In this article, we will discover how to grow Solanum pseudocapsicum in a container. As seen from the title of this article this plant has many common names from winter, Christmas, Jerusalem or Madeira Cherry. Whatever you want to call it, it is a beautiful plant to have in the container garden at an often dreary time of year.
You will often see them in garden centres or shops from late summer to early autumn. It is a small perennial bush that is part of the Solanaceae family to which the tomato, potato, pepper, chilli and aubergine belong.
A lot of the weeds we find growing in the garden also comes from the Solanum family especially the nightshade family. The winter cherry belongs to this group and the berries themselves are mildly poisonous. I know they look tempting but do not eat them.
It gets its name as the fruit look like little cherries but is not pleasant to eat.
It is a familiar plant to have around Christmas time.
The plant is not only beautiful to look at but surprisingly easy to look after. You will need to protect the fruits from being consumed by pets and children, as stated before as the fruit is poisonous.
WHY CALL IT JERUSALEM CHERRY?
The Jerusalem name is a misnomer, as it is a plant from South America. The Jerusalem name probably comes about as someone travelled to Jerusalem bringing the seed with them and starting to rear the plant there. Although we often see them sold full of berries, it produces pretty white, star-shaped flowers that are followed by the familiar fruit in autumn.
Although you often see them outside in autumn, it will not tolerate or survive temperature below 5 degrees Celsius and for this reason, it is often treated as a throwaway plant.
In tropical regions, it can live up to 10 years if it is looked after right, where it will start producing the berries after the second or third year. In most of the temperate regions, it will not survive and will be killed by the first air frosts. This is why you need to get them into your container display from September until November. You will need to bring it inside before the weather starts to feel cold.
If you are lucky and get no frosts, it may last until Christmas but it is a big gamble.
In tropical lands, it can grow up to 60cm with its wavy leaves that can be 7.5cm long.
HOW TO PLANT SOLANUM PSEUDOCAPSICUM (WINTER CHERRY)
If you want a long term plant then you will need to plant winter cherry on a bigger container.
First, buy a 15cm diameter container that has plenty of drainage holes at the bottom. Into this add a 1cm layer of gravel to aid drainage. Although the plant like its roots to be moist at all times, it does not like their roots to be soggy.
Place in the container a good quality, multipurpose compost until near the top of the rim. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball it came in its original container. Place the plant in the hole at the same level it came in its original housing- no shallower or no deeper. Backfill it with the growing media, making sure that any gaps that remain are filled with more compost. Firm the plant in and water well.
GROWING SOLANUM FROM SEEDS
Alternatively, you can grow them from seed, it is easier than propagating them from cuttings.
It will also produce a more symmetrical plant. To do this, buy seeds online or wait for the fruits to wither before removing them from the plant. The dry seeds should be kept until February the following year, where they can be sown.
In a seed tray filled with moist seed compost, sprinkle the seeds thinly and lightly cover them with more sieved compost. Place a propagation lid on top and place them on a heat mat or propagator. Once the seeds have germinated and they have got big enough to handle, then you can prick them out and transplant them individually into 7.5cm pots full of multipurpose compost.
After a few months, you can transplant them into new containers to grow on. If you are planning to have them outside for summer and autumn, you will need to harden them off.
CARE FOR WINTER CHERRIES
You will need to water regularly to ensure that the soil is kept moist at all times and is never allowed to dry out. It is important that you water consistently whilst in flower and when the berries appear. In mid-autumn when the plant stops growing you will need to vastly reduce the amount of water the plant gets. Once flowers start to fruit, it is best to reduce watering as this will encourage the plant to produce further blooms,
To summarise, water frequently to keep the compost moist and once it starts producing flowers and berries. Reduce watering when the flowers start to open and once the berries fall off the shrub.
You will need to feed regularly with a liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks whilst in active growth. This is usually between March and September. You will also need to place the plant in full sunlight. Too little light will affect bloom and fruit production. If you do not get any blooms, your plant may not be in strong enough sunlight.
You will not get fruit unless it flowers, which may take two to three years to happen. To help to pollinate the flowers, you will need to give the container a gentle shake, once in a while.
If you prune after the fruit has finished, it will ensure that the plant grows vigorously.
PESTS AND DISEASES
They do not tend to suffer from many pests and diseases, along they can suffer from whiteflies, aphids and spider mites. Light infestations can be dealt with by using sprays of water. Bad infestations can be dealt with by using systemic insecticides. No diseases of note are recorded with this plant.
In this article, we have talked about growing Solanum pseudocapsicum in containers. They are not difficult plants and are easy enough to grow from seeds. It is not a hardy plant and cannot take frosts, but if you are preferred to bring the plant indoors in mid-autumn and look after them, it will give you many years of enjoyment.
You will have to in late spring bring the plant outdoors, feed it regularly, water when required and bring it back in before the first frosts are forecasted in October.
If you do this, you can have a plant that lasts ten years and not only for Christmas.
If you have any questions or comments that you wish to make on growing Solanum pseudocapsicum in containers, please do so in the comment box below.
Happy winter cherry growing.