Cloning Pepper Plants

Rooted Cutting from 3G Fury
Rooted cutting from Fury pepper (3G)

Have you ever grown a plant that quickly became a favorite within your garden? Perhaps you planted some pepper seeds and noticed that one of your plants produced far more peppers than your others, or maybe they were bigger or more flavorful. Let's say winter is fast approaching and soon your garden will go dormant. Being a favorite plant, you'll likely want to continue growing it year after year.

What Are Your Options?

You could take seeds from this favorite plant in an attempt to grow it again next year, but there’s no guarantee the next generation of plants will have the same desired traits. Pepper plants can cross-pollinate with one another producing an accidental hybrid. Or, being a "different" first generation plant, even if it were to self-pollinate, each offspring is likely to randomly vary from this parent and have less favorable traits.

While it can be exciting to see new, unexpected pepper plants, it can also be disappointing when the next generation of plants aren't as robust. To compensate, you'd need to grow many new plants and hope that at least one plant has the desired traits, so the process can be repeated. Through selective breeding, after about seven generations (if cross-pollination doesn't occur), a stable seed strain could be achieved.

Alternatively, you could dig out this plant to overwinter indoors, bringing it back out in the spring and replanting as a second year plant. Though, it could die or catch the mosaic virus. Each year, we lose 10-30% of our overwintered plants to death or disease. Even if successful, you'll only have one of your favorite plants.

The only 100% certain way to produce new plants that are genetically identical to another is through cloning.

How to Clone a Pepper Plant

Nearly any plant can be cloned by simply taking a piece of the plant and attempting to get it to root, but the process can be a bit more complicated than just that, as some plants are much more difficult to clone than others.

  1. Use scissors, a razor blade, or a sharp knife to make the cutting; getting a clean cut is important as a dull scissors or cutting device can crush and damage the stem, impairing its ability to produce roots. Make the cut diagonal as this will increase the cutting's surface area to absorb more water.
  2. Remove all flowers, fruit and big leaves; leaving only a few small leaves on the stem as you want the plant to focus its energy on producing new roots and not keeping its leaves alive.
  3. Place cuttings directly in water, or a waterlogged medium such as rock wool, peat, sphagnum, or perlite. Placing cuttings in a grow medium inside of a propagator should produce the most success, as the propagator will lock in humidity and warmth.
  4. Some growers use a rooting hormone to make it easier for their cuttings to root. You can dip the bottom of a cutting in the powder or gel, or if your cutting is sitting in water, you can mix some rooting hormone in with the water.
  5. Make sure to keep the cuttings out of direct sunlight and instead in either filtered sunlight or under grow lights.
  6. For the first 10 days, or so, keep a close eye on the cuttings. If leaves start getting droopy, pinch away the biggest ones to direct the plant's energy to root production and support of the smaller leaves. Similarly, new flower buds may form, pinch these away as well.
  7. After getting the cuttings situated, it will likely be a few weeks before you start to see roots. Once your cuttings have established roots, you can place them into soil to grow into full plants.

Keep in mind that not all cuttings will root successfully, so take more than you're planning on using. Everyone has their own method for cloning plants, and some plants are different than others, so try a few different methods before giving up.

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