Growing peppercorn plants (piper nigrum)...

April 13, 2008

I ordered some peppercorn seeds from Reimer a few weeks back. They're cheap enough that if I never get them to grow, I won't feel cheated. Anyway, I don't know exactly what I expected when they arrived... I've seen peppercorns (unground pepper) before, and I realized they were (at least partially) the seed itself. The seeds look pretty much like any other peppercorn, though hopefully more viable.

I planted 4 for now, I've got them in plastic yogurt cups, a quarter inch deep in good black soil (I believe it was a 50/50 mix of some cheap potting soil and Moo-nure from Home Depot). I keep them moist, using a spray bottle, the soil never gets dry but it does drain well. So far, it's been over two weeks and not even a hint of germination.

Does anyone have any advice? Am I just being impatient?

Supposing I do get them to grow, I was thinking of putting them in a 1 gallon plastic planter (about 9" dia, 12" deep) and using one of the round wire cages as a trellis. The one I have for this is roughly 40" tall... will this be tall enough? I had thought that would be plenty for my snap peas, but they needed more, and I end up repeating the same mistake with every vining plant I try to grow.

What kind of lighting will these plants need? Can I keep them in the partial shade indoors near a window? How long will they live, will I have to plant new ones each season?

I'd like very much to grow my own pepper if I can. I do know that Georgia probably isn't the ideal location for them, but I'm willing to try to reproduce an environment that the plants favor.

Finally, one last question. Supposing I'm mostly successful, what kind of yields can I expect per plant?

Comments (26)

  • Daisyduckworth

    I don't have much, but it might help:

    Perennial climbing vine to 10 metres. Native to south-west India. Berries grow in clusters, on long spikes. A single stem will bear 20-30 fruiting spikes. Each spike may produce 50 or more single-seeded fruits. Green berries turn red as they ripen. Propagate by seeds, planted 1cm deep, or by cuttings. Needs plenty of water, shade, humidity and heat. It takes 3-4 years before the first fruit can be harvested. Plants are most productive when about 8 years old but will continue bearing for up to 30 years. The plant needs a support such as a trellis. It will grow well when its roots are waterlogged and is suitable for planting near a pond. Hardy to 0°C although growth will retard and damage may occur below 4°C.

    Clusters of peppercorns are harvested after 3 years from planting the cuttings. For black peppercorns, harvest the berries before they are fully ripe, when they are still green, then dry. For white peppercorns, berries should be picked once they are fully ripe and the red outer shell removed, leaving a grey-white kernel.

  • grovespirit

    This plant is a pain to start from seed. It is way, way easier to start from a rooted cutting.

    Like many tropicals, it hates its seeds to be watered with tap water because chlorine, alkaline minearls, or salts found in tap water inhibit its sprouting. It needs very pure water such as rainwater or reverse-osmosis water.

    The seeds you have are quite possibly dormant too. As with many tropical berries, the germination of over-ripe pepper seeds is reported to be greater than the germination of less mature seeds. Seed suppliers can't usually let the pepper berries get over-ripe because it is messy and risks birds making off with the crop. So they are harvested before that stage and this causes dormancy.

    Treatments to the seed coat and alternating temperatures may promote germination, but careful regulation of moisture, temperature and light in the environment may be necessary for germination to occur. Make sure the seeds are kept at a temp as close as possible to 25 degrees Celsius and do not let them dry out.

    Scarification (pre-treatment to break dormancy) with concentrated sulphuric acid, for 2 minutes to simulate what happens when the seeds are eaten by birds or animals, followed by thorough rinsing and then low light sowing is recommended for this species. Applying red light for 2 hours every 8-12 hrs also may help.

    In nursery cultivation seeds may germinate satisfactorily provided they are sown shallow, or on top of sand, or in the shade. It is suggested that seeds of Piper spp. be tested for germination at 25°C with red light applied, for 2 hours in every 8-12 hours.

    Sources: personal experience and URL below. The online document is a manual from Bioversity International on seed testing for seedbanks. Seedbanks need to keep track of germination techniques for all their plants, so they can test seeds for viability.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Bioversity International

  • clasher

    So, how did this work out for you?

