Determinate tomatoes

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Wondering about determinate tomatoes? Here are the basics of determinate tomato plants, including how to grow them, how they differ from other tomato varieties, as well as a list of determinate tomato varieties (sorted by type).

Determinate tomatoes are varieties that grow to about 3-4 feet tall, fruit heavily in a short time span, and then are done with their life cycle. Determinate tomatoes ripen in one big batch, making them easy to harvest. They are favored by commercial farms, gardeners who can tomato sauce, and those with small spaces. And since they are finished production after the flush of fruit, the plants can be removed from the garden in late summer to make way for fall vegetable crops.

Read on to learn all about determinate tomatoes!

“Determinate plants pretty much stop growing around the time the bulk of their tomatoes form, producing almost all of their potential fruit in that one big flush. Then, they are mostly done for the season.”

You Bet Your Garden Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes: How to Grow Great-Tasting Tomatoes in Any Backyard, Garden, or Container, by Mike McGrath
Determinate tomato plants in the garden

Determinate tomatoes: The basics

Determinate tomatoes are select varieties of tomato plants with a unique gene that designates a predetermined maximum height of the plant (often 3-4 feet tall). Determinate tomato plants tend to reach their mature height as their fruits form. The tomatoes form on the end of branches, signaling the branches to stop growing outward. This truncated growth habit produces a compact “bush” shape.

“Determinate varieties are far less common than indeterminate varieties; the gene that produces determinate growth habit didn’t appear until the 1920s.”

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time, by Craig LeHoullier

Determinate tomato varieties and set their flowers in the space of several weeks. The tomatoes grow together and ripen within a week or two of each other. Once the plant has reached its predetermined height and flowered/fruited at the end of its branches, it is effectively done in its life cycle.

“Determinates have very limited branching capability and tend to develop into the form of a more compact bush. They also flower earlier and set all their flowers within a shorter period of time. Most determinate varieties will produce ripe tomatoes in 60 to 70 days from transplant, while the indeterminate varieties have a transplant to ripe fruit time of 70 to 85 days.”

The Complete Guide to Growing Tomatoes: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply — Including Heirloom Tomatoes, by Cherie Everhart
Bush tomato - small-space tomato plants

When to choose Determinate tomato varieties?

Determinate tomatoes are well-suited to commercial farming because all the fruit sets at once. The short harvest window makes the machine picking, packing, and transport more cost-efficient than if the fruits ripen over an extended period (like indeterminate tomatoes).

Determinate tomatoes are also well-suited to those who like to can tomatoes or otherwise process tomatoes all in one big batch. Some cooks prefer to can all the tomatoes they need for the next year all in one (often grueling) weekend. The Roma tomato is one determinate type of tomato often grown because it is great for making tomato sauce, and also is determinate and has a short harvest window.

Determinate tomato varieties are particularly good choices for those with small gardens or non-traditional growing spaces. The short growth form of these plants allows for them to fit on tabletops, balconies, and other small-space gardens. They also generally grow perfectly well supported only by a hardware-store tomato cage (they seldom need staking or heavy-duty caging).

Lastly, determinate tomatoes are a good choice for gardeners who like to plant their spaces intensely, maximizing yield in a small area and rotating warm-season crops out of the garden in short order. The short time to harvest is perfect for rotating cool-season crops into the garden in time for a Thanksgiving harvest.

“And determinate varieties move in and out of your garden fast, allowing you to pull up those plants when they’re done producing and replace them with garlic, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and/or other fall-planted crops. (Which you should do – every space in your kitchen garden should produce at least two different runs of edibles.)”

You Bet Your Garden Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes: How to Grow Great-Tasting Tomatoes in Any Backyard, Garden, or Container, by Mike McGrath
Determinate container tomato plant

Determinate tomatoes vs. Indeterminate tomatoes

Determinate tomato plants form a compact “bush” shape. Indeterminate tomato plants grow long, rambling vines that branch freely.

Determinate tomatoes tend to grow to a maximum height of 3-4 feet tall, while indeterminate varieties can easily reach 8-10 feet tall.

Determinate tomato seedlings look the same as indeterminate seedlings. As determinate seedlings grow taller than about 1 foot, they start to look bushier and more compact than indeterminate plants. Indeterminate plants are often staked as young seedlings, while determinate plants are typically not staked.

Determinate tomatoes often require only a minimal tomato cage (such as the conical ones at the hardware store). Indeterminate tomatoes must be staked (sometimes with multiple stakes) and/or caged inside a large heavy-duty tomato cage (typically made of metal animal fencing or concrete reinforcing mesh).

