Tree Tomato (Solanum betaceum)


Blossom of the Tamarillo (Solanum betaceum), in early May 2011.

The Tamarillo, also called Tree Tomato, is a small tree, belonging to the Nightshade family (Solanaceae). Originally it comes from Bolivia and is meanwhile ranged in the Cyphomandra-clade within the genus Solanum. The tree is well-known because of its hen’s egg-sized, red fruits.


The plant is fast-growing and forms quickly a small tree. Numerous, very large, slim leaves. Poor branching rate. From the white flowers in early summer evolve hen’s egg-sized fruits, which unripe have an adstringent effect (reduced sensation within the mouth).


Simple. Clean seeds, give them a few millimetres within potting compost. After a few days germination takes place, prick out plants. High nutrient and water demand. Quick growth with poor branching, therefore prune periodically the plant, so that a compact tree developes. In summer outdoors, in winter light and cool. Tolerates marginal frost for a short period.


Both propagation and culture of the Tamarillo are simple. Germination ability of Tamarillo seeds is excellent. Germination takes only a few days, from a height on of circa 20 centimetres Tamarillos are distinctly fast-growing, by what a high nutrient demand arises. The Tamarillo has a high evaporation over its up to plate-sized leaves, so that during summer almost daily must be watered. Unfortunately the spontaneous branching of the Tamarillo is very poor, so that I recommend you to cut off the tip of the plant at a height of circa one metre. So you get – in the case of a further periodically cutting – a well-branched, compact tree and not a „sad, leafy broomstick“. Repot periodically the Tamarillo. Within two to three years the Tamarillo is grown up to a head-high plant. Unfortunately Tamarillos are fairly susceptible to aphids.


In summer 2008 I gained seeds out of a fruit from the supermarket and sowed them. The seeds quickly germed and grew up to circa 20 cm high plants within six months.


One-year-old Tamarillo (Solanum betaceum), summer 2009.

Overwintering indoor was without any problems. Also this year the plant grew quickly and had a height of circa 60 cm at the end of the year.


At a height of circa one metre I cutted back the plant top, so that the plant was branching. Sideshoots appeared quite quickly, but showed a strong aphid attack though. By the end of the year the plant grew up to a height of circa 2 metres.


Because of the size overwintering was distinct more difficult. Because of a light deficiency the plant was relatively battered brought into its summer quarters in the garden in spring. The plant appreciated the distinct improved light supply with its first blossoms. After insect pollination the plant got prompt its first fruits. In addition the plant shows this year a good readiness for a stronger branching.


  • Systematics

  • Order: Solanales
  • Family: Solanaceae
  • Genus: Solanum
  • Section: Solanum sect. Pachyphylla
  • Propagation

  • generative
  • Culture

  • easy
  • Fruits

  • often
  • USDA – Zone

  • 10a (-1,1°C)