Cowhorn Peppers

nursekelly0714September 15, 2008

Hi All!

I inherited one of my father in laws Cowhorn pepper plant.

I live in the Panhandle of Florida.

I have about 32 peppers on my plant right now, and am aching to pull them, BUT.....cowhorns arn't warm enough for my taste until they start to turn a little orangy reddish. My father in laws peppers turn red in no time, and are real thin and long....I know my peppers are Cowhorn, but they are fat and long, and are still a medium color green. Id say about more then half are as big as they are going to get, but they stay green, I have been leaving them on to see if they will turn colors, but Im afraid my branches will break off they are so big. One of them is starting to get the stress marks on it, but still green.

So am I doing something wrong? I water daily, sometimes let them dry out for a day but then water the next, and they are in direct sunlight all the time during the day. The plant is healthy looking. Someone have any advice?

First 2 pics are mine, last pic are peppers from one of the other cowhorn plants...they are skinnier.

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    Bookmark   September 25, 2008 at 2:32PM
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I noticed two things. Way too many leaves on your plant and no mulch to lock in moisture. Trim every third leaf off your plant starting with any yellow, wilted, holes, etc and trim them off right at the leaf with a SHARP pruner. Your peppers are not getting the attention because the plants energy is being used to maintain leaves and trying to heal leaves that are damaged. You only need a few leaves for photosynthesis. Buy red sierra mulch from lowes for 4.00's a bag. I have six different types of peppers and I haven't even used 1/10th of the mulch bag. Sorry, no smaller bags available. After you prune off the access leaves your plant should show a difference in just a few days. Happy growing!!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 5:06PM
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Generally, all it takes is time.

Never heard of trimming leaves unless they are diseased / damaged.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 5:32PM
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medcave(8 Tx)

I only trim leaves that are close to the ground so they don't promote soil diseases. In hot climates leaves are needed to shade the peppers to help prevent sun-scalding. I too have never heard of trimming so many leaves to aid pepper growth. Would like to hear more opinions.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 5:56PM
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Plants don't expend energy to maintain leaves. Leaves are where the energy comes from. That's PHOTOSYNTHESIS!

It's posible that an abundance of leaves means a lot of soil fertility (i.e. nitrogen) which if kept up over the season might mean more leaves growing and less fruit, but overall I want my plants to grow lush amounts of leaves when young and then switch more to producing fruit. This is usually accomplished by decreasing/stopping the fertilizer and cutting back a bit on water as the plant and fruit matures. Watch the plant, it will tell you if it needs more food, assuming you have learned what to look for on the leaves.

The only time I cut off leaves is when I have some really congested growth and the weather has turned cool and wet for a long period. Often gets that way here by late August, or more often mid September.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 2:19PM
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Prop them up if they look too heavy and they will be fine.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 11:43PM
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Do NOT pick leaves off your peppers unless they're badly damaged or yellow. The leaves are needed for photosynthesis and to keep the peppers from getting sun scald. To keep the branches from breaking - cage them or tie them to stakes. Use only natural mulch. You don't know what dyes or chemicals are in the colored mulch.

One of my cow-horn peppers. Basil to the left. Note the stick for support. Some of the peppers were already harvested when this pic was taken. It's again loaded with peppers.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2009 at 2:34AM
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Not trying to pick on you pepperdude, but I've been a scientist for NASA for over 30 years, so I know how PHOTOSYNTHESIS works. The plants natural instinct is to thrive and grow, then after adapted or comfortable with environment, then grow the fruit. True the leaves will protect from sunscald, but you don't need a bunch of leaves to accomplish PHOTOSYNTHESIS. Trust me, I've worked with plants all over the world. Its cool being a scientist pepperdude. I've seen things and done things you don't even know exist, and won't for the next decade or so.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 8:15PM
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I'm not very experienced in this area (this is only the second year I have a garden), but I can give my experience based on advice from family gardeners and some online references I;ve read here and there.

