- Author: Linda Lewis Griffith
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Linda Lewis Griffith UCCE Master Gardener
Common Name: Pepino Dulce or Pepino Melon
Planting Zone: Sunset 15 and 16, 23 and 24
Size: 2-3 feet tall, spreading to about 4 feet wide.
Bloom Season: Flowers in early spring; produces fruit in summer
Exposure: Full sun to semi-shade
Pruning Needs: None
Water Needs: Regular watering, similar to a tomato plant
Narrative: Native to the temperate Andean regions of Columbia, Peru and Chile, these members of the nightshade family are related to both potatoes and tomatoes. They are hardy plants that grow best in warm, frost-free environments that are sheltered from the wind. Foliage is bright green and varies in shape depending on the variety of plant. Flowers are small, five-petaled and clear blue, with distinctive pointed yellow structures in the blossom's center. Pepino melons are frequently grown as ornamentals and make a good choice for hanging baskets. They grow quickly and can bear fruit within 4 to 6 months after planting. Pepino dulce is parthenocarpic, meaning it does not need pollination to set fruit. However, it produces a heavier crop if other pepinos are nearby to cross-pollinate. It will not set fruit until evening temperatures reach 65 degrees. The fruit is egg-shaped, weighing ¼-1 pound and is cream-colored with striking purplish streaks. Flesh is greenish to light orange and tastes like a cross between a melon and a cucumber.
Care for pepino dulce is similar to that for tomatoes. They do best in fertile soil that has been mixed with well-rotted manure. Supplement with a 5-10-10 fertilizer when needed. Pepino dulce is technically a perennial, but does best when it is replanted every year. It is easy to propagate from cuttings. Select stems that are 3-5 inches long with 4-5 leaves on the upper end. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and place in fast-draining potting soil. Rooted cuttings set out in spring should produce fruit later in summer./h4>/h1>