Naranjilla Plant Facts:
Naranjilla plants are native to Mexico. They grow in dry areas like deserts, arid regions and other places with little or no moisture. These plants have been cultivated since ancient times. There are many varieties of naranjillas grown today such as Mexican, Colombian, Guatemalan, Ecuadorian and others. Some of these varieties produce flowers while some produce fruits only.
Naranjillas are considered drought tolerant plants.
Naranjilla Plant Types:
There are two types of naranjillas. One type produces flowers and fruits only, while the other type produces both kinds of fruits and flowers at the same time. There are several varieties of naranjillas available today including Mexican, Colombian, Guatemalan, Ecuadorian and others.
Mexican Naranjilla (Ceratophyllum comosum)
The Mexican naranjilla is one of the most popular types of naranjillas. It grows well in all climates and soils. It’s a hardy plant that can withstand harsh conditions. Its leaves are usually light green, but they may turn yellowish brown during hot weather. This type of naranjilla plant can also grow well outdoors and indoors.
Colombian Naranjilla (Ceratophyllum colombianum)
Colombian naranjilla grows best in warm and wet conditions. It’s a small plant with many leaves which grow close to the ground. It grows well in full sun exposure and makes an excellent garden plant. This variety does not flower or produce fruits.
Guatemalan Naranjilla (Ceratophyllum guatemalense)
Guatemalan naranjillas are also known as “flowering naranjilla”. These plants produce both flowers and fruits. They grow close to the ground and can spread up to 25 feet wide. Its flowers appear in the month of July. This variety is often used for floral arrangements.
You can also use the flowers for making tea or juices.
Ecuadorian Naranjilla (Ceratophyllum ecuadorianum)
The Ecuadorian naranjilla grows best in dry and warm conditions. Its leaves are dark green in color. It produces flowers and fruits which are smaller in size when compared to other varieties of naranjillas.
Naranjilla Container Gardening:
Naranjilla plants prefer sandy and well-drained soils. You should also provide good drainage in your container if you want to grow naranjillas in containers. If you are growing them in containers, then a size of 10 to 15 gallons is ideal for these plants. You can also use bigger containers as well, but you may need to water them more frequently when compared to those grown in smaller pots.
Naranjilla plants do not require frequent pruning, but you may need to trim the long and leggy branches. If you notice that a particular branch is growing weak or dying, then you should cut it off completely from the rest of the plant. This will prevent the entire plant from getting infected.
Naranjilla Plant Care:
Naranjillas are known as one of the easiest plants to grow. They require minimal care and maintenance. You need to take certain precautionary steps in order to grow healthy plants in your home.
Place: Choose a place in your home where there is at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. These plants can also be grown indoors as well. Make sure you choose a pot that is deep enough to accommodate the long, tapered roots of the plant.
Water: These plants require large amount of water when they are growing. However, the soil should be dry most of the time. Check the soil for moisture before watering and do not water the plant if the soil is already damp.
Naranjilla plants are susceptible to root rot, especially when grown in containers. This can be prevented by allowing the pot to drain out all the excess water. You can even place some rocks at the bottom of the pot to improve drainage. Do not let the plant sit in a tray filled with water. The leaves of the plant can also be injured or killed if you water is frozen.
Allow the water to reach room temperature before watering the plant, especially if you are growing them outdoor.
Feeding: Fertilize your naranjilla plants at least once every two weeks. Use a general-purpose fertilizer and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Stop fertilizing your plants in the month of September.
Pruning: These plants are fast growers. They require regular pruning in order to promote better growth and increase the number of flowers and fruits they produce. Prune the plant at least once every year, especially if you want it to thrive inside a container. You can also prune the tips of the branches if they are growing leggy. The new shoots that appear from the old wood are usually better in terms of both flower and fruit production.
Propagation: It is possible to propagate a naranjilla plant via cuttings. Take a cutting of 3 to 4-inch long shoot that has several nodes. Remove the upper leaves from the cutting. Dip the bottom 1/3 portion of the stem into a rooting hormone. Place the cuttings into a well-draining soil that contains 50 percent perlite or coarse sand.
Keep the soil barely moist and shady until the cuttings develop roots. Transplant the new plants into individual containers after one to two months.
The Naranjilla plant is a great ornamental plant that is used in gardens and homes throughout South America. It is a popular landscape plant because it can tolerate poor soils and drought. It is also an ideal container plant that can be grown indoors. In fact, this plant received an Award of Garden Merit by the American Horticultural Society.