  • mommystuff

    I've been growing the black and red varities of this plant for a couple of years. Last year the black pepper finally had pepper pods on it. It was incredible. There certainly wasn't enough for my family of 5, but I had great fun picking off the seeds and letting people try them. The flavor is MUCH hotter and stronger than the dried black pepper we purchase here in the US. My plants have been moved several times in the last couple of years due to home renovations, but they always snap back without a problem. One in particular is quite large and taking over the side of my house. I purchased all of them as very small plants rather than trying from seed. If you would like a picture of the large one, just email and I'll get one posted for you. Good luck!

  • orchidguyftl

    I have a plant that has become a proverbial weed.
    When some of the seeds fall off the plant they germinate pretty easilly in the warm and humid atmosphere.
    The seedlings are slow to grow once sprouted, but after a few years they grow very fast. Anywhere the vine touches soil, it roots in and sprouts again.
    They seem to like lots of moisture, the part growing near the pond is growing much faster then where its drier. In the spring it gets its flower spikes, you can barely even see the flowers, and are followed by the berries. As mentioned previously, the flavor is much stronger when picked right from the plant, I love to pick one and chew on it while doing some yard work, but be sure to have plenty of water, the flavor is VERY intense

  • rickpaul

    I have tried to grow them from seeds but they never germinate. Any ideas? Where can I buy the plants? thanks a lot......rick

  • herbalbetty

    Companion Plants has it. They are an herb nursery in Ohio who mail plants.

  • rickpaul

    Thanks, would have their e-address?......rick

  • rickpaul

    Thanks a lot.......rick

  • jeshanlon_verizon_net

    I have a piper nigrum for about a year. The plant has little white round things on the underside of the leaf. I thing it may be some kind of nutrient going out of the plant. Any ideal what this may be and how to fix it.

  • pctek

    I've been reading this and other forums on the plant for 2 years now.
    I got some seeds and had zero success - until a couple of weeks ago.
    Normally it is very humid here in Auckland but last year wasn't. Took a while this year too, but a few weeks ago the humidity arrived so I put 5 more seeds in some home made compost.
    Watered with tap water and waited. Finally have a seedling now, it's just started its 4th it really does want a LOT of humidity, I'd say it doesn't care much about anything else, cause I'd tried all these other suggestions and finally now, just a pot, compost and 5 seeds I have finally got one.
    I am a wee bit worried it will go mad and sprout all over, but hey, I can also spend the rest of my life weeding them out!

    This post was edited by pctek on Sat, Jan 19, 13 at 14:43

  • gvozdika

    Thank you for the information, pctek. Could you tell about the temperature? From what I've read, it should be +25C plus/minus 5C. Thank you.

  • Dunning

    This thread is a bit old but if any of the Central Florida folks who have rooted cuttings of piper nigrum are still around, I'd be interested in a few.



  • Dunning

    This thread is a bit old but if any of the Central Florida folks who have rooted cuttings of piper nigrum are still around, I'd be interested in a few.



  • anoopdhc

    Yes black pepper germinates from seeds.

    However in Malabar(Kerala) propagation of black pepper is usually done by cuttings and not by seed, it is much easier and reliable.

    You can attempt to sow seeds provided you do not get the pepper balls from super market because the ones that are on shelves are processed and they will not germinate.
    Also peppercorns are not allowed to ripen on the vine. they are harvest much before that so again germination gets effected.

    Look for farmers who can source you good ripe seeds.

    We boil the peppercorns in water just after harvesting and sun dry it for 3 days. This increases the shelf life and color of black pepper.

    Attached image is of peppercorns germinated while still holding the peppercorncap.

    You can read more here. I own and manage this blog. Trying to document the traditional farming knowledge of Kerala. Only sad part is more than 80% of traditional wealth is lost because of green and white revolution.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Black Pepper from kerala

  • kempette

    I know this is an old thread- but I have an active peppercorn plant- seems to be growing up happily but it has these crystals on the leaves- they look like tiny salt crystals- & I cannot, for the life of me figure out what they are.

