Ground cherries or Physalis pruinosa are a little-known fruit that is simple to grow in the garden and has few pest and disease issues. With the rise of containers and small space gardening, it is no surprise many growers ask how to grow ground cherries in a container.
The sweet-tart flavor of their little yellow-orange fruits is akin to pineapple, with a faint tomato flavor in the background. Like tomatoes, ground cherries, or the husk cherry, are members of the Solanaceae plant family. However, despite their name, they have no link to the actual cherry tree.
Ground cherry plants resemble small, sprawling shrubs with toothed-edge bright green leaves. They have yellow blooms in the summer before coming to fruition. A ground cherry is a small fruit coated in a papery husk and appears in the late summer to early fall in North America, similar to tomatillos. While ground cherries and tomatillos are technically fruits, a tomatillo is generally considered a veggie by most people.
All About Growing Ground Cherries in Pots
Plant ground cherries in the spring. They grow as annuals and finish their life cycle in one season. Before you start following the way to grow ground cherries from seed or seedling, remember all components of the ground cherry plant, except the fruit, are poisonous to humans and pets. Growing ground cherries in containers is an excellent way to enjoy this ripe fruit on a space budget.
The low, bushy vines of ground cherries produce hundreds of delicious marble-sized berries from the middle of summer until the harsh October frost, making this a simple and exciting crop for the growing season. These tasty little fruits are similar to the cherry tomato plant and tomatillo but are their own fruit.
When the ground cherry fruit is mature, they fall off the plants, earning the title of ground cherry. Even when fully ripe, these are hard fruits with seeds so minuscule they appear seedless. Learning how to grow ground cherries in a container is an excellent project for growers of all levels and offers a tasty reward.
Types of Ground Cherries for Your Container
Ground cherries are members of the Physalis genus, which comprises plants with characteristic paper husks like Chinese paper lanterns and tomatillos, among other things.
Nightshades, which include tomatoes, incorporate ground cherries in their genetic makeup. Though some types are referred to as husk cherries, they are not related directly to cherries. Ground cherries come in a few different varieties, each having unique characteristics.
Ground cherry plants have a relaxed and sprawling growth. Many gardeners add a tomato cage to their container and use twine to tie up and encourage vertical growth instead of spread to conserve space.
How to Grow Ground Cherries in a Container – Planting
Planting ground cherries in pots is the first step to grow ground cherry fruit at home. Check the Seed Savers Exchange to purchase good quality seed affordably.
Growing ground cherries in a container lets you move the plants into adequate sunshine as needed and protect them from harsh storms. To accommodate the plant’s vast root system, use a container at least 8 inches deep.
Drainage holes should be present in the container. Excess soil moisture quickly escapes through the walls of an unglazed clay container making it an ideal choice.
Plant the ground cherry seeds indoors about 1/4 inch deep in seed starting mix to grow your ground cherries from seed inside. It’s beneficial to plant the seed in biodegradable seed starter cells you later put in your pot without transplanting the sprouting seeds.
Maintain a warm environment for your seeds, between 75-85°F, and ensure the soil is regularly moistened but not soggy. In around two weeks, the seeds germinate.
Keep the seedlings near a sunny window and keep the soil moist until the final frost date in your area has passed. Then, for about a week, gradually bring your ground cherry seedlings outside for more extended periods to adapt them to direct sunshine before planting them in your container and setting it in your desired location.
Ground Cherry Care
What are the necessary sun requirements for ground cherries? Full sun, or six hours of direct sunshine on most days, is preferable for ground cherries. They withstand some shade, but they yield fewer fruits as a result.
Grow basil and marigolds as tomatillo and ground cherry companion plants to keep pesky bugs away. These plants aren’t fussy about soil, but they thrive in well-drained, organically rich soil with a mildly acidic pH. Use organic matter-based fertilizer such as manure tea to enrich the soil for your ground cherry plants.
Spray generously on the ground around plants or seedlings. Ground cherries require around one inch of water each week and prefer damp soil.
Plants exposed to dry circumstances may lose their flowers without generating fruit. When there’s no rain in your area, prepare to water at least once a week – and possibly more frequently if the soil is drying out in scorching weather.
Within their growing zones, ground cherries have a high heat tolerance. They thrive in temperatures between 55 and 65℉ and withstand temperatures as high as 85℉.
Frost, on the other hand, harms plants. If your garden is in a colder region and your ground cherries are threatened by frost before they ripen, shelter your ground cherry plants with row covers for protection.
These plants don’t usually have a problem with humidity. The correct sunlight, soil moisture, and temperature are essential elements for success when you plant ground cherries.
Growing Ground Cherries in Pots Indoors
Many gardeners who are curious about growing ground cherries in pots wonder if growing them indoors is possible.
When growing ground cherries inside, you may supplement natural light with grow lights if you do not have a sunny enough window to produce them. Provided you meet their growing requirements, growing ground cherries in pots indoors is possible.
You shouldn’t have to worry about repotting your ground cherry plant during the growing season except when transplanting a young plant from a smaller container to something bigger. Plant at the same depth as the previous container and fill with potting mix to keep it moist if you must repot your ground cherry.
Growing Ground Cherries in Containers – Harvesting
Ground cherry is the common name for the plant because the ripe ground cherry fruits are often harvested from the ground rather than directly off the plant. Each plant yields around one pound of fallen fruit during the late summer and early fall.
When ground cherry fruit is mature, the husk dries out, tans, and falls off the plant, leaving the fruit inside. When growing ground cherries in containers, some gardeners lay containers or cloth under their plants to catch the fruits and make picking easier.
Collect fruit as often as possible when picking tomatillos and ground cherries. Fruits left on the ground may break open, resulting in ground cherry seedlings springing up all over.
Fresh ground cherries taste excellent in salads and sauces, and other dishes. These fruits last up to two weeks in the refrigerator and may be frozen and placed in an airtight container for several months.
Growing Ground Cherries in Pots – Pests
Ground cherry plants, in general, are more resistant to disease and pests than tomatillo and cherry tomatoes. They do, however, face many of the same challenges as their kin. Whiteflies, hornworms, flea beetles, and cutworms, in particular, may infect the plants significantly if weakened by dryness.
Fungal issues may present a problem if there isn’t enough air circulation. Avoid any problems with proper growing conditions. Check your ground cherry plants often for signs of pests or diseases. Identify and treat problems early to avoid spread and further damage to your plants and fruit, and consider companion plants to reduce pest infestation.
Understanding how to grow ground cherries in containers is worth the reward. With a rising interest in home gardening and producing food, it’s no surprise container gardening is gaining popularity.
Planting in a container gives people living in small spaces access to gardening and it is ideal for the outdoor garden as container plants are portable to adjust sunlight or easily shelter in poor weather.
Fresh ground cherry flavor is similar to pineapple, with vanilla and cherry tomato traces. It’s a unique blend, yet it works. Cossack pineapple, husk cherries, husk tomato, and strawberry tomatoes are nicknames because of their sweet flavor.
Planting ground cherries in containers gives you ready access to a supply of delicious ripe produce. The fruits may be eaten raw or in salads but work well in pie, jams, cobbler, or a sauce to drizzle over desserts, or dry them and eat them as snacks if you have a dehydrator.
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