Click to enlargeCaper Bush

Capparis spinosa var. inermis. Caper bushes tumble over rocky cliffs, garland monastery walls, and spiff up ancient ruins across Mediterranean lands. Sun, heat and free draining soil are required for caper bushes to flourish and set the flower buds so fundamental to the kitchens of the region. The smaller the flower bud, the more concentrated the flavor after preserving in salt or pickling in vinegar. Let the bud come to flower and enjoy one of the showiest flowers you'll ever set eyes on, pure white petals centered by blowsy lavender stamens. The pollinated flower then forms the caper berry, which is also pickled and the equal to the flower buds in flavor.

The caper is a viney bush, with arching, low growth to 3' x 3'. The species is thorny and if you think harvesting blackberries is a challenge, try picking tiny flower buds among prickled branches. The variety offered below, inermis, is thornless. Branches are tinged red and the coloration sometimes outlines the leathery round leaves. Flower buds form on new growth in spring and continue through the summer. Hard pruning in late winter promotes plentiful flowering.

Plant in a spot with excellent drainage, full sun and porous soil. Once established, capers can survive dry summers without irrigation. Summer overwatering is the main culprit in caper mortality.

Not frost hardy, so Zone 9 gardeners are taking a chance of losing top growth during cold winters unless plants are protected. Capers will grow back from the roots if top growth is damaged by frost. Hardy in Zone 10 unless there is an unusual cold front, in which case protect the plant until temperatures rise above freezing. Plants as of February 2023 are grown in 1 gal containers, about 1' tall, no branching, dormant.

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