These plants have no major pests that attack them. However, they can be attacked by several insects if grown in a container. You might find the leaves of the plant infested with spider mites and scale insects if you don’t keep the environment free from such pests.
Naranjilla plants can stay in the same pot for at least two years. You won’t have to repot them unless their roots are already filling up the container. This is great news for gardeners who don’t want a lot of hassle when it comes to growing plants.
The fruits can be eaten both ripe and unripe. Ripe fruits are sweeter and more palatable. Unripe fruits contain more Vitamin C. The very young fruits or “green fruits” can be cooked like green beans.
Naranjilla plants are sometimes included in mixed ornamental containers, especially in pots that contain other summer-blooming annuals. They look nice together with caladiums, impatiens, begonias and others that have brightly-colored leaves and harmonize well with the bright orange color of naranjilla leaves.
These plants are especially popular in the Southern US and in Mediterranean climates. They seem to thrive well in hot environments. These plants can be grown outdoors, but they can also be grown indoors because they don’t need a winter rest.
Most naranjilla plants in the United States are sold as container plants, although they can also be found sold by the bare root plant as well. Container plants are easier to find and more available.
Naranjilla plants are also called “little orange”, “little jewel” and “tree tomato”. The latter name is a misnomer because this plant is not related to the tomato plant. The name “tree tomato” probably came about because the fruit vaguely resembles the taste of a tomato.
All parts of this plant are edible, including the fruit rind, which is usually discarded. The fruit contains several vitamins, such as A, B1, B2, B3, B6 and C. It is also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, sodium and amino acids. The fruit also has a high content of potassium, which helps to regulate the water balance in the body and reduces the risks of heart diseases and stroke.
The fruits can be eaten raw or cooked. The fruit tastes similar to a very mild version of a common tomato. It can be used as a substitute for tomatoes in recipes. Green fruits can be cooked like green beans.
The seeds can be roasted and eaten. They contain about 21% protein, which is very high for a seed.
The naranjilla fruit rind can be dried, roasted and ground to make a substitute for coffee.
Naranjilla plant “pups” or suckers can be planted in soil to grow new plants. These can be planted together in a container or in the garden after chilling the roots for a period of time. Alternatively, they can be planted right away in soil that doesn’t freeze to the ground.
Naranjilla plants are known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds with their flowers.
Most people have never heard of this plant before, even though it originated in their own backyards!
Naranjilla plants are believed to have originated in South America, but it is widely cultivated throughout Central America, Southern United States and the Caribbean.
The naranjilla plant is not related to the tomato plant. The fruit vaguely resembles the taste of a tomato, hence its name.
Most naranjilla plants sold today are seedlings and not grafted. Grafting is commonly used to enhance the growth rate and size of the plant.
Naranjilla plants are generally very pest-free. They are also relatively disease-free.
Naranjilla plants can be grown in a container or in the ground. The soil type doesn’t matter, but it should have good drainage. The soil also should be moist but well-draining. Like most other plants, naranjilla plants prefer an acidic soil with a pH between 5.0 and 5.5.
Naranjilla plants grown in containers should be fertilized regularly. Fertilize every two weeks during the growing season with a good fertilizer.
Naranjilla plants are heavy feeders, so don’t skimp on nutrients.
Planting naranjilla plants too early can reduce their rate of growth and hinder their productivity. Wait until weather has warmed up, at least to 70°F (21°C), before planting.
Naranjilla plants are slow to start, so don’t be alarmed if they appear lifeless for the first month.
Naranjilla plants tend to produce more fruit when they reach a height of 6 to 12 inches tall. You can prune them to this height if you want them to produce shorter and bushier.
The naranjilla plant can become top heavy with lots of fruit. Stake the plant or reduce the number of fruits per stem.
Naranjilla plants can be heavily pruned at any time. This can be done to: Control the height of the plant, Change the shape of the plant, Increase fruit production, Renew the life of an older plant, Etc.
Naranjilla plants can survive in temperatures as low as 28°F (-2°C). The plants can withstand short periods of frost, but they will not produce fruit after being subjected to freezing temperatures.
Naranjilla plants can be grown outdoors in the ground or in a container. They thrive in full sun and warmer climates, but they can also survive in less hospitable areas as long as they are protected from frost.
Naranjilla plants can be grown indoors or outdoors. Outdoors, the plant prefers full sun and warm temperatures. They can also be grown in large containers and brought indoors when temperatures begin to fall.