Determinate tomato plants produce the majority of their fruits all in one big batch (large tomato set in a small time period). Indeterminate varieties of fruit slowly but surely for an extended harvest.

Determinate tomato plants tend to have a greater ratio of fruit to foliage, making them more productive than indeterminate plants during the same limited time period. Indeterminate tomato varieties tend to have more foliage on the plants for the amount of fruit grown (which may explain why most of the best-tasting tomato varieties are indeterminate cultivars).

Determinate tomato varieties typically don’t require pruning. Indeterminate tomatoes may need to be pruned to control the size and shape of the plant, or to increase air circulation to combat foliar disease.

Determinate tomatoes complete the bulk of their life cycle in about 4-6 months. Indeterminate tomato plants grow longer indefinitely and produce fruit indefinitely until the plant is killed by frost or disease (or pruning shears and a shovel).

Determinate tomato plants

How to grow Determinate tomatoes?

Determinate tomato varieties are among the easiest tomatoes to grow at home. They need only minimal tomato cages and require no pruning. Still, there are a few tips for growing determinate tomatoes.

Plant determinate tomato plants outside when daytime low temps are no lower than 43°F (6°C). Place a standard tomato cage around the tiny seedling as soon as possible after planting. The tomato plants grow best in full-sun locations. Keep the plant watered consistently throughout the growing season.

Determinate tomato plants typically should not be pruned. These varieties do not require pruning due to their naturally compact form. Pruning off any branches will reduce the number of flowers on the plant, and therefore reduce the yield of tomatoes that the plant is able to grow. Since the flowers form at the ends of branches, even nipping off the ends of branches will reduce the number of fruits.

The short time-to-harvest of determinate plants generally gives the plant a chance to fruit before late-season disease sets in. Pruning of determinate tomato plants should be limited only to the dead, damaged, or diseased branches.

“Determinate tomato varieties are unusual in that they grow to a genetically predetermined height and width and then produce flowers at the end of the flowering branches, thus limiting outward growth. In a sense they are self-pruning, and any removal of suckers will reduce the eventual yield of the plant.”

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time, by Craig LeHoullier

Determinate standard globe-shaped tomatoes

Here are some determinate globe-shaped round tomato varieties (also called salad tomatoes or medium-sized slicers):

  • Celebrity Tomato
  • Rutgers Tomato
  • Taxi Tomato
  • Oregon Spring Tomato
  • Betalux Tomato
  • Health Kick Tomato
  • Abu Rawan Tomato
  • Polar Baby Tomato
  • Northern Exposure Tomato
  • Mountain Delight Tomato
  • Mountain Pride Tomato
  • Mountain Fresh Tomato
  • Mountain Crest Tomato
  • Bush Early Girl Tomato (compact version of the original long-vining Early Girl Tomato)

You can also use the varieties above to create a pomato plant, a fun way to add a specialty plant to your garden!

Mountain merit determinate large tomato seeds
The mountain merit tomato is one of the most popular determinate tomato varieties for growing larger slicer tomatoes.

Determinate Beefsteak tomatoes

Here are some determinate beefsteak tomato varieties (large slicers):

  • Southern Night Tomato
  • Mushroom Basket Tomato
  • Mountain Majesty Tomato
  • Mountain Glory Tomato
  • Mountain Merit Tomato
  • Mountain Spring Tomato
Roma determinate tomato plant
Roma tomatoes, and many other modern paste-type tomato varieties, are determinate tomatoes (great for canning in one big batch! )

Determinate plum tomatoes

Here are some determinate plum tomato varieties (paste tomatoes):

  • Roma Tomato
  • Principe Borghese Tomato
  • Ropreco Paste Tomato
  • Viva Italia Tomato
  • Shady Lady Tomato
  • Heinz 1439 Tomato

Determinate cherry tomatoes

Here are some determinate cherry tomato cultivars:

  • Tiny Tim Cherry Tomato
  • Sweet Baby Girl Cherry Tomato
  • Mountain Magic Tomato
  • Mountain Belle Tomato
  • Sprite 5025 Grape Cherry Tomato

Determinate oxheart tomatoes

Here are some determinate oxheart tomatoes:


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Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a Master Gardener and founder of the gardening website Home for the Harvest. She has been featured by Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, Mother Earth News, and the National Garden Bureau. Mary Jane lives with her family in the Okanagan Valley.