Capparis spinosa (capers) Anyone grow these?

leafhopper(8)December 9, 2003

Does anyone have a caper bush? What are your experiences with it? Does anyone grow it for culinary purposes and if so how do you cure the berries? Thanks!!

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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I have seen them growing in the Mediterranean (Greece, Malta and Spain). Each time they were growing out of dry stone walls with very little soil in intense heat and sun. Not sure that BC would suit them. The flowers are very pretty.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2003 at 1:22PM
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Hi again, Flora. Yeah, I figured I'd be pushing the envelope with these sun loving plants here, but I can dream, can't I? :>)

    Bookmark   December 12, 2003 at 12:44PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Maybe in a pot full of poor soil and stones in glassed in porch facing south? If all else fails pickled nasturtium seeds make a reasonable substitute.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2003 at 1:23PM
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flatwoods_farm(9A Riverview, F)

I got some seeds from Hudson Seeds and got a half dozen to start. They DO NOT LIKE TOO MUCH WATER!!! It's almost as if water is poisonous to them. I have lost all but two now just by trying to learn their peculiar needs. Paul.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2003 at 8:54PM
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Thanks for that Paul. Can you tell me about the germination rate? Do you have them under lights, etc?

    Bookmark   December 15, 2003 at 12:37AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

As I said, the plants I have seen were growing out of old dry stone walls in hot summer heat. If it did rain the water would drain away in no time. They certainly weren't getting watered by anyone. They are essentially happy in arid conditions.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2003 at 10:48AM
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flatwoods_farm(9A Riverview, F)

Germination is low. Some tries failed. I was instructed to soak in hot water, then cold stratify several months, then soak in hot water again before sowing shallow in pots. I have them outdoors in sun and semishade. Paul.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2003 at 9:59PM
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xipetotec(SW UK)

Possibly of interest...?
I am growing some Capparis Cordifolia which is a close
relative of Capp. Spinosa.
I saw Capp. Cord. growing on beach rocks and cliffs on
S. Pacific beaches (no soil at all!). Plants were up to
2-3ft across. The flowers are gorgeous white affairs,
which is why I collected some seed. Plants aren't mature
enough yet to flower. I'm using a grit/sand/peat mix and
rainwater. It's a struggle; plants like it hot. They drop
leaves and sideshoots overnight when temperature falls.
I'd love to get some seed from Hawai'i, as there is
a sub-species there with many more stamens per bloom.
I believe edible capers are actually the pickled
flowerbuds of Capp. Spinosa.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2004 at 6:39AM
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xipetotec(SW UK)

Since last entry I've done some googling:
quite a lot of Capparis info in

    Bookmark   January 13, 2004 at 9:18AM
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Raymondo(Armidale, NSW)

Yes, capers consumed are the flower buds pickled. Also, if using nasturtiums as a substitute, it's also the flower buds you should use. I don't think the seed is all that palatable, except perhaps when very young.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2004 at 4:14AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

My mum told me the seeds. But obviously only when they're still green and young. I've only done it once and they were ok - not exactly like capers but pretty close.If you pickle the buds you lose the flowers - what a pity that would be.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2004 at 4:24PM
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stefanb8(z7 MD)

Caper berries, caper buds, and caper leaves are all pickled. I bought a large packet of seeds, and of about 25 I planted, four grew - they survived well enough in tiny terra cotta pots (filled with about 65/35 sand/topsoil) until squirrels knocked over and killed all but one. One of them had some subtle leaf variegation, too, and it was sad to lose it. Little devil rats. I sank the survivor's pot up to its rim in a sandy herb bed and there it sat all summer - hardly growing, but we had over a month-long drought. Now that I have it indoors under fluorescent lights for winter, I water and fertilize it fairly generously each time it dries out and it has grown much faster. The succulent, grayish leaves (tinted red when young) droop down to almost completely conceal the stem - it's an attractive look. I read that cuttings are a more efficient way of propagating the plant than seeds, whose poor germination rate I'll attest to. Still, seeds are the more economical way to go about it. I haven't pushed the issue by keeping the plant moist all of the time, but it doesn't look like it would rot at the drop of a hat if I did. I generally expect more of that kind of behavior from fuzzy-leaved plants (but you never know).

