Growing Tomatillos in Pots

container gardening picture of tomatillo flowers

Kerry Michaels

It's surprisingly easy to grow tomatillos in containers if you have sun, good potting soil, and an extra large pot. Tomatillos are not only tasty and make fabulous salsa, but they are also 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.

Choosing a Garden Pot

Tomatillos are big, sprawling plants. They also need lots of water. To have the best chance for success growing tomatillos, get the biggest container you can and fill it up with a good quality potting soil.

You'll 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 that has drainage holes. A large reusable grocery bag or any large conventional flower pot would work too. And growing tomatillos in a grow box makes it easier to keep the plants hydrated.

Tomatillos
Fresh Picked Tomatillos Kerry Michaels

Planting Tomatillos

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 four 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 degrees Fahrenheit 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.

Growing Conditions for Tomatillos

You will want to plant your tomatillos in a spot that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Also, these plants grow 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. You can use the same kind of stakes you use for tomatoes.

Tomatillos are large and vigorous plants so they need a lot of water. Make sure to put them close to a water source or ensure that your hose will reach your pots, otherwise you will be 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 on the bag or box. Tomatillos grow fine without additional fertilizer, however.

container gardening picture of growing tomatillos
Growing Tomatillos Kerry Michaels

Harvesting Tomatillos

Harvest your tomatillos before the husks turn yellow. 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.

Cooking With Tomatillos

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.

Tomatillo Salsa
Green Tomatillo Salsa Kerry Michaels