The naranjilla plant is a heavy bearing plant that can produce lots of fruit. The plants typically start producing fruits within the first year and continue to do so throughout the growing season.
Naranjilla plants are normally pollinated by bees, but they can also be hand-pollinated if you want to have seeds for future plants. Hand-pollinate in the morning when the pollen is most active. Use a cotton swab or a brush to transfer the pollen.
The naranjilla plant blooms up to six months of the year and can produce up to 40 fruits per season.
Naranjilla fruits can be harvested when they reach three inches in length and have turned a yellowish color with orange hues. Wait until the skin begins to wrinkle.
A mature naranjilla plant can support up to 30 pounds of fruit.
Naranjilla fruits can be eaten fresh or processed into pickles, preserves, jams, and jellies. They can also be dried or juiced.
Naranjilla fruits contain an average of 170 calories per cup when raw and 130 calories per cup when cooked.
Naranjilla fruits are packed with nutrients and contain high levels of vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.
In some places, the naranjilla plant is cultivated for its edible roots.
Naranjilla leaves can be eaten cooked or raw when young. They can also be used as a flavoring in dishes and teas.
Naranjilla flowers are commonly used to make tea.
The naranjilla plant is used to make a traditional cold and sweet drink known as agua de naranja (orange water).
Naranjilla fruits can be preserved in alcohol to make a type of liqueur.
Naranjilla juice makes an excellent additive with tobacco or cacao for smoking.
Naranjilla fruits contain antioxidants and have been used in traditional medicine to treat fever, inflammation, and indigestion.
All parts of the naranjilla plant contain cyanide, so make sure children and pets do not consume this plant.
Naranjilla plants are considered invasive species in some areas.
Research has shown that the leaves and roots of the naranjilla plant can be harmful or fatal if ingested.
Naranjilla plants have a tendency to attract harmful insects such as leafminers and fruit flies.
Naranjilla plants may be susceptible to plant diseases if over-watered.
Naranjilla plants can take up to three months to produce flowers and fruit after being planted.
Naranjilla plants grow best in full sunlight, but can also grow in shadier areas.
Naranjilla plants cannot withstand frost, so in colder climates they must be grown indoors or in a greenhouse.
Naranjilla plants require well-draining soil and prefer soil rich with organic matter. They cannot survive in constantly wet soil.
Naranjilla plants can be propagated through the planting of stem cuttings which are placed in trays of seed starting mix and kept watered and warm until they root.
Naranjilla plants can also be grown from seeds which may take up to three months for germination. The seeds must be first scarified (nicked) by filing down their hard shells, before being planted.
Naranjilla plants are hardy in zones 10 and 11. In zones 9 and below, they can be grown indoors or in a greenhouse.
Naranjilla plants are susceptible to black twig disease, which causes stems to turn black and die. It is caused by a virus that is spread through sap-sucking insects like aphids. There is no cure.
Naranjilla plants can be pruned to control their size and shape. In warmer zones, they can be pruned during the winter months.
Naranjilla flowers are commonly used in herbal tea blends.
Naranjilla leaves can be cooked and eaten, but should only be consumed in small quantities due to their high oxalic acid content.
Naranjilla fruits can be boiled, pureed, or fried. They can also be dried and stored for later use.
Naranjilla fruits can be made into jam, jelly, butter, or marmalade. They can also be turned into a syrup or nectar.
Naranjilla fruits can be sliced and covered in chocolate to make delicious candies.
Naranjilla leaves and stems can be cooked and eaten, but are most commonly used as cooking herbs.
Naranjilla flowers contain antioxidants and have been used in traditional medicine to treat fever, inflammation, and indigestion.
The naranjilla plant is considered to be an invasive species in some areas.
The naranjilla plant is not related to the orange fruit or the dog of the same name.
The ripe naranjilla fruit is a perishable food item and will only last for a few days at most.
Sources & references used in this article:
Economic and environmental impacts of grafted naranjilla by A Sowell, G Shively – Forests, Trees and Livelihoods, 2012 – Taylor & Francis
Graft is good: the economic and environmental benefits of grafted naranjilla in the Andean region by C Clements, J Alwang, V Barrera… – … Agriculture and Food …, 2017 – cambridge.org
IPM packages for naranjilla: sustainable production in an environmentally fragile region by J Ochoa, C Clements, V Barrera, JM Dominguez… – … Pest Management of …, 2016 – Springer
Of plants and people by CB Heiser – Las Plantas e El Hombre: Memorias del Primer …, 1991