Solanum pseudocapsicum (most commonly known as Jerusalem Cherry) has been a Lunar New Year festive plant in Singapore. It is a good example of a non-traditional plant that has been turned into a festive plant for the Spring Festival. This plant could have acquired an auspicious meaning via its attractive fruits that come in a range of colours shown over the period of fruit maturation and ripening where they first appear green like jade, then gold and finally, red like a ruby. All parts of this plant is poisonous. Of particular note are its fruits which look like cherry tomatoes (they contain solanocapsine and other alkaloids), so keep fruiting plants and fallen fruit out of reach by young children and pets.
Solanum pseudocapsicum is documented to be a widespread and extremely variable species and this plant can grow as a small erect shrub. In Singapore, we get plants in the nursery that are in the range of 30 to 50 cm tall when they are sold as container plants for display. If left to grow, it is documented that a plant can grow up to 1 m tall, if grown in the ground. Some cultivars can also adopt a prostrating growth habit. Cultivated plants have rather smooth leaves and produce have large flowers and fruit.
Some years back, only the variety with all green leaves is available for sale in Singapore and this year, we get to see a new cultivar with variegated leaves. Solanum pseudocapsicum is native to the drier areas of Central and South America, from Mexico to southern Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, from sea level to 2600 m. Widely cultivated throughout the world, often escaped in tropical and subtropical areas.
With these growing conditions in mind, if one is to grow Solanum pseudocapsicum in Singapore, we have to ensure plants are grown in moisture-retentive and well-draining soil. Water well and let the soil become moderately dry between waterings. If you noticed leaves falling, it may be a sign that the plant is given too much water and the plant is experiencing wet feet. Fruit drop could be due to insufficient light. It is a sun-lover and hence it is best positioned in a sunny location.
To encourage bushiness, prune the plant regularly or by pinching the growing points. Do also remember to feed your Solanum pseudocapsicum with liquid fertilizer during the active growing stage. Like chillis and tomatoes, you can help to promote fruit set by tapping its flowers to distribute pollen but also make sure the plant is receiving sufficient sunshine and not grown in too windy a place which can be too dry. Similarly, note that Solanum pseudocapsicum is prone to attacks by whiteflies, mealy bugs, aphids and spider mites attack and frequent checks are required to ensure good health of your plant.