Determinante vs Indeterminante Tomatoes

— Written By and last updated by Nancie Mandeville
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tomatoes on the vine

Who doesn’t love a good tomato? Most everyone does. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a delicious tomato sandwich this season!

There are two different types of tomatoes: determinate and indeterminate. When shopping for transplants at the garden center, read the label to determine which type a variety is.

A determinate tomato may also be referred to as a bush tomato. This type of tomato is limited to a certain height biologically. It will stop growing once it sets its terminal bud, usually when it reaches about 4’. Determinate varieties are typically earlier than indeterminate varieties, but they have a short and defined production season setting all their fruit at once typically over a four to five-week period. Determinate varieties are favored for canning since they bear a heavy crop that ripens in a short period. Most modern hybrids and bush varieties are determinate. Examples of determinate varieties are Rutgers, Celebrity, Mountain Fresh, Roma, Plum Dandy, and San Marzano.

Indeterminate tomatoes are often called vine tomatoes and can grow to 12’ or more in height. In the home garden, they usually grow to 6-8’. Indeterminate varieties are popular with home gardeners because they keep growing until frost, and continue to set new flowers and fruit throughout this time. Because they keep growing, indeterminate varieties need sturdy cages for support. Examples of indeterminate tomatoes include Sungold, Sweet 100, Big Boy, Early Girl, Big Beef, Brandywine, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra.

The factsheet, Growing Tomatoes for the Home Garden, is available at the NC State Extension Gardening Portal. Select publications and factsheets, then type tomatoes in the search box.