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How to Grow Ground Cherries

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 growth characteristics. Large, sprawling plants produce dozens of small, yellow berries in a papery husk. Learn how to grow ground cherries with these ten tips.

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10 Tips for How to Grow Ground Cherries

1. Start ground cherry seeds indoors

Ground cherries grow well in zones four 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. 

In the low desert of Arizona, start seeds indoors from December – January and again from May – June.

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

2. Try different varieties of ground cherries

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

Goldie: ½” to ¾” (1.27 cm to 1.9 cm) fruit; sweet and prolific; 75 days from transplant to harvest.

Aunt Molly’s: ½” to ¾” (1.27 cm to 1.91 cm) fruit; a good choice for preserves; 70 days from transplant to harvest.

New HanoverKnown 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 transplants outside February 15 – March and July 15 – September.

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. Grow ground cherries in the best location

Raised beds and containers are an excellent choice for growing ground cherries. Choose a location with excellent drainage and avoid soils with excess nitrogen. Too much nitrogen often produces an abundance of foliage rather than fruit.

How to grow ground cherries in containers:

When growing ground cherries in containers, choose a container that is at least 8 (20 cm) 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 (approximately 0.6-0.9 meters) between each plant.  

Ground cherries can be grown verticallyThe 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 2-4 squares 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. The 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. 

9. Keep an eye out for pests and diseases

3-Lined Cucumber Beetle Larvae

Ground cherries are susceptible to the same pests and diseases as tomatoes and tomatillos. Early detection and prevention are keys to successfully growing ground cherries.

  • Colorado Potato Beetle: These beetles can cause significant damage to ground cherry plants. Handpicking is an effective control method. Monitor plants for eggs, adults, and larvae.
  • Cutworms: These pests can chew through the stems of young seedlings. Protect your plants by placing collars around the stem at the soil line. Handpicking cutworms off plants in the evening can also be effective.
  • Three-Lined Cucumber Beetle: These beetles can defoliate ground cherry plants and spread bacterial wilt. Floating row covers can help protect plants from these beetles. Handpicking and daily vigilance are essential to control. Monitor plants for eggs, adults, and larvae.
  • Slugs and Snails: These pests can devour an entire bed of seedlings in a night. Handpicking slugs and snails off plants during the evening hours can help reduce their numbers. Beer traps or diatomaceous earth are other organic control options.
  • Verticillium Wilt: This soil-borne disease can cause yellowing and wilting on ground cherries. Crop rotation and improving soil health with organic amendments can help prevent this disease.
  • Foliar Diseases: Rainy periods or humid windless days can encourage diseases like early blight, anthracnose, and tobacco mosaic virus. Regularly monitor your plants for signs of these diseases, and consider using a copper fungicide or a baking soda solution as a preventative spray.
3-Lined Cucumber Beetle Eggs and Adult

Remember, prevention is key when it comes to managing pests and diseases. A healthy garden with good biodiversity can often keep pest populations in check.

10. Store and use ground cherries in a variety of ways

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

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°F/10°C). When stored this way, ground cherries often last for about 3 months. 

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

Visual planting guides for vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers & vines.

Gound cherries infographic

If this post about ground cherries was helpful, please share it:


Wednesday 26th of April 2023

How big do the plants need to be before transplanting outdoors?

Angela Judd

Friday 28th of April 2023

Usually, at least 1-2 sets of true leaves.


Sunday 11th of September 2022

Thank you for this wonderful article. Purchased ground cherry plants from a green house this summer. Didn’t realize where different varieties. They have done well and are producing plenty of fruit. However taste similar to a tomato to me. Was hoping for a sweeter taste, or maybe pineapple. The container only said ground cherries. Don’t have any idea what kind. Is their a way to tell? Thank you

Angela Judd

Tuesday 13th of September 2022

Starting your own from seed may be the only way to get the variety you want. Most ones I've tried have had some sweetness to them.

Karla Gonzalez

Tuesday 7th of June 2022

Where can I buy ground cherry plants?

Angela Judd

Friday 10th of June 2022

I usually start mine from seed. I link to several different seed sources in the article. Plants can be difficult to find.

Norma Holst

Saturday 14th of May 2022

Should you remove first blossoms to get fuller plants

Angela Judd

Saturday 21st of May 2022

IF they blossom before planting, yes. Otherwise, it's not necessary. The plant will drop blooms it can't support.


Thursday 4th of March 2021

I've never tasted ground cherries, but you have inspired me to try growing them this year :) I came across this interesting way to trellis them on a v-shaped support and am going to try Thanks for the great post!


Thursday 13th of July 2023

@Kelly, I saw that too and thought it looked like a great idea. Trying this seed out for the 1st time too. Good luck!


Tuesday 25th of October 2022

@Kelly, I've only had them once and that was in a green salad and I was so impressed that I've decided to try to grow them.

Angela Judd

Thursday 4th of March 2021

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!