Have you ever wanted to grow tomatillos in your backyard or kitchen garden? Maybe you live in an urban area with limited space or simply want to start a container garden. Either way, growing tomatillos in containers can be a great way to get started.
Growing your own tomatillos can be an incredibly rewarding experience, whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just beginning your journey into home-grown produce. The tart fruit of the tomatillo plant looks like green tomatoes and is a versatile ingredient that adds flavor to any number of dishes, from Mexican favorites to sauces and salsas.
Luckily, tomatillos are easy to grow in containers—and they don’t require much space either! Here’s the growing tip you need to know about planting and growing tomatillos in containers.
Growing Tomatillos in Containers – A Beginner’s Guide
What Is Tomatillo?
Tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa) is a small, round fruit related to tomatoes and native to Mexico and Central America. It has a papery husk that wraps around the outside of the fruit and must be removed before eating, hence it’s also known as Mexican husk tomatoes. Tomatillos are typically green in color, but can also be purple or yellow depending on the varieties of tomatillo.
Tomatillo is an essential ingredient in Mexican cuisine. When eaten raw, tomatillos have a tart flavor and are often used in salsas, sauces, and salads. They can also be cooked down into jams or preserves.
Tomatillos are easy to grow, especially in containers, and can produce a large yield in a relatively small space. Plus, they also require minimal maintenance, making them ideal for first time gardeners.
Choosing Containers for Tomatillos
The first step in growing tomatillos in containers is choosing the right container for the best results. Tomatillo plants can grow up to 3 feet tall and spread up to 2 feet wide, so you’ll need a large container that’s at least 18 inches in diameter and 12 inches deep with adequate drainage holes.
Plastic or terra cotta containers work best, but you can also use a half whiskey barrel or any larger plant container that has good drainage holes. If you don’t have any larger pot on hand, consider repurposing other items like old buckets or paint cans. Make sure whatever container you use is at least 12 inches deep and has plenty of room for the roots to spread out.
Preparing the Soil
Make sure to choose a potting mix specifically designed for tomatoes and tomatillos or peppers (both work fine). Tomatillo plants need a lot of nutrients so make sure there’s plenty of compost mixed into the soil as well as some fertilizer (preferably organic) added when planting. Water your rich soil before planting your tomatillo seedlings and then water again after they are planted. You can also create your own mix with one part peat moss, one part compost, and two parts good potting soil.
Before planting, mix a slow-release fertilizer into the soil at the bottom of the container to promote healthy growth. Make sure to follow package instructions as some fertilizers may need to be mixed in with water before adding to the soil.
Tomatillos are easy to grow from seed, but it can be easier (and faster!) to purchase seedlings from your local nursery or garden center. Before planting, make sure to acclimate the young tomatillo plants by placing them in a spot with indirect sunlight for a few days.
Once you’ve acclimated the plants, carefully dig holes in the soil and gently place each seedling in the container, making sure to fill any gaps around the roots with soil. After planting all your seedlings, water them thoroughly and make sure to keep the soil moist throughout their growing season (tomatillos need 1-2 inches of water per week).
Care and Maintenance
Tomatillos require minimal care and growing conditions, so all you really need to do is water them regularly (about once a week) and provide at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Tomatillos prefer full sun but can tolerate partial shade — ideally 6 hours or more per day. Make sure it’s near a source of water so you can easily water your plants when needed.
It’s also important to keep an eye on the temperature; if it gets too hot (above 90 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day or too cold (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit) at night, move your container indoors until temperatures become more favorable again.
As soon as the plants begin producing flowers (usually around 2 months after planting), fertilize them every two weeks with liquid fertilizer until harvest time. Make sure you follow all instructions on the label regarding dilution rates and application methods; overfertilizing can harm your plants or even kill them!
Additionally, prune away any damaged or dead leaves throughout the growing season as needed. This helps promote good air circulation and prevents disease from spreading throughout the plant.
Harvesting & Preserving Tomatillos
Tomatillos are ready to harvest when the fruits turn from green to a light yellow, but you can also wait until they’re fully ripe and a deep yellow. Use a pair of scissors or shears to cut the fruits off the plant and store them in a cool, dry place. Once harvested, tomatillos can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or frozen for up to 6 months.
Raw tomatillos can be used in salsas, soups, and stews, while cooked tomatillos are great for sauces or jams. If you’d like to store tomatillos for longer, you can can or pickle them, which can help them last up to a year!
Having a good crop of tomatillos can often mean having more than you know what to do with! One way to use up a surplus of tomatillos is to make jam. This sweet and tangy jam is great on toast, crackers, or even just eaten by the spoonful!
- 3 cups chopped tomatillo, peeled and seeded
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- In a large pot, combine the tomatillos, sugar, water, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from the heat and let cool before transferring to an airtight container or jam jars.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze for up to six months. Enjoy!
Tomatillos salsas is another great way to use up a surplus of tomatillos! This easy salsa is slightly spicy and packed with flavor.
- 4 cups chopped tomatillos, peeled and seeded
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- Serve immediately with chips or as a topping for tacos, enchiladas, or burritos. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Growing tomatillos in containers can be a great way for home gardeners to get started growing their own food without having to worry about space or soil quality.
With proper care and attention, these plants will produce delicious fruits all summer long! If you are looking for an easy yet rewarding gardening project this summer, consider giving container gardening with tomatillos a try!