The Difference Between Vining and Bush Tomatoes

Everett Mar

Growing tomatoes successfully requires a gardener to make a number of decisions about the plant, including if they want to grow determinate, or bush, tomatoes or indeterminate tomatoes, also known as vining tomatoes. Bush tomatoes grow to a certain height, stop growing, and then flower and produce fruit. Vining tomatoes continue to grow foliage, flower, and bear fruit until frost. The two plants differ mostly in size and when the fruit is produced.

Bush Tomatoes

If you don't have a lot of space for a tomato vine to climb, growing bush tomatoes might be your best bet. While these foliage-heavy plants grow to varied heights, dwarf varieties remain below 2 to 3 feet, while others are 5 feet or less. Determinate tomatoes also do best in their own space, making them perfect candidates for container gardens on porches and patios. They're also a little less work for gardeners who don't have as much time on their hands to devote to tending to their plants because the plants don't need as much pruning nor do they have to be staked and tied.

Bush tomatoes don't have as long of a growing period as vining tomatoes, but they do produce fruit earlier in the season than their indeterminate siblings. Some gardeners think, though, that these tomatoes have less flavor than indeterminate varieties because the plants produce fewer leaves.

Once the tomato plants reach their full height, the flowers grow, fruit appears, and then it's done for the season. However, the number of tomatoes produced can be prolific, and they will all appear and ripen around the same time. Those interested in canning tomatoes would do well with bush tomatoes and the large harvest produced within about a month period.

Vining Tomatoes

Vining tomatoes, as the name suggests, grow like vines. Therefore, they need to be staked to continue to climb upward to 5 feet and beyond. The average size is 6 feet, but it's not unheard of for a plant to reach upwards of 12 feet tall. These indeterminate tomatoes will grow, blossom, and bear tomatoes until a hard frost ends the growing period, though the production can be random though steady throughout the harvest season. Most heirloom tomatoes varieties are indeterminate, though there are a few determinate kinds.

Vining tomatoes require more hands-on time, as they produce a number of side shoots, which could each be their own plant. Pluck off the suckers below the first couple flower clusters to promote the formation of a new stem and better fruiting. If you want a lot of tomatoes at one time for canning purposes, you need to have multiple planted at one time. However, varieties are known as "vigorous determinates" or "semi-determinates" will produce a crop of fruit, re-flower, and produced a second crop, rather than spacing out the fruit.

Indeterminate tomato plants are native to tropical highlands and are referred to as "tender" perennials. This means that they die annually in temperature climates, but they can last for up to three years if grown in a greenhouse.