How to Plant, Grow and Care for Tomatillo Plants?

The Tomatillo plant, commonly known as a husk tomato or green tomato, comes from central America and belongs to the group of vegetables with high-temperature requirements. Therefore, obtaining high yields is worth following basic rules for growing tomatillos.

How to Plant, Grow and Care for Tomatillo Plants?

Basic information

Common nameTomatillo, Mexican husk tomato, green tomato
Botanical namePhysalis philadelphica, Physalis ixocarpa
TypeHerbaceous perennial
Native areaMexico, Southern United States
HeightUp to 2 m (6.6')
Spread91 cm - 122 cm (3' - 4') feet
Spacing100 cm in a row and 50 cm between the rows
Light preferenceFull sun
Water preferenceMedium
Hardiness zone8 - 10
Soil typeSandy-clay, well-drained soil, non-weeded, and airy
Soil pH6.0 - 6.8
Soil drainageMoist but well-drained

How to plant tomatillo seeds?

In countries with a short growing season, tomatillo seeds are sown in pots four weeks before planting in the ground. For home use, the seeds are sown by hand. On the other hand, on large acreages, seeds are sown using seed drills.

How deep to plant tomatiloo seeds?

Tomatillo seeds are sown 1/4 inch deep with a row spacing of 18-24 inches in rows.

When to plant tomatillo seeds?

In tropical regions, tomatillo seeds can be sown all year round. In cold climates, seeds are sown in spring into pots. After receiving a healthy seedling, the plants can be transplanted into the ground, but only when the last frost has passed, and the daily temperature does not fall below 10 degrees Celsius.

How long does it take for tomatillo seeds to germinate?

The maturity of the tomatillo depends on the variety and climatic conditions. Typically, the first fruits appear 60 to 70 days after sowing the seeds.

How to grow tomatillo?

Ripening tomatillo fruit
Ripening tomatillo fruit

In warm climates, growing tomatillo will not cause much trouble. Nevertheless, in a temperate climate, the tomatillo seedlings should be planted permanently only after the last spring frosts in a given region. Due to the long growing season, the tomatillo is often grown from seedlings.

When to plant tomatillo seedlings?

In the case of tomatillo, the planting of seedlings is dependent on the region and its climate. In general, tomatillos prefer a warm climate. Planting tomatillos can be done all year round in California, Mexico, Turkey, and other countries with warm temperatures.

How to plant tomatillo seedlings?

When making seedlings, plant the tomatillo seeds in pots filled with universal potting mix and place them in a warm, bright place. A kitchen window sill will be perfect for this. To provide the tomatillo seeds with optimal germination conditions, sprinkle the soil and cover the pot with a plastic bag. The first seedlings should appear after 5-7 days. After this time, remove the bag and watch the plants.

When the seedlings develop the first leaves, we start quilting.

Tomatillo seedling ready for quilting
Tomatillo seedling ready for quilting

The seedlings are planted one at a time in pots, covering them up to the cotyledons. Water the potted seedlings regularly to prevent the substrate from drying out.

Tomatillo seedling in a pot
A healthy physalis seedling has well-developed, deep green leaves.

The final stage in the production of tomatillo seedlings is their hardening. Its purpose is to prepare plants for less favorable outdoor conditions. To harden the green seedlings, we move the plants to a room with a temperature of about 13-14 degrees Celsius, with the transplanting outdoors out for about seven days.

Tomatillo seedling prepared for hardening
Tomatillo seedling prepared for hardening

Seedlings of physalis plants can be planted in the ground only after the first frost has passed.

We can plant tomatillos deeper than when they were grown as seedlings in pots. A stem, if planted deep, will put out additional roots, which is beneficial for its development. It will allow you to obtain plants that are more resistant to being broken by the wind.

Once the seedlings have been planted deeply into the ground, it is worth monitoring the weather. When the temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius, it will be necessary to shelter the plants from the cold. The ideal material for direct plant protection from the danger of frost is non-woven polypropylene and polyethylene film. They will provide a favorable microclimate around the plants and protect them against strong winds.

Tomatillo fruit
As the fruit grows, the papery husk expands. The cracking of the papery husk suggests that the fruit is already ripe.

Since the husk tomato is a thermophilic plant, it is also recommended for cultivation on raised beds. The temperature in the root zone of raised beds is higher than the temperature of the soil, thanks to which the husk tomato develops faster and gives higher yields.

Do you need two tomatillo plants to produce fruit?

Physalis ixocarpa is a poor self-pollinator. Growing different plants creates the perfect conditions to encourage cross-pollination, resulting in healthier and more plentiful yields. Before planting tomatillos, ensure you have at least two plants so insects can do their work.

Tomatillo flower
Yellow tomatillo flowers are attractive to pollinating insects, especially bees.

What kind of soil for tomatillo should I use?

In the cultivation of tomatillos, the most suitable is sandy-clay, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0-6.8, non-weeded, and airy due to the faster heating in spring. Tomatillo prefers the soil evenly moist. The site should be ideally full of sun and sheltered from the wind, especially in the initial plant vegetation period.

Seedlings of physalis - husk tomato, in the cultivation field
Seedlings of physalis - husk tomato, in the cultivation field

Organic mulch in the form of straw or mowed grass works very well in the cultivation of tomatillos. Organic mulches help suppress weeds. Additionally, they increase the humidity of the soil under the mulch and the temperature in the root system zone, which is especially important in the case of tomatillos. Mulching the soil reduces the work involved in weeding and watering the tomatillo. The mulch also protects the ripe fruit from getting dirty when it falls to the ground.