    Bookmark   January 27, 2004 at 5:06PM
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I am a US citizen and presently Live in lebanon. I have a house 1800m high in the mountains east of Beirut in a town called Bhamdoon and I have spotted this plant growing wild at several locations near my mountain house. It seems to do very well all through the dry summer season up here (months June-Sept). During these summer months the days are dry and sunny hot while the nights are cold and many times heavily foggy. However the winters are cold and harsh with snow falling to half meter high during Dec-Feb and sub zero temperatures. Last year it snowed up here 3 times but these wild mountain plants survived these harsh winters. However the snow usually melts in 7-10days, and the sun is many times shinning on the snow.This is just to give you an idea on the type of weather this plant tolerates so any one of you living in the US in similar zones its worth growing this plant for its beautiful sturdy flowers because it stands short snows.I say sturdy flowers because during this summer I drove almost every morning to Beirut returning in the afternoons and have always seen the flower un-beat or un-wilted during the 3 months of dry season. The type of soil it grows in is white and dry with a lot of pebbles and small rocks in it. The fruit is coloured green and resembles a fig fruit but with bigger seeds and more ovalish in shape which as it rippens it opens up like an unpicked open (or dried) fig fruit. One strange thing I noticed this sunday while taking my morning stride is that all the plants I passed by were flowerless and had ripened open fruits showing the big seeds while.. only one plant still carried few of its beautiful sturdy flowers with no dangling fruits anywhere to be seen. Does anyone know why?
Now its getting very cold up here and probably a couple of weekends before the harsh weather strikes, so next weekend I plan to photograph the fruits, seeds and flowers and re-visit the one peculiar flowery but fruitless plant. If anyone is interested please feel free to drop me a line at my email.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2004 at 11:14AM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

The message from Lebanon is very interesting suggesting that capers survive freezing. I am curious to know what is the zone hardiness of capers? Zone 6, 7? If it is zone 5, perhaps I will try to grow capers in Massachusetts in my cactus garden.


    Bookmark   October 15, 2004 at 7:49PM
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sthelena(Napa County USA)

I would love to grow capers... it seems like they would be the perfect plant for our climate. After reading about the germination process, I have decided on plants... but I can't find any. Any ideas on sources for plants? Or anyone know of some good stands of caper bushes in Northern California? Maybe I can convinve the owner to give me some cuttings.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2005 at 6:46PM
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virgilevetts(Auckland, NZ)

I have about 10 caper plants which I grew from seed collected in southern Italy. The seed was very fresh and germinated in about 6 weeks, with about 90% strike rate.
The plants are quite slow growers but havnt proven to be anywhere near as difficult as some reports suggest. I got my first flowers this year and managed to collect some seed too.

I have tried to grow from cuttings but with no success so far. I have treated them much like cacti, even down to the soil mix used and they seem quite happy. They are quite tolerant of temp extremes from sub 0c- high 40c, are drought tolerant but dont like wet feet, specially in winter. In our warm temperate climate they are only partially deciduous.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 8:46PM
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I had a friend send me seed when he was visiting Italy. I googled and read the outrageous requirements to get them to germinate and decided that I would soak and sow and just leave the pot outside and see what happened. That was 5 months ago and now there is one tiny seedling, but I have no idea if it is a stray weed or a Caper.

While doing my research I remember seeing one company that offered live plants so they are out there,,, somewhere,,, I just don't remember where.

Good luck

    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 4:23PM
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I have seeds of capers, please send me coments.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 2:33AM
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flatwoods_farm(9A Riverview, F)

Hello again. I still have my two caperbushes. They are slow growing, but one did flower this Spring at two years old. They seem to dislike hot intense sun, I think because I have kept the root system from getting out of bounds. These fleshy roots must be their lifeline to survival in dry places. The plants seem to enjoy regular watering. Paul, Riverview, Fl.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2005 at 9:54AM
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did anyone actually find a nursery that offers plants for sale in the us?

