Capsicum X hybridum: Red Pepper

In this website, a separate section is assigned to annuals, otherwise it deals only with perennials. However, it is sometimes very difficult to determine the borderline between annuals and perennials for many annuals will last a number of years if provided with warm conditions in winter, and thus this division varies in different parts of the world. The pepper, Capsicum annuum, whose Latin name suggests that it is an annual, is also long-lived and grows into a large 2-m (6-ft) shrub if given congenial conditions. Furthermore, in the hybridization that yielded the decorative forms perennial species were used, chiefly Capsicum frutescens and C. baccatum, as well as many species of the genus Solatium (nightshade), such as S. capsicastrum. Anyone trying to determine the parentage of the modern hybrid peppers would not find the task easy for many of the plants selected for crossing were themselves hybrids, often the result of chance, self-hybridization in a greenhouse where several species were grown side by side.

The most attractive forms have been raised by the Japanese, past masters of horticulture. They succeeded in breeding fruits of widely varied shape and size, ranging in colour from white through green and yellow, and the standard red and orange to black and blackish-violet. A very good selection of ornamental peppers is also to be found in the United States.

Ornamental peppers are usually sold in the autumn covered with brightly coloured fruit and care is focused on keeping them thus as long as possible. They should be put in a well-lit spot in a cool room, best of all with a temperature of about 10°C (50°F). In a room that is too warm the plant soon drops its leaves and sometimes even dies. In spring sow several seeds from the dry fruits and grow new plants in a sunny window. Hard-prune the old plant and transfer it to fresh, fairly heavy, nourishing compost, such as John Innes potting compost. Place the pot in a warm position in full sun where the plant will usually put out new shoots. A word of warning, however; because ornamental peppers are generally also descended from the genus Solarium, the fruits are poisonous!

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles | Comments Off on Capsicum X hybridum: Red Pepper

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