The Art and Science of Cultivating Capers: A Guide to Successfully Growing this Versatile Plant


Capable of transforming any dish into a flavor-packed delight, capers are a daily dose of tangy goodness. These small, green buds with a piquant taste come from the evergreen caper plant, scientifically known as Capparis spinosa. Here, in this article, you’ll learn all about growing capers, which have been a staple in Italian cuisine for centuries.

Capers can be enjoyed in various forms, from the fresh buds to sun-dried or pickled ones. When open, the unripened flower buds are hand-picked, usually in the morning, before they blossom into delicate white flowers. The caperberries, which are the mature fruits of the caper plant, don’t grow in all areas, but they also hold a unique flavor.

So, how do you grow capers? The first rule of caper cultivation: you need a warm and sunny place. Capers thrive in Mediterranean climates, but they can be grown in medium to light areas as well. Being relatively low-maintenance, capers are a great option for those learning the ropes of gardening. Watering is essential, but make sure not to over-water, as caper plants prefer well-draining soil.

If you’re planting capers, you’ll need caper cuttings, which can be obtained from mature plants or purchased. The cuttings should be planted in late spring or early summer, and they usually require a period of dormancy before they start growing. Once the plant takes root, prune it regularly to maintain its shape and promote new growth.

Harvesting capers is a delicate process, as the small buds are prone to damage and insects. Pick them before they bloom into white flowers, and always use a sharp knife or scissors to prevent tearing the stems. Capers can be eaten fresh, salted, or pickled in vinegar, adding a zesty flavor to salads, pastas, fish dishes, or even cocktails. Additionally, capers have been associated with various health benefits, such as antioxidant properties and their potential to help with arthritis.

All in all, capers are a versatile and flavorful addition to any kitchen. Whether you’re an amateur chef or a seasoned professional, the caper plant holds the key to unlocking a world of culinary possibilities.

How to Grow Caper Bush

Growing caper bush can be a rewarding experience for gardeners. This small shrub, also known as Capparis spinosa, is native to the Mediterranean region and is used in various culinary dishes. Here are some simple steps to help you grow your own caper bush.

1. Seed-raising: Start by planting caper seeds in a well-draining soil mix. Keep the soil moist and place the pot in a warm and sunny spot. Within four to six weeks, you should see the seeds germinate and sprout.

2. Planting: Once the caper seedlings are a few inches tall, transfer them into larger pots or directly into your garden. Choose a sunny spot with well-draining soil. Space the plants about two feet apart to give them enough room to grow.

3. Care and Maintenance: Caper bushes are hardy plants that can thrive in a variety of conditions. They prefer a warm and sunny climate but can tolerate some shade. Water the plants regularly and avoid overwatering. Capers don’t require much fertilizer, but a slow-release fertilizer can be used once a year to promote healthy growth.

4. Protection from Bugs and Weevils: Caper bushes are sometimes susceptible to bugs and weevils. To protect your plants, regularly inspect them for any signs of infestation and remove any bugs or weevils you find. Sprinkle some neem oil or insecticidal soap on the leaves to deter pests.

5. Harvesting Capers: Caper bushes produce delicate flower buds that are harvested before they bloom. The buds are then pickled and used in various dishes, such as salads and sauces. Harvest the buds while they are still small and green for the best flavor.

6. Caring for the Evergreen: Caper bushes are evergreen plants, meaning they retain their leaves year-round. They can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, but they prefer a warm climate with mild winters. If you live in a colder region, consider growing caper bush in a pot that can be brought indoors during winter.

7. Propagating Capers: Capers can be propagated using seeds or cuttings. If you want to propagate caper bushes, take cuttings from the plant during spring or early summer. Dip the cut ends in rooting hormone and plant them in a well-draining soil mix. Keep the soil moist and provide a warm and sunny location for the cuttings to root.

Growing your own caper bush can be a fun and rewarding experience. With proper care and maintenance, your caper bushes will thrive and provide you with delicious capers for years to come.

Caper Bush Care

The caper bush (Capparis spinosa) is a small, shrub-like plant that is prized for its flavorful buds or capers. Growing capers requires some specific care to ensure healthy growth and a plentiful harvest. Here are some tips on how to care for caper bushes:

  1. Sun and Temperature: Caper bushes love sun, so choose a sunny spot in your garden to plant them. They can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, from hot summers to mild winters. However, they prefer a dry and warm climate.
  2. Water: Caper bushes are drought-tolerant and prefer well-draining soil. Water them thoroughly, but infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Overwatering can lead to root rot.
  3. Soil: Caper bushes prefer neutral to slightly alkaline soil. If your soil is acidic, you can add some lime to raise the pH level.
  4. Planting: Plant caper bushes in well-draining soil, such as sandy or gravelly soil. Dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the root ball, and place the plant in the hole. Backfill with soil and tamp it down gently. Water thoroughly after planting.
  5. Pruning: Prune caper bushes in early spring before new growth begins. Remove any dead or damaged branches and shape the plant as desired. Pruning helps promote new growth and abundant flowering.
  6. Pests and Diseases: Caper bushes are generally pest and disease resistant. However, they can sometimes be susceptible to aphids. Keep an eye out for these pests and apply insecticidal soap if necessary.
  7. Harvesting: Caper bushes produce an abundance of flower buds, which can be harvested before they open. The buds can be pickled, salted, or sun-dried and used in a variety of dishes, including salads and roasted vegetables. The larger fruits, known as caperberries, can also be harvested and enjoyed.
  8. Storage: If you’re not planning to use the capers or caperberries immediately, they can be stored in a jar with salt and water. Make sure the capers are fully submerged in the brine and store them in a cool, dark place.

