Tomatillo Problems

evoarAugust 9, 2006

My tomatillo plants are now grown quite large, and are flowering like crazy. The only problem is that they are not producing much fruit. I harvested 4 tomatillos of of one of my four plants and that was it. I have 2 really small ones growing right now. Does anyone have any ideas why there are very little fruit?

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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

While tomatillos are self pollenizing they are also self incompatible such that two or more plants are needed b'c they cross pollinate.

And they cross pollinate via insects.

So one possible explanation is that there aren't enough pollinator type insects where you live right now.

IN addition, their pollen can be heat denatured, just as can tomato pollen, if there's prolonged high temps, so that might be another explanation.

I'd also added ineffectiveness of pollen due to high humidity and clumping if it weren't for the fact you're in Utah.

Just to add a bit,tomatotillos and tomatoes are not very closely related. Lycopersicon is the tomato genus and Physalis is the tomatillo genus and what they do have in common is that both are in the Solanaceae family, but there are well over 100 different genera in that family including petunias and peppers and nicotiana, and on and on.

They are in the same genus as those interesting decorative Chinese Lanterns that you know of as well as more closely related to ground cherries, etc.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 5:07AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

This question pops up every year at about this time. Tomotillos are teases. For a long time they seem like they will not set fruit. Then suddenly, when you have given up on them, they produce set fruit crazy. Also, don't give up later, when they have a lot of large, but empty, husks. The husks grow first, then the fruit forms inside.

I don't know the reasons for this scenario. Likely it is the result of some of the factors Carolyn cited and perhaps some others. I just know that tomatillo growers start getting frustrated about now but eventually get a good crop.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 10:27AM
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zucchini(5a ONT)

I have several plants in different locations. One produced huge tomatillos (about 3)and stopped, with tons of I see a few husks starting again..We did have a lot of humid heat for a while, now things feel more like a normal summer. The humid heat probably is what caused so many of my tomato flowers to turn brown dry up and fall off..Martha/zucchini

    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 8:14AM
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ChicagoMike(z5 IL)

So my single tomatillo plant is just for show because it doesn't have a mate. Aaargh - I could have had another tomato plant there. Live and learn, eh?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 10:15PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Mike, wait it out and see what you get & report it here... there's always a chance somebody in Chicago is growing another tomatillo that's on the same bee route.

Also, there are people, specifically from California if I remember right, on another tomato group, who adamantly insist that you only need one plant to get fruits... but then they got "Happy Cows" out there too!


    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 10:57PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Also, there are people, specifically from California if I remember right, on another tomato group, who adamantly insist that you only need one plant to get fruits... but then they got "Happy Cows" out there too!

Mark, it has happened that berries have formed when only one plant was planted and that's b'c there are, apparently, other members of the Physalis genus that can provide insect mediated pollen that is eddective. I think the distance involved was something like 500 yds away or less.

But it sure would be a hit or miss event.

The whole thing about incompatibity and more is discussed in an excellet article that anyone can find by going to Google and entering Tomatillo Culture. Has to do with the feasibility of growing tomatillos in Louisiana.

I'm just too darn lazy to go fetch it from my faves this morning. LOL


    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 8:12AM
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ChicagoMike(z5 IL)

korney and carolyn,
Thanks for the notes.

While I live on the edges of Puerto Rican village here in Chicago, I think they're unfortunately just buying their tomatillos. I'm one of the few growing tomatoes and even one of the fewer growing tomatillos. Scratch that. I'm one of the even fewer growing a tomatillo plant.

It's a nice flowering plant though. I'll let it run its course and see what happens.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 10:26AM
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keithaxis(z4 Wash State)

Last night was the night that I noticed my tomatillo's really holding the bees around. I put the hose over the 8x8 bed with the 7 plants (3 differnt types) and there must have been 100 bees jump around when I hit the plants with water...I have 50 tomatoes plants and they never have bees like those tomatillos...I have never grown the tomatillos before but they are pretty cool with that husk. ...

