The Little Pepper Plant that Could

You may recall the post I wrote last spring about the marauding rodents in my garden. One of the near-casualties was a pepper plant. They attacked it after eating everything else, so I was able to rescue it before they completely decimated it. They had eaten half the leaves at the bottom, but the leaves at the top were OK. Until I took a good look and noticed brown spots. My plant illness diagnosis app declared “leaf rot,” which is pretty much what it says for any leaf problem. It said if only a few leaves were affected, to cut them off. If more than half were, then there wasn’t much you could do or maybe it recommended some complicated combinations of sprays or powders, which I freely admit, I don’t have the energy for.

I got a pair of scissors, looked the plant in the leaf, took a deep breath, and started snipping all the bad leaves. There were probably about 7 left on it, but there were some tiny new ones at the tippy top. I apologized to the plant, and then like a doctor in an old movie, I told it, “I’ve done the best I can, all we can do now is wait.”

Well, I don’t know if it was my pep talk, my surgery skills, or that is one kickass pepper plant, but it came back, gloriously. I got more peppers from that plant than I had ever had. When fall rolled around, I made plans to overwinter it. I had done that successfully once before, only to knock the poor plant over in the spring just before it was time to put it outside. I had cut that plant down to the Y of the stem, and it stayed that way until about February when the leaves started popping out. I panicked a bit, thinking it was too early. But it was fine and had some nice growth.

That was what I was expecting this time. But within a few weeks of bringing the kickass pepper plant indoors, it started sprouting leaves. I panicked again, but then remembered the other plant was OK. Sprouting is not the problem — it’s doing what it was meant to. My clumsiness was definitely a problem. I’m tending it carefully, and I have to say, when there are dark days, and I’m surrounded by COVID at work, in the news, and in my friend circle, seeing that jubilant pepper plant has given me hope. It survived rodents and leaf rot, and winter.

I also am overwintering some other plants as an experiment. I have a friend from Brazil who talks about a vegetable he grew up with and loves, called jilo. In English it’s called a Brazilian eggplant, but it’s green and small, about the size of a large egg. I managed to hunt down some seeds on the internet last spring and started growing them fairly late in the season. I managed to grow four plants and got to eat quite of few jilo before it got too cold. Jilo is a tropical plant like peppers, so I decided to try to overwinter them too. I cut the stem down and repotted them and hoped for the best. Both of them are also jubilantly sprouting, although one got some kind of aphid infestation. I sprayed it and cut off the leaves that looked a little worse for wear.

My cheery little overwintering plant stand also includes an oregano plant from the garden that I rooted, and two begonias that are now in their second overwintering. Last winter I rooted them and named them Betty and Wilma. They became a gorgeous riot of flowers in my deck window box this summer. I took some clippings in the fall and rooted Betty and Wilma again, and have been presenting me with beautiful green leaves and pale pink blossoms.

Betty and Wilma, with a dash of oregano on the left.

The whole lot fit in front of my one available sunny window, a little mini garden that I watch and fuss over and worry about. The world may be going to hell in a handbasket, but my little indoor garden, led by the kickass pepper plant, keep showing me that life goes one, no matter what. And for that I am thankful. And hey, marauding rodents — we won’t get fooled again.


  1. When I saw “plant” in the title, I went “Woot! Yeah!” Plant post. The pepper gives us all hope. The fact that you now use terms like “overwinter” gives me all shades of joy. I understand what a true relationship there is between an indoor garden and its person! Loved this.

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