The Winter Cherry plants (Solanum) bear tiny flowers in summer and these are followed in fall by green berries which change color as winter approaches. The Winter Cherry is a familiar sight at Christmas. The orange or red berries among the dark green leaves provide a festive touch, and if this small shrubby plant is placed on a sunny windowsill in a cool room then the berries will last for months. A closely related species, Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum) bears larger berries.
A word of warning: these fruits can be poisonous!
The Winter Cherry should last until February. Early leaf fall usually means overwatering – dropping berries indicate too little light or hot, dry air.
Solanum capsicastrum is sold in vast quantities every Christmas from supermarkets, garden centers and market stalls. The dark green leaves are narrowly oval and the white flowers form berries which are about 0.5 inches in diameter when mature. The plants are usually bought when the fruits have changed from green to orange-red and these will remain on the plants for months if kept in a cool place.
The Jerusalem Cherry
There are several varieties, such as Cherry Ripe (bright red berries) and variegatum (cream-splashed leaves). The Jerusalem Cherry is also popular, especially in the U.S. and is quite similar. If you look closely, however, you will see that the stems are smooth. Also the berries are larger, the leaves shorter and the colors generally brighter.
Secrets of success
Temperature: Cool – keep at 50°-60°F in winter.
Light: Bright light with some direct sun.
Water: Keep compost moist at all times.
Air humidity: Mist leaves frequently.
Care after flowering: Prune back stems to half their length in late winter. Keep compost almost dry until spring, then repot. Stand the pot outdoors during the summer months. Spray the plants when in flower. Bring back indoors in fall.
Propagation: Sow seeds or take stem cuttings in spring.
Solanum pseudocapsicum variegatum