How do I care for my melon pear?
Q: I have grown a melon pear or pepino (Solanum muricatum) from seed and it recently came into flower. I’ve potted it up, but how should I keep it during winter? When should I plant it out next year?
A: I bumped into this plant for the first time at the RHS Gardens at Rosemoor last September. The purple and white striped flowers are enchanting and the striped fruits are also pretty. I gather they taste of melon. The plant originates from South America and although it is fairly rugged, it will not tolerate frost.
Over-wintering should be straightforward, provided you have a greenhouse or conservatory where it can be kept frost free, in full light. Watch out for whitefly, aphids and red spider and water your plant sparingly until growth begins again in early spring.
Pepinos make lovely container plants, so you can leave yours in a large pot, standing outdoors any time from mid to late May. Alternatively, plant it in free-draining soil in full, hot sun after it has been hardened off in late spring. Cuttings might root, if taken in summer, but the plant is easiest from seed.