It may surprise you to know that this pretty little plant is actually a member of the Nightshade family – and it may surprise you even more to know that you can easily grow them!
No need to google any further how to grow ground cherry – we have all the information you will need right her. Read on for everything you need to know.
How To Grow Ground Cherries?
You can either start your plants from seed or buy seedlings – seedlings might be easier, but it is perfectly possible either way.
- Start the seeds off indoors, around 2 months before the last frost is due – these plants won’t grow if they are too cold.
- Plant a few seeds per pot of good quality potting mix, and place them 1/4 inch deep. Keep the soil moist and the pots in a warm place.
- The seeds should sprout after around a week, and you should keep them warm and well watered until they are more established.
- Separate the seedlings into individual pots to allow them to grow on and become stronger.
- At least a month after the last frost, you can plant out your ground cherries – make sure you harden them off for a couple of weeks before you do so!
- You can also grow ground cherries in containers, provided the containers are large enough and have drainage holes to stop the water from puddling.
- Site them in a warm, sunny position in your garden or greenhouse – they like to be kept warm and can cope with full sun.
- You will need light, well draining soil, and your ground cherries will love a bit of organic compost dug in before they are planted out.
- Allow at least 2 feet between your plants – these guys like to trail and sprawl, so make sure they have enough space.
- The plants will grow, flower and fruit in the space of a couple of months – don’t panic if yours are taking a little longer though!
- After the first flowers start to appear, feed your ground cherry plants with some diluted, balanced liquid fertiliser, to give them an extra boost.
- Bear in mind that the fruits can sometimes fall off the vine before they are ripe, so check for other signs of readiness before you eat them.
Where Do Ground Cherries Grow Best?
Like all plants, ground cherries have their preferred conditions that will encourage them to grow their best and produce the best fruit.
They are semi-tropical plants, hailing from many parts of the US and are believed to have originated in Brazil, so you can tell that they like warm weather.
These plants like a full sun position, so they will grow best in places where they receive at least 6 hours of sunlight.
They can handle a little shade, but they will not produce as many fruits, and those it does will not be as big or as sweet.
Ground cherries like loamy, well draining, slightly acidic soil, so you should choose a spot that meets these criteria.
They can be grown in the ground or in pots or containers – whatever your space allows you, as long as they get the maximum amount of sunlight.
Are Ground Cherries Good Eating?
These little fruits are not only seriously cool-looking, but they are also pretty yummy and versatile.
Ground cherries make a great little snack as they are, or you can use them in recipes like jams and crumbles as you would any other fruit.
Ground cherry fruits are also highly nutritious, containing good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B3 (Niacin).
As long as you eat them only when they are ripe they will give you a good boost of health-giving nutrients.
Eating unripe ground cherries can cause an upset stomach, so make sure you only eat them when they are fully ripe.
How Many Ground Cherries Do You Get Per Plant?
Unlike some plants that don’t yield a lot, or only bear one or two fruits, ground cherries are heavy croppers.
You can expect to get as many as 300 fruits per plant, and they will continue to produce until the first few frosts have started to hit.
If you plant a few ground cherry plants, you can expect to be overrun with the delicious fruits. There are a lot worse fates than this!
These little plants self seed and self pollinate, so you may find that once you have planted one, you never need to buy more seeds.
If you have a bumper crop then it’s a great idea to preserve some of the fruit in jams or other products that have a long shelf life.
Keeping your ground cherries this way means that you can continue to enjoy them long after the growing season is done.
When Should You Pick Ground Cherries?
You can, of course, pick the fruits whenever you like – they make great decorations – but they are toxic if eaten before they are ready!
The good news is that you can ripen them at home in a bowl on the counter – just keep them warm, and check for mould developing.
You’re looking out for when the outside husk – the papery covering of the fruit – goes dry, pale and crispy. This is the time for harvesting.
You may also find that some of the fruit falls from the plant, so make sure you check the ground below the plant for any windfalls.
This useful video shows you the best way to harvest your ground cherries at the right time:
These little plants are great fun to grow, plus they are super fun to serve inside their husks and pretend you are in a fancy restaurant!
Ground cherries are not difficult to grow, and you may surprise yourself with your bumper crop of these delicious little beauties.