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Capsicums ripening on the branch
Capsicums are the sweet, mild members of the chilli family. Eaten fresh, roasted, barbecued or stir-fried, they lend a unique sweetness to a variety of dishes and are packed with vitamins. Commonly referred to by their colour, capsicums also come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

 

What you need to know about capsicum

Name: capsicum, sweet pepper, bell pepper, Capsicum sp.

Height: 50cm.

Foliage: perennial plant with evergreen foliage that is usually grown as an annual in cold and warm temperate climates.

Climate: capsicums grow in all climates, from cold temperate to the tropics.

Soil: a soil enriched with compost and decomposed manure. Do not plant in soils that have had eggplants or tomatoes in the previous season.

Position: full sun.

Flowering and fruiting: in cold and warm climates, capsicum is grown through spring and summer, while in warm and tropical areas, it can be grown almost all year round, usually fruiting 12–15 weeks after sowing or planting.

Feeding: apply lime at planting and top dress with manure monthly. Do not disturb the roots.

Watering: water deeply less often. Periodic soakings are best, with frequency depending on your soil type (plants in sandy soils or potted plants will need more frequent watering than those in clay or improved soils rich in organic matter).

Appearance and characteristics of capsicum

Capsicum is a sturdy, compact bush, usually laden with fruit for several months. Green fruits are more “grassy”, while red, yellow and orange fruits have a rich, sweet flavour. Capsicums need warm weather to germinate and grow.

Always pick the fruit using secateurs to prevent damaging the plant’s weak branches. Pick the fruit when immature (green) or fully ripe, but do not leave it too long, as overripe fruit attracts pests and disease.

Close up of capsicums

How to plant and grow capsicum from seed

  1. Start capsicum seeds in a propagating tray. In cool climates, a heated propagating mat can help with germination.
  2. Sow seeds in individual cells using a good-quality seed-raising mix.
  3. Sow to a depth of around 5mm, and water.
  4. Seed-raising mix should be moist, not wet. Seedlings should germinate in 2–3 weeks.
  5. When seedlings have at least two sets of leaves, plant out into a well-prepared vegetable-garden bed enriched with decomposed manure and compost (only after the likelihood of frost has passed).
  6. Space at least 50–60cm apart.
  7. The larger fruiting varieties may need support (or staking) if fruit becomes too large or abundant for the branches. Small varieties are usually self-supporting.

Capsicum also grows well in pots. Seeds can be sown directly in tropical and sub-tropical climates.

Caring for capsicum

Regular watering is essential to good fruit development and plant growth. Water once or twice a week during hot dry weather, or more regularly in pots or sandy soils. Mulch to conserve soil moisture and avoid wetting the foliage. In improved soils (enriched with compost, manure and lime), capsicum requires very little additional fertiliser; a fortnightly application of seaweed solution during fruiting or a monthly application of decomposed manure on the soil surface will help to keep plants healthy and productive.

Diseases and pests affecting capsicum

Snails and slugs can cause problems for young seedlings. Protect with pet-friendly or organic snail and slug pellets or traps. Generally pest-free once established, capsicum can suffer fungal problems if planted too closely or crowded in the garden, especially in humid climates. Space at a minimum of 50cm to allow adequate ventilation and airflow.

Capsicum can suffer sunburn or flower drop if temperatures hit more than 38°C. Shade if possible when extreme weather is expected. Naturally healthy plants will be more abundant and leafy, subsequently shading the developing fruit. Apply a seaweed solution fortnightly over the fruiting season for improved plant health and vigour.

Blossom end rot can be an issue with capsicum if soil is low in calcium. Adding lime at planting helps to prevent this from occurring, as does regular watering and mulching.

How to propagate capsicum

Capsicum is propagated by seed collected from inside mature fruit.

  1. Simply collect the seed and place on a sheet of paper towel to dry.
  2. After a week, seed can be stored in an envelope in a warm, dry location until sowing.
  3. Make sure you label the envelope with the name, variety and date.
  4. Seed is always best when used within 1–2 years.

If you like this then try

Chillies: the spicier members of the capsicum family.

Tomato: plant at the same time as capsicum for a bumper harvest.

Eggplant: popular in Mediterranean cuisine, and the ideal partner to peppers.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!

 

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