tomatillo pollination

bfreeman_sunset20(Ca 9b vta co)April 18, 2006

I just found info stating tomatillos are self incompatible for pollination. This leads me to wonder if the plants I buy are hybrids. I get 4" potted plants simply named green or yellow tomatillo. If I bought two of the same type will they pollinate? For example if Early Girl tomatoe needed a pollinator, another early girl wouldnt do it, that is the same type of pollen. I dont really have space for another tomatillo!

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I think they mean a single plant will not pollinate itself.
2 plants are reqired for pollination. same variety is fine.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 12:31PM
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bfreeman_sunset20(Ca 9b vta co)

If the same variety could do it then they must not be hybrids. Any body else have experience?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 2:29PM
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I planted several tomatillo plants.I didn't have to do anything special to get them to pollinate,and had tons of tomatillos.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 10:43PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

Self incompatible simply means that flowers of an individual plant cannot pollinate each other. They must get pollen from a different plant. So long as you have two or more plants, you will get pollination.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 8:34PM
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If the same variety could do it then they must not be hybrids.

This isn't the case. Hybrids simply cannot produce viable seeds, it doesn't mean they need another species to pollinate. As long as you have two different Tomatillo plants (not different species or varieties) you're good to go.

No worries.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 8:57PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

"This isn't the case. Hybrids simply cannot produce viable seeds..."

Actually, that isn't the case either. Hybrids usually do produce viable seeds. The problem is that seeds from hybrids give unpredictable results because of the mix of genes they have. The offspring of hybrids may or may not be similar to the parents. It will vary.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 12:13AM
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You're right, my statement wasn't very accurate. It is more accurate to state, as you have, that while something will grow from the seeds of hybrid plants, one shouldn't replant them expecting the seeds to produce plants similar to the parent plant.

Thanks for keeping me on my toes, Jim.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 12:17AM
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lonmower(zone8 Western Oregon)

I grew tomatillos last year with success
However they were just trailing on the ground
I lost alot of fruit (?) as it dropped and became lost in the vines
The question is
And if so...what type?


    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 10:54AM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

Tomatilos may take over the planet if you give them a support and good conditions. I put them on supports, but hack most of them back, as they get huge and unruly. I don't need truckloads of tomatilos, and each would produce a huge amount if I let them. I grew one tomatillo plant one time- it grew lots of lanterns- each with a little pea sized unpollinated fruit in it.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 1:56PM
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bfreeman_sunset20(Ca 9b vta co)

Veggies, what I meant was if tomatillos were grown from hybrids, and self infertile, and I bought two of them, they would be the same self infertile plant. Another example: if I bought two self infertile santa rosa plums, one would not pollinate the other, they are genitically identical. I am not very knowlegable on hybrid veggie production, so maybe Im wrong, but I think its the same as clonal plants.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2006 at 11:01AM
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Help - first time tomatillo grower and only planted one...lots of fruit, no blooms...ANYTHING I can do??

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 11:15AM
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mrsmarv(M-H Valley/z 6A)

I'm just reading this thread. We were given a lone tomatillo plant and have blooms but no fruit. BTW, it was 'neighbors' with other tomatillos until we adopted it. Could it have been pollinated at any point? What to do?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 11:51AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Reading this thread, I have to ask... what is the source that defines tomatillos as "self-infertile"? According to Suzanne Ashworth in "Seed To Seed", tomatillos "...are inbreeding plants and have flowers that are perfect and self-pollinating". Tomatillos are in the family Solanaceae, most of whose cultivated members (including pepper, tomato, eggplant) are self-pollinating.

It seems we are discussing the mechanics of self-infertility when the original premise (that tomatillos will not self-pollinate) may not apply. I only say "may" because I have not personally grown _every_ species in the genus Physalis, which includes all husk tomatoes & ground cherries.

My own experience is that growing a single plant of purple tomatillo, I had plenty of fruit. My location was very isolated, no other gardens within 1/2 mile. Insects do, however, aid in the self-fertilization process. As with some peppers grown in the absence of pollinators, a good quick shake in the morning to aid self-pollination might improve fruit set.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 4:47PM
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mercury12(Tas Australia)

I agree with zeedman. Last year I had only one tomatillo verde survive and it produced lots of fruit. I staked it like I do tomatoes.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 7:10PM
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Please relax. One flower of one tomatillo will give good seeds if you do nothing. so relax. you will eventually have tons of tomatillos. they take a little time but come on strong.

if you want to save seeds. then let the tomatillo sit indoors to soften up a bit before harvesting the seeds. although this is not necessary. it can give better seeds that last a longer time and that germinate better.

seeds continue to grow and mature inside the fruit. give it time to do that.

a big part of gardening is observing your garden. sit back and observe. everything is not about harvesting everything immediately. it takes time for plants to complete their life cycle.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 7:20PM
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mrsmarv(M-H Valley/z 6A)

