The Andean berry is known to many plant lovers under the name Cape gooseberry or simply under Physalis. The delicious and extremely healthy fruits are often used as a garnish in restaurants, for sweets, desserts, cocktails but also for main dishes. In the supermarket you can buy Physalis peruviana packaged in small baskets. Unfortunately, they are usually quite expensive.

Family and appearance

The Andean berry is a nightshade family. Anyone who thinks that Cape gooseberries indicate the origin of the plant is wrong. It is native to South America, mainly from Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru (see peruviana). In the Cape region, however, the physalis is grown. Gooseberry is easy to explain, the taste of the two fruits is similar.

The Cape gooseberry grows to a height of 0.5 to 2 meters. The whole plant is reminiscent of the Chinese lantern flower (Physalis alkekengi), which is very well known to us, of course, they belong to the same genus and family, just like the tomato. The Andean berries can be cultivated as a container plant. I once had one or two hibernation periods, but then she no longer wanted. It is actually not difficult to cultivate these physalis and to harvest there was also a lot, not excessive, but I was happy.

The flowers are rather inconspicuous, pale yellow with a little dark blue. The fruit is remarkable. It is in a chalice, similar to a parchment-like lantern. This is dense and softly haired. It contains a small, orange-colored berry that tastes delicious and contains many healthy substances. Vitamin C in particular is abundant, as are vitamin B1, provitamin A and iron. Andean berries are ripe when the lantern cover begins to dry out. This is usually the case only in the middle to the end of September, sometimes even later. As soon as the first night frosts appear, the harvest is over. What helps is to dig up the plants and put them in buckets. So you can leave the plants in the living room or a similar place until they are ripe. Then it is harvested and the plant can be disposed of.

The Andean berries are usually grown as an annual, which works very well if you sow early enough in the year. Then the fruits ripen in time, you can take new seeds and everything starts all over again in the next year. The plant only grows insignificantly over the years, so it is almost not worth it to overwinter.

Warning: caution is advised, the rest of the plant is poisonous. This also includes unripe fruits.

Caring for the Andean berries

Caring for the Andean berries is straightforward. The plants need a lot of warmth, that has to be considered. The cultivation is comparable to that of tomatoes. However, it is important that, unlike tomatoes, physalis are not exhausted. Otherwise the plants need water and a lot of sun, hardly any fertilizer and no pruning. Cultivation is not recommended in areas with early autumn frosts because the fruits do not ripen. Since they do not ripen, you cannot harvest ripe berries. The wine-growing climate is ideal, but otherwise it is also quite good. I live in Lower Saxony and it wasn’t a problem here.


The location is important. The heat-loving Andean berry should be warm, sunny and sheltered, perhaps on a warm house wall that is well protected. This is the only way for the fruits to ripen.

  • Full sun
  • Definitely warm
  • Protected from the wind, because the shoots are thin and break easily. I lost some in the wind.

Plant substrate

When it comes to planting substrates, a distinction is made between outdoor and pot cultivation. The same thing is that the soil should be loose, well-drained, but it must also be able to hold the moisture somewhat. Otherwise normal garden soil is usually sufficient. You should use organic soil for the bucket because of the fertilizer.

For outdoors

  • Locker
  • Neutral or calcareous
  • Rather low in nutrients, but add some humus (garden compost or soil activator)

For buckets

  • High-quality organic soil, because you want to eat the berries. Potted plant soil and similar substrates contain fertilizer and that is not bio-fertilizer, nor is it otherwise necessary.


Planting is easy. There is not much to consider. Pay attention to the planting spacing outdoors. Drainage is important in the pot. The Andean berries should not be planted in a greenhouse. First, it is difficult to fertilize. The other plants usually like a lot of nutrients, the Andean berries don’t. Second, there are usually significantly more leaves and hardly any flowers.

  • Planting distance in the bed – at least 60 cm, better one meter
  • A trellis is recommended, especially if the location is very sunny and warm. Then the plants grow very quickly.
  • Use at least a 10 liter container when planting in pots.
  • Drainage is important!
  • As a tip I have read that algan growth aid (natural brown algae extract) should be poured into the water. You could try that out.
  • Put a stick in the container and tie the plant to it regularly.

