Bush vs. Cordon Tomatoes – What’s the Difference?

There is nothing like fresh tomatoes harvested from your garden. If you are thinking of growing tomatoes, there are a few things to consider. You must decide which type of tomatoes to grow, how much space you could provide for your tomatoes, and how frequently you wish to harvest.

This article discusses the popular bush vs cordon tomatoes and how they are great for a home garden.

What are Bush Tomatoes?

bush tomatoes

Bush tomato plants, also called Determinate Tomatoes stay short and grow wide and are great to grow in growing bags, smaller gardens, and pots. You can also grow them in hanging baskets and let the stems trail over the sides of the baskets. Requiring little care and maintenance, they only need support when the plants are full of fruit.

Key Features of a Bush Tomato Plant

  • The upwards growth stops after the plant reach a specific height of 1.4 m (4 feet)
  • You can insert a central stake in the ground before planting them so that the plant gets support. Just tie the branches with a soft string, or you can use pea and bean netting, wide mesh, or a circular cage.
  • The side shoots of bush tomato plants aren’t pruned, and the plant is left to grow freely.
  • The fruits of bush tomatoes are like that of cordon varieties in most respects.

Popular Bush Tomato Varieties

  • Cherry Cascade (Lycopersicon esculentum): These are cherry tomatoes that grow in bush form.
  • Sweet and Neat: This interesting bush tomato variety also grows as cherry tomatoes but has the shape of a beefsteak tomato.
  • Tumbler: They are bush tomatoes without the need to prune side shoots.
  • Red Alert: Being a good cropper, this is a dependable bush variety.
  • Legend: Bush tomato variety that has a perfect shape.
  • Rio Grande: Good plum tomatoes in bush variety.

Tips for growing Bush Tomatoes

  • These plants remain short and when they reach a certain height, they naturally stop growing.
  • Not much pruning is needed, just remove the dead leaves and decaying foliage.
  • Canes are usually inserted around the plants. Thin branches are softly tied to these canes, so they take the weight of the developing plants.
  • ‘Tumbling Tom’ and some other bush variety tomatoes need a somewhat trailing habitat, so you can plant them in hanging baskets and window boxes.

What are Cordon Tomatoes?

bush tomatoes

This tomato variety grows tall like a vine and needs support while it grows. It is a good idea to plant them in a greenhouse, in the ground, or in pots that are placed in a sunny place outdoors. These plants produce a heavy crop while growing vertically, narrow, and tall. Remember to prune them regularly by pinching offside shoots. These plants keep growing until the first frost of the season.

Key Features of a Cordon Tomato Plant

  • Cordon tomato varieties normally grow as tall as 3m (10 feet), if allowed to grow.
  • Normally, the growth is stopped when the plant forms five fruit trusses.
  • They need regular pruning to cut offshoots from the sides. These cut shoots can also be grown, and they form roots very easily if potted.
  • It is also practicable to leave one or two side shoots and let them grow. But you will also need to provide them with support and tie them up. This method produces a larger crop, but it may be delayed.
  • They need support to grow and are usually tied to a long cane or other support and fastening.

Popular Cordon Tomato Varieties

  • Cherry Tomatoes: This is an easy-to-grow variety of Cordon tomatoes, growing up to a height of 1.4m. They are richly flavored and beautifully colored, and bite-sized tomatoes are great for salads.
  • Gardeners Delight: It is an old type of cordon tomatoes
  • Golden cherry: The name tells all about this tomato variety, it is golden in color and bite-sized

Tips For Growing Cordon Tomatoes

  • They need some basic pruning, and you need to train them
  • For beginners, ‘Gardeners Delight’ is a popular variety, it is very tolerant, easy to grow, and produces great crops
  • Tall canes or wires are needed to train the plants and provide support. Tie the plant branches at some intervals and pinch the top leaves when it reaches the top of the support
  • Pinch out the leaves inside branches to support vertical growth.
  • Cut offside shoots where they join the leaf stalk to encourage the plant to produce fruit. This way, the plant can use its maximum energy on producing fruit rather than carrying out unwanted growth. Also, cut the leaves under the lowest truss of the ripening fruit. This promotes airflow and helps get rid of diseases. 

Difference In Growing Habits and Fruit Production – Bush Vs Cordon Tomatoes

types of tomatoes
  • Growing habits: Bush tomatoes grow like small bushes that spread horizontally instead of vertically, whereas, cordon tomatoes are grown vertically upwards, using supports
  • Fruit production: Bush tomato plants produce fruits in bulk, all at the same time within a 2 or 3-week period. While cordon tomatoes produce fruit throughout the summer. You must harvest the bush tomato fruits all at once, while cordon tomatoes continually give fruits for many months.

Differences In Pruning and Training – Bush vs Cordon Tomatoes

Remember to look up the packet or label instructions when buying your tomato seeds or seedlings. It will clearly say what the pruning and training needs would be for each type of tomato plant.

Bush Tomatoes

  • Pruning: You should not remove the side shoots, and let them grow freely in all directions
  • Training: Bush tomatoes grow less vigorously as compared to cordon tomatoes and may not even need any support while they grow. But when the branches are heavy due to the weight of a crop and start to droop, then they can easily snap. You can use small vertical canes to support them by tying them loosely to the shoots.

Cordon Tomatoes

  • Pruning: Cordon variety of tomatoes grows best as a single stem. But the plant keeps on producing side shoots from the places where leaves join the main stem. You should pinch out these side shoots regularly to encourage vertical growth and growth in a single stem.

If you do not pinch them off, then side shoots to form a leafy, scrambling, long, and unsupported mass that takes a lot of the plant’s energy and produces very few fruits. Every time you water the plants, simply check for any side shoots growing just above the leaves at the joint. Pinch them or use scissors to cut them off.

  • Training: Cordon tomatoes cannot grow without support. Usually, a tall sturdy stick is used, or a vertical string is attached to an overhead horizontal structure, such as the roof of a greenhouse. These strings are anchored in the soil near the root ball of the plant. You must attach the tomatoes to these supports as they grow because they don’t naturally cling to these structures. This is called training.
  • When using cane support, tie the branches of the tomato plant to the cane with even spaces between successive ties.
  • When using a vertical string, wind the top of the main stem with the string gently twice a week as the plant grows. When the plant sets four fruit tresses indoors or seven fruit tresses outdoors, or reaches the top of the support, pinch off the growing point of the main stem, leaving at least a couple of leaves above the topmost truss.

Common Types of Tomatoes


Tomato shapes and uses classify them into four distinct types.

Tomato TypeBush TomatoesCordon Tomatoes
Beef Tomato Super Marmande Mortgage Lifter
Plum TomatoRoma NanoSan Marzano Yellow Pear
Salad or Standard TomatoThe AmateurMoney Maker Ailsa Craig Tigerella
Cherry or Baby TomatoVilmaGardners Delight

Wrapping Up

Now that you are aware of the bush and cordon varieties of tomatoes, remember to always check the care instructions when buying your tomato seeds or seedlings. Consider your gardening spaces and how much fresh crop you would be needing. If you have larger quantities of various types all at once, then the bush variety is for you.

But if you need tomatoes all season long with a few fresh tomatoes every day for salad, then choose cordon variety tomatoes. Knowing all about bush vs cordon tomatoes will be helpful in getting your tomato garden ready so that your tomato harvest will be a fresh and juicy treat for you.