Thank you!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 12:26PM
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Probably a little late to get in on this discussion...I've got five or so tomatillos (didn't note variety) in my garden, with tons of flowers for several weeks now (the plants themselves overtook my cowpeas), but I'm yet to get any fruit yield. I've had great experience in the past, but I wonder if the 100+ heat here (Fort Worth) is sapping them (as opposed to pollination or patience)? Thanky!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 7:40PM
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Same problem here west of Chicago. Lots of flowers but I haven't seen one fruit growing. This is my first year growing them. Just today I was in a hispanic grocery store and their tomatillo display looked horrible. The tomatillos were the size of marbles! I couldn't believe they were for sale.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 8:32PM
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That's about how mine look, too--like marbles. Coupla years ago they were quarter-size. Must not be a good year all around.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 10:46PM
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Question- What month do you usually start getting fruit? I'm a first time tomatillo grower- I have one plant withlots of flowers but no fruit. Next year I'll buy 2 plants. But I was just wondering, since it's already August, when to give up hope for this year's "crop." :(

    Bookmark   August 12, 2006 at 1:23PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

Last year when I grew them, I didn't start getting fruit until around now and harvested a grand total of 5 from 2 plants in September. :-\

This year it's a totally different story, where with 3 plants all jammed together in a container with some tomatoes and placed in a location that I had hoped would get more bee activity, I have at least 25 on there that I can see, with the first balloon having been spotted back in mid-July. There are still many many blossoms on them. I have oddly had the added benefit of hummingbirds actually nectaring from the flowers too and I expect that aids in pollination. LOL

I remember the first year one of my sisters grew some when she was in an apartment (they were in a small container) and she had tons. After she moved into her 2nd house, she planted some in the ground and had tons of flowers and a moderate amount of fruit by September. The next year I started some from seed for her and again she had tons of flowers but this time only a handful of fruits - all in what should have been optimum conditions.

It just seems so variable.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2006 at 10:32AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

My experience is that the plants explode in size around this time of summer but they don't set much fruit. Then, at the end of August or maybe later, they suddenly produce a great flush of fruit. Remember, the husks grow to full, or nearly full, size before the fruit forms inside them. So don't worry about seemingly empty husks.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2006 at 3:58PM
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You guys were right! I walked out today and there they were! About 7 little "lanterns" hanging there... I guess you only need one plant after all! :) -Sabra

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 7:32PM
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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

I was trying to decide how many tomatillo plants to set out this year in view of my zero production last year. I ran across this thread on polination problems. In 2004 I set out 3 plants and harvested plenty of fruit. In 2005 I set out 4 plants (same Toma Verde variety, grown from same seed) and lots of flowers but harvested absolutely nothing. A gardening friend planted some of my surplus plants and harvested an abundance of fruit. From the above postes it sounds like I (and some of the other posters) must have had a bee/insect pollenation type problem.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2007 at 3:23PM
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I too had lots of flowers and not a comparable lot of tomatillos last summer, and I want to grow a whole lot more this time around.

In regards to pollination, anecdotally speaking, I'm not so sure how responsible pollinators are. My tomatillos in bloom drew huge numbers of honeybees, carpenter bees, pollinator flies, and even several hummingbirds, throughout the day, everyday -- in fact, I'd recommend tomatillo for attracting pollinators. Still, only about 20% of the flowers seemed to bear fruit. If tomatillos require pollination from another plant, one explanation for my observations is that the bees mostly seemed to stick around the flowers of one plant during their visits. I had my tomatillo plants supported, so there wasn't a lot of intermingling of the branches.

As for wind, it seems that the plants that were downwind from the others had the vast majority of fruit set.

I've read varying reports about how the fruit set is enhanced by cross pollination, that the flowers are self fertile, that they are only wind and insect pollinated, etc. I also seem to gather that tomatillo is still wild compared to other cultivated fruits and vegetables, and that obvious variances can occur in plants from the same pack of seeds (Toma Verde). Mostly, I think I'd like to find straight and sound information about tomatillo fruit set. Here's wishing for lots of homegrown salsa verde this summer.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2007 at 4:33AM
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I have one isolated plant and an abudance of flowers but no fruit yet. This is my first year growing the plant. It is growing to be a giant plant but only smal unpollinated 'fruits' at best. I do have a second much younger plant in a second location and will try maually cross polinating with one of its flowers. I do see lots of ants moving in and out of these flowers....

Here is a link that might be useful: My Chi Machines

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 5:09PM
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This is an update to my July posting. As per Jimster's account, 'all of a sudden' I have an abundance of lanterns on both plants. They are on opposite sides on my house (about 75ft apart) so I doubt cross pollination is the reason. Further, there are far more lanterns than could have come from my cross pollination attempt.

