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Popular Houseplant Profiles: C

Capsicum annuum- ornamental pepper

Solanum pseudocapsicum- Jerusalem cherry

Ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum); photo courtesy of Flickr cc/ Jim, the Photographer
Ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum); photo courtesy of Flickr cc/ Jim, the Photographer

The ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum) and the Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum) are members of the Solanaceae (potato) family, native to South America, with similar cultural requirements.

The ornamental pepper is prized for its spectacular red fruit, which can be eaten if the plant has been organically grown. The peppers start out green, turn white, purple, red and orange. Often all these colors may be present on the plant simultaneously.

The Jerusalem cherry  has non-edible, poisonous, round, bright orange or yellow fruits.

Cultural Requirements

Light:

Give them a minimum of 4 hours of direct sun every day, preferably with an eastern exposure.

Watering:

Water thoroughly when the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch. Do not allow the plants to wilt.

Temperature:

These South American natives prefer warm day temperatures of a minimum of 70°F in the day and between 60 to 65°F at night.

Humidity:

Normal room humidity is adequate.

Feeding:

During the growing season, feed once a month with a water soluble, tomato-type, liquid fertilizer.

Transplanting:

Since both act as annuals indoors, it is not recommended to make them last for more than one season. Once the fruiting period is over, in later winter or early spring, these plants really decline in vigor and should be discarded.

Propagation:

They are easily grown from seed between January and early March. The seedlings are best grown outdoors over the summer and brought back indoors before the first frost. They can be grown indoors from seed as well; take care to give them only the gentle, eastern, morning sun.

Maintenance:

Keep pinching back stem tips every few weeks during the growing season as this will encourage branching and flower production.

Special Note:

Remember to discard when plants go into decline; they are grown as annuals and need to be treated as such and normally are not worth trying to keep on.

Cyclamen persicum - florist's cyclamen

Cyclamen persicum; photo courtesy of Flickr cc/ Jam343
Cyclamen persicum; photo courtesy of Flickr cc/ Jam343

Cyclamen is an unusual plant with dark green, heart-shaped foliage and butterfly-like flowers in colors ranging from white to light pink, lavender, hot pink and purple.

Cultural Requirements

Light:

Bright light all day with one to two hours of full sun is ideal as long as the exposure is not too hot.

Watering:

If possible, water cyclamen from below, as the corm-like tubers can easily become waterlogged. Do this by setting potted plants in a shallow, water-filled bowl. The plant will then take up as much water as it needs. After about 10 minutes take the plant out of the bowl and let it drain. If you must water from above, water as close to the edge of the rim of the pot as possible; this will avoid any accumulation of water in the center of the plant.

Temperature:

The cyclamen grows best when temperatures can be kept cool during the day and at night - between 60º and 72º F during the day and 50º to 65º F at night. Short lived cyclamen are the result of warm growing conditions.

Humidity:

A relative humidity above 50% is preferred to successfully grow cyclamen. Provide additional humidity by standing plants on shallow trays filled with moistened pebbles and/or using a humidifier.

Feeding:

Fertilize every two weeks with a water soluble, high phosphorous, liquid fertilizer after the dormant period (March to May) is over.

Transplanting:

Once the plant stops flowering and the leaves begin to yellow, hold off on watering and keep in a cool location out of direct sunlight. When the leaves easily separate from the tuber, repot it in a mixture of equal parts sterilized, houseplant, potting soil and perlite. Allow the top half of the tuber to be about ½" above the soil level. After repotting, resume watering and give cyclamen as much light as possible.

Propagation:

Cyclamen is easily grown from seed under fluorescent lights for about 15 to 16 hours per day. Seeds started in winter will produce flowers in about a year.

Maintenance:

When cyclamen goes into spring dormancy, water only to keep corm from shriveling. Remove all leaves gently from corm after they have dried and yellowed and repot into a new pot with fresh soil mix.

Special Note:

Always select plants with the most buds, as the blooming cycles will last longer. In warm, dry, indoor environments, cyclamen can be attacked by cyclamen mites. Be sure to keep the night temperatures as cool as possible and provide extra humidity.

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