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How To Grow Tamarillo Trees – A Complete Guide

Tamarillo trees bear fruit known as the tree tomato. They are small tree or shrub-looking plants that are part of the nightshade family and grow fruit that is an oval shape and is very similar looking to a Roma tomato. Many say tamarillos taste similar to sweet tomatoes with a slightly bitter undertone. 

Tamarillos are native to South America; however, you can grow them in your own backyard! They will only grow if you have them in a climate above 50 degrees for the whole year as they are perennial and will continue to fruit year after year. 

This article is going to be a complete guide on tamarillos, how to grow them, how to care for them, and all the juicy details in between. Stick around!

How do you grow tamarillo fruit?

Tamarillo trees are often grown from the seeds of the fruit. Once the seeds dry for at least two days, they can be planted in soil, and then they will germinate once the seedling is ready to be planted; afterward, there in general maintenance to be done for the tree.

Water

Tamarillos like moist conditions, but it is important not to drown them out. When they are seedlings, water them daily to keep the soil damp.

Once they have grown, you can water them up to three times a week while keeping an eye on the soil to ensure it is not completely drying out. Always make sure to plant tamarillo trees in well-draining soil.

If you’re growing your tamarillo tree in a pot or container (more details on this below), you should water it more frequently. The soil is going to dry out quicker, especially if its outside.

As standard with anything you plant in the garden, try to avoid wetting the leaves, watering to runoff, and of course; under watering in dry season.

Nutrients/Fertilizer

Before you plant your tree, mix a heaty fertilizer with your soil. One that has slow-releasing nutrients so that your plant can get healthy doses of nutrients as it grows. Initially, putting down a fertilizer that is 5-5-5 NPK will be great to mix in with the soil. 

Tamarillos also love getting regular feedings throughout the summer while they are fruiting. Boost the trees with a liquid feed of potassium, especially phosphorus, during their fruiting season. 

If you want to keep things simple, try your hand at bone meal. Bone meal is good for tamarillo trees (and fruit trees as a whole) because it contains high amounts of phosphorous and relatively low amounts of nitrogen. It also provides a good percentage of calcium.

While most bone meal has an NPK ratio of 3-15-0, some can go as high as 22 in the P ratio.

For this to work best, you should mix this into the soil at the time of planting.

Wood ash, fermented tea, blood meal, and basic compost works well too.

Can you grow tamarillos from cuttings?

Although tamarillos are more commonly grown from seeds, they will still grow wonderfully from cuttings. The cuttings are quite strong and are some of the easiest plants to grow from cuttings. Here is how you can grow a tamarillo from a cutting.

  1. Make sure to take your cuttings in the summer or late spring for optimal results.
  2. Find a healthy, strong shoot with at least one or two leaves. Cut this shoot about 20 centimeters long.
  3. Put the cuttings in a small pot of soil directly; there is no need to dry the cuttings or soak them first. 
  4. Place the pot somewhere dry and shady; within three weeks, your cuttings should have formed solid roots. 
  5. Never let the soil dry out; keep it damp at all times

Where is the best place to plant a tamarillo tree?

Tamarillo trees need to have full sun because they are warm-weather plants, especially if the climate you are in is a bit colder. However, they can be planted in very warm areas with partial shade. You have two options for planting tamarillo trees. Here are your options and the reasons for choosing them.

Directly in the ground

Again, this is only an option for you if you live in a climate above 50 degrees year-round. The warmer, the better for these subtropical plants. When choosing a spot outside directly in the ground, ensure the spot has the right amount of sun for at least 8 hours. It should be a spot where the tree can remain for at least five years without being disturbed. 

You always want to keep the tamarillo tree roots in mind when planting. Their roots are very shallow and honestly a bit weak. They don’t do very well in high wind areas, so they will need to be planted in an area that is hidden from the wind. 

In a greenhouse

A greenhouse is a great option for planting tamarillo trees if you live in cool weather areas. You must be able to have good control of the climate inside the greenhouse, keeping it moist and warm for the tamarillos.

Once in the greenhouse, tamarillo trees can be planted in raised beds, pots, or directly in the ground; whatever you have inside the greenhouse will work fine.

Planted in a pot

Planting tamarillo trees in a pot is another good way to plant the trees if you have to move them around a lot. If you have cold winters but warm summers, you will want to leave your tree outside in the summer and bring it indoors in the winter. 

Keep in mind that if you plan to grow your tamarillo tree indoors exclusively, it’ll likely go through a dormant period. This means you can probably water a bit less and increase the sunlight it has each day.

Now back to the pots! The pot you plan your tamarillo tree in should be at least 5 gallons deep and wide enough to allow for the roots to develop. Equally important is that the drainage holes are large enough and spread out so that all areas of your container can drain.

I would recommend having the holes around 2cm wide. You can also add in a drainage layer made with pebbles, maybe a few centimeters thick.

If you’re bringing your plant indoors during the winter, you would benefit by having a drip pan that can capture all of the drainage. Or, at least put it somewhere such as a greenhouse where it won’t suffer from any frost damage.

To keep things simple, add in a fruit specific soil mix. This can be something like a simple potting mix that you add some additional fertilizers to.