I have no idea why they produce an abundnce of flowers for months on end with no fruit (to attract pollinators perhaps) but eventually they do fruit on their own.

On the 'hybrid' theory, both my plants come from the same fruit's seed yet the husks look very different. Perhaps the younger plant does so because of its age but the old plant has greenish husks, while the young plant has blackish husks. Can a seed produce different variations on the same plant or is it age?

Dunno but I look forward to enjoying the fruits!

Here is a link that might be useful: My Chi Machines

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 5:31PM
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I didn't wait months to get fruit...once they started flowering we had fruit soon after. My neighbor and I both are growing them and between the two of us we have a truckload :D
A good friend of ours brought us up plenty of her self-sown seedlings in June. She's only planted her heirloom tomatillos ONCE and they've been back every since....10+ years :D
To ensure she has plenty the following year she simply leaves a few to remain on the plants to do their thing.
She's not sure of the variety, but got them originally from a Mexican gal....the lanterns have a purple tint at the stem end.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 1:04PM
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Seems to me if you are getting fruit in the lanterns then you have been pollinated. The SIZE of the fruit is more a matter of water, I think. Are you having the horrible drought summer we are?

I've never purposefully grown tomatillos successfully. The year I planted them, they disappeared under weeds. Then this year ,two years later, I had tons of them come up in that place and was able to harvest them. Unfortunately, I couldn't keep them watered in the drought and each is small. But tasty.

My fruits are yellow. What kind does that make them?

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 2:27PM
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jessicavanderhoff(7 Md)

My cousin has fruit with just one plant. I have two plants, and I only have one fruit! Has anyone tried hand pollinating, and if so, how long does is gestation? I'm getting frustrated waiting.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 6:04PM
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I just today managed to conclusively identify one lonely plant from the seeds I started in the spring as a tomatillo, as I just noticed that it has started flowering. I knew it was either a bell pepper or tomatillo, but didn't know which, because my husband rearranged my seedlings before I started transplanting. (Sometimes I swear he's about as helpful as a cat.) About two weeks ago, I managed to successfully root a cutting from it, which I put in an area that gets more sun. (Can you imagine being able to grow a whole new person from a cut off arm?)

I'm curious as to whether cuttings from the plant can pollinate each other in any species that is not self-fertile. Anyone know? Because if mine fruit, knowing the answer to this question will give a pretty definitive answer on whether tomatillos are self-fertile, since I'm betting there aren't any other tomatillos anywhere near me.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 12:09PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

There is another thread currently open about TOMATILLO issue.
So I got this one also activated to SHOW that PERHAPS pollination is NOT the issue; Number of the plants is NOT the reason either.

As you will read through , you will come across the cases with conflicting results. BUT it seems that Tomatillo plants start much later in the season. I SUSPECT that it might be the length of daylight hours. For example, down south days are much shorter than Up Norh . That is why, tomatillos fruit later in the season when the days have become shorter (i.e. September mostly)


    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 10:02PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)


As I mentioned in my previous posting, I suspected that tomatillo (or at least some cultivar of it) is DAY LENGTH SENSITIVE. I was right.

My lone tomatillo has been growing since early June, producing hundreds and hundreds of flowers. Until in mid august I just saw one balloon. .
Come mid September, the plant is loaded with pods. The timing coincides with the day length nearing 12 hours. On the tag om my plan said: MEXICAN variety. So no wonder, that it did not do anything when we had 16 hours of day light and warmer weather.

I have challenged the theory that you need more than one plant to fruit, in the past and this is the second time I have proven it otherwise.

---------------------- P.S
as I read more posts , i can tell that a lot of growers reporting that their tomatilloes are suddenly producing lanterns from early September on. Again this is when daylight length approaches 12 hours.

This post was edited by seysonn on Sun, Sep 22, 13 at 5:17

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 4:58AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Bump it!

This thread satrted 8 years ago.
There are a lot of interesting discussions and reports. The subject of tomatillo's fertility seems to be still not well understood. I, myself, have experimented with SINGLE plant , 3 times in 3 different season and have gotton the results proving that a single tomatillo plant is self pollinating and fertile. My last experiment was in 2013 season. Albeit , it came too late in the season here in PNW and the fruits inside the husk did not grow to full size

I was going NOT TO plant tomatillo this year, but just to prove myself for the 4th time, I am going to plant JUST ONE again this year. I am going to plant it in a pot this time.

I suspect, MAYBE, tomatillo is daylight/length sensitive and it won't set fruits when daylight is like 13 to 16 hours. That is why my plant last year suddenly burst into husks in August.

Anther issue maybe the variety. As there are tomatoes that are tolerant to cold or hot weather probably there are similar tomatillos too. I will do a search about it and will report it here.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 4:02AM
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