Piper nigrum, or Black Pepper, is a monecious or dioecious climbing vine native to Southern India and Sri Lanka. The stout climbing stems are very flexible with leathery blackish-green leaves. Leaves are elliptical to orbicular-ovate and will reach 5-7 inches (13-18 cm) long and 2-5 inches (5-13 cm) wide. Younger leaves are cordate and all are palmately veined with 5-7 veins. The plant is widely cultivated in the tropics as the source of black and white pepper. Black Pepper is obtained from the dried unripe fruit; White Pepper is obtained when the pericarp is removed. They are very easy plants to grow and make attractive hanging baskets when the plants are young.
Blooming: The very small flowers are borne on 5-7 inch (13-18 cm) long pendulous spikes from each node. The flowers are not showy. The berries first turn green, then red, finally turning black.
Culture: Piper nigrum plants need partial shade to full shade, with a rich constantly moist soil. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 1 part loam to 1 part sand. To this mix we add 14-14-14 Osmocote at a rate of 2 cups for every 0.01 cu. yards of soil mix. The plant needs to be kept constantly moist but not saturated. We add supplemental fertilize monthly. Young plants make great hanging basket plants, but as they age the plants need some sort of support to climb on. It has been my experience that the plants will not produce fruit until they climb. We never let the nighttime temperature fall below 65°F (18°C) at night.
Propagation: Piper nigrum is propagated by cutting and from seed when available.
Piper nigrum was featured as Plant of the Week February 13-19, 2009.
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Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.