October 18, 2014

1 - Chiles can be grown year-round if they are brought indoors to a good environment for the winter.

2 - Siberian elm trees have some bad characteristics, but also some redeeming characteristics.

Yard and Garden October 18, 2014


I have a question. The other day in in a grocery store I saw hot pepper plants already in pots reduced from $15 a pot to $5 a pot. I like hot peppers and thought that was a good deal. However, I did not buy any because I think pepper season is over and the plants would die unless they were indoors. Am I correct in my assumption?

Also, there are a lot of Chinese elms around Roswell. There are a lot in Pampa and Amarillo, Texas; I used to live in that area. I was told they were planted way back in the 1930s and 40s because they do really well in a dry climate. However, I do not see any new plantings of these trees so I am thinking they probably create a lot of problems with roots pushing up sidewalks, etc. Personally, I think these trees are very ugly and it does not bother me that nobody is planting any new ones.




The outdoor chile growing season has ended in most of New Mexico, but if you have an indoor location in which to grow chiles, they can be grown year-round. The ideal location is in a room with a south facing window that gets about 4 hours of sunlight each day. Sheer curtains would diffuse the light, benefiting the plants, and providing privacy. If the temperatures in that room cool at night to about 50 degrees, that will help. Temperatures should definitely stay above freezing and preferably above 40 degrees. Once heating comes on in the house, the plants will dry more rapidly, so care must be taken to keep them from drying out. A little "flowering houseplant" fertilizer may be given to the plants once a month or so. Use flowering houseplant fertilizer because it has higher levels of phosphorus that is needed for good flower and fruit production. When you buy plants, be sure to select plants that have not been stressed or in a poorly lit location for too long. Stressed plants will quickly drop their leaves and must reestablish themselves and their leaves when you get them home. I also saw these plants at a grocery in Albuquerque and was tempted, but the plants did not look like they were in good condition. They would probably grow and mature the existing pods, but the effects of stress were obvious.

I have grown some chiles indoors in 3 and 5 gallon containers for several winters now (the same chile plants). I take them outside in the summer and return them to their indoor location before frost. I lose some each year and replace them. Those that die usually die because I do not water enough. The room in which I grow them does not have enough light, so they produce few new chiles each winter, but mature those on them when they came indoors. Plants nearest the windows do make new chiles even in the winter. I enjoy picking one in the morning to make a spicy omelet.

Dr. Paul Bosland, chile breeder at NMSU, has bred ornamental chiles for use during the winter season. Chiles for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's decorations are interesting replacement for traditional poinsettias, and they are edible! Some are also named "Halloween chiles" and "Easter chiles". They are bred for their appearance and compact growth which makes better plants for window sills. They are not selected to be mild, so Dr. Bosland generally warns that they are hot. Information about these chiles as well as seeds or growers is available at the Chile Pepper Institute at NMSU.

Regarding the Siberian elm trees (often incorrectly called Chinese elms): They have been planted in New Mexico for a long time because they grow well under stressful conditions. Their good characteristic is that they grow; however, one of their negative characteristics is that they grow! They produce many seeds, and those seeds germinate and grow in many places where they are not wanted. New trees can sprout from the roots, so they can increase in unwanted numbers and locations quite rapidly. They can be harvested for firewood and they produce shade and wind protection in our harsh environment, so they do have some redeeming characteristics. When you think of the dust bowl era, you can see why they were planted and appreciated back then. Many of the older Siberian elms that grew for many years along the highways of eastern New Mexico have died in recent years, but they were able to survive with little care for many years.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!