Tamarillos

Source: Fibonacci

Tamarillos
Source: Fibonacci

Cyphomandra betacea or Tamarillo belongs to the family of solanaceae, like tomatoes and potatoes. It’s a tree and produces tomatoe-like fruit.

It’s a very nice tree or patio plant for a beginner: you can’t fail at sowing and there’s little you can do, outside from never watering the plant, that will prevent it from growing.

And come on, tomatoes on a tree? You gotta admit the idea is funny.

Description:

Cyphomandra betacea is a small tree of 2-7 m tall. The trunk is densely tomentose.

Leaves are simple, the blade measuring up to 40 cm long and 35 cm wide. It is oval, moderately hairy, green and pointed. The leaf stalk measures 3-25 cm and are densely tomentose.

The inflorescence measures up to 15 cm long, with 10-50 white to purple flowers.

Fruit are up to 10 cm long and 5 cm wide, elliptical or ovoid, yellow to orange, red or purple, often with dark longitudinal stripes. They contain numerous flat, black seeds.

Nomenclature:

Common names:

Tamarillo, tree tomato, tomato tree

Synonyms:

Cyphomandra crassifolia, Solanum betaceum, Solanum crassifolium

Etymology:

Cyphomandra: from the Greek kyphos (bent, curved) + suffix -andra
Betacea: from the Latin betaceum (beet)

Cyphomandra betacea
Source: Nikolaus.schueler

Origin:

South America, origin uncertain but probably Argentina and Bolivia

Habitat:

Dry soils at the edge of the forest, 1,000-3,000 m altitude

Hardiness:

USDA zones 9-11, -3 °C

Care:

Soil:

Rich, well drained

Exposure:

Sun, very light

Water:

Water abundantly during summer, leaves wilt when too dry.

Fertilizer:

Weekly during growth, flowering and fruiting. Use tomato fertilizer or universal fertilizer, once a week.

Pruning:

Branches may be pruned to obtain a bushier plant

Cyphomandra betacea fruit

Source: C T Johansson

Cyphomandra betacea fruit
Source: C T Johansson

Propagation:

Sowing and cutting

Cutting:

  • during spring or summer
  • take branches which are already woody
  • place in light soil in a pot, humidify and close in a plastic bag
  • roots will appear after 8 weeks

Sowing instructions:

  • sow in light soil in a pot
  • water
  • put the pot in a plastic bag and close
  • keep at 20-25 °C
  • germination: 1-2 weeks
  • repot when the seedlings are big enough to be handled

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