    I life in New England, so my peppercorn plant is an indoor one & relatively young. I looked up whitefly & it doesn't appear to be that... thoughts?

    Thank you in advance, I'm stumped.

  • fatamorgana2121

    Crystals? Do you spritz or spray it with water? Well water in my area of NY State is notoriously "hard" - ie full of minerals. That can leave white deposits on just about anything the water has dried on. Maybe in your location too?


  • CA Kate z9

    Insect Eggs?

  • Noel.101

    Not eggs and not mineral deposits. Its just a normal part of the plant's growth. I live in CT near a tropical plant greenhouse, Logee's and they have answered this question for me. Nothing to worry about.

  • M K15010

    I'm growing piper nigrum indoors in the winter months (western pa)

    Can the plant be placed directly under t5 florescent light or placed off to the side of the light?

    Thank you so much in advance


  • Common Cents

    I'm about to try starting some Piper nigrum from seeds. I see this thread keeps popping up on the topic.

    I ordered some seeds online. I halfway expected red berry like seeds (ripened seeds, not fully dehydrated). What arrived was something that looked identical to black peppercorns from the spice bottle from the grocery store. The seller of these seeds says they are viable, so I'll give them a try.

    Other than warmth and humidity, are there any special requirements.

    I plan to soak them overnight before planting them. Is that a good idea or not?

    Then I plan to put them in small peat-pots with seed starting mix. I was thinking maybe mix in a bit of sand as well, and cover the seeds with a very light layer of just sand (about 1/8 inch or so, just covering the seeds).

    I'll keep those peat pots in a small plastic "seed starting greenhouse" that I have. To keep the humidity high in that, I was going to put some gravel on the bottom, and put a bit of water in the bottom. I don't want the seed pot sitting in water, because I'm guessing it wants drained soil/starting mix, but I also want the humidity high. I have a heating pad to keep the thing warm (about 80F, which should be fine, right?), and I'll have it under red/blue (mostly red) LED grow lights on a timer.

    How long do Piper nigrum seeds take to germinate? days? weeks? months?

  • Common Cents

    I had forgotten about this post, but someone clicked "like" and it popped up in my feed again.

    Here's an update and progress report.

    I did buy seeds and planted them as I mentioned in my previous post. That was in October of 2015, and they still haven't germinated as of late February 2016. I'm pretty sure they won't germinate, but I've been mostly leaving them alone for now. I have little confidence the seeds were viable. I think I paid a very high price for some peppercorns from a spice bottle.

    I also bought two starter plants last year (around Halloween). Those plants are doing well. I've already taken cuttings from one and I have two additional starts from the cuttings. All are growing new leaves and seem to be healthy. They are growing slowly, but they are under artificial lighting plus some afternoon sun when the weather here is good, and they are in a fairly warm heated room (about 72F temperature). I suspect when summer arrives and I move them to a hot, sunny outdoor location, they will grow much more vigorously.

  • happyman9553

    For us, living in the tropics, like my mini garden in the Western tip of Borneo Island in S.E Asia, we Sarawakians used to plant black pepper by the vines. We select the best leader vines and chop off and plant in the plastic bags for a few mths under the shade or directly into the earth with a good wooden post. When the shoots are sprouting, signs of good growth is on the way. Within a year, the vine will reach up to five feet or above depending on the fertilizer or care one has put in.

    We are great exporter of such berries be they white or black. Cheers...Welcome to Borneo or rather Sarawak to witness our most prestige pepper berries in the world.

  • nicolino_nz

    Hi pctek, i live in NZ as well, how is your peppercorn plant growing? Any chance of a cutting or two sent to me at 116 greenhill road, Ngatimoti 7196, Tasman Bays, NZ cheers Nic

  • Jöān Encabo-Ty

    hello, i know this is an old thread but i thought i’d give it a shot. i live in nz and would love to grow my own peppercorn plant. i’d love to know where to get seeds or cuttings from.any leads would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

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