Solanum quitoense or naranjilla belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshade family, which includes the tomato and potato.
It is an attractive plant with striking, large heart-shaped leaves that grows very fast and produces edible fruits after 10-12 months. It is very easy to grow from seed.
It is not frost resistant, but it is a very nice patio or indoor plant and is ideal for beginners.
Solanum quitoense is a shrub that forms numerous branches at the base. The stems are slightly lignified.
The leaves are heart shaped, coarsely toothed, up to 60 cm long and 45 cm wide on a petiole up to 15 cm long.
The whole plant, leaves and twigs, is covered with short downy stellar purple hairs on younger parts and single hairs on older parts.
The flowers appear in the leaf axils in short groups of up to 10 fragrant flowers of about 3 cm in diameter. They have five petals, white on top, purple and hairy underneath, and five prominent yellow stamens. The unopened buds are covered with purple hairs.
The fruit is protected by a brown, furry coat. When fully ripe, the hairs can easily be rubbed off. They have a bright orange, smooth, leathery and rather thick skin. The fruit is round or oval-round, up to 6 cm in diameter and contain translucent green or yellowish, very juicy pulp. The taste is similar to rhubarb and lime. Numerous pale seeds, 3 mm in diameter.
In its region of origin, the fruit is produced all year round, in subtropical regions annually and in temperate regions, no fruits are formed.
There are three varieties: with spines, without spines, and the third variety has red fruit and smooth leaves.
Note: all parts of the plant except the ripe fruit, are poisonous.
Lulo, Naranjilla, Naranjilla de Quito, Toronja
Solanum: from the Latin solaris (comfort), for the soothing and sedative properties of the plant.
Quitoense: derived from Latin, refers to the location: Quito, Ecuador.
Ecuador, Peru and southern Colombia.
Brushwood in moist areas between 1,600 and 2,400 m altitude.
USDA zone 10, 0 °C
Nutritious, humus-containing soil.
Grows fast, even in a temperate climate and can resist very brief and light frost, But if you want it to survive the winter, keep it at least at 15 °C.
Requires plenty of water. If it is too dry the leaves wilt, then you know you need to water quickly.
During the growing season: fertilize weekly with liquid universal fertilizer
During the winter: monthly fertilization with liquid universal fertilizer
When the pot is too small and the roots start to grow out of it.
Seed, layering or cuttings. Sowing is quick and easy.
- soak the seeds 1 day in water (optional)
- plant 1 seed per small pot as the germinating rate is nearly 100%
- plant the seeds at 0,5 cm depth in regular potting soil
- cover the pot to keep moisture
- 20-25 °C
- germination time: 10-21 days
If you have sown them together in 1 container, replant them quickly to prevent the roots to grow into one another.
If you have sown them in individual pots, then you repot when the seedling becomes too big for the pot.
Keep the seedlings in a location with partial shade, no direct sunlight at the hottest time of day.