A while back I posted that I was in an experiment to get caper seeds to germinate - an experiment that turned out to be a serious challenge. These type of seeds go into a super dormancy that is extremely difficult to break.
Suzanne Vilardi of Vilardi Gardens and I have solved the problem and also shown how to grow caper plants, not only successfully but productively in the desert. Read our story.
Suzanne has these special plants for sale until her current inventory is gone. See her contact info below for her email
This picture is a collage I made of the mother plant - bud to berry (the bud is what you usually purchase as capers in the condiment aisle - the brined berry is becoming popular at restaurants).
. . .
The Caper Caper Mystery – How To Get Caper Seeds to Germinate
And How To Grow Capers in The Phoenix Metro Area.
I have know Suzanne Vilardi of Vilardi Gardens now for several years, and we wound up with a quest – how to get Caper (Capparis spinosa) to grow successfully here.
In September 2011, I purchased some caper seeds from a reliable source and proceeded to try and germinate them in my usual fashion - pre-soaked for a couple of days and seeded into jiffy pellets and placed in trays. None ever germinated. I chalked it up to the wrong time of year and planned to try again.
Fast forward to October 2012, and I met up with Suzanne at The Urban Farm Nursery and she offered me 2 caper plants she had been growing, and thought I might have good luck with them.
On October 27, 2012 those 2 mother plants went in the ground at my home. One has always done better than the other and is currently in excess of 4 feet across - I have not pruned her, wanting to see what she would do.
In Early 2013 Suzanne and I had a discussion about the difficult of germinating caper seeds, notoriously difficult to break the “super-dormancy” they go into once dried.
The 2 plants were doing okay, having come through their first winter here, however we knew it would be a while before we had any flower etc result from the plants
Suzanne offered to get a fresh packet of seeds and Gibberellic Acid (GA), which is used to assist germination of seeds, and asked if I could trial this process. I agreed.
On March 1, 2013, I prepared the seeds with 2 solutions of GA 500 and 1000 (which were recommended in the accompanying literature).
I also decided to run a comprehensive evaluation and choose multiple other methods of breaking the dormancy through extreme solutions, and one trial of just pre-soaking overnight.
I made solutions using Limequat juice, Pink Grapefruit juice, Beer, Hot Water, Boiling Water (then chilled in the refrigerator) and freezing. – in all 8 different methods were tried.
There were 6 seeds in each method.
The results were more than disappointing. Of all of the batches 1 seed each came up from the Limequat solution and the boiling water/chill. However neither seedling survived more than a couple of weeks.
I was traveling in late 2013 and early 2014 and pictures in May 2014 show the one primary Mother plant doing very well. While assisting a relative with health problems I was back and forth and did not see the flower, but we discovered the first Fruit on August 8, 2014 – SUCCESS!!
The fruit split (the ripened-ready-to-harvest-seed stage) in early October and I mailed the seeds off to Suzanne.
Suzanne: “The fresh seeds were planted in propagation trays mid-October, 2014, with a few emerging about 45 days later and the rest over 90 days, with near 100% germination.“
Suzanne transplanted into 4 inch pots in March, 2015.
In early June I picked up 9 plants to trial for optimal location.
The happiest of the surviving plants (4 did not make it) are in full sun in amended well draining soil given deep watering.
Catherine recommends the following growing conditions and has made these observations:
1) Well draining amended soil.
2) Full or most day sun.
3) Deep watering, then allow to dry out some before watering again.
4) The plants may frost back or go dormant in the winter depending on amount of hard freeze.
5) Flowering begins in late April or early May and continues into late July or early August.
6) Container growing is possible. A large (20-24") container is recommended for optimal growth possibility. The original Mother Plant is now approximately 4 feet across.
The picture is one of the transplants taken July 30, 2015 from a 4” pot transplanted on June 9, 2015.
We believe the Caper plant will do well here in the Phoenix Desert region, and can produce flowers and fruit when the above conditions are followed.
For questions contact
Suzanne Vilardi of Vilardi Gardens – firstname.lastname@example.org
Catherine, The Herb Lady – email@example.com
Wow, thanks for the research!
This was a really fun project, Powell and I am so happy we found success that we can share with other enthusiasts :-)
Wow, what a project! Congratulations! It will be interesting to see how they handle our intense heat of this week, hope they make it!
Thanks for the information, great as usual.
Judy, so far most of them are doing well. I had one collapse about 8 days ago - possibly as a result of the standard watering cycle followed by the big rain last week.
I'm seeing if it will revive :-)
Would be willing to pay for some starts if anyone has them this upcoming weekend?
Suzanne said Summerwinds may still have some for sale. Check the locations nearest you. Next spring (April) there will be more for sale.
Thank you heading there tomorrow Wednesday the 7th of Sept
You are welcome, Paul. Good luck.