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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - March 24, 2010

From: Garden City, KS
Region: Midwest
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: Will a chile pequin survive winters in Garden City, Kansas
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, I am trying to determine if a chile pequin (Capsicum annuum) can survive Kansas winters. My sister lives in Killeen, TX, and has a couple of these bushes in her yard. She brought me a small plant in a pot. The Native Plant Database states that the plant distribution includes states like Utah and Pennsylvania, which both also have cold winters, but does not say whether it will survive hard frosts. I want to know if I can put the chile in my garden, or if it should continue to live in a pot and come indoors during the winter. Thank you, Elaine

ANSWER:

We found information that this plant was hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 9a; Garden City KS is in Zone 5a to 6b . The plant is not native to Kansas and we suspect that in the areas you mentioned, it is grown as an annual. Our Native Plant Database does, indeed, refer to  Capsicum annuum (cayenne pepper) as both a perennial and an annual, and the species name "annuum" would appear to bear out the assumption that it is an annual. In Killeen, Zone 8a, in a sheltered location, they probably can be left in the ground year-round. In your area, we would recommend planting them outside for the Summer, because they are so showy in the garden and then following the Propagation Instructions below to make new plants for the next year. These instructions refer to a "mild" winter not freezing them back, but we doubt if average annual minimum temperatures of -20 to -5 deg. F, which is what you ordinarily have in the Garden City area, can be quantified as "mild."

Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: Take cuttings throughout summer or start seeds in late winter in a greenhouse setting.
Seed Treatment: Completely dry ripened fruits in a cool dry area and then break out the fresh seed and store in a dry, refrigerated setting until ready to plant
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Can be pruned to shape or to control height. Mild winter will not freeze them to the ground but it can be helpful to prune them back anyway to refresh if the plant is several years old.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Capsicum annuum

Capsicum annuum

Capsicum annuum

Capsicum annuum

 

 

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