Jerusalem Cherry, Solanum pseudocapsicum, also called the Christmas Cherry plant is an ornamental plant. It is a native plant from South America. It is hardy in the U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 9 through 11. If you live in a colder zone, you can grow the Jerusalem cherry as a houseplant. This is an old-time plant, dating back for hundreds of years. Some people grow it as an annual, but with proper care, it can grow for decades.
The Jerusalem cherry grows to heights of 2 to 3 feet with a spread of 12 inches. The smooth-textured, blue-green leaves are about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. The white flowers appear late spring or early summer. When the flowers fade, small round fruits take their place. The ¾-inch berries start out green. As they mature, the color changes to orange, then reddish orange and finally a cherry red.
Harvest the Seeds
You can buy Jerusalem cherry seeds online or in garden catalogs or harvest the seed directly from the plant. Don a pair of rubber gloves when working with this plant because the seeds are poisonous.
Remove the seeds from the seed pods after they have dried on the plant. Line a tray with a paper towel. While holding over the tray, break the seed pods open. Remove the seeds, placing them in a bowl. Plant the seeds early in the spring. If you start them in March, you should have blooming plants by October.
Prepare the Soil
Moisten your potting soil before filling the pots. You can buy potting soil at most garden supply stores or you can mix your own. One method to mixing your own is to combine equal amounts of compost, peatmoss, and perlite. Pour some potting soil into a big bucket or tub. Lightly sprinkle water over the soil and then mix the soil with your hands. Add enough water to make the soil moist, but not soggy. To test the soil for moisture content, scoop up a handful and then squeeze it. If water drips out, you have added too much water. If the soil doesn’t compress or if it falls apart, you don’t have enough water. The soil should stay in a ball form when you open your hand.
Planting the Seeds
Fill a seed tray with moistened potting soil. Level the soil with your hands, so it is slightly below the rim. Place the seeds on top of the soil, leaving a 3 inch space between the seeds. Push the seed into the soil with your finger so it is 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep. Cover the seed lightly with potting soil. The seeds need some light to germinate.
Cover the seed tray with a sheet of plastic. Place the seed tray in a location where the temperatures are 68° Fahrenheit at night and 86° Fahrenheit during the day.
Check the soil for moisture and mist it to keep the soil evenly moist. The seeds should germinate in 15 to 20 days.
Remove the plastic when the seeds have sprouted. Place the seed tray in a window with bright indirect light. Continue to monitor the soil, keeping it evenly moist.
Transplant the seedlings when they have their second set of true leaves. Fill 4-inch pots with moistened potting soil. The potting soil can be slightly acid to neutral. Carefully remove the Jerusalem cherry from the seed tray. I often insert a pencil into the soil. with my fingers grasping the stem, gently pry the roots free. Form a hole in the center of your filled pots and insert the roots inside. Firm the soil with your fingers to hold the plant upright and to collapse air pockets.
Place the pots in a bright window. Keep the soil evenly moist. Jerusalem cherry plants need humidity to thrive, so mist the plants daily. The room you are growing the plants in should be kept at a temperature of 60 to 65° Fahrenheit. Take the plants outdoors when all danger of frost is past. If you live in zones below 9, take this plant indoors when the weather turns cold.