If you would like to add more fruit to your garden, learning how to grow ground cherries is a simple way to do it. Although most modern gardeners have never heard of them, ground cherries are a delicious husked fruit with a unique flavor similar to a cross between pineapple, strawberries, and citrus with a tropical undertone. This tasty fruit is also known as cape gooseberries, husk tomatoes, or sweet tomatillos. 

I first tried ground cherries at the Pike Place Market in Seattle and was hooked. They are so good! 

Ground cherries are a relative of tomatoes and tomatillos, and share similar growing characteristics. Large, sprawling plants produce dozens of small, yellow berries in a papery husk. Learn how to grow ground cherries with these 10 tips.

How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries

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10 Tips for How to Grow Ground Cherries

1. Start ground cherry seeds indoors

Ground cherries grow well in zones 4 and higher, but are very frost-sensitive and do best started indoors. Start seeds for ground cherries indoors 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date. Seeds may be slow to germinate; be patient. Harden off transplants before planting outdoors. 

How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries

2. Try different varieties of ground cherries

Pineapple Cherry-sized fruit; low growing; pineapple flavor; 75 days from transplant to harvest.

Goldie:  ½” to ¾” fruit; sweet and prolific; 75 days from transplant to harvest.

Aunt Molly’s:  ½” to ¾” fruit; good choice for preserves; 70 days from transplant to harvest.

New Hanover Known for good flavor; sweet and fruity; 65-75 days from transplant to harvest.

How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries

3. Plant ground cherries at the right time

You can follow the same planting schedule for ground cherries as you do for tomatoes and tomatillos. Ground cherries prefer warm soil. Plant about 2 weeks after your last average frost date.

To grow ground cherries in the low desert of Arizona, plant during the month of March, and plant again in mid-July through August

Ground cherries need warm temperatures and plenty of sun. In hot summer areas like the low desert of Arizona, afternoon shade is preferred. 

When growing ground cherries in the low desert of Arizona (and other hot summer climates), they will produce fruit until temperatures get very hot in the summer. If plants survive the summer, as temperatures cool they will begin producing again. 

How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries

4. Choose an area to grow ground cherries with good drainage and rich soil

Raised beds and containers are an excellent choice for growing ground cherries. Ground cherries are heavy feeders and require rich soil. Amend soil with several inches of compost before planting. Apply a balanced organic fertilizer if needed. 

How to grow ground cherries in containers:

When growing ground cherries in containers, choose a container that is at least 8 inches deep with plenty of good quality potting mix. 

5. Plant ground cherry plants deeply

Similar to tomatoes and tomatillos, ground cherries will grow roots all along their stems and do best when planted deeply. Remove leaves along the bottom ⅔ of the stem, and plant ground cherry transplants deeply, leaving just a few leaves above the ground. 

How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries

6. Give ground cherries plenty of space

Ground cherry plants are sprawling and grow wide. Allow 2 – 3 feet between each plant.  

Ground cherries can be grown vertically. The branches are brittle and do best trained vertically while young. Staking, or using a tomato cage or other type of trellis, will keep branches up off the ground. 

For square foot gardening allow at least 4 squares (2×2) per plant.

How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries

7. Don't let ground cherries dry out

Ground cherries need regular water to grow well. If ground cherries dry out, they will drop blossoms rather than setting fruit. Mulching plants helps retain moisture.

Container-grown ground cherries grow well in a self-watering container or with an olla to provide additional water. 

8. Let ground cherries harvest themselves

When ground cherries are ripe, they will fall from the plant to the ground. Fruit on the plant is not ripe yet. Ripening fruit turns from green to golden yellow, and finally a warm apricot gold, and the husks become dry and papery. Gather fallen fruit. Allow fallen fruit to ripen further at room temperature (if necessary)with the husks on for the best flavor. 

Harvest ground cherries frequently. Ground cherries left on the ground will often reseed. 

How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries
How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries

9. Store ground cherries properly for the longest storage life

Ground cherries have a longer storage life than many other fruits. Leave husks intact and store in a mesh bag in a cool location (about 50 degrees). When stored this way, ground cherries often last for about 3 months. 

How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries

10. Use ground cherries a variety of ways

Remove husk before eating. Ground cherries are delicious fresh, and in jam, pies, salsa, and sauces.

How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries
How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries
Gound cherries infographic
How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries
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2 Comments on How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries

    • Love that trellis idea. Ground cherries are tricky to trellis because they are so sprawling. If you try that let me know how it goes. Best of luck to you!

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