Too high a ratio of leaves to fruit can mean too much nitrogen, which promote foliage growth. And it's true that most plants don't need a whole bushy bunch of leaves to make food for the fruits, but there is such a thing as too much as well. Once the plant is well developed and starts fruiting well, it has enough leaves to make food for the whole plant. When it keeps growing more leaves on old leads while fruiting (dont count those on new stem leads, which will produce more fruit), it IS wasting energy to grow more leaves when it could be putting that energy toward the fruit.

Also, something I have HEARD, more or less a gardening rumor, is that for pepper plants, since they do come from dry, arid climates, watering them LESS often, but still thorughly, can help them bush out (if it's true I don't know why) and make more leads where flowers will bloom, which means more fruit. And of course, mulching will help to keep them from totally drying out if they are watered less often, AND help to keep the soil temp high and consistent which is what peppers prefer. There needs to be a good balance of leaves, enough to make food and shade the plants, but not too much to hog all the nutrients from fruit.

Also, keep this in mind with fertilizing anything:
Nitrogen (the first of the three numbers listed on a fertilizing product) = foliage growth (vegetative stage)
Phosphorous (2nd number) = Root growth & strength (seedling stage)
Potassium / Potash (3rd number) = fruit growth

Once the plant starts fruiting, it doesn't need much nitrogen anymore (except for a very select few, e.g. corn), mostly potassium. That goes for most flowers as well.

Knowing the soil pH is helpful too, however, I don't really know specifics about what pH is good for pepper plants at the moment.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 2:20AM
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shelbyguy(z5 IL)

I've done many side-by-side tests, and removing leaves invariably reduces yield.

there's no such thing as "too many leaves" only "not enough fruit."

and its either temperature related, or N:K ratio related. Adjust the n:k ratio so there's more K relative to the N.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 6:15AM
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I don't want to get into the leaves because I don't know, there I said it, but I do use cocoa bean shell mulch to lock in moisture around my pepper plants. The only problem that I have with cococa bean mulch is squirrels. Good luck growing.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 7:51AM
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From the description you gave, it sounds like you are watering much too frequently, and probably shallowly. I suspect you will have the results you want if you wait a week or so before watering, if you can. The plant will tell you when it needs water (i.e., when the leaves get droopy). Don't let it go too long. At first, maybe an index finger into the soil will tell how moist it is and whether you need to water until you can learn to "read" the plant. Lack of water is what gives most of the hot peppers more heat.

I also believe mother nature does a pretty good job determining how many leaves each plant needs. I think if you do the other things properly, you will have a good balance of leaves and fruit.

Good luck this year!


    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 11:12PM
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reeve1 hit on it. The change in water amounts from the spring flush to the summer not so much is a signal to the plant. Water less often and then thoroughly, but drained well, when you do. With mulch or without; potayto potahto.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 3:13AM
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Been reading all your responses and have a few questions myself. This is my first time planting anything. I have probably around 20 peppers on the plant now. Quite a few are around 6-8 inches long. How thick should they get? Are they suppose to turn red? How do I know when to take them off? I do have a few pics but not sure how to post them.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 9:24PM
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These plants look great! The first post about trimming the leaves is way off. I think the poster got it backwards. If a plant is fruiting, it takes energy away from growth but leaves DO NOT take energy away from your plant. They provide it. I live in NC and my chiles don't really light up until October. Your worst problem is that your harvest comes all at once. Be patient and think about how you will preserve your bounty over the winter month (I dry or roast then freeze) Your chiles are a good size and may not get bigger, but they are by no means as big as they can get. Also don't underestimate the hotness of these chiles. Even the green ones have some kick to them.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 10:28PM
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your plant looks fine, i don't work for nasa but i do grow peppers for a living... prop or tie up if necessary... be patient...

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 9:15AM
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wishmaster- thickness depends on a lot of variables both genetic and environmental so no concrete answer there... i assume you are talking about cayennes so yes they should eventually turn red... pick when they do so...

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 9:36AM
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this is my first time growing cowhorns. when do i know when to pick them and how do i preserve them

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 12:20AM
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had same problem. The easiest fix is to water it only when leaves start drooping. They will turn red in half the amount of time!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 3:12PM
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