Piper nigrum, native to South India, is a perennial that produces black peppercorns. Dried peppercorns are crushed to make black pepper. What’s fascinating is that this plant can also produce white and green pepper, depending on when the fruit is picked. Even if you don’t live in the humid tropics (USDA Zones 10 or 11), you can grow your own black pepper indoors.
Position the small, metal trellis in your pot. Note that your pepper plant can grow up to 33 feet tall, so for space limitations, 36 inches (or 3 feet) for a trellis works well.
Pour half of your African violet soil up to 4 inches from the top. Use 1 1/2 gallons of soil per 8 inches of pot; use 2 1/2 gallons soil for a 10-inch pot. Ohio State University suggests the bigger the better for container gardening. Make sure the pot has holes in the bottom for ventilation.
Twist off the landscaping pot from the roots of the black pepper plant with one hand and carefully set the root ball in the new container, centered in front of the trellis. Pour in the remaining soil, patting it down around your plant.
Use two types of fertilizers, timed-release and water soluble, both because nutrients dry out of the soil. Start with using a 10-10-10, 13-13-13 or 14-14-14 formula of slow release fertilizer. The ratio is 1/2 tablespoon fertilizer to 1 gallon of soil mix. When your pepper plant begins to show fruit, consider a super bloom fertilizer. Look for a 10-50-10 or 19-59-9 mixture, adding once a week. Instead, you could use Miracle Gro 15-30-15, a water soluble fertilizer, once a week.
Station this woody vine in the sunniest window. Because it’s a tropical plant that needs humidity, indoor temperatures must be a minimum of 65 to 70 degrees F. Do not move it because it needs all the sun it can get. Mist the leaves with warm water every three days. Also water it every three days until the soil is moist. Take care to not over water.
Pollinate your plant by gently shaking the stems or rub the pistols in the flower. It will not produce fruit otherwise. Be aware your pepper plant may not produce fruit for the first three years and it must be at least 70 degrees F. Pick the red fruits off the vine, boiling them in water for 10 minutes. After they turn black, spread them out on a paper towel. Lay them in the sun (in or outside depending on the season) for five days. To crack them, you can lay them on foil and use a meat mallet to crush them. Or, you can pour them into a pepper mill, which crushes them as you twist.
Things You Will Need
- Piper nigrum plant
- 1 (8- to 10-inch) planting container of resin, ceramic or terra-cotta
- African violet soil mix
- Wren 36-inch scroll trellis or a conical climbing structure (wire cage)
- Slow release fertilizer formula (10-10-10, 13-13-13 or 14-14-14)
- Miracle-Gro fertilizer
- Keep your soil is moist and do not let it dry out, especially during the summer.
- Grown properly the plant can live up to 40 years.
- Store peppercorns in an airtight glass container in a cool, dark, dry place. Whole peppercorns do not expire but ground pepper only stays fresh for three months.