Perhaps the Christmas plant I enjoy most is Solanum pseudocapsicum, with its fanciful mosaic of green, orange and red marble-sized fruit. Just now this Jerusalem/Christmas/Winter-Cherry (its three common names) is the shining star of my holiday window garden, in association with red poinsettias, white narcissus, and pink kalanchoe.
I can tell you that pseudocapsicum, if carefully treated, is good for a long, merry life. Grown in a cool but sunny place it will not drop its fruit until the end of February or early March. Leaves will fall then, too, indicating the cycle of rest has started.
At this point a strict haircut is necessary. Prune each branch back to two eyes or buds (you can feel these little bumps along the stems), and bring the plant to an even colder place, which, for me, means the east window in an unheated spare bedroom. Temperatures around 40-45 degrees, and full light is the goal. Water only sparingly — certainly not more than twice a month.
When new growth appears in late spring, increase water, and begin feeding with a high-phosphorous formula. Then bring the plant outdoors to semi-shade. All through the outdoor months provide plenty of water and food, for the plant is preparing its bright crop of fruit for your next winter’s pleasure.
Incidentally, pseudocapsicum’s cherries are not for human consumption. They are considered poisonous to all but the birds, who scatter the seeds in more temperate zones than mine.
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