Monday, March 19, 2012

Perennial Pepper Plants

We love using peppers in good food like; Shaun-ta's great salsa, added to dishes, or made into hot sauce for me.  Did you know that peppers (bells, jalapeno's etc.) are a perennial plant?  Well, it turns out that they are perennial(comes back each year), they are just very cold sensitive, as are tomatoes.  They are both in the same family, the Solanaceae (night shade) family, which includes: peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, egg plant, tomatillos and many flowering plants.

We had some some Bell and Jalapeno pepper plants planted in the summer last year.  The jalapeno's were especially prolific (I made some great hot sauces and smoked/dried some as Chipotle peppers).  I had heard that these plants can over winter if put in pots and brought inside.  We didn't want to pot them so we tried to help them along over the winter where they were planted.  After the season was over Shaun-ta' pruned them back to small 18" stubs and then to help protect the roots piled up grass clippings around the base of the plants.

We didn't expect much but hoped for good results.  We live in Zone 7b/8a in East Texas and had a very mild winter though we did have some freezes and frosts.  As the winter progressed the plants regressed to dry shrived twigs, they maintained some green stem where the grass was hilled up.  Come the end of January they didn't look good all of the green was gone.

We were in the garden a couple weeks ago and Shaun-ta' took a closer look at the pepper plants.  She excitedly called me over to look.  Out of the 6 of them a couple seemed to have some green stem just below the dirt.  We almost pulled them up a couple of times, sure glad we didn't.

Green Jalapeno Plant 1 (notice the small green stem to the rt. of the stalk)
So this last Saturday we were out looking at the progress of our garden and planning some plantings and we noticed some green around the base of some of the pepper plants.  We first passed if off as weeds (weeds are okay to grow around a point).  After a closer look we realized that it was little pepper shoots emerging from the base of the old plant.  We will keep you posted on the progression of these 2 Jalapeno plants.  We planted some other pepper seeds in another bed last week.  I am excited to see how well last year's plant will do in comparison to the planted seeds.

Green Jalapeno shoots Plant 2
I anticipate they will out perform last year because of the head start since they emerged when the weather was right and because they have last years root system to grow from.  By not having to deal with shock and acclimatization like a seedling or the germination and early establishing growth of a seed.  The other benefit is we know these plants did well in our garden last year, some of the other peppers we planted did not do well.   I hope they are successful.  If this turns out to work great we will make even more effort to protect them over the winter next year.  Maybe the Tomatoes too...

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