Watering and fertilizing

The Andean berries neither need a lot of water nor a lot of fertilizer. She is very frugal. It grows depending on the watering. If it is sparingly poured, it will only grow that way. If you water it abundantly, you can watch it grow.

  • Normal water requirement, whereby a little more has to be poured in the bucket.
  • Do not let it dry out. The plant is very sensitive to drought.
  • The more you water (without drowning the plant), the more fruit you can harvest
  • As a rule, there is no need to fertilize. The plants have strong root growth and thus get good nutrients.
  • Mulching is better.
  • Too much fertilizer leads to strong shoot growth, but flowers hardly appear and therefore there are no fruits.
  • Container plants should be fertilized lightly, because the soil in the container is used up quickly. However, fertilizing every 4 weeks is sufficient.

To cut

A cut is only recommended if the crop has been cultivated for several years. Otherwise there is no need to strip or cut. The plants emerge from the ground in autumn and are disposed of or used to propagate cuttings.

  • Cut in spring.
  • Cut back to 1/3 or ½
  • Skimming is not necessary


Physalis are not winter hardy outdoors. Wintering in the bucket is definitely possible. I have read that there are supposed to be Physalis varieties that can withstand temperatures down to minus 10 ° C, but I don’t know where they can be found. Otherwise it is stated everywhere that the plants cannot tolerate any frost.

  • Winter as light as possible. The plant is evergreen, so it needs light.
  • In a darker location the leaves fall off, mostly not all, but a few, up to half can be expected.
  • Put in a cool, but not cold, place, around 5 to 10 ° C.
  • I had the physalis in the attic, directly under the roof window, at around 12 to 15 ° C. That seems to have been good for her, even if she lost a few leaves.
  • Cool warm houses or heated stairwells are also well suited if there is sufficient light.
  • If you have space problems, you can also use cuttings and grow a new plant. They take up significantly less space.
  • Another option, which I have not yet tried, is to cut the physalis back to the root stock and to overwinter in the dark cellar. However, the root ball must not dry out.


To multiply, you can take seeds from a purchased fruit. One simply picks them up with a toothpick from the ripe physalis. The pulp is wiped off and the seeds are allowed to dry. In addition, cuttings can be propagated.

  • Sow from February
  • Substrate – potting soil
  • Cover the seeds only a little with soil
  • Temperatures around 25 ° C are ideal
  • Keep the substrate evenly moist, not too wet
  • A mini greenhouse or a propagation box on the window sill over a heater is cheap
  • Place as bright as possible, but be sure to avoid direct sunlight.
  • It is important to ventilate regularly
  • The seeds germinate quickly, after just a week
  • The germination time can be extended if the conditions are not right.
  • Put the seedlings in a bright spot, but without sun
  • Prick out as soon as the first leaves after the cotyledons are present.
  • Shorten the roots a little, this promotes branching
  • Place in individual containers.
  • Repotting in a slightly larger container will accelerate growth
  • After the ice saints, the young physalis can be put in the field (annual culture) or planted in a tub (perennial)
  • Cut cuttings in autumn. Since they often die over the winter (lack of light), cuttings are cut from them again in February (from the newly formed side shoots)
  • About 10 cm long and plant 1/3
  • Pour moderately
  • Also only plant out after the ice saints

Diseases and pests

Diseases are rare and are usually triggered by too much moisture. However, greater attention must be paid to the botrytis infestation. That is the gray mold rot. This is why a sufficient planting distance is so important.

Aphids and whiteflies appear as pests, but they can easily be controlled with biological means. Aphids also like to appear during the winter, so always look for and check for the pests.

The Andean berry is certainly an asset to every garden or balcony. Even if you usually cannot harvest more than 300 grams of fruit from each plant, cultivation is worthwhile. The fruits are tasty and healthy. The Andean berries are easy to care for, just growing them is a bit of work. Otherwise, the plants usually get along very well on their own. You only have to worry a little more about potted plants. Actually, the annual culture is enough, overwintering is hardly worthwhile. They produce most of the growth in the first year. The important thing is the location, which should be as sunny and warm as possible. Otherwise, Physalis are not very demanding. I can only recommend the plant.

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