When it comes time to choose a tomato to plant in your garden, the choices can be overwhelming. Red, pink, yellow, big, small, round, oblong, determinate, indeterminate…the list goes on!
As I thumb through seed catalogs, I sometimes wonder how I’m supposed to pick what tomato varieties to grow.
One way to limit your list is to figure out if you’d like to grow determinate or indeterminate varieties. Once you’ve nailed this down, you can continue to narrow in on the traits you’re looking for.
I’m going to share some of the best determinate tomato varieties out there, as well as explain exactly what a determinate tomato is.
Table of Contents
- Indeterminate Vs. Determinate Tomatoes
- Key Features of a Determinate Tomato
- Best Determinate Tomato Varieties
- My Tips for Growing Determinate Tomatoes
- Are Heirloom Tomatoes Determinate?
- Are Cherry Tomatoes Determinate?
Before we get into a list of the best types of determinate tomatoes, let’s dive into what this term even means!
Gardeners, farmers, and other plant professionals classify tomatoes in a wide variety of ways. One of these ways is through their growth habit, which is either determinate or indeterminate.
Determinate tomatoes stop growing once they reach a certain height and then devote all their energy to producing flowers and fruit. This means they often produce all of their fruits in a short period of time.
Intermediate tomato plants will continue growing as well as producing new leaves and fruit until they die. They tend to have a higher ratio of leaves to fruit, and also produce fruits over an extended period of time.
Check my article if you want to know more detail about the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes.
Now that we’ve covered the major differences between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes, let’s dive into the details of determinate tomatoes.
As I mentioned above, these tomatoes will only grow to a set height. Typically, you can expect the plants to max out at five feet tall, but there are exceptions to this rule.
Since these tomatoes have a maximum height, they require less trellising, pruning, and maintenance than indeterminate varieties. Therefore, I find they’re a great choice if you don’t want to spend a lot of time caring for your tomato plants.
Additionally, their compact size means they’re a good choice if you are growing your tomatoes in a container or have limited garden space.
And since these plants are compact, they can often be grown without much support. While taller varieties can benefit from a tomato cage or t-post for support, you may be able to grow shorter varieties without any additional support.
Once the plants reach their full height, they begin to send their energy away from vegetative growth and towards the development of fruit and flowers. By this point, the plants have developed enough leaves to complete photosynthesis and produce necessary sugars.
Since determinate tomatoes produce all their flowers and fruits in a short period of time, they create a short yet bountiful harvest. This means these tomatoes are great if you want a big harvest of tomatoes for canning projects, but they are not the best choice if you want to pick a handful of tomatoes each week for months at a time.
If you do want a continual harvest of determinate tomatoes, it’s best to plant multiple plants a few weeks apart. If you time your succession planting right, you can enjoy tomatoes from July through frost.
I like to plant successions of tomatoes about a month apart, starting after the last frost date and continuing until mid-summer.
Best Determinate Tomato Varieties
The vast majority of determinate tomatoes are red slicing varieties rather than colorful heirlooms or cherries. However, you can find determinate tomatoes of various colors and shapes if you know where to look.
It’s also important to remember that just because two tomato varieties look similar, they can be quite different! The days to maturity, disease resistance, and fruit firmness can all vary between varieties.
I’ve found it is especially helpful to look at the plant’s disease resistance and choose a variety that holds up against tomato diseases that are common in your garden.
With that said, here are some of the best determinate tomato varieties.
1. Mountain Merit
If you deal with the horrible fungal disease known as late blight, you may consider planting Mountain Merit. It has good late disease resistance, and I’ve seen it remain healthy while other varieties succumb to this disease in July and August.
Mountain Merit is a hybrid tomato with bright red fruits that are medium in size. Along with being resistant to late blight, it can also hold its own against tomato spotted wilt virus, numerous races of Fusarium wilt, and Verticillium wilt.
2. Early Wonder
Tomatoes are a crop that requires patience and a long growing season, as fruits typically mature about 70 days after seedlings are transplanted. If you get a late start to your growing season or live in a cold climate, you may not have 70 days.
