Growing Rocotos 5+ years

Update – The rocoto plant featured in this article is now 12 years old and doing very well!!!

One of the best things about Rocotos is that you can grow the same plant for many years. Every year, the plant will produce ever larger numbers of peppers. For the first year, I leave the Rocoto plants in the 5 gallon containers. In the early spring (March in Northern CA), transplant the Rocotos to 1/2 wine barrels. I buy my barrels at Longs ($20) but I have seen them at Home Depot also. Use good commercial potting soil, vermiculite, perlite, & fertilizer. Erect a trellis (as in the picture) at or near the center of the barrel. The trellis should be supported well as the top of the plant will become quite heavy after a few years. During the growing season, be sure to:

  • Water regularly
  • Fertilize as needed
  • Lookout for pests

Weave the growing plant through the trellis as it grows. When limbs begin to strain from the weight of peppers, use flexible ties to support them. Lower branches may need to be supported with sticks.

As winter approaches, you will need to take some precautions with the plant. Typically, Rocotos will start to loose some leaves starting in November. By mid December, I move my barrel from the sunny center of the back yard to a spot adjacent to my house. The Rocoto is a cold hardy plant that will withstand fairly low temperatures but it cannot take a hard frost. If <30F temperatures are expected, cover the plant with a sheet to protect it further. There are also commercial sprays that help protect against frost damage.

In the spring, prune liberally removing dead and damaged limbs. Secure the growing plant to the trellis using soft plastic ties.

Before & after pruning

Pay close attention to new growth at branch junctions as shown in the image below. Prune slightly above such growth and don’t be afraid to cut plant back 50%-75%.

After a few years in the same container, you will need to repot in the same container or plant in the ground. If you decide to continue to use the same container, prune as indicated above and then carefully dig out the plant and loosen all soil around the roots. Cut back the roots about 1/3. Condition the soil by changing out about 1/2 of it with fresh potting soil and replant. Fertilize in the spring and you will surprised by the vigorous growth.

If you move your plant to the ground, choose a filtered sun or part shade location. Dig a nice big hole and mix in fresh potting soil. I have noticed that plants moving from containers to the ground are a little stunted the first year and won’t produce as well as the 2nd and subsequent years.

Check out this 5 year old plant after being transplanted into the ground for one year in 2007.

And this is the same plant in 2010