Growing Ground Cherry Plants from Seed

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Last year (2022) was the first time I tried out Ground Cherry plants, grown from seed, and I rather enjoyed the sweet fruit produced on the plant from summer till autumn.

They were easy to grow, but the seeds can be slow to germinate, and it is recommended to use a heat mat to start the seeds, which I did.

The packets for the type I grew, called Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry, indicates you should start the seeds 3 to 8 weeks indoors before your last spring frost.

The document above is one I put together last year, using some photos from the web when I was letting people know I had seed packets available. The photos below are from my own photos as I grew this plant on my deck last year.

Flower and Fruit

This is a great photo of the flowers and fruit forming. The flowers were tiny (like the size of a dime coin) and somewhat pretty with the dark edges. The fruit grew to about the size of a larger blueberry or smaller marble on my plants. I expected them to be bigger, but they were not. However, they were very tasty and made a nice snack, and there was always plenty of a supply dropping from the plant when they were ready.

Plant Size and Shape

Even though this plant is a relative of tomatoes, it seems more like a distant relative – the leaf shape is different, and the growing habit is more of an upright to sprawling bushy look – so it has spreading out habit. I noticed the plants grown in my cousin’s community garden plot spread out lower than the plant I grew on my deck in a 15-gallon fabric grow bag. The plant was about 24″ high and wide. And it prefers full sun conditions like tomatoes do to grow best.

Fruit is Ready when Falls to the Ground

The husked fruit starts to drop to the ground, and that is when you know they are ready. This makes it a great exercise plants, bend down, reach up! I found the fact I grew it on the deck to be handy. I didn’t have search around below and it was obvious where the fruit landed. However, my cousin’s plants in a garden had some straw below the plants, so it was difficult for them to locate the ripe fruit. After a while, I knew when the fruits were about to drop by the look of them and timing and would pick some from the plants before they fell off. The papery husks are removed before eating. The flavor is like a citrusy pineapple flavor (at least it was to me).

With the chair in this photo, it gives you an idea of the size of the plant. I didn’t really need to stake it. The branches did not flop over. A chipmunk discovered the fruit later in the season and I let him have his fill because I had eaten plenty of the fruit over the course of the summer, into early fall. It was one of the last plants I disassembled from my deck once the season was over. It lasted a very long time.

Interesting Insect

I noticed some holes in the leaves and discovered the culprit. This insect carries poop on his back – yup, as a camouflage. I cannot remember the name of it, but I know I looked it up last summer. I also sprayed something (again, can’t recall) but I also just tolerated the little buggers. They were tricky to find. They didn’t ruin the fruit, so it wasn’t too difficult to tolerate the weird looking insects.

Easy to Grow and Produces Fruit for a Long Time

This plant was very easy to grow. The fruit is very sweet, and I ate them as a snack when I would be outside watering plants, or whatever. They may be used in jams and such. I have tasted larger sized ground cherries from a farm once, they were about the size of cherry tomatoes, so I was surprised these were much smaller, marble sized. They have a seedy consistency inside as well, but I loved the flavor. It was an unusual plant as well as an unusual flavor. The packet indicates the fruit is ready 70 days from transplant. I still have some seed packets available if anyone nearby is interested ($5/pack). Each packet contains 50 seeds. I think they are worth growing. Kids like them too – since they are lower to the ground, they are easy for kids to pick up while out in the garden with you.

The botanical name for Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry is Physalis pruinosa.

Thanks for visiting.

Cathy Testa
Plant Blogger
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
See me on and too!

Have a great weekend!

Nature All Around

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One of the wonders and benefits of growing lots of plants and being surrounded by woodlands in my yard is the invitation of wildlife. This year, I’ve seen lots of snakes, so, if this is not your thing, brace yourself, because one made it’s way into my greenhouse!

Garter snake – harmless, I believe!

I’m not too afraid of snakes but I definitely don’t want to find one in a pot I’m carrying in my hands! Fortunately, this guy made it out safely when I left the greenhouse’s screen door open just a crack. I think they found their way in via a drain (they, yes, there was a ring neck snake in my greenhouse this winter as well).

I felt badly that it would not survive in there because I do not have mice or slugs in my greenhouse, nor a source of water, so I’m glad this guy found his way out. In fact, he was drinking water from the rims of pots – so I knew he was thirsty. It took a while. I had to leave him alone to travel across the floor to the screen. He had his face right against the screen and I was like, “Dude, slide to the right to the opening!” Finally, he did.

Luna Moth 2022
Luna Moth Side View

Then, just yesterday, I spotted a beautiful Luna Moth on a shrub on my driveway at 7:30 am. What a sight. I’ve seen them before, but this one was absolutely perfect, so I rushed out to take a photo or two. What a sight – they are just beautiful.

We have two huge groundhogs and lots of rabbits in the yard now. This is typical. And of course the squirrels and I’ve seen a chipmunk spying at my pots already. The list goes on and on. It is a wild life jungle. We even have five huge blue heron nests in the woodlands. I can hear them make their bird calls when they arrive. I am in tune with the sounds of these animals in my surroundings. And there have been quite a few hummingbirds this season. They zoom up to my flowers, pop around, investigate, and I have my hummingbird feeders in various places.

It is just wonderful to watch the wildlife, but it is also tricky because I have to watch them from getting my tomatoes later this year on the deck (that is for the chipmunks and squirrels). I want to build a huge garden enclosed some day in my yard, but that is a huge project for a later date/year.

Fox Cherry Tomato 2022

I plant all my tomato starts in large pots and fabric grow bags. Usually a minimum of 22″ in diameter and about as deep for pots, and the grow bags range from the 15-20 gallon sizes. I know you can grow them in 5 gallon buckets, but that is not my thing. I use quality potting mixes, usually add compost, and this year, I’m adding Espoma Tomato food with calcium because I had the Blossom End Rot issue last year. Long story there, but I want to test if this plant food will help prevent it. Whiskey barrel (1/2 size barrels) are a great visual to determine the size of pot you should use, unless it is a compact variety for patio pots that stays small, but the tomatoes on my deck are mostly indeterminate and will get large. Never use soil from the ground – it is too compact, harbors diseases and insects, etc.

This year, I have planted one of each: Fox Cherry Tomato, Cherokee Purple, Goldie Heirloom, and I need to plant a Ground Cherry, which that one is new to me. Just I have to rush to do these things for me between plant work for others. That is fine, the weather has been stupendous! Let’s hope it stays that way. Anyhow, I take lots and lots of photos if you are interested in seeing the progress, and more wild life photos – go to my page on Instagram under Container Crazy CT. I posted a few of the Luna Moth yesterday.

Well, that is all for today. Just wanted to share a quick photo or two.

Have a great week!

Cathy Testa
Zone 6b