Solanum quitoense or Naranjilla is a coarse, perennial sub-shrub native to the Northern Andes. Plants grow at an elevation of 3000-5800 feet (900-1800 m). Plants in nature will reach a height of 6-8 feet (1.8-2.5 m) with an equal spread. Leaves are densely stellate-pubescent when young and may or may not have spines. The leaves are broadly ovate, with bright purple veins, and will reach up to 20 inches (50.8 cm) long. They are grown for their orange fruit from which the juice is extracted. I first received this plant from my friends in the Bartlesville Garden Club, and the name they had given me was Bed of Nails. It is a very fitting name because of the spiny trunk and leaves. It is an easy plant to grow in containers, but it is a very heavy feeder. Care should be taken when handling this plant because the spines and hairs on the leaves can irritate sensitive skin. Plants are hardy in the landscape in USDA zone 10.
Blooming: Flowers are borne in axillary cymes 0.25 inches (0.65 cm) across, and are white with prominent yellow protruding anthers. Fruit is orange and tomato shaped to 1.25 inches (3.18 cm) in diameter.
Culture: Solanum quitoense needs partial shade with a rich, well-drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 1 part loam to 2 parts sand. The plants are kept moist and fertilized monthly. Keeping the soil too wet results in root rot. The plant is also very susceptible to nematodes and care should be taken when planted in the landscape. During the winter months in the greenhouse, we treat the plant same as we do in the summer months. Water is somewhat restricted, but the plants are never allowed to dry thoroughly.
Propagation: Solanum quitoense is propagated from seed.
Solanum quitoense was featured as Plant of the Week June 5-11, 2009.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.