor that can ensure the tomato plant’s growth or can make it struggle.

Tomatoes like to have wet soil, but not too wet. Depending on the weather, you can water them daily but always check the soil first. If the weather is too hot, you can even water them twice a day.


Mulching is optional; however, many people prefer to do this because can help to prevent weeds to grow, and this will keep the soil moisturized.


You will know when it is time for harvesting the fruits.

These will ripen at around the same time, in a quite short time (1 to 3 weeks, depending on variety).

Be prepared that you will have many ripen tomatoes at the same time, so it is better to have in hand a nice recipe for canning, sauce or tomato paste.

How to Grow Indeterminate Tomato?

Indeterminate tomato varieties can grow much bigger than the determined ones. These grow better in the ground, but they can be grown in containers as well.

However, if you are growing indeterminate tomatoes in containers, you should make sure that these are big enough. Indeterminate tomatoes will need bigger pots then determinate tomatoes.


You should prune indeterminate tomatoes regularly. As these are vining plants, they can grow loose control in growing and the foliage can become overcrowded.

Therefore, you might want to prune all the suckers to prevent diseases and to encourage fruit ripening.

If you don’t prune the suckers, the tomato plant will consume energy on growing the branches, rather than producing and ripen fruits. No one wants this.

You should also trim the bottom leaves and branches because you don’t want them to touch the ground. This procedure will prevent diseases.


Indeterminate tomatoes definitely need support because these can grow tall and you don’t want them to fall over.

You can use stakes, trellis or cages to support your indeterminate tomatoes, just make sure, you secure the main stem to the stake or trellis. Cages can provide support even for the branches which will be full of heavy fruits, so, these will not break.


Such as determinate tomatoes, indeterminate varieties need as well a lot of sunshine.

You will never have very tasty and sweet tomato fruits if there is not enough sun shining on your plants.

Tomato plants love the warmth of the sun and the fruits will ripen quicker.


Indeterminate tomatoes don’t like the frost, such as the determinate varieties.

So, when transplanting the seedlings, make sure the outside temperatures will not go below 10°C/ 50°F. Otherwise, your plants can die.


Watering will be the same just like with the determinate tomatoes. Indeterminate tomato plants like to have wet soil.

These will need a bit more water than the determinate ones, as these are larger plants. However, overwatering can cause problems such as fruits cracking.


You can use mulching for indeterminate tomatoes as well to keep the soil moisturized.


As I mentioned above, indeterminate tomatoes produce fresh and ripen tomatoes throughout the whole season.

So, you should check regularly for ripen tomatoes because if you don’t pick them in time, these could crack or you can have smaller yields.

Wrap Up

Determinate tomatoes can easily be grown in containers, while indeterminate grows better in the ground.

The pruning technique of these types of tomatoes may differ, but they still need the procedure to be done to encourage the fruits to ripen and to keep them healthy.

Depending on what is your plan to do with tomato fruits and how much space you have, you can decide whether you want to grow determinate tomatoes or indeterminate tomatoes.

In my garden, you can find both because I like to have fresh tomatoes through the season, but I love the cherry tomatoes as a snack and also love homemade ketchup and tomato sauce.


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