Tomatillo and Tomato problems

I have had several people asking about tomato and tomatillo crop problems.husky texture
Creative Commons License photo credit: sleepyneko

Most problems seem to be relating back to the weather. Many places have had irregular weather, either too hot and dry or cold nights.

Without seeing a photo I can only guess but here are a few of the more common tomatillo growing problems.

1. If few flowers are forming on your tomatillo plants or the flowers drop before setting fruit, possible causes include:

·    Excess nitrogen
·    Too little sun
·    Nighttime temperatures above 70 degrees F or below 50 degrees F
·    Drought stress

Stress seems to cause more problems to the tomato family than other problems and it’s easy to over look. Here are a few possible solutions to your problems.

Avoid soil amendments with soluble nitrogen and make sure plants get a full day of sunlight. Keep the soil evenly moist throughout the season. Mulch covers on top of the soil around your tomato plants with help keep soil moisture even.

At planting time, use a balanced, granular fertilizer that’s made for tomatoes. During the growing season, treat your plants to a water-soluble fertilizer. I use a compost tea for my tomatoes. If you don’t use compost tea, you can ask for advice at your garden center

2. Dark, concentrically ringed spots that cover the lower leaves and stems are a sign of early blight. To control the spread of blight, you can use an organic Garden Dust, available in most garden centers. It’s also important to not get water on the leaves when watering and not handling plants when they are wet. This will also cause early blight to spread.

3. Water-soaked patches on fruit that turn brown, dry and papery are a sign of late blight. The stems might also have blackened areas. To control late blight, spray plants with compost tea, or follow the same program of control as for early blight.

4. Cracks in fruit are usually caused by uneven watering. This tends to happen the most in late summer if you have a dry hot spell that changes to a cool spell. If you use mulch to keep the soil evenly moist you should not have this problem.

5. Yellowed, distorted and curled leaves are usually a sign of an infestation of aphids. Check for signs of aphids on the undersides of leaves or on new growth. Aphids are easily combated with a strong jet of water or an application of neem oil will get aphids under control

Distorted leaves could also be tobacco mosaic virus. This virus causes young growth to be narrow and twisted. The leaves become mottled with yellow. If your plants have tobacco mosaic virus they will need to be removed and destroyed.

Note: do not add infected plants into a compost pile. It’s best to burn them.

Tomatoes and tomatillos are favorites in many gardens but they do tend to have disease and stress related problems. Heirloom Tomatoes
Creative Commons License photo credit: bhamsandwich

Keep them evenly watered, add fertilizer during the season and keep weeds down around the plants. With a watchful eye, they should grow and produce well.

For more information on how to grow the tomatillo check this link: Garden tips: How to grow the Tomatillo, the Tomatoes cousin

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35 responses to “Tomatillo and Tomato problems”

  1. Diana

    I love tomatillos Denise! To me, tomatillos have a much stronger tomato taste. Yes, they are in the tomatoes family, but maybe because tomatillos are much smaller, I find that they have a unique tomato taste.

    Don’t grow them here in Florida, because as you mentioned, tomatillos are diseased prone. We do have plenty of local farmers that do grow then so I am able to get them all the time.

    Great article!
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..Tips for a Safe Florida Summer Vacation =-.

  2. Bruce

    I’m wondering if my Tomatillo plant has that virus (mosaic, I think). The leaves have yellow splotches and many of the flowers have fallen off, in fact so has much of the fruit. The tomatillos themselves are not always a nice spherical shape either. I have pictures but do not know how to include them in this message.

  3. Denise

    It definitely sounds like your tomatillos have a virus. Take a small section of the plant down to a garden center or a home extension office if you have it and have them look at them.

    Unfortunately there is no way to include a photo. Denise

  4. beverly dimon

    my tomatillo plant has lots of blossoms and “husks” no fruit appears to be in the papery husk. Will they still form or is it too late in the season?

  5. Scott

    I have the same question as Beverly — I have a robust tomatillo, with lots and lots of blossoms and husks (gorgeous paper lanterns) but they are not filling up with fruit. They have been like this for weeks, and it grows like crazy and produces more blossoms and more husks, but no filled ones.


  6. Denise

    This is a common problem this year, one I have never experienced.

