By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)
Container gardening is an extremely useful gardening technique for those wishing to expand their growing spaces. Growers may choose to plant in containers or pots for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, those without adequate space or proper climate conditions are able to grow plants that may not be specifically suited to their growing zone. One such plant, the naranjilla, is a perfect candidate for cultivation in containers.
Loosely translated to “little orange,” naranjilla plants are native to South America. These unique members of the Solanaceae family produce small orange-yellow fruits which are treasured for their use in juices, as well as in baking and in various sweet treats.
Intolerant of cold temperatures, mature plants produce clusters of small 2-inch (5 cm.) fruits. Though technically relatives of tomatoes, the fruits are noted for their sweet (and sometimes sour) taste.
Since the trees are intolerant of cold, it is not uncommon for gardeners to try their hand at growing naranjilla in containers. This is a great way to enjoy the exotic tasting fruit without making a trip to a more tropical climate.
When choosing to grow naranjilla in a pot, there are quite a few options. While plants for this herbaceous shrub are available to order online, many growers choose to start the plants from seed. Depending upon where you live, naranjilla seeds will need to be started early in the season. Most growers choose to start the seeds indoors around the middle of January and into February with the help of grow lights and a horticultural heating pad.
Getting an early start will ensure that container grown naranjilla plants will have the best opportunity possible to bloom and produce fruits in their first season. It should also be noted that there are many different types of naranjilla. While many varieties have attention-grabbing thorny spines, there are spineless varieties which may be more suited to be grown as potted naranjilla trees.
Once the seeds have germinated, grow the plants using a grow light or place the seedlings into a bright and sunny windowsill until all chance of frost has passed. Harden the seedlings off and transplant them into their final containers. Since these shrubs do have the potential to grow quite large, make certain to select large pots with adequate drainage.
Plants will continue to grow throughout the season. Many believe this plant to be short-day dependent. This means that it may be likely that fruit will only begin to set when the day length reaches around 8-10 hours. Regardless, the striking foliage and tropical appearance of naranjilla plants makes for a beautiful container grown addition to the home garden.
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Chinese Lantern, also known as Physalis Alkekengi, may be grown from seed - sown early indoors and transplanted outside after frost, or sown directly in the garden.
Blog followers will remember that in the first “How to Train Your Plant” post, we demonstrated how plants respond to the gravitational pull of the earth. Geotropism is difficult to overcome, but that didn’t stop me from trying to make a plant grow sideways through a maze. You can try this activity at home.
You will need these items:
Stand the box on its side. Then cut two pieces of cardboard to fit in the box and make divisions. You’ll want these to fit as snugly as possible inside the box, but they don’t have to be perfect. The tape will fix that. Cut a large window in each divider. Cut a window on one end of the box. Tape the dividers in place as shown in the picture.
Pardon the crude appearance of this maze. I wasn’t going for style points.
Plant the seeds in the soil and put the container on the side opposite of the hole you cut. Just for fun, I used several different seeds from a bean soup mix to see if one kind would get through the maze better than the others. It was like a bean-seed “race.” You can try whatever you like.
Make sure the holes in the divisions are big enough to allow lots of light in from the side, and don’t vary the height too much. Remember, we are fighting the plant’s tendency to grow up—if it’s too challenging, it won’t work. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.
When the maze is complete, give your beans a last bit of water, and maybe a kiss, and then close the box. Apply tape along the top edge, to secure it and reduce light. Then put it next to a window and wait.
It’s going to take a few weeks. Remember, horticulturists are very patient. Open the box every few days or so to be sure it has not dried out. Add a little water, but only enough to moisten the soil if it is very dry.
When you see the bean plant emerging through the open window in the box, open it and take a look. How long this will take will depend on the kind of beans you use, how far the plant has to grow, and how warm the room is.
The beans have sprouted and are moving toward the light
It took my beans about five weeks to grow through the second window.
The beans were definitely torn between growing up and growing in the direction of the light.
The winning sprouts, which I believe were lentils, did not actually make it through to the last window when I took this picture, and I’m not sure it has enough “umph” to do it. Still, notice how all of the plants leaned toward the light and most of them grew through the first window. That is a positive result!