By following these care tips, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of capers and caperberries from your own caper bush. Happy gardening!


Capers, also known as capparis spinosa, are evergreen plants that require a good amount of light to grow properly. They thrive in bright sunlight, so it is important to place them in a spot where they can receive at least four to six hours of direct light each day.

Unlike many other plants, capers don’t have wide leaves to shield them from excessive light. The lack of foliage means that they require a significant amount of light to produce their signature tiny flower buds.

When propagating capers, light is also important. Italian gardeners, who are experts in caper cultivation, keep the seeds in daily light of at least 14 hours. This aids in seed germination and the growth of strong seedlings.

When buying caper plants, look for those that have been kept in a well-lit environment. Along with proper lighting, they also need a minimum temperature of 10 degrees Celsius to survive and grow well.

In the United States, including the states where capers are grown, such as California and Florida, the USDA suggests that capers grow best in areas where they can receive maximum sunlight and are protected from strong winds.

When harvesting capers, it is best to pick them in the morning when the seasoning and capote (the flower bud) are still small and tightly closed. This makes them ideal for pickling and preserving. The tiny capers are taken from the plant using scissors or small shears.

If you plan on growing capers in your garden, keep in mind that they prefer a well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Slightly sandy or earthy soil rich in organic matter is ideal. Make sure to water the plants regularly, but avoid over-watering, as capers don’t like wet feet.

When it comes to fertilizer, capers don’t require much. A low nitrogen fertilizer can be used sparingly during the growing season to provide a boost of nutrients, but be careful not to over-fertilize, as this can result in excessive leaf growth and reduced flowering.

Capers can be preserved in brine or vinegar, or dried for later use. The preserved capers provide a tangy and slightly salty flavor to dishes, and the dried capers offer a more intense flavor experience. When storing capers, keep them in a cool, dark place, preferably in an airtight container to maintain their freshness.

Capers have been used in cooking for centuries and are a significant part of Mediterranean cuisine. They add a unique zest and depth of flavor to a wide range of dishes, including salads, pasta, seafood, and sauces. Along with their culinary uses, capers also have a long history of being used for medicinal purposes and as part of traditional herbal remedies.

So, if you are a fan of capers and want to enjoy their delicate taste and versatility, consider growing your own caper plants. With the right care and attention to lighting, watering, and soil conditions, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of these tiny, flavorful buds.


When it comes to growing capers, the soil you choose is crucial for the success of your plants. Capers thrive in well-drained soil that is slightly alkaline. The ideal pH level for capers is between 7.0 and 8.5.

Before getting started, it’s important to prepare the soil properly. Capers are usually planted as young seedlings or transplants. When planting, dig a hole wide enough to accommodate the root ball and make sure it is deep enough for the entire root system. This will allow the roots to establish themselves and grow through the soil.

Capers are hardy plants and can tolerate a variety of soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay soils. However, it is important to ensure that the soil drains well to prevent waterlogging, as capers do not tolerate waterlogged conditions.

It is also recommended to add a minimum amount of organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to the planting hole. This will improve the soil structure and provide nutrients for the growing caper bushes.

Caring for capers includes regular watering, especially during dry spells, and providing them with full sun. Capers are native to Mediterranean regions, where they are accustomed to hot and dry conditions. Therefore, it is important to choose a sunny spot for growing capers and ensure they receive at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily.

Additionally, capers require a minimum temperature of around 10-15°C (50-59°F) to thrive. They can withstand slightly cooler temperatures, but frost can damage or kill the plants.

Another important consideration when growing capers is pruning. Capers are perennial plants, and it is essential to prune them regularly to maintain their shape and encourage healthy growth. Pruning also helps prevent the plants from becoming too leggy and promotes the formation of flower buds.

Capers are relatively pest-free, but they can occasionally be affected by weevils. To control weevils, sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the plants or use organic-approved insecticides, if necessary.

As for diseases, two common problems that caper plants may encounter are the caper viroid complex and the caper virus. These diseases can cause stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and reduced fruit production. To prevent the spread of these diseases, it is best to purchase caper plants from reputable sources and maintain good hygiene practices in your garden.

In conclusion, the soil you choose for growing capers plays a vital role in the success of your plants. It should be well-draining, slightly alkaline, and enriched with organic matter. Providing your caper plants with proper care, including regular watering, full sun, and pruning, will help them thrive. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy the delightful flavor of capers in various culinary dishes.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.