Growing firepods in the Coastal Plains of North Carolina...
That Old Tabasco Plant
I decided to overwinter the potted Tabasco plant at the end of the 1999 season, and it has turned out very well. It lost some leaves when I first brought it indoors for good (the other potted plants
lost *all* of their leaves and quickly died), but it started putting out new growth as well, and was reasonably happy and
healthy all winter long in a 10 inch diameter clay pot under two 65 watt incandescent grow bulbs.
Sitting in the corner of my den, the poor plant had to withstand extended periods of 90 F plus heat while my woodstove was burning, and occasional plunges below 50 F when it wasn't, which the plant weathered like a champ. By the time I
started hardening it the first week of March 2000, it was a bit over three feet tall, and about three feet in diameter. It was 13 months old at this point.
After spending a week progressively exposing the plant to direct sunlight and outdoor conditions, I began to leave the plant on the front porch (morning sun), bringing it in during the cold snaps (which were frequent here this spring).
By the beginning of May 2000, the plant was budding. I repotted it into a 12 inch clay pot a week after the first buds formed. By 27 May the first peppers were beginning to form.
By the end of June, the plant was even bigger and covered with hundreds of peppers. Fruit density was at least equal to the previous year, if not higher. On 8 July, I noticed the first pepper to begin ripening, and a week later I harvested the first peppers
from That Old Tabasco Plant, which was about 17 months old at that point.
As of mid-September 2000, the plant was still about three feet tall, but its diameter had increased to about 5-6 feet... it was no longer a pepper plant so much as a sprawling bush. At this point I had harvested 450 peppers from this plant (just this season), and
it was still setting new fruit. Peak harvest to this point was the first three weeks of August, during which time 40% of the peppers were taken.
I brought the Tabasco plant back indoors in early October when the first frost was forecasted, returning it to the same place it occupied last winter, and using the same two lights I used last winter. By late October, I had harvested almost 600 peppers from this
plant this season, and there were still at least 100 unripe peppers on it yet.
In late October, the Tabasco plant began to lose leaves in great quantities. By early November, the plant had lost 80 - 90% of its leaves, although I was still harvesting peppers from it semi-regularly; there were at most 100 peppers left on the plant at this point.
Leaf loss last winter was negligible compared to this time around.
Final harvest count for 2000: 691 peppers!
By January 2001, the Tabasco had generated an appreciable amount of new growth, notwithstanding the heavy leaf loss. In mid-January, I pruned the plant back, removing all of the branches that did not have
any leaves, which was about 2/3 to 3/4 of them.
Unfortunately, the Tabasco did not survive the winter; it was completely dead by springtime. Seemingly, it lost too many leaves, too early, to keep the stems alive until spring, even after the dead stems were pruned off.
I did not repot this plant at the end of 2000 like I did the first time; I am wondering if having done so would have made a difference.
Last updated 31 January 2015.
(c) 1999-2016 Mike Whittemore
All graphics (c) 1999-2016 Mike Whittemore
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