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Rocoto Overwinters

rocoto overwintering

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#1 synclinorium


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Posted 10 March 2012 - 11:41 AM

I think many of new growers mistakenly assume that overwintering a plant means investing in expensive lights and providing a lot of care and maintenance throughout the winter months. I am convinced that c. pubescens are plants you *need* to overwinter to even bother growing them, so allow me to demonstrate what a modest helping of neglect can produce...

This is a Rocoto that has been receiving West-facing sun through blinds for most of the winter. I cut it back to about two feet tall, it has bushed back out considerably. It gets water whenever I notice the leaves starting to droop, and I might have lightly fertilized it once...

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"But," you might say, "Even so, those windows are pretty large, so it must be getting a decent amount of light." Fair. Here are a couple more examples. This is a small north facing window, again through blinds, that receives no additional light but the small amount of ambient light let out through my grow closet.

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Yeah, the growth is kind of sad looking, but they're alive. That's the point. Stick 'em in a tiny pot and leave them to cling to life for a few months. Come spring, harden them off (probably losing most of the sad growth in the process), and bam, mature plant that's ready to go.

I do wish I did a better job with the pruning on this one, the roots would make for a nice bonchi candidate.

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That's my PSA for the day. If you can find a bit of space in your house near a window, you can probably overwinter a plant. It may not be happy, but as long as you remember to water it occasionally it should survive until plant out. At least, this seems to be the case with c. pubescens, though I can't imagine why this wouldn't also apply to the other species.

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#2 RedtailForester


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Posted 10 March 2012 - 12:09 PM

Great looking plants man!!!

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#3 PaulG


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Posted 10 March 2012 - 01:20 PM

Thanks for posting these pics, synch! That's an awesome
root crown, and I think the growth on the plants doesn't look
too sad to me! I'm really psyched to try to overwinter my
orange rocoto after seeing your pics. Our house has sucky
light so there might just be a chance! Now all I have to is
keep it alive until then!

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#4 synclinorium


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Posted 10 March 2012 - 03:40 PM

I just kept pinching back the growth back if it got too leggy. I think I had them under the grow lights for their first month, but they were growing too quickly, so I just moved them out of the way.

For some reason it seems like Rocotos tolerate lower light levels well. My two largest plants were planted in shade last year and they did alright.

Not pictured is my (fifth) Rocoto overwinter, which has been attacked by the parrot so many times this winter that I'm starting to feel bad. For some reason my housemate's parrot has a vendetta against anything green, so I try to keep the plants far away from it... seedlings especially.

#5 geeme


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Posted 10 March 2012 - 03:41 PM

I started out OW-ing 10 plants this year, 3 of which are rocotos. There are 2 basic approaches to overwintering that apply to all peppers (assuming you live in an area where the temps get too cold) - a) just bring them indoors and treat them like indoor plants so that they continue growing without interruption, and b) bring them indoors or otherwise protect them from too-cold temps and deal with them in a manner so that they go dormant for the winter.

For a), you can either do as synclinorium does and just give them minimal attention, or as he alluded to, give them lots of attention (which includes lots of light and food.) Giving them minimal light and food will slow their growth and likely eliminate pod production for the duration. Giving them lots of light and food will keep them growing at potentially regular-season rates and producing pods. Case in point: My OW's that are in the South-facing bay window are full of flowers and new pods, while my OW's that are not directly in the sunlight flower a bit, but no pods. The stem and leaf growth between the two sets reflects the same.

For b), do a more severe pruning and significantly reduce watering and feeding, and let the plants go dormant for the winter. They continue to grow their roots, of course, but no leaves or stems start until early Spring. This is a good option if you don't want a lot of maintenance during the winter. I did this to my plants in the prior year.

So ultimately, rocotos or not, you should decide on your OW approach depending upon your personal desires and circumstances. You can keep them in smaller pots, for example, if you either let them go dormant or provide low light and food levels. This would be a good consideration if you have limited space for the plants.

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#6 synclinorium


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Posted 10 March 2012 - 03:52 PM

Good points, geeme. I meant to try the latter option this winter but the plants kept on growing... I don't really have anywhere cool enough in my house to put them into dormancy.

And yeah, the Rocotos stopped flowering a while back, I wasn't expecting any pod production out of them. I've seen photos of Rocotos with pods on them indoors relying entirely on south-facing sun, so, I know it's possible. My White Habs, Limon, and Aji Amarillo (small strain) have continued putting out pods under the grow lights- which was nice, as this gives me an isolated seed source in the future.

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