Cordon vs Shrub Tomatoes


You may not have come across the term ‘cordon’ tomato before, but essentially it is a tomato plant that grows upright and needs to be ‘trained.’ A shrub tomato plant, on the other hand, is more compact (like a small shrub!) and does not need to be trained.

Cordon Tomatoes

Nearly all the varieties that we offer are cordon upright varieties. They will grow easily to two metres tall, and produce lots of sideshoots that grow to become main stems with more branches and more sideshoots. If left to their own devices they would end up sprawling all over the ground and getting a little unruly. You get the picture. This is why most people ‘train’ cordon tomatoes.

How to train cordon tomatoes

It is very straightforward to train cordon tomatoes, so don’t be put off by the idea of them getting out of hand. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Provide a vertical support that is about 1.5m-2m tall when you plant your tomatoes. A long bamboo cane is perfect. Just jam it in the ground next to the tomato plant, and loosely tie the stem of the plant to the cane with garden twine. Easy.
  2. As the tomato plant grows, tie in the growing stem every so often to keep it upright. Easy.
  3. As you see sideshoots appearing, in the corners between the main stem and branch as pictured above, just pinch them out with your fingers and pop them in the compost pile. Easy.
  4. Once the tomato plant reaches head height, pinch off the growing tip at the top of the plant to prevent it from growing too tall. Easy.

Bush Tomatoes

The only bush tomato variety we currently sell is Tiny Tim. Bush varieties typically are much smaller plants, and there are some that grow to about 1 metre tall, and other dwarf varieties like our Tiny Tim variety, which only grow to around 40cm tall. These plants do not need training, and you can largely leave them to their own devices, just making sure they get enough water and feeding through the summer.

Which Type of Tomato Should I Choose?

If you’re growing in a greenhouse or polytunnel, or outside in a sheltered spot up against a wall or trellis perhaps, then the cordon tomatoes are all great. For those of you growing in hanging baskets, or growing balconies in pots, Tiny Tim bush tomato is a really good option. Equally, if you’re growing tomatoes outdoors, but you don’t have a sheltered spot and your site is particularly exposed to winds, then the Tiny Tim would be a good choice as it is less likely to struggle on windy days.

What’s Best for Novice Gardeners?

If you’re just starting out in growing, words like cordon and training can sound off-putting. But both bush tomatoes and cordon tomatoes are easy to grow – If you’re not restricted by your veg plot site (as described above) we’d recommend choosing whichever kind of tomatoes that you’d most enjoy harvesting – perhaps yellow tomatoes, or maybe you’re particularly fond of cherry tomatoes or a beefsteak? Just pick whichever you fancy, and relax knowing that you’ll receive a complete growing guide with your plants, we have loads of growing advice in our Weekly Veg Out Newsletter and here on our website, and we’re here to answer any questions!

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