Struggles growing Lulo/Naranjilla (solanum quitoense)

wirgaujn(10b)June 29, 2012

I first tried lulo in Cali, Colombia and fell in love! I saw it mentioned in restaurants in Ecuador but thought that 'naranjilla' was just a type of orange.

I have since tried growing it indoors in Wisconsin and a couple times since I've moved to southern Florida.

My first batch in Wisco germinated but died after about 6" of height. These were purchased online (California based store) listed as Naranjilla.

I tried them again once I moved to southern Florida in January (45degF nights, 75degF days) and they germinated in only a few days. They grew to about 3" and then seemed to stagnate and stop growing. Shortly after, it appeared that a lizard came by and uprooted them which eventually led to their demise.

In May of this year I planted another 20 seeds (from the same vendor in California) and so far 4 of them have sprouted. 2 are about 2" now, and the other two are smaller. I was surprised again yesterday that like last time a lizard must have come by and tried to uproot them. This time he wasn't as successful and I decided to move them inside for the meanwhile. I have them right by a window, but they probably aren't receiving as much sunlight as they need....which brings me to my next point/question -

-how much sunlight is needed? how much is too much?

-partial shade in the first few months and direct sun after 6 months, perhaps?

-with the summer months beginning, how hot is too hot for my lulitos? 95degF seems to be the norm about this time during the day, 75degF+ at night.

-any recommendations as to a buying/creating a transparent protective cover? I like to 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) and am currently poking holes in a cut off 2 liter bottle of Coca Cola which I plan to place on top of the growing plants (to keep the curious lizards away). I am afraid that this will trap too much heat and humidity, however.

Thank you, sorry for the lengthy post but I would appreciate any tips!

PS - I just received about 300 seeds of the Colombian variety. I planted about 100 of them and expect them to germinate in the next couple of weeks. I want to get some growing, but may have more in a couple months that I'd be willing to exchange with mangosteen, mamoncillo chino, acai or any other interesting tropical fruit seeds!

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christinmk z5b eastern WA

I tried to grow some from seed this spring but had zero germination. Seed must have been too old. Hopefully someone with real growing experience can chime in here. You might try cross posting this on one of the other forums like the Edible Landscape/Vegetable/or even the Florida Gardening forum here on GW.

From what I have read, this can be a bit of a tricky plant to grow outside of its native environment. Even trickier is getting them to fruit in colder climates. Since you live in FL, I imagine you have a fairly good chance of getting it to produce (sure better odds than mine, though that isn't going to stop me from giving it another go, lol!), though I suspect that likely will not happen in your hotter months? Just a guess on that one. You probably shouldn't expect much/any fruiting this year anyway.

It kind of sounds like you ARE having success with the plant. You are getting them to is just that lizard or whatnot that keeps fouling things up ;-)

If it were me, I would keep the plants outside. Put them in shade/partial shade and put some sort of protection around it that will NOT raise the temperature and humidity like the plastic bottle. Chicken wire or tented bird netting might keep critters out and will allow for air circulation as well. If growing in a pot (which is a good idea, I have read soil nematodes can be a problem with Naranilla plants) make sure the soil is very good draining and doesn't dry out excessively. I would also give it some good organic fertilizer every so often too, as I have read they are heavy feeders. That might have been the reason yours seemed to stop growing, or it was root bound and wanted a bigger pot.

I'm afraid I can't even begin to tell you how to care for your plants in winter. They should be able to survive light frosts. I would definitely try the Florida Gardening forum here if you have questions on that.

Sorry I couldn't give you any real experiences with this plant. Anyhoo, hope you are able to get this fella' growing! ;-)

PS. I found this interesting site talking all about Naranjilla you might be interested in reading over:

Here is a link that might be useful: Naranjilla article

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 2:00PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if they only get to 3 to 6 inches ... and then peter out.. i would be wondering about a root rot ...

what media are you using ... do you sterilize it first ... etc ...

lizards aside.. you have a cultural issue.. which means either light.. media.. or water ...

as to the lizard ... build a nice size chicken wire .. or hardware cloth cage.. and physically restrain them ...

3R stuff.. is nice .. but this is war .. on lizards .. lets protect your investment in 100 plants.. by doing it right the first time ...

in zone 10.. i am going to guess.. a plastic bottle.. will quickly suffocate a tree ...

i dont care where you post.. but there is a fruit forum.. and fruit peeps do things VERY DIFFERENT from tree peeps ... wait.. this is the perennial forum.. are these orange trees.. or orange perennials ... just trying to get you to the right experts.. but who knows.. maybe someone here knows all about oranges ...

good luck ... and live your dream ...


Here is a link that might be useful: build something like this

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 2:00PM
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Struggles! I have some lulo plants that are fifteen months old now and two feet tall. Never a flower. Wintering them inside was a war with aphids. Can't winter outside. I'd like to keep them till they bear fruit but after a whole season outside (frost coming in a month) - no flowers. Any advice would be appreciated very much

Here is a link that might be useful: Other Lulo pictures

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 9:05AM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I don't know how different the spiny varieties are from the smoother types, but the spiny ones are grown around here and are similar to growing tomatoes. The fruits don't have much time to ripen from small transplants but it's usually grown for the fuzzy leaves and spiny look.
Sounds like the biggest problem is soil attack from stuff like nematodes and some people have tried grafting.
You might want to try one in the ground and see how it goes... you might get lucky.
Here's a picture from chanticleer this summer

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 6:53PM
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MissyGA64(8 (central GA))

I have a lovely Naranjilla that is 7 months old. She is about 3 ft tall and at least that wide. I was very shocked when she began to flower and produce fruit about 3 months ago. The fruit are small though, only about 1 1/2 inches diameter. The first one that turned totally orange was chock full of seeds, but no juice or pulp. .I have two more baby plants I started from seed last month. The picture included is of her at 5 months. My kids have nicknamed her "the witch" because she looks so wicked with all those purple spikes on her trunk and leaves.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 1:16AM
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Missy and Cato -

Lovely they are

Here is a link that might be useful: Lulo Leaf

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 11:56AM
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I had several cutting-grown plants in my subtropical bed last year. Even with the unseasonable prolonged heat, they never got much over two feet in height and were modestly ornamental.

This year I grew S. pyracanthum from seed. Again, modestly ornamental with few flowers (and paler than the ones in the photo).

Makes for tricky transplanting of seedlings.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 9:47AM
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Yes, the pyracanthums are beautiful and fun and thorny. Don't let the name porcupine tomatoes foll you though, the fruit are supposed to be dangerous to eat. Posted are the baby pictures of the one's linked below. I wintered them inside 2012->2103. This year I'm just going to harvest the few fruits and start the cycle again next year.

Here is a link that might be useful: Two recent Pyracanthum pictures

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 4:51PM
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Naranjilla fruits are edible and it has been cultivated for human consumption in regions of the Andes for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Pyracanthums are a totally different plant. I can't say whether or not its fruits are edible, but many eggplant and tomato relatives are, in fact, not only inedible, but poisonous.

However Naranjilla IS one of the edible ones. IF you can get it to grow. Try for known good seed - even as far north as she is, she managed to get it to grow, AND collected seed.

Not that it was easy from what she has to say about it - but there you go.

Here is a link that might be useful: Naranjilla seed on this page, also the story of getting harvestable fruit

    Bookmark   October 7, 2014 at 8:20PM
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