Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pepper Hot - Capsicum Annuum Overwintering

In contrast to popular belief chilli pepper plant (Capsicum) is perennial and one plant can give you fruits for several years, if it will be overwintered in proper conditions.

The control of growth, proper period of rest, limited watering and removing the flowers from September are the key to success in overwintering capsicum.

How to make this, you will find out reading further this post.

My 'Cyklon' Capsicum Annuum (origins from Poland) gave me about 18 fruits from each plant - see here how they looked last July.

I have read, that it is possible to overwinter Capsicum for over 5 years, however they are most productive in the first years. If successfully overwintered Capsicum plants, have much better take-off next season, so it is possible to get more fruits from one plant.
In this post I'd like to share my experience in overwintering Capsicum, so maybe you will also try it coming season. It is good time now to start the seeds for coming summer.
From my three plants growing in pots, two are overwintered in good condition. They poped-out tiny green leaves already and wait for better growing conditions. I watered them every two weeks. They are stored in bright cellar, in temperature 13 C. Third plant, which I tried to overwinter at home, died before Christmas - temperature was too high.

The growth and dormancy period
Some species of Capsicum that need longer growing season like habanero (one of the hottest), will bear more fruits starting from second season, so it is worth to overwinter them.The control of growth, proper period of rest and limitation of watering are key to successfull overwintering. In October, before bringing plants to cool room, cut plant back to 20 cm of height and remove all leaves. So prepared for dormancy period, keep it in the temperature about 10C.

Which plants to overwinter?
Easiest to overwinter are Annuum, Chinense, Pubescens and Frutescens. Pubescens are best for beginners - their natural environment are the cool slopes of Andes, so they grow well in moderate climates. Eximium, Chacoense and Pratermissum as near related with Pubescens overwinter also well.

Removing mature fruits.
I observed, that keeping mature fruits on the plant causes laziness of plants, which understands, that in this season it had worked enough. Such plants gave me last year about 3 fruits only, while these from which I have picked fruits immediately, they bloomed again and in total I had abour 18 fruits from one plant. Removing mature fruits gives signal to the plant, that it was not sufficient yet and it needs still to keep producing seeds. After every harvesting, feed the plant nicely by giving them a good fertilizer. Additionally when plant begins to bloom again on beginning of September, chance on growing fruits is small, so better to remove it, which gives better chance for the plant to overwinter.

Watering while overwintering Capsicum.
This is major factor for success or failure in overwinter your Capsicum. So generally, hot papper does not like having wet feets, and in the winter particularly. Watering every second week will be enough. I watered my plants once 3-4 weeks until January. And they are well somehow, though I dry up the soil completely between waterings. I think, that many misunderstandings in recognising Capsicum as perennial results with Latin name of the most popular specie (Annuum), which suggests that it is annual. This is mistake of naming made by scientists, similarly the whole kind named Chinense, because the scholars judged initially, that so is the origin, what turned out not truth also.

For this season I started today the seeds of Scotch Bonnet, Santa Fe and Jalapeno. So there will be more seeds to swap next winter :) If you are looking for hot capsicum seeds, that don't come from large seed producer, I still have some spare ones for swaping :)

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