Peppers, Roses & Native Plants

Q. Can you tell me what has happened to my hot peppers? For the second year, they grow to about a foot tall no taller and the flowers that form drop off. I planted them in April and they’re in a location that gets lots of sun. What do I need to do to solve my dilemma?

A. Hot or Chili peppers fail to flourish and flowers because of temperature, poor pollination or air circulation, and excess nitrogen. Of these, temperature is the most likely cause. Chili Peppers are extremely sensitive to temperature. It’s the night time temperature that the most critical as they like warm days and nights. The plants stagnate when the temperatures dips below fifty-five degrees and the cool conditions prevent buds from forming. Once the plants stop growing, they are very slow to recover when the temperatures warm up. It’s more likely to be a problem with those plants planted in March/April than those planted in May. You avoid this problem by planting around Mother’s Day. By then, the rainy season should be over and the temperature should be on the rise. If we’re having a cool and wet early spring then delay the planting. Poor air circulation, and pollination is not usually a problem with the in ground plantings but with those in containers especially those growing next to a wall. You’ll find pepper blossoms are even more sensitive to temperature during pollination. You may need to entice pollinators to the area by adding some brightly colored flowers nearby, such as Marigolds. Excess nitrogen causes the plant to puts all of its energy into foliage growth. Low fertility and low moisture levels can also result in poor flowering, bud drop and stunted growth along with irregular watering. But I don’t believe that poor air circulation or excess nitrogen is you problem. Next year my suggestion is to stagger you’re planting to see the difference. I’d plant one plant in April, May and even June and evaluate the performance. The late season planting will be the better performers.

Q. My climbing roses have finished blooming for the year. They need to be pruned as they’re way too dense. Can I prune them way back now?

A. This is one of those yes, no, or depends on, answers. You’d do your heaviest pruning on all types of roses during the winter months. They’re also pruned after every flush of flowers to shape the plants and control their size. It’s not unusual for many varieties of roses to bloom year round although the foliage isn’t pristine. The exception is Lady Banksia and Cecil Brunner because their spring bloomers and should be sheared back after the blooming period. When their cut back during the winter, the spring flowers are not as dramatic. With older Hybrid Tea varieties such as Peace, Chrysler Imperial, or Queen Elizabeth, you need to be careful pruning them severely as they bloom on the second year wood. If you prune too heavy, you’ll get no flowers next year. If this is a variety introduced this century then these varieties for the most part bloom on both the new and old wood. So, it doesn’t matter what’s removed or left. The biggest concern with pruning all types of roses way back or severely during the summer months is sunburn. The green, exposed canes will be damaged from the mid to late afternoon sun. These canes turn black on those plants facing south, west or in the southwest direction. These damaged canes typically die. You protect the canes by leaving a fair amount of leaves. If you live inland where it gets hot, I’d wait till winter to prune while your odds for success is greater along the coast. Again, this applies to cutting them back severely. You can thin out some of the growth now as long as you don’t exposed to many of the green canes. I could be more specific if the variety was known. If it is, then I’d consult a nursery professional at your favorite garden center for his or her opinion. They’re the best resource for what would be best in your area.Q. I removed my lawn and replaced it with California Natives and other water-wise plants. They have been in for two years and are doing very well. I’m very pleased. Do you know if they have any special fertilizer requirements?

A. Native plants have no special fertilizer requirements as they’re not heavy feeders. True California Natives are best fed in November just before the rains while the rest are fed in early March before the flush of new growth. I’d take the plant list to your favorite garden center and have the nursery professional advice you as to which time period is best for each plant. I’d use a general organic fertilizer like EB Stone or Dr Earth Organic All Purpose Fertilizer. One application is all that’s necessary per year.