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 12:42PM
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i was wondering the very same thing when i didn't notice anything happening for the longest time. about 5 days ago suddenly all my tomatillas started coming on. so like an earlier post, just give it time and they will come. i noticed that mine came out a few days after the heat subsided and the humidity was lower.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 6:36PM
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I wish I knew you needed two plants cause I only bought one. It is HUGE, healthy, covered in flowers, very well pollinated, and NO FRUIT. I am in CALIF so I quess that shoots down the theory that you only need one plant here. At least it is pretty, and attracting lots of pollinators to my garden. Darn, I really wanted some tomatillos!!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 12:23AM
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Geez, if you're near Sacramento, I have tomatillo volunteers growing like weeds! I'm hoeing them daily!
Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 12:54AM
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I wasn't sure what was growing in my garden until I saw the husks. I has bought some tomatilloes last year and put the remains in my compost. My husband added compost to the veggie garden in spring and Lo - free tomatilloes, the fruit is small but I think they'll grow enough for a good crop. I love freebies!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2008 at 1:00PM
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I have two tomatillo plants. Same size at purchase and at planting. Plant#1 is large, bushy, has dark green leaves,is covered with blossoms but no fruit. Plant #2 is half the size ,and is covered with blossoms, and fruit. But its leaves are yellowish and barely half the size of those on plant #1. Does anyone have any ideas as to why these are like this? I've never grown these before and would like to see them produce as my wife is a really good cook....

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 12:10AM
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I have two tomatillos in a greenhouse and they are beginning to fall over. The plants look great but won't stand up. Too much humity? heat? lack of sun? We have had the coldest, wettest spring in NW history.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 5:05PM
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su, they are pretty lazy plants. I usually just stake/string the patch. :)

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 5:45PM
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gah! I planted Tomatillos 5 years ago, and have never had to plant them since. They will reseed very well if you don't pick up all the fruit. They are funny plants; some big, some small, some lay down, some grow tall and bushy. They are like a weed, but they make such great salsa verde! Watch out for the small ones, though as ground cherries look very similar, but will make you sick if you eat those green.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2011 at 5:28PM
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Fun plants until the 3 lined potato beetles show up. Ugh, nasty little critters. The larvae poo on themselves so that predatory insects leave them alone. I had to put on latex gloves and crush them one year because they were resistant to the insecticide I grudgingly used.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2011 at 11:35PM
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I have 10 plants. I had 10 seeds and they all came up and are absolutely beautiful and this is my first year growing them. However, I am frustrated because only one of the plants is actually producing (very nicely) and all of the other nine are just full of blooms! So, I am truly wondering if they are all male plants and only the one female? If they were not different sexes, then shouldn't I have more plants producing than just one?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 9:10PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Last year I had just one plant and it did wondefully. This year I have 3 but so far all flowers and no fuits(no living husks either). But maybe prolong hot weather, temps hoverin over 95F for weeks, is the reason.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 10:00PM
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I have 3 tomatillo plants, two in the ground and one MONSTER in a big pot. Not one of them are producing any fruit, just tons of yellow flowers. I'm going to try moving the MONSTER next to the ones in the ground for better pollination. Gonna wait this one out, it's worth the wait. Mare in Southern NJ

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 3:16PM
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I have about 50 plants that desperately need to be thinned if anybody would like to try them in the Dayton/Cinci/Indy area.

(they all came up as volunteers!)


    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 7:41PM
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I didn't know this and I only planted one. Also I gave one each to several friends :). I am in Indy, so maybe I need to visit you Kterlep.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 12:04AM
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I'm coming to town on...Tuesday. :) can you send me a message through gardenweb (I couldn't figure out how to msg you) and I can bring you some!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 10:21PM
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I have three here in Davis, near Sacramento. I have had about 100 flowers going at a time without any fruit up until now. Today I noticed ONE little inflated husk that seems to have pollinated. I watch a bumblebee work the tomatillos all day every day and they grow better than my peppers or tomatoes. I wonder why they take so long to produce, and I wonder why I still have only one fruit?!

If they do not produce soon I will plan to buy tomatillos in the store from now on :(

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 8:17PM
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Hi, this is my first post on a garden forum!

I am also growing tomatillos for the first time, and I have two HUGE plants (~4' tall) that have been actively producing flowers and have begun to set husks for fruit.

My only problem is that I think I underestimated the size of the pot that I would need to plant them in...they seem so small in comparison to the plants. Does anyone know if they would be ok to transfer to a bigger pot? I was thinking at least a 10 gallon bucket or something. Seems like the soil is very hard and compacted on the top (even though I have straw on top as mulch).

