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Growing tamarillos

I have a 1-year-old tamarillo tree which, when first planted, looked fine for a few months. It then got some bugs, which we sprayed and got rid of. It has been bug free for the better part of 6 months but looks increasingly ill. It keeps growing new leaves but these are increasingly smaller and smaller and always go brown around the edges, even before they get very big, and then fall off. It only is managing to keep about 3 leaves on it at any one time. It looks like it is frost-bitten but we have not had a frost. It does however get a reasonable amount of wind. We have fertilised it, staked it, everything they say to do but it just looks sick.


Tamarillos (Cyphomandra betacea) are generally fairly easy to grow. However, they can be very susceptible to frosts, and also cold winds. I suggest that this is probably the reason your tree is not very happy. You might like to try erecting some sort of wind-break to protect it from the worst of the wind.

Another possibility is 'wet feet'. Tamarillos do like plenty of water, but don't like to sit in it — good drainage is essential. Your tree could be in the wrong spot.

The final possibility is the dreaded Tamarillo Mosaic Virus. There is no cure for this and the usual symptoms are blotches on the leaves and fruit. Luckily the symptoms you describe do not sound quite like this disease.

If erecting a wind-break doesn't do the trick, you might like to try a new plant in a new spot in the garden. Look for a site in full sun or partial shade, out of any cold winds and frosts. The soil should be light and fertile with plenty of organic matter. Good drainage is important. Don't dig too much around the plant once it is established, as tamarillos tend to be very shallow-rooted. Mulching and supplementary water in summer are a good idea. Tamarillos are fairly pest and disease resistant, although they can be attacked by aphids, powdery mildew and the virus mentioned above. They are usually fairly short-lived, often needing to be replaced after 5 years or so.

UnitecAdvice by Dr Dan Blanchon from Unitec's Diploma in Sustainable Horticulture and Bachelor of Resource Management.

Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous website of  TVNZ News

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH
 
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