Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Perpetual Peppers

I love my Padron pepper. I love the way it yields loads of delicious peppers for frying; I love the way it overwintered so cheerfully, despite really cold weather; I love that every once in a while it throws a really hot little pepper, just to keep the eater on their toes.

Even though it did overwinter, I'm a little leery of assuming that everything is going to be hunky-dory again. We could have a harder freeze, or I could just want more peppers than one (admittedly champion) plant will produce. Friends could want in on the Padron-love.

So I decided to try making more of the very same plant through the magic of cuttings. When I worked as a garden helper on a posh estate, we took cuttings of things all the time. Sometimes they worked, sometimes not, but it was pretty fun all the same.

I tried to get tips that would be both woody enough for self-support and green enough to be sprouty, although it was guesswork on my part. I remembered to cut a diagonal end on the stem, causing more of the rooting layer to be exposed. Unless that only goes for trees. At any rate, these had a diagonal tip.

A simple jar of powdered rooting hormone is supposed to promote root growth. After dipping the cut end, I tapped off any extra powder. No sense wasting it, and there were as many dire warnings on the stuff as you'd imagine. No eye contact, skin contact, breathing it in, ingesting. . . I didn't want to see if I'd sprout roots, so I just didn't touch it or snuffle it up my nose.

I tried to keep as much of the powder on the stem as I put the cutting into its pot of soil. A pencil made holes that were just about the right size. Quite a few of the cuttings came from sideways branches, so they were leaning all akimbo. I figured if the cuttings take, it won't matter how they were leaning.

They're all resting under a plastic dome, for humidity. Because the cuttings don't have any roots (yet) to take up moisture, but have lots of leaves to expire moisture, they are a little sad looking today. I did trim many leaves off, and also cut off any buds. There were a surprising amount of them for cold December weather. Such a great plant! At any rate, if this works, I'll have a dozen new pepper plants, certainly enough to share.


Rachel said...

I'm so jealous that you have a pepper plant that can be overwintered! All of mine, are pretty much gonzo, except for one of my serranos that doesn't look any worse for wear. Maybe I will have a perennial pepper after all! I'm not keeping my hopes up though.

As for cuttings, when I took plant propagation, they always had us trim it down to just two leaves and then we snipped part of those leaves off. This really helped keep them from losing too much moisture.

Michelle said...

Mmm, Padrons, aren't they fabulous! I'm far too lazy to try to propagate my plants from cuttings, besides, I have too many seeds since I bought a packet of seeds last year, put it away so carefully that I couldn't find it, bought a replacement packet, and then found the first packet... Oh, and there's another packet hanging around from a different seed supplier. Dang, I should start a bunch of plants and sell them!

I don't think you'll have a problem getting at least some of those cuttings to take. This past spring one of my Padron seedlings was severed by a rat (of course) and I took the severed plant, stuck it in a jar of water and put it on my kitchen window sill. The dang thing rooted in water, but get this, I let it sit in the water for I don't know how many MONTHS, and it continued to live... So I finally took pity on the hardy little thing and planted it in a pot, where it promptly started to grow like a weed and it bloomed and gave me peppers. It's still in that pot, still alive, still got a few peppers on it. If I try to start any plant from cuttings, it will be from that one.

Kristin said...

I hope it works and thanks for the instruction! I love your roasted peppers with a touch of salt.

Dan said...

Happy Holidays!

kitsapFG said...

I wish I had a pepper plant to take cuttings from... sadly mine have been gone for months now. I may have to take extra pains next year and overwinter a plant and create some cuttings too. I did cuttings of my tree kale/collard and got several nice child plants from the mother plant for my efforts. Gave a few away but have a bunch that I kept.

Christina said...

Fantastic! I've never tried peppers form cuttings, but now I'm on it. Thanks for the inspiration!