Can you grow tamarillo in pots?

As mentioned above, you can certainly grow tamarillo trees in pots, though there are some things to keep in mind when choosing the right pot. 

Size

Tamarillos in the wild can grow up to 18 feet and rarely even 24 feet tall. When they are planted directly in the ground in the United States, they can get up to 10 feet. When they are in pots, however, they usually only get to about 5 feet, but this is fine, and the tree will still give an excellent yield.

Depending on the environment your tamarillo tree is growing in, it may only get up to 3 feet in height.

It is helpful that tamarillos have shallow roots, but you will want to make sure your pot is at least 5 gallons of soil for one tree. 

Material

If you are growing in pots, it may be safe to assume you will have to move your tree around at least twice a year. Before you plant, make sure you choose the right material pot that is light enough to move around.

Fabric bags with handles are your absolute best option for planting tamarillo trees because they are lightweight and support strong root growth. 

How long does it take for a tamarillo tree to bear fruit?

If you are starting your tamarillo tree from a fresh cutting or from seed, the tamarillo tree will take up to two full years until it begins to fruit.

In the right climate, tamarillo trees will always produce fruit; however, if they grow in a place with colder winters, the tree will shut down in the colder months, then begin to fruit again as the weather gets warmer.

Tamarillo trees will continue on this cycle for about 5-7 years, in which the tree will begin to die naturally. In the wild, where tamarillo trees are native, it is said they live for up to a decade. 

How do you get tamarillo to fruit?

Tamarillo trees will fruit naturally within two years of growth. The best way to get them to fruit is by ensuring they have the right climate to do so. For the tree to survive, it needs to be above 50 degrees F at all times; however, for the tree to fruit, it must be at least 70 degrees F. 

If you plant your tamarillo tree in the spring season, then it will take around 18 – 20 months before it fruits. The first winter usually doesn’t yield any fruits.

Are tamarillo trees self-pollinating?

Tamarillo trees are, in fact, self-pollinating. This means the tree grows both male and female flowers and relies on the wind, birds, and bees to pollinate the female flowers. 

When should I prune my tamarillo?

Pruning is an excellent thing for the tamarillo tree because it supports healthy growth and strengthens the plant. You can prune the lower bottom branches in the spring once the last danger of frost has long passed.

If you live in a warm climate, it doesn’t matter when you prune; ensure you are only pruning the lower leaves and new growths, keeping that trunk nice and clean. 

In addition to helping the plant growth at a healthy rate, pruning helps with the aesthetics. Pruning is ideal if your tamarillo tree is a part of your small garden. Not only does it help when you’re tight on space, but the younger branches will have a better chance to thrive through pruning.

Why is my tamarillo dying and losing leaves?

Tamarillo trees aren’t strangers to different plant diseases. If your tamarillo tree is dying and losing leaves, it may have contracted a disease. Otherwise, the tree is coming to the end of its life. If it has been at least five years, this is a possible cause.

Another cause may be that it is just spring, and the tree is shedding its “winter” layer and making room to grow new leaves. Like a dog does with its winter coat. Let’s take a look at some of the diseases that causes tamarillo leaves to drop.

DiseasesSymptoms and Cures
Powdery MildewPowdery mildew is a fungal 
disease that leaves a white powder
on most of the leaves of the tree. This
fungus affects pretty much all plants
in the garden and can spread quickly. 
Luckily, if taken care of quickly, can be 
fully treated. A sulphur based fungicide 
does the job efficiently. 
Tamarillo Mosaic VirusTamarillo mosaic virus is caused by 
aphids spreading the disease from
plant to plant. It will cause the leaves to
look splotchy, yellow and eventually wilt 
and die. Unfortunately there is no cure for
this virus. You must burn your plants 
immediately to prevent the spread and 
rotate your crops.
Verticillium WiltStarts in the roots of plants and goes up the 
stems, this case the trunk, and blocks nutrients.
There is also no cure for this disease and the same
measures must be taken that you took for the 
mosaic virus. 

Harvesting Tamarillo Fruits

Depending on your climate, tamarillo fruits will be ready to harvest between March and April and go until the weather gets colder. When they are ripe, the fruits will feel slightly soft.

While they are growing, the skin is orange-yellow in color; when ripe, the skin turns to be reddish-brown. The inside of the fruit should pretty much look like the outside, the same reddish-brown color, and it should be very juicy and sweet.

Do tamarillos ripen after picking?

Luckily, if your tamarillos fall off the tree before they are ripe, they can still ripen off the branch. Don’t compost it yet! You can leave it on the ground or take it inside and leave it on a sunny windowsill for just a few days, and the fruit will have ripened on its own. 

Still, its best to let tamarillo fruits ripen on the tree for the best flavor. Harvesting too soon may leave you with a sour tasting fruit.

Final Thoughts

Tamarillo trees are great little backyard trees that produce bountiful amounts of fruit for up to 10 years if you are lucky. The fruit is delicious and, compared to most fruit trees, is fairly easy to grow and manage. If you are interested in growing fruit trees and you live in the right climate, try your hand at tamarillos! Happy gardening!