Jerusalem Cherry scientific name Solanum pseudocapsicum, [so-LAN-num] [soo-doh-KAP-sih-kum] or solanum capsicastrum, grows natively in Peru and Ecuador.
The small, bushy plant produces dark green leaves and bright orange or red fruit.
You can find this plant more often at Christmas time, sold as house plants in many stores.
While the fruit looks tasty like a cherry tomato, they are mildly poisonous plants.
NOTE: Solanocapsine is the toxin Jerusalem cherry contains, which is close to alkaloids like solanine and atropine.
The Jerusalem plant is part of the Solanaceae family, also called the nightshade family.
It’s also considered an invasive species in parts of Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, where it’s regarded as a weed.
Like many plants, the name is difficult to pronounce, so most people use one of the following common names:
- Jerusalem cherry
- Winter cherry
- Christmas cherry
- Madeira winter cherry
The Jerusalem Cherry is an incredibly easy plant to grow, especially when grown as an annual.
The plant can also last for many years when overwintered properly.
Jerusalem Cherry Care
Size and Growth
The Jerusalem Cherry doesn’t get very big, reaching about one to two feet tall.
It produces shiny green leaves and stems.
As the plant matures, its green stems become woody and start to turn brownish.
The leaves grow from stalks and are typically narrow and elongated with wavy edges.
Flowering and Fragrance
The star-shaped flowers appear in June or July. The flowers are small, white, and unscented.
After the second or third year of growth, the Christmas cherry plant should start to bear fruit.
The red or orange berries appear when the bloom ends, around September of October.
Light and Temperature
The Jerusalem Cherry grows best in bright light or partial shade.
While it can tolerate direct sunlight, it enjoys mild lighting and temperatures.
It’s suited for USDA hardiness zones 8 and above.
Just keep in mind that it doesn’t survive in the danger of frost.
Throughout most of the year, keep it at about 70° degrees Fahrenheit.
In the winter, it can survive temperatures down to 50° degrees Fahrenheit.
If temperatures get too cold, bring it indoors until the spring.
Watering and Feeding
Water the plant frequently during the active growing period, except for during the flowering season.
In May, begin reducing watering to encourage the plant to bloom.
Don’t let the soil dry out completely.
Give the Jerusalem Cherry plant food from May to June.
Soil and Transplanting
Regular potting soil is fine for solanum pseudocapsicum. It can grow in poor soil but requires good drainage.
With overwintered indoors, it needs repotting in the spring.
Use regular potting soil and move up to a larger container if needed.
Grooming and Maintenance
Pinching growth when repotting helps promote a bushier plant.
Pinch the longer branches in April to get thicker growth.
How To Propagate Solanum Pseudocapsicum
Propagate solanum pseudocapsicum from seed or cuttings.
Propagating from cuttings is more complicated, with a limited chance of success.
Sowing from seed also requires work but tends to produce a more symmetrical plant.
Collect the seeds from the dried fruit toward the end of the year.
After the fruit appears in September of October, allow it to wither and then remove it from the plant.
Dry the fruit and then remove the seeds. Store them in an envelope for sowing in February or March.
Sow the seeds in moist soil in a propagating tray or container covered in plastic. Ensure that the plastic offers ventilation.
TIP: For best results, place the tray or container over a heat source to promote germination.
After the seedlings appear, use a matchstick to prop the plastic cover open for better air circulation.
Position the lid so that no condensation drips onto the plants.
By the start of spring, the seedling should be large enough to separate into separate pots.
Follow the plant care tips discussed, ensuring that the young plants receive fertilizer throughout the rest of the spring and summer.
Solanum Winter Cherry Pests or Diseases?
CAUTION: The fruit is poisonous keep out of reach of children. Don’t leave small children or pets unattended around the plant when the berries appear.
The bright red or orange color is attractive and may tempt little ones to take a bite.
Some areas consider the plant an invasive species, primarily in humid regions where it can grow throughout the year.
If the leaves begin to turn yellow and fall off during the warmer months, it’s either getting too much sun or water.
Move the plant to a shadier spot and limit watering.
A lack of pollination often leads to a lack of fruit. The colorful berries help make this plant more decorative.
To promote pollination, use a cotton swab on the flowers.
If the newer leaves are smaller compared to older leaves, the plant may need fresh soil.
Always repot in the spring and use a liquid fertilizer for plants.
Suggested Solanum Pseudocapsicum Uses
This decorative house plant helps bring color to porches and window sills in the fall and early winter.
Place it in a prominent spot to show off the berries.
If growing around other plants, the Jerusalem cherry doesn’t like sharing space with large-flowering plants.