I know there are some plants that do not like their roots touched, but I wasn't sure about tomatillos. Thought a bigger pot might help them grow and flourish even more than they are.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 10:10PM
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My first time for Tomatilla. Oh no, I just did one tomatilla, with 7 or 8 tomatoes. Very hot here in Memphis. My plant is in a big pot. Lots of blooms and husks, but no fruit. Don,t see many bees at all around here. Did see a few very small sweat bees on my Brazilian Sage blooms though. Oh well, I guess next year I should do at least two plants?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 8:36PM
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I just planted one tomatillo plant(oops), and it's done very well, blossoming profusely and setting lots of fruit. But what were healthy green husks are now yellowing and looking like they're drying out, and several have fallen off the plant. New husks coming in at the bottom of the plant are still green, as is most of the plant (there's a yellow leaf low down). I think I've given it adequate water, and the soil was fertilized. Any ideas on what's going on and how I can address it?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 9:58PM
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jajm4(z5 w. mass, usa)

Teege, it sounds to me like your tomatillos are ready for harvest! The husks dry out and the fruits lighten in color when they are ready. If you wait too long, they fall off the plant.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 6:11PM
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I bought a tomatillo plant and planted it in May. It grew HUGE, >5 ft. tall- easily that big around. I supported it in a 6 sided cage. To no avail!!! It started out with hundreds of pretty little yellow flowers, then nothing more. I told my husband about 3 weeks ago, that if something didn't happen by the beginning of August, out it goes. I need the room for other things. I think I scared it. I now have at least a dozen lanterns, several of them already solid with fruit. As we love salsa verde this is quite exciting. I am sure we are in for a wonderful harvest by the end of September. I encourage any of you in my growing zone to wait it out and see what you get. I can tell you that if all of the flowers produce tomatillos, I will be busy canning until Christmas!!!! Hope this helps. I'll let you know later in the growing season.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 8:26PM
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I have two growing big and bushy here with pollinators buzzing about in hordes. They have the tiny fruits inside the husks right now but I know they will fill out later in the season - they always do! When I give these plants to friends I always make them take at least two. They come in late, but they come in heavily and there is more fruit than I ever know what to do with. Luckily, I have a Mexican neighbor!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 9:54AM
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My first year with Tomatillos. Only planted one plant and its done great. I have already made one batch of salsa verde and probably will get several more before the end of the plant. I am almost positive that there is not another plant for a mile or more.

Beginners luck?


    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 1:34PM
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We just moved into a new home in south-eastern Ontario (halfway between Ottawa and Hawkesbury) and found a few dozen plants around the garden that look like very small tomatillos. The fruit is no bigger than a ground cherry, but they are either green in green husks or black/purple in tan husks. Any idea what these may be?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 2:53PM
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I have one tomatillo plant and it's producing like crazy. I see no ground cherries anywhere. I'm not close to another garden. What a mystery! I am in central California.

My question is why the tomatillos are small. I wanted big ones. There is plenty of compost in my rich clay soil. Is it a watering issue?

I've given volunteers of my tomatillo plants to friends and if they are in a foggy area, they haven't produced. Tomatillos seem to like a lot of sun/heat. In fact, they do well even when the tomatoes are struggling in the heat.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 3:12PM
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spacetogrow(4 MN)

I wondered if Tomatillos can cross-pollinate with Ground Cherries, since they seem so similar.

Also, although I know that Tomatillos are traditionally harvested when immature and tangy, are there varieties that taste sweet when ripe, like Ground Cherries only with better size?

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 11:05PM
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I found 3 of these plant in my garden today I was wondering if theses are wild ground cherries

    Bookmark   October 6, 2014 at 3:23PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

This is an old thread (2006).
I also posted a comment in 2011, mentioning that my SINGLE tomatillo plant did fine previous year but my 3 plant are not fruiting, as of the end of June.

Once again, there are posts written by the gardeners who mention their sole tomatillo plant is doing fine. This puts the "self incompatibility theory" in doubt.
I have experimented single plant , 3 times in the past plus this season. YOU DON'T HAVE TO HAVE MORE THAN ONE PLANT unless you want more fruits.
Read my thread titled "Tomatillo, Facts and Myth" if you like.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2014 at 9:51AM
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