    Hopefully someone else has the answer. Denise

  7. Margie

    I just read an article about growing tomatillos where there is no fruit. It said you must plant another tomatillo close by in order to get any fruit. That a single plant alone will not produce fruit. My plant is strong and tall and lots of blossoms, but no fruit either!

  8. myrna

    I have alot of yellow fruit, are they under ripe or over ripe. will they ripen like a tomato does off the plant? My first time growing them, what a jungle I have in Montana.

  9. Denise

    They are probably about right when it comes to being ripe. They will ripen a little more off the plant but I personally like them to ripen on the plant. I think they have a richer taste that way.

  10. Ian

    Hi, I am about to plant 2 Tomatilloes- I was planning on one green (Grande Maje) and one purple (De Milpa) plant. Can I expect them to pollinate each other?

    Also. I was going to put them both in a 25cm (10″) square plant pot with a tomato frame to support vertical growth. Is this viable? I recognise it will constrain growth, but there are only 2 people who will be eating them and we are planting on a balcony (Sydney, Australia).Thanks, Ian.

  11. Denise

    Yes, the two different varieties of tomatillos will pollinate each other.

    If you could do a planting just a few inches bigger it would be better health wide for the plant. Have you thought about having one in a pot and hanging one if you have room to hang plants. Tomatillos do very well in a hanging planter. Denise

  12. Robyn

    I am planing tomatillos for my first time. If I put two hanging planters about a foot apart will they pollinate each other? I am new to gardening and so know very little about any of this.

    Thanks for your time,

  13. Denise

    Yes, you should be fine. Denise

  14. Pam

    Maybe you can help me with a problem I’ve been having. I have grown tomatillos for years (or I should say “planted”). The plants do well, they flower and produce fruit, the only problem is is that the fruits never get big, or even average size (even the gigantes). Do you know what I can do to get average size fruits? I just pick them and throw them away, then finally pull up the plants out of frustration, when I say small, I mean barely bigger than a pea. I live in the tulsa area, zone 6B or 7 depending on the chart you view. Any help would be greatly appreciated as I had decided not to grow them this year, but really do want to.

  15. Jenn


    This is my first year growing tomatillos and my poor little guys are looking a little sick. We started them indoors about 4 weeks ago and we have them in 1 gal pots right now (they were replanted a couple of weeks ago). Their tomato brothers seem to be doing great but my tomatillos have developed yellow spots on the leaves and thier leaves seem to be curling downwards and bulging up between the veins. The spots aren’t browning and the leaves don’t seem to be dying. We recently moved our grow room to a better location that has a higher humidity (~70-75%) and a constant tempurature of about 75 F. We have them under a 1000 W metal halide light and we fertilize them regularly. We moved them shortly after they were repotted. Some of the new growth on the plants look healthy but some of them just refuse to perk up. Has anybody encountered this problem before? My first thought was a nutrient deficiency but I would be guessing at which one. I also have considered that they might need more room but I hesitate to move them since it seems like they were repotted very recenltly. Do they need it cooler/dryer? Also, if anybody knows of a good link for indoor tomatillo growing, that would be great, as well-I’ve always found the internet to be a valuable resource when it comes to growing but it seems like good resources on tomatillos are few and far between.


  16. andi

    I would like to grow tomatillos indoors in my apartment since I dont’ have an outdoor garden. What’s the best way to go about doing this? I tried last year and they died.
    What’s the best way to keep them at a reasonable size?

  17. Denise

    Andi, Grow in a larger pot or container. Use a pot about 18 inches in diameter. Place a trellis or pole in the container for tehm to grow up. Make sure they are kept well watered and fertilized.

  18. Josiana

    I “m having the same problem as Pam. Lots of tomatillos with tiny pea like fruit. If they turn brown and get bigger they seem to rot. I live in Central TX. I have 3 plants.

  19. Rose

    This is the first time I have grown a tomatillo. I am in Zone 14. The plant was doing great until it started geting fruit. Now the leaves, blossoms and fruit are turning yellow and falling off. Any suggestions?? I have fertilized it and it gets regular water.

  20. Nichola

    Having a problem with lots of flowers, but not much more than that. They seem to fall off. The past few weeks I have had more that flower and stay on, but how long does it normally take for them to be harvestable? I wondered if they needed help being pollenated. I have done that in previous years with pumpkins and squash. I have heard reports that the bee count in the USA is low for some reason, i wondered if that had anything to do with the problem.

