Friday, December 17, 2010

The Pepper Survival Report

And now, the pepper survival report. Every single pepper plant from the raised bed ended up in the compost bin. But I also grew a lot of peppers in pots and in a bed near the house. In this corner, bleah, it looks pretty bad, but I am actually optimistic about a couple of the baccatum plants, I've seen them regrow from from such states before. The plant in the large terra cotta pot in the corner (Aji Santa Cruz) has dropped all its leaves but most of the rest of the plant is ok. 

Over here is a another baccatum, Aji de la Tierra, a survivor from last year that overwintered in the ground and was then transplanted to a pot this spring and cut down to about 8 inches tall. It looks better this winter than last. The problem with this variety is that the peppers ripen very very late. Last month, just before we had the first freezing temperatures of the year, 99% of the peppers on the plant were still green. I haven't tried any of the peppers that are turning red now. I think that next year I'll move the plant to a more protected spot...

like over here by the house. There's a big leggy Manzano pepper (Capsicum pubescens) which is one of the most cold tolerant pepper species. Plants can survive for years in mild climates.

But there's also an offspring of that now big brown shaggy dead looking African Blue Basil in the garden. This baby was totally unfazed by three nights of freezing temperatures. Still blooming and feeding bees...

And a Suave Orange pepper, a chinense species, the least cold tolerant pepper species that I grow, still very much alive...

And yet one more pot with another chinense variety of pepper, one of the Puerto Ricans, I don't remember which.

I didn't cover any of the plants in that corner, the only protection they had was their proximity to the house. It probably helped a lot that that corner is south facing so the walls warmed up during the day and  kept the area a bit warmer through the night.

Also in front of the house but not as close is a bed where I planted a few more baccatum peppers. All of these plants are still very much alive even though most of them have dropped most of their leaves. It's interesting to me that the plant that I left a lot of peppers on has retained the most leaves.

Christmas Bell Picante


Christmas Bell


My experiment with overwintering pepper plants outdoors continues out back. The next two plants are sitting under the canopy of an oak tree and the overhead protection seems to have spared them the worst effects of the freezing nights. The plant on the left is a baccatum and the other is a chinense.

Close by, these two chinense plants had only partial overhead protection.

And over here these chinense plants had no overhead protection.

This Rocotillo plant has it easy, it gets to stay inside at night and on cold days. This was my favorite of all the chinense species plants that I grew this year. I love the flavor and it was incredibly productive. It's hard to see in this photo, but  it's loaded with ripe peppers.

There they are!

Back in July I received the seeds of a couple of  unusual pepper varieties that I received in exchanges and I couldn't resist sowing some even though it was far too late in the season to get any mature peppers this year. Here they are basking in the sun of a mild December day. I've been keeping them indoors at night and on cold days. These are Pimenta Biquinho, a sweet chinense pepper from Brazil, and Pima Rodrigues, a spicy annuum pepper from the island of Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean. Some of the Biquinhos have flowers already, although none of them have set.

I hope that a lot of these plants make it through the winter, it depends on how many more freezing nights we get and whether or not any of the plants succumb to fungal diseases. And those new babies are sporting a population of aphids now. One application of Pyganic, an OMRI approved pyrethrin insecticide, took care of a lot of them, but it looks like I might have to give them another application.


  1. Fascinating. Around here, all my c. annuum have succumbed to frost. My two baccatums are doing just fine, most of my chinense have given up the ghost except for Datil Sweet. It's interesting to see what will make it and what wont.

    Your seedlings look fantastic, despite the late start and moving them in and outside.

    Do you use the pubescens in cooking much? I'm so curious about that species, but I don't have any first hand experience with tasting it.

    Thanks for sharing your pepper research!

  2. Out here, it's tough love all the way. I'm just crossing fingers and hoping that the weather keeps them holding enough to pull through. You're very good to them, to keep them in pots!

  3. Good luck with overwintering the peppers outdoors. They look very good so far. I'm trying to overwinter a couple indoors - they wouldn't survive our occasional cold winter nights - minus 5 C last night!

  4. I hope you get some good survivors. I'm hoping I can overwinter some rosemary here next year. I'm going to plant it in a couple of spots. One at the southwestern foundation. The hardiest are zone 7 and I'm in zone 6 so I'll need a lot of luck.

  5. Interesting post. I know if I took more care, I could get peppers that last for years in pots. Your report has inspired me to try that! :)

  6. Peppers have no chance of overwintering outside in our region. If you have a good sunny indoor location - bringing them in is theonly option.

  7. Treating peppers/chilies as a perennial is such a foreign concept here in New England. It must be exciting to see them rebound and take off again in the spring. I wonder how big a pepper bush can get.

  8. What a great Blog. I followed a link looking for Paragon Rhubarb seeds and ended up here. I do my gardening just s/e of Melbourne in Australia. Will look in again soon.


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