California Pepper Tree Care: How To Grow A California Pepper Tree


By: Teo Spengler

The California pepper tree (Schinus molle) is a shade tree with pretty, somewhat pendulous branches and an attractive, exfoliating trunk. Its feathery foliage and bright pink berries make this a fine ornamental for water-sparing gardens in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11. If you want to know how to grow a California pepper tree, read on.

What is a California Pepper Tree?

If you don’t live in southern California where these trees have naturalized, you may ask: “What is a California pepper tree?” For those looking for a fast-growing evergreen shade tree for a Mediterranean style garden, the California pepper tree might be the perfect choice. It shoots up rapidly to its mature height, usually about 40 feet (12 m.), and often grows branches as wide as wide as the tree is tall.

California pepper trees look lacy because of the compound, pinnate leaves, each one composed of fine-textured leaflets. The leaves are aromatic, up to 12 inches (30 cm.) along, while each leaflet grows to about 2 ½ inches (6 cm.). Greenish-white flowers appear at the ends of the branches in spring, evolving by autumn into rosy berries that look like salmon eggs.

When these evergreens are young, their trunks are gray. As the trees mature, their bark peels back revealing the red inner wood.

Growing California Pepper Trees

If you want to start growing California pepper trees, first be sure you have enough room in your backyard for the tree to spread to its full mature size. You’ll need a spot in direct sun with well-drained soil. California pepper tree care is increased significantly if you choose a planting site with poorly draining soil, since root rot pathogens are likely to attack the tree.

Give your newly planted pepper trees regular irrigation until they establish extensive root systems. After that, the trees only require occasional irrigation and California pepper tree care is reduced. This makes them ideal trees for xeriscaping. In fact, overwatering this tree can lead to chlorosis as well as the production of weak branches.

Apply a general purpose fertilizer in springtime just before new growth appears. This assists the tree to grow rapidly.

How to Grow a California Pepper Tree

A California pepper tree is easy to grow if you buy a container tree with a sturdy trunk. You can also grow this tree from seed, but it isn’t an easy process.

Pruning a California pepper tree is necessary if you want a healthy, attractive tree. The weeping habit makes the tree’s canopy seem low to the ground. Prune it every winter to keep the canopy higher. You’ll also need to keep an eye out for suckers that sprout from the tree base. These should be pruned out whenever they appear.

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Plants that can survive under California Pepper (Schinus molle) trees

Most California pepper trees you see will have nothing growing under them for two reasons: one is that they produce a chemical which is mildly poisonous to other plants, and the other is that they form a dense mat of surface roots. However, most of us don’t love the idea of bare earth or mulch under our pepper trees.

In scouring the web, I found plenty of information about plants that would grow under oaks and eucalyptus, the other two most common culprits, but very little about understory plantings for pepper trees. So, I have been assembling a list, and I’d like to share it. Any other plants that you know of that can survive under Schinus? If so, reach out and let me know- I’ll add it to the list!

Agave americana, Bergenia cordifolia, Cyclamen, Hedera (ivy), Lamium, Myoporum parvifolium, Rosmarinus prostratus, Sarcoccoca, Senecio mandralascae, Vinca minor.

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Q. will pepper tree roots crack my swimming pool

Tree planted 5 yrs ago on lot much lower than our lot but less than 15 ft from our pool. First pool wall began to bulge, and it is now starting to crack. Is tree causing this? My husband says no, as tree is planted lower than pool

If your referring to the California Pepper Tree, yes it most certainly could have roots invading your pool area.
It's root system goes everywhere and anywhere to search for moisture.
It has a surface roots and the roots are invasive and have caused problems with breaking pavement, invading sewers and drains.

I would have your situation looked at by professionals to determine a course of action.


California Pepper Tree

Does anyone have any experience with the California Pepper Tree? It was recommended to me by a local nursery in lieu of a Weeping Willow. Is it a messy tree? Poisonous to dogs?

Socal2warm

There are a few people who just love Peruvian Pepper trees. I could never understand why they think pepper trees are so nice. I guess they have draping branches and fern-like leaflets, but the trunk shape and texture are not especially pretty, they seem to lurch over as if the tree was never meant to grow that tall (and they're not). I suspect the reason why so many people in hot climates like (or THINK they like) pepper trees is because the trees are so well adapted to arid climates, so these pepper trees look more lush and green the other trees around them.

I have mixed feelings about these Peruvian pepper trees, in fact I do not really know how to feel about them. There's something almost captivating about their draping branches, has a Spanish Mission feel to them. But at the same time they are kind of ugly. They are also kind of invasive, all those leaves and dry berries can get messy, and just to top it off, some people have an allergic reaction to contact with the leaves. The bark is really rough, it's not the type of tree I would want to climb in.


Can you eat pepper from a pepper tree?

Black pepper, called Piper Nigrum in Latin, is a flowering vine, native to South India. These peppercorns grow in a cluster, and are green when unripe, red/orange when ripe. White peppercorns are black peppercorns with their red coating removed, either before or after drying. Green peppercorns are unripe peppercorns.

Secondly, is black pepper from a pepper? Black pepper. Black pepper is produced from the still-green, unripe drupe of the pepper plant. The drupes are cooked briefly in hot water, both to clean them and to prepare them for drying. Once dry, the spice is called black peppercorn.

Correspondingly, how do you harvest Pepper Tree Peppers?

To turn the ripe pink berries into peppercorns, harvest fresh berries off the branches and lay them on a plate or cookie sheet to dry out at room temperature. Within a few days, the berries will harden and be ready for use. A Peruvian pepper berry consists of a shell surrounding a single seed.

Is a California pepper tree poisonous?

Schinus molle (California pepper tree), despite its common name, is native to Peru and not California nor North America. However, Poisonous Plants Commonly Ocurring in Southern California by Owen E.


Can you eat pepper from a pepper tree?

Black pepper, called Piper Nigrum in Latin, is a flowering vine, native to South India. These peppercorns grow in a cluster, and are green when unripe, red/orange when ripe. White peppercorns are black peppercorns with their red coating removed, either before or after drying. Green peppercorns are unripe peppercorns.

Additionally, is black pepper from a pepper? Black pepper. Black pepper is produced from the still-green, unripe drupe of the pepper plant. The drupes are cooked briefly in hot water, both to clean them and to prepare them for drying. Once dry, the spice is called black peppercorn.

In this way, how do you harvest Pepper Tree Peppers?

To turn the ripe pink berries into peppercorns, harvest fresh berries off the branches and lay them on a plate or cookie sheet to dry out at room temperature. Within a few days, the berries will harden and be ready for use. A Peruvian pepper berry consists of a shell surrounding a single seed.

Is a California pepper tree poisonous?

Schinus molle (California pepper tree), despite its common name, is native to Peru and not California nor North America. However, Poisonous Plants Commonly Ocurring in Southern California by Owen E.


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