That’s where Early Wonder comes in. This variety produces fruit just 54 days after transplant, making it perfect if you live in an area with a short growing season.
The tomatoes are dark pink, small to medium, juicy, and sweet.
3. Plum Regal
This hybrid paste tomato produces lots of meaty fruits while also offering good disease resistance. The bright red fruits are a classic plum tomato shape and about four ounces each.
As far as disease resistance goes, the plants have an impressive package. They have high resistance to Fusarium wilt races one and two, tomato spotted wilt virus, late blight, and Verticillium wilt, as well as intermediate resistance to late blight.
If you deal with a lot of disease pressure in your area, I find that Plum Regal can be a great option for a determinate paste tomato.
4. Banana Legs
Looking for a determinate tomato that’s a bit different. Then check out Banana Legs!
This heirloom variety produces yellow fruits that are about four inches long and slender in shape. The fruits are meaty in texture and low in acid, making them a great choice for those who don’t love the acidic taste of tomatoes.
They also work well mixed in with other types of tomatoes in tomato salads.
This Russian heirloom tomato is a semi-determinate type, which means it is relatively small in stature but produces fruit over a long period of time. This combination has caused many people to fall in love with it over time.
The Amber fruits are dark yellow in color and medium in size. They have a sweet flavor that is common with yellow tomatoes but also a bit of acidity that balances out the sweetness.
6. Black Sea Man
If you love the rich flavor of pink and purple tomatoes but don’t want to deal with the sprawling stems of varieties like Cherokee Purple, check out Black Sea Man. This heirloom variety has pink fruit with a slightly purple tint.
Like all determinate tomatoes, the plants max out at about five feet tall and set their fruit over a period of a few weeks. The fruits are large and meaty while also having enough juice to make a satisfying tomato sandwich.
7. Tiny Tim
Some tomatoes are grown for their delicious fruits, some for their prolific harvests, and some for their disease resistance. Then there’s Tiny Tim.
This tomato plant grows only one foot tall, making it a cute centerpiece for patio tables or a great decoration for steps. The plants do produce small cherry tomatoes but don’t expect a large harvest off these small plants.
Tiny Tim can also work well if you own a restaurant. Placing these plants on top of each table will give your space a fresh and original feel—and your diners can enjoy truly locally grown tomatoes!
Read my article for everything you need to know, from growing from seed to harvesting and storing Tiny Tim tomatoes.
If you’re looking for an extra-early cherry tomato, Glacier is a good pick. It produces fruit just 55 days after transplant, making it a good choice if you live in an area with a short growing season.
The plants remain less than three feet tall, which makes them a good option for container growing as well as small spaces like patios.
Glacier produces extremely sweet and tender red cherry tomatoes that are suitable for both fresh eating and cooking.
Celebrity has been a long-standing favorite of many gardeners due to its short stature, good disease resistance, and impressive fruit production.
The plants grow three to four feet tall but produce fruit in a way that is a bit different from many determinate varieties. Rather than setting fruit over a period of a few weeks, they continue to produce tomatoes over multiple months.
The fruits themselves are medium to large in size and bright red. In essence, they’re a great tomato for sandwiches, burgers, and the like.
10. BHN 589
If you are a serious home gardener growing tomatoes in a hoop house, BHN 589 is the determinate variety you should select. It was bred to thrive in the protected hoop house environment, and its prolific yields show this.
The semi-determinate plants are a bit taller than true determinants, but they are still easy to contain with a simple stake-based trellis system. They have high resistance to Fusarium wilt races one and two, tobacco mosaic virus, and Verticillium wilt.
The plants produce loads of medium, round, red fruits.
I’ve personally grown this tomato in multiple locations over the years and it proves to be a winner, especially if you have a high tunnel or greenhouse.
11. Gold Nugget
Gold Nugget plants produce boatloads of small, yellow cherry tomatoes that are both sweet and juicy. Their skin is a bit thinner than many other types of cherry tomatoes, which gives them an even greater appeal.
The plants remain compact enough for containers, but they can also thrive in gardens.
