Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Texas Bird Peppers growing!

Texas Bird Peppers!

The Horticulture Committee finished up our year by enjoying our annual JELLO LUNCHEON and making MAY BASKETS for affiliate members and planting Texas Bird Peppers, otherwise known as Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum.  

These seeds were collected from Monticello of plants known to have been grown by Thomas Jefferson!  Seeds and instructions were distributed to each club president in GCA Zone VII on March 1, 2016.  Our Horticulture Committee met and planted on May 3, 2016 in soiless mix, in small peat pots.  This batch has been happy in a sunny window (morning sun) covered loosely with a dry cleaner plastic bag.  Some members planted seeds earlier, some later by different methods.  

I have had fun watching these.  100% germination rate for me.  These must not be hard! haha

I will soon transfer peat pots to an 8" terra cotta pot.  When to move outside?  That is my question to all you bloggers???

~ Symphony Sprout
So glad to hear from Symphony Sprout - I have some comments and photos from some of the others.
First, here's a little history on the Texas Bird Pepper.
From the shop at Monticello:  Jefferson was sent seeds of this pretty, dwarf pepper by Samuel Brown from San Antonio, Texas in 1812 and 1813. Brown stated how the dried peppers we as “essential to my health as salt itself.” Jefferson, hopeful this species might be hardier than others, sowed the seed in pots and in square XII of the Monticello Vegetable Garden. He also forwarded seeds to Philadelphia nurseryman, Bernard McMahon, who apparently popularized the Bird Pepper as an ornamental pot plant in Pennsylvania.

The Texas Bird Pepper is a lush, compact plant (one foot height) covered in early fall with tiny (1/2”), reddish-orange peppers. Samuel Brown said, “The Spaniards use it in fine Powder & seldom eat anything without it. The Americans … make a pickle of the green Pods with Salt & Vinegar which they use with Lettuce, Rice, Fish, etc.” Sow the seeds indoors a month before the last Spring frost, then transplant the seedlings into sunny, well-drained garden soil.

Photo from Monticello.org
And a little more from Monticello:  Common Name: McMahon's Texas Bird Pepper
Scientific Name: Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum
Thomas Jefferson first obtained seed of the Bird Pepper in 1812 from Captain Samuel Brown, who was stationed in San Antonio, Texas. Jefferson recorded planting this pepper in pots and in the kitchen garden in 1814.  He had high hopes the Bird Pepper would prove hardier to other species, and forwarded seeds to his favorite nurseryman, Bernard McMahon of Philadelphia, in 1813. McMahon played a key role in spreading this plant around the U.S.
This native of southwest Texas, Mexico, and Central America, had potentially important medicinal qualities as well as culinary uses in vinegars, sauces, and pickles. It is a tender ornamental vegetable with petite, sparkling red, berry-like peppers covering the plant from mid-summer through fall.

Kathy McC reports on her experience and provided some photographs:

She put her seeds into small peat pots provided by our Hort Chair, Symphony Sprout.  This was done at a Hort Workshop on May 3. Kathy followed the directions provided by the host club and used a heating mat.  She purchased an Apollo Horticulture Seedling Mat, approximately 10x20" in size for around $15.  The seeds germinated very quickly with a high germination percentage.  She says the mat takes up very little storage space and she will use it again in the future.

Seeds germinated using a heat
mat in about 5 days.

May 21


May 26

Germination in
my 'living lettuce'
Sara H reports:  I like my 'tried and true' simple method of using a living lettuce container, poking drainage holes in the bottom and setting in a saucer.  Plus it makes me feel slightly good as I am recycling the container.  As I was leaving on vacation the first two weeks of May and a slow germination was fine with me, I seeded about 10 seeds into moist seedless soil mix and left them on my kitchen counter.  When I returned about 6 had germinated.  Another club member did not use her seeds, so I added 4 or 5 more about 3 weeks later.   They germinated a little bit quicker.  I have raised the lid permanently on the container and am waiting until they are a little larger to transplant into 4" peat pots and then will harden off, put outside and put a few into the 8" terra cotta pot required for the zone meeting hort show.  

May 28 and first real set
of leaves starting to appear

Mary P. got off to a late start - but is catching up.  Her seeds were started a week or so later than the others.   She used the Soil Blocking method described in our June 14 post and put them in baggies to help hold the moisture while she was gone.  One June 15 she repotted into peat pots and will give them some TLC - A great germination % of 15 seeds (and one lone crocosmia).


June 15
Buffy shared a photo of her plants.  She took seeds and supplies home from the workshop and planted in early May.  She planted directly into peat pots, kept in baggies til just a few days ago and has now set outside.  Success!

June 17, 2016
Lynn also got a late start but hers are catching up, too. 

Germination 6.3.2016
Jennie has checked in!  Our new club President has lots to do - and she is growing bird peppers.
She planted 13 seeds in Miracle Grow potting soil in June.  She reports that she kept them in a warm but not sunny windowsill, watering a little every other day or so to keep the soil damp.  My first three sprouts appeared on June 29, and at day 15 (today) I have ten, each about an inch tall with two leaves.

Jennie's on July 5

End of August update:
Our peppers are at various stages!

September heat brings blossoms and baby peppers!





  1. Thanks Symphony Sprout for posting! We will be adding more photos soon. My guess is you could start hardening off soon. The temperatures are fine, just be careful of exposure too soon to direct sun. And I know the roots are still babies, so put in a place where squirrels, chipmunks, dogs, cats won't get to and check often! They may show faster and better growth outside now in these pots and then transplant after hardening off. Would love comments that agree or disagree from some of our other readers!

  2. Mary P. joins us with her Texas bird peppers.

  3. Jennie now has some bird peppers, too!

  4. How are everyone's bird peppers looking? I have lots of little green peppers showing on the top of my three plants potted in one terra cotta pot. When do they turn red? Have anyone's turned red yet?
    -Symphony Sprout

    1. No red yet, but lots of peppers. Shared your photo today! They look terrific.