  21. Denise

    they may need help with pollination.

    Tomatillos start slowly. You will not see much growth in the fruit at first then they seem to grow overnight.

  22. deb

    this is my first attempt at growing tomatilloes and I have only planted one and it was purely by mistake ( the plant was mislabelled as thai eggplant). Do I really need to have two plants in order for fruit to be produced?

  23. Denise

    I have always grown more than one but I hear you should have two. Try hand polinating

  24. Paul Gugger

    First time growing Tomotillos, The plants look awsome (over 4 ft tall) lots of flowers, fruits get about an inch across (less from top to bottom)and the stem turns dark and they fall off? Any help would be greatly appreciated, Thanx in advance Paul

  25. rose young

    My plant is looks great, the fruit are yellow and husks are paper brown and dry. Will the fruit turn green? They also fall off the bush my themselves.

  26. Denise

    Your fruit is ripe, thats why its falli9ng off the vine

  27. JD

    I live in Huntington Beach, Calif & have 4 (Burpee Gigante volunteer) tomatillo plants growing in a 4′ row, staked up 3′.
    A few weeks ago I noticed the stems of 1 plant getting some yellowish 1/16″ x 1/32″ growth on them. Today I noticed it has spread to another plant so I ripped out both plants & trashed them & retied up the remaining 2 plants stems.
    I am wondering what this disease/virus/pest is & will it come back next year?

    Here is a photo link.

  28. Arlene Jones

    I have lots of flowers and no fruit yet. My other plant has two plants next to each other and is doing great. I think I need to pollinate but don’t know how, can you tell me how to do that?

  29. Dar

    How do you know when the Tomotillos are ripe. My plants are doing well. Tall lots of blooms, lots of fruit on them, some of the fruit fills the paper covering. The husks are still green fruit feels hard, do I wait until they turn yellow or tan???

  30. Sally Kernan

    Denise, this is my first time to grow tomatillos. The tomatillos have never developed. The little fruit and its’ cover sack are teensy tiny and appear to have stopped growing and now the plant is wilting. My regular tomatoes growing right next to the tomatillos are perfect. Any idea as to what is happening and why they’ve not developed?

  31. Denise

    Tomatillos do grow slowly but the wilting plant is not a good sign. So they have enough water and nutrients?

  32. Candy

    JD- I have the same problem! Does anyone know what it is? The shape of my husks seems to be a little different now too. I don’t want to rip out my plants-they are huge (5 feet +)and full of growing fruit!

  33. Thad

    We have grown them for the past 3-4 years in 4′ x 8′ raised beds. The fruit which drops off provides the volunteer plants for the next year. We transplant them when they are 6 – 8 inches into other beds, or this year into 40 gallon tubs. 6-8 plants per tub with 3 tomato cages.
    Even with the brutally hot summer we have had in NW Georgia they have grown well and are 4′ tall and very bushy. Lots of bees on the flowers, but very little fruiting so far, and no large ones [yet]. They are drip watered at night, but there have been 2 or 3 times where they were wilting before we noticed. Watered them heavy, and in 2-3 hours they looked fine again.
    In the past, we have harvested buckets by now. So far we have collected maybe 25-30 fruit.
    No bugs, leaves are uniform.
    Note, for the first time ever, in 25+ years, our tomatoes burned up. The tubs and raised beds are great in the spring for early warming, but even with night time drips and 1, 2, or 3 afternoon/evenings a week of heavy thunderstorms the 95F daytime temps have just cooked everything.
    We were told it may just be the too hot weather are preventing them from setting fruit.
    Suggestions ?

  34. Yes, if the temps get too warm the fruit will not set as well or at all.

    Try placing a sun block (blanket, board, etc…) near the plants to offer them shade during the hottest part of the day

    Do you mulch the soil near the plants? Add mulch or more mulch to keep the soil cooler.


  35. JD

    Candy, It appears that no-one has any tip for this.

    Now that summer is over here & I still have a lot of fruit laying on the ground it appears that the virus or whatever it was didn’t hurt them after thinning out the worst infected (?) ones.

    How did yours do?

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