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 4:49AM
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I bought some seeds a few years ago, can't remember from who -- it was either Richter's in Ontario or Sandy Mush Herb Farm in Alabama -- either case, the packet of seed didn't cost too much, two or three dollars.

These germinated and grew very easily for me. I overwintered the plant in a cold but unfreezing garage with a little light and minimal watering. The second season, they bloomed. The capers are the pickled flower buds -- just pick before they open, and make up a salt and vinegar brine (look in a pickling book or online for proportions), pour it hot over the cleaned buds. Frankly, because of the time and labor and quantity needed versus quantity used, it really isn't worth the effort, but it's still fun to do. A jar of capers from the grocery costs under $3, and lasts me about two years.

I didn't take the plants in the next winter, I'd seen them and lost interest. But, I found them easy to grow.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2007 at 12:49PM
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I just started a few caper plants (caper inermis) from seeds that I got imported from Italy. (Pagano seeds).

I did not read anything about them, just tried to start them on my window sill in some potting soil.

Within two and a half weeks, they sprouted up and I put one in a larger container and it has tripled in size- the other one in the plug container is still small. It has only been a little over three weeks and the one plant in the larger container is about 5 inches tall. The small plant is just two inches tall.

Every seed I planted came up too- which is amazing after reading all of the problems so many of you have had!

I think I will rethink my location of planting them though- sounds like they might like the more arid region of my yard.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2008 at 7:07PM
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I sowed seed last March after keeping the seeds in wet paper towels in the refrigerator for a month and had about a 50% germination rate once the outside temps. started to get really warm. I initially kept the tiny seedlings in tiny cell trays so they would not stay wet and with a lot of outside air movement trying to duplicate the conditions I have read about in the Mediteranian region. It is now 3 months later and I have transplanted the seedlings into gallon containers in a very well drained media. I feed sparsely and they sit in full sun. We have had unusually hot weather this Spring and it's been in the mid 90's F for a month and near 100F for the last 5 days here on the Texas Gulf coast and the plants are thriving and about the size of a baseball. Hot, full sun slightly dry and very little feed seems to be the trick. Next season when they are larger I'll try cuttings from these plants. I have been in the commercial nursery business for 35 years so I have the facilities to grow just about anything though I admit I've pretty well abused these plants compared to my regular crops.....Michael-Pecan Hill Nursery

Here is a link that might be useful: Pecan Hill Nursery-Brookshire, Texas

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 5:10PM
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flatwoods_farm(9A Riverview, F)

Hello, yet again. Six years later and I still have the two plants. New growth is very luxurious and healthy. The roots are now into the ground through the pots.My capers are now able to take lots more water than when young. They survived low twenties F this winter without protection. They flower only occasionally because they are not in full sun, but the blooms sure are nice. Paul, Riverview, Fl.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 12:04PM
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FYI everyone, Richters sells caper plants from their online catalogue.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 5:46PM
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Hi - I just began looking for caper plants or seeds. An internet search turned up at least three companies selling plants, the least expensive is Willow Creek Gardens. The differences in seed germination is fresh vs. dried seeds - fresh sprout easily, dried require the soaking etc. Interesting that there is such a wide variety of growth and development of the plants, although there are many cultivars. Would love a clipping from the Lebanon caperbushes!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 11:30AM
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beesneeds(zone 6)

Hmm, how big do they get? lol, it would be worth it for me to grow my own if the harvest is good. I usually go through 2-3 jars of capers a year easily. I particularly like the tiny ones, but ouch too expensive, I stick to the regular market kind.

And my gosh, I had no idea that nasturtium buds could be treated in the same way. Might have to put those on my wishlist- some for fresh, some for pickling, yum!!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 2:24PM
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