Growing Tomatillos in Pots

  • 01 of 06

    Growing Tomatillos in Containers - Introduction

    container gardening picture of tomatillo flowers
    Tomatillo Flowers. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    Growing tomatillos in containers is surprisingly easy if you have sun, good potting soil, and an extra large pot. Tomatillos are not only tasty and make fabulous salsa, they are gorgeous and exotic looking. The flowers are a pretty yellow and when the tomatillo fruit first appears it looks like a tiny Chinese lantern - delicate and translucent. While tomatillos require similar care to tomatoes, they are much more forgiving. They are fairly drought and heat tolerant and  are much less susceptible to blights and fungus.

    I have grown both purple and green tomatillos and don't see a huge difference, other than color. I generally grow Toma Verde.

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  • 02 of 06

    Choosing a Garden Pot For Tomatillos

    Fresh Picked Tomatillos. Photo © Kerry Michaels

     Tomatillos are big and sprawling plants. They also need lots of water. To have the best chances for success growing tomatillos, get the biggest container you can and fill it up with a good quality potting soil. You want to use a large pot, because the more potting soil you use the better the moisture retention will be, and the happier the plant. You can use almost any container that that is big enough to hold at least a cubic foot of soil, and has drainage holes or that you can create drainage in. One of my favorite containers to use for growing container garden vegetables is a big Smart Pot.  A large reusable grocery bag, or any large conventional flower pot would work too. One of my favorite ways to grow tomatillos is in a grow box, as it is easier to keep the plants hydrated.

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  • 03 of 06

    Planting Tomatillos

    Starting Seeds
    Seed Starting. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    Tomatillos are easy to start from seed, but if you live in a colder climate it is recommended that you start your seeds indoors about 4 weeks before the last frost. That way the seedlings will be ready to harden off and then plant when the weather gets to be at least 50 °F at night.

    If you buy seedlings plant them (after you have hardened them off), making sure to plant them so the crown of the plant (where the plant meets the soil and the roots start) is at at the same level as it was in the nursery pot.

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  • 04 of 06

    Growing Conditions for Tomatillos

    container gardening picture of growing tomatillos
    Growing Tomatillos. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    You will want to plant your tomatillos in a spot that gets full sun -- at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Also, these plants get big -- 4 to 5 feet tall-- so you'll need a fairly large area to grow them. It is also advised to stake or corral them, if you don't want them sprawling. I use the same kind of stakes I use for tomatoes. If you want to see how I make them, check out this video: DIY Tomato Cage. 

    Tomatillos are large and vigorous plants so they need a lot of water. Make sure to put them close to a water source or that your hose will reach your pots, otherwise you will carrying lots of water.

    If you are using a grow box, follow the directions for the addition of fertilizer. If you are using a conventional pot,  mix a slow release fertilizer into the potting soil, following directions for quantity that you will find on the bag or box. I have found that tomatillos grow fine without additional fertilizer.

    I grow at least two tomatillos and that gives me enough fruit for several large jars of salsa.

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  • 05 of 06

    Harvesting Tomatillos

    Harvesting Tomatillos
    Basket with Ripe tomatillo. Kerry Michaels

    I harvest my tomatillos before the husks turn yellow. I gently pinch the fruit and pick it when it has almost filled the husk, but before it has gotten so big that it has exploded the jacket. The tomatillos at this point are a rich green color.

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  • 06 of 06

    Cooking With Tomatillos

    Tomatillo Salsa
    Green Tomatillo Salsa. © Kerry Michaels 2014

    Once you have harvested the fruit, when you are ready to cook or dry the tomatillo, you peel off the husk and discard. There is a very sticky residue left on the fruit that you need to wash off in cool water.

    You can make delicious salsas or dry your tomatillos.

    Green Tomatillo Salsa Three Ways

    Sun Drying Tomatoes or Tomatillos