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How to Grow Tomatillo Plants

Tomatillo fruits

Botanical name: Physalis philadelphica

Tomatillo is also known as Toma Verde or Ground Cherries. Tomatillos are members of the nightshade family, and are closely related to tomatoes. It is grown like a tomato. The plant and leaves look like a tomato plant. That is where the similarity ends. Twenty years ago, most Americans did not even know of Tomatillos, let alone think about growing them. Now, avid gardeners looking for something different to grow, often turn to Tomatillos.

The fruit of the Tomatillo is green, and about the size of a large cherry tomato. The inside is white and meatier than a tomato. Tomatillos grow inside of a thin paper-like husk. They are used in Salsa, jams and many tex-mex and Mexican recipes.

Varieties of Tomatillos:

  • Green Tomatillos are most commonly found in the U.S.

  • There are also purple and yellow varieties.

Sowing Tomatillo Seeds:

Sow Tomatillo seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Sprouting tomatillo seeds is more successful, when started indoors using a heated germination mat. Transplant tomatillo plants into your garden after all chance of frost has past. Plant seedlings 18 - 24 inches apart, in rows three to four feet apart.

Tip: Harden off your tomatillo plants, by bringing them outdoors for increasing amounts of time, beginning a week before transplanting. Make sure to bring them in, or put them in a cold frame, if very cold weather or frost is forecast.

Days to Maturity:

90 - 100 days.

How to Grow Tomatillo Plants:

Growing tomatillo plants is easy. Tomatillos like hot weather. They are grown just like tomatoes.

Grow plants in full sun in average to rich soils.

Plants grow tall, four to five feet or more. The plants need support. If you use tomato cages, don't be surprised if the grow much taller than the top of the cage. We recommend growing them along a fence, so you can use jute twine or rope to tie the plants to the fence.

Provide plenty of water, and mulch around the plant to retain water. Feed them regularly, and switch over from nitrogen to higher phosphorous and potassium as the plants grow, to promote flowering and fruit set.

Also See:

Plant Problems

Soil Temperatures

Ideal Soil pH 

Insects and Pests:

Insect infestations are fairly uncommon. Occasional chewing and sucking pests will affect them. The most common pests are cutworms, snails and slugs.

Tip: Stake your plants up to keep the fruit off the ground. This keeps the snails and slugs away and damage from lying on the ground.

Diseases of Tomatillos:

A number of plant problems can arise, usually in mid summer heat and humidity. Blights and fungus infections can occur in the high humidity. Early treatment with fungicides is effective. Spacing plants too close, cuts down air circulation and promotes disease.

Plant Problems - Diagnosis, causes and cures for many common plant problems.

Harvesting Tomatillos:

Tomatillo plants produce a profusion of fruit, which will begin to ripen around mid summer.

Tomatillos are ripe when the paper-like husk turns brown and breaks open. Remove the husk, and rinse the oily substance off. Store in a cool, dry place until you are ready to use them.


Tomatillos are a tender annual. Transplant plants in your garden, after all danger of frost has past. Cover tender seedlings if frost is forecast. If there is fruit still on the plant in the fall, cover them with a sheet of plastic, a blanket, or an old tablecloth. Tomatillo plants will succumb to any frost.

More Information:

Homemade Salsa Recipe


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