The Black Pepper plant is native to South India. Piper nigrum is a tropical vine also known as the peppercorn plant. It’s from this perennial vine that pepper is produced by grinding the small berries. Pepper is one of the oldest spices in history with references in ancient Roman and Greek texts.
Black Pepper Appearance
The Black Pepper Plant has a vining growth habit with small, dark-green leaves. The vines grow several feet long and require a trellis for support when grown in pots. Regular pruning helps control the size of the plant, but a large pot and some space is still required. The white blooms appear in summer and will eventually die off and produce the peppercorns this plant is prized for.
Peppercorn Plant Light Requirements
Provide at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. If possible, some afternoon shade is ideal. Exposure from an East or West-facing window works well. When daylight hours are limited, supplement light by using an LED growing light.
Watering Your Black Pepper Plant
Growing Peppercorns in pots requires you keep the soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Water when the soil’s surface feels dry. Water just until the moisture runs through the pot’s drainage holes. Whenever possible, water your plant early in the day.
Soil and Fertilizer Requirements
Grow black pepper plants in a well-draining, loamy soil with added compost for nutrients. A slightly acidic pH of between 5.5 to 6.5 is ideal. Fertilize your Peppercorn plant once every two weeks during the spring and summer. Use a fertilizer with an NPK of 7-9-5 or one designed for blooming plants. Withhold feedings in the fall and winter.
Temperature and Humidity Levels
Maintain temperatures of around 70 Fahrenheit (21 Celsius) during the day. Avoid temperatures below 60 F (15.5 C) as it inhibits growth. A humidity level of around 50 percent is ideal. Supplement low humidity with either a humidifier or a pebble tray.
Harvesting Your Peppercorns
Green, blush or red, and black peppercorns are all produced from the same plant. The difference between them is when the peppercorns are harvested. Green peppercorns have a more earthy/citrus flavor, while black peppercorns have been allowed to mature and dry. The peppercorns need a quick blanche to clean them and then allowed to dry.
Propagating Peppercorn Plants
Cuttings are the best way to propagate Black Pepper Plants. Snip a healthy, 4-inch long stem. Dip the cut end into a rooting hormone and plant in a pot filled with potting soil. Peppercorn plants root easily and will produce roots in a few weeks.
Common Pests and Diseases
A common pest of the Peppercorn Plant is the flea beetle. Uneven holes chewed in the leaves is a sign of these insects. Rinse the pests off with a spray nozzle or use neem oil for larger infestations.
Root rot is a common disease caused by either overwatering your plant or using soil with poor drainage. The correct one, or both, of these leading causes to prevent further damage. Remove any affected foliage. For advanced cases of rot, inspect the root system and trim away any dark and mushy roots. Repot the Stevia plant in a clean pot with fresh soil to eliminate the soil bacteria causing the rot.
Pepper is one of the most-used spices in the world and enhances the flavor of countless dishes and food items. Growing Peppercorns indoors is easier than one would think and ensures you always have a fresh supply.
No, the Peppercorn Plant is not considered toxic to cats and dogs but ingesting a large amount of the peppercorns may cause digestive issues.
Black Pepper Plants will only grow as perennial plants in USDA zones 12 and above. They will grow as an annual in cooler climates but the area must have temperatures warm enough to allow the plant to grow, bloom, and produce peppercorns before the weather becomes too cold.
Repot your Black Pepper Plant once the plant becomes root bound. Gently remove the plant from its current pot and plant it in a pot one size larger.
Pepper is used in countless dishes as a flavor enhancer while cooking or once plated to balance the dish’s flavors.
Peppercorns retain their flavor best when stored whole. Keep them in an airtight container until they need to be placed in a pepper mill or used whole for brines.