Galahad is another hybrid variety that produces a large amount of red slicing tomatoes. The fruits are medium in size, crack resistant, and sweet. It is also an All-American Selections winner.
Galahad holds up well against some of the common diseases that plague tomato plants. It has high resistance to Fusarium wilt races one, two, and three, gray leaf spot, tomato spotted wilt, and Verticillium wilt.
13. Defiant PhR
If you find your plants are often ravaged by late blight or early blight, Defiant PhR may be a tomato for you. It has high resistance to late blight, intermediate resistance to early blight, and resistance to a variety of other common tomato diseases.
The fruits are medium in size and bright red. They have a mixture of firmness and juiciness that makes these tomatoes perfect for salads, sandwiches, bruschetta, and more.
These tomatoes got their name from the Beaverlodge Research Center in Canada where they were bred. It produces tomatoes just 55 days after transplants, so it works well in areas with short growing seasons.
Beaverlodge is known for producing lots of small to medium fruits. The fruits are nice and juicy with a good blend of sweetness and acidity.
15. Baxter’s Bush Cherry
Baxter’s Bush Cherry is a compact plant that produces lots of sweet red tomatoes. Its bushy habit means it can be grown without any trellises or stakes.
The variety produces fruit about 70 days after transplant.
16. Dwarf Purple Heart
This dwarf variety produces lots of large purple oxheart tomatoes. Dwarf Purple Heart begins producing fruits about 70 days after transplant, making them appropriate for a wide variety of conditions.
17. Bush Early Girl
While the regular Early Girl is indeterminate, the Bush Early Girl is determinate. It remains compact in shape and only grows three feet tall.
The plants begin producing fruits just 54 days after transplanting, making them one of the first larger tomatoes to mature. The fruits are deep red and juicy, making them a versatile option in the kitchen.
Alaska is a favorite among northern growers due to its ability to withstand cooler conditions. It also produces tomatoes in a relatively short time after transplant—about 63 days.
The plants produce red cherry tomatoes that are on the larger side.
19. Lime Green Salad
This is a semi-determinate variety which means that the plants remain small yet also produce fruits over an extended period. The fruits are small, but not cherry-sized, making them excellent snacking tomatoes.
Lime Green Salad lives up to its name due to tomatoes that are yellow-green when ripe. The tomatoes are acidic with a hint of sweetness.
My Tips for Growing Determinate Tomatoes
In many ways, determinate plants are quite easy to grow. Their compact growth habit removes the need for intensive trellising and their short harvest window makes harvesting simple.
However, that doesn’t mean you won’t need to care for these plants if you want to end up with a fruitful harvest. Here are some of my tips for growing great determinate tomatoes.
Although many determinate tomato plants rarely exceed five feet, they can still benefit from some support.
A basic metal tomato cage can help contain the plants and prevent them from falling over.
You can also place three or four stakes about a foot away from the base of your plant. As the plant grows, wrap tomato twine around the stakes to contain the growing plant.
Since determinate tomatoes produce their fruit over a few weeks, you’ll want to ensure you’re around to harvest!
If you plan on going away for a week in the summer, ensure that your determinate plants won’t be producing fruit during this time. You can use the days to maturity to determine when your plants will begin producing tomatoes.
Fungal diseases can quickly ravage tomato plants and limit your harvest. While diseases can vary between years, if a certain disease is present one year chances are good it will reappear in the future. If you know late blight, Fusarium wilt, or another disease is common in your area, look for a determinate tomato variety that is resistant to that disease. While the plants may still become infected, they are more likely to survive than non-resistant varieties.
Most heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate. That means they will continue growing and set their fruit over a few months.
However, some heirloom tomatoes are determinate. The majority of these heirlooms have medium to large red fruits, but you can find heirloom romas, cherries, and more.
The majority of cherry tomato varieties are indeterminate, but you can also find determinate varieties. Since cherry tomatoes may exhibit either of these growth habits, it’s important to look at each variety individually.
While popular cherry tomato varieties like Sungold and Sweet Million are indeterminate, plant breeders have also developed determinate cherry tomatoes. Some options include Washington Cherry, Gold Nugget, and Baxters Bush Cherry.