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Aug 16, 2012 09:17 AM

Why didn't my tomatillo fruit this year?

I planted a tomatillo this May, and it grew into a pretty plant, with lots of yellow flowers. The only thing is it never set fruit, only flowers.
I've grown tomatillos once before, back in '04 when I was living in Oakland, CA, and had great success. A number crop that I was able to share with friends and family. So, what went wrong here?
My mother had the same problem a few years ago...beautiful plant, but no fruit.
I'm in Marin County now, the plant gets almost all day sun, and aside from when I've been out of town and relied on house sitters, I know it's gotten good irrigation.
Any answers out there? Is there a trick to propagating tomatillos? Do the plants have a sex?

Thank you for any insight!

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  1. Just found the answer...they need cross germination, like corn does, to fruit.
    Guess I'll try again next year with two plants! Darn!

    7 Replies
    1. re: rabaja

      The correct term is cross pollination. One plant equals no fruit set; two plants equals a lot. With a single plant your only hope is if a nearby neighbor has also has tomatillos.

      1. re: Eldon Kreider

        Yep, I had that problem last year. Since I container garden on my deck, chances of another tomatillo in the 'hood was nil. This year, I stuck two plants in the same large container and, voila, lots of fruit.

        1. re: Eldon Kreider

          of course, cross pollination. I seem to be confusing my words and punctuation quite a bit lately...
          Next year we will plant two plants. I only wish I'd googled this earlier this year when my Mom and I were discussing why hers didn't fruit. Thank you for your response!

          1. re: rabaja

            Plant sexuality seems to me, a non-botanist, ridiculously complex. To whit -

            It seems silly to me that any one tomatillo plant will have both male and female blossoms but can't reproduce by themselves. They need another plant to get the job done. Plus a few helpful pollinators.

            1. re: tcamp

              Tomatillos are mostly self-incompatible, which is pretty common. I believe the estimate is that about half of flowering plants are self-incompatible. A lot of fruit trees are like that too. Paw paws are for example, you need two genetically different trees (not two clones/two of the same cultivar).

        2. re: rabaja

          That's what I was going to say, two or more plants.

          1. re: rabaja

            And this is probably obvious, or at least rarely done, but it probably should be noted that the plants must be genetically different, so you can't just take a cutting and have two plants with the same DNA because they won't pollinate each other.

          2. I grew wonderful tomatillos last year, (Saskatchewan), with three plants. This year, I have three plants. planted side by side. one is loaded with setting fruit, the other two have only flowers. Can a whole plant have only male flowers?

            1. I've read the multiple plant theory many times but have a singular tomatillo plant this year dripping with fruit and branches so heavy they're breaking so maybe its a variety issue.

              I'm pretty sure its Tomatillo Verde from Baker Creek seeds, I bought the starter from a neighbors plant sale and they always use Baker Creek seeds.