Tomatillo growing temperature

Optimum air temperature for growing tomatillos

The optimal temperature for growing tomatillo plants during the growing season is around 25 degrees Celsius. High temperatures (>35 degrees Celsius) during flowering may lead the plant to poor yielding or deformation of the fruit. On the other hand, too low temperatures below 10-12 degrees Celsius inhibit plant development.

Therefore, growing tomatillos in temperate latitudes are often planted under covers or in greenhouses. Such protection significantly accelerates the entry of plants into the fruiting period. And in the autumn, it extends this period, protecting plants against low temperatures. In cultivating plants in the ground, the first autumn frosts determine the end of cultivation and the plant dieback.

Ideal soil temperature for growing tomatillos

The optimum soil temperature for the tomatillo plant should be between 19 degrees Celsius and 23 degrees Celsius. Generally, the plant prefers warm soil. The temperature of the soil is essential, especially in the initial period of plant cultivation, especially after planting the seedlings permanently. Therefore, soil mulching is often used in the cultivation of tomatillos. The litter ensures good humidity and temperature in the root zone. The mulch protects tomatillos from weeds and contamination of the fruit during ripening.

How to space tomatillo plants?

Due to the strong growth and branching, space plants at least 100 cm in a row and 50 cm between the rows.

Field cultivation of tomatillo in a temperate climate
Field cultivation of tomatillo in a temperate climate. A small physalis plant resembles a tomato plant in its appearance.

How to take care of tomatillo plants?

How to water a tomatillo?

The high water requirements of tomatillos depend on the development phase. Especially during the seedling production and fruit growth periods, the water demand of plants increases significantly. For the best fruit production, we should water tomatillos daily during this period, especially on sunny days. In the late phase of fruit ripening, reducing the soil humidity and the air around the plants is recommended, which has a beneficial effect on the berries' health. Therefore, reduce watering tomatillos to a minimum while the fruit ripens.

Tomatillo flowers
Tomatillo flowers are similar in appearance to other plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Irrigation of plants can cause fruit rot, especially in the second part of the season, when the berries touch the ground. It deteriorates their quality and causes them to become dirty during maturation. Sprinkling the leaves of tomatillo plants leads to the development of fungal diseases.

Tomatillos' recommended watering system is to water the soil around the plants directly. In large plantations, drip irrigation is recommended. Depending on the weather, up to 2 liters per plant.

How to support tomatillo plants?

Tomatillo plants can grow without any support. However, due to the large mass of numerous tomatillo fruits, side shoots break off, and whole plants lie down during ripening. Therefore, it is recommended to grow tomatillos at supports while ensuring good air circulation in the ground part of the plant.

Securing the tomatillo plants against breaking
Securing the tomatillo plants against breaking

How to fertilize tomatillo plants?

The average doses of minerals in the field cultivation of tomatillos are as follows:

  • 112-168 kg ha-1 N;
  • 89.6 kg ha-1 P2O5;
  • 56-168 kg ha-1 K2O,

depending on the type of soil.

When to pick tomatillo?

We harvest tomatillos depending on the variety. Most varieties mature about 60-70 days after sowing the seeds. An essential indicator of fruit harvest is the fall-off when gently pulled on the stalk. In the case of plants that produce green fruits (Toma Verde variety), the color of the papery husk should be observed, which changes from green to straw-green as it ripens.

Ripe tomatillos after harvest
Green fruit varieties change the color of the papery husk surrounding the fruit as they mature. Thanks to this, we know when we should harvest tomatillos.
Unripe green fruits of physalis
Unripe physalis fruits without papery husk, or so-called paper bag, resemble the shape of unripe fruits of green tomatoes.

The fruits of varieties with a purple color are useful for consumption when they turn purple, and the papery husk covering the fruit begins to crack.

Purple tomatillo fruits after harvest
Purple tomatillo fruits after harvest. A papery husk of tomatillo varieties with purple fruits changes color during ripening.
Husk tomato fruit covered with natural sticky wax
Husk tomato has sticky fruits because their skin is covered with a protective substance in the form of natural wax. The natural wax gives the husk tomato a bright green color.
The availability of tomatillos depending on the place of cultivation
The availability of tomatillos depending on the place of cultivation

Once you have picked fruit, you can try to store harvested tomatillos. Storing tomatillos is relatively easy. Only healthy, undamaged, dry-husk tomatoes covered with a paper husk are suitable for storage. To store tomatillos, we should provide them with the right temperature and air humidity to protect them from rotting.

Tomatillo pests and diseases

Tomatillo is a plant that is very resistant to diseases and pests. During cultivation, the tobacco mosaic virus may infect the plants, which manifests as yellow discoloration on the leaves. Only with too high air humidity and frequent rainfall may the plants become infected by fungal diseases, and the fruit may rot.

The most common pest attacking tomatillos, especially during seedling production, is the greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum). On the other hand, the tomatillo pests that damage the fruit are Heliothis virescens and Agrotis segetumor.

Greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum)
Greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum)


Growing and caring for tomatillo plants is not difficult or time-consuming. It is important to remember to produce healthy and strong seedling and to provide the plants with the correct ambient temperature.

Thanks to the low susceptibility of plants to diseases and pests, you can enjoy delicious green fruit from your plantation with almost no fear.

Remember that tart green fruits are not suitable for consumption. Mature fruit can be eaten raw. In addition, you can use green fruits to make the traditional Latin American salsa verde sauce.

Salsa verde sauce made of green fruits of physalis
Salsa verde sauce made of green fruits of physalis