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Products > Capparis spinosa
Capparis spinosa - Caper Bush

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Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Capparaceae (Capers)
Origin: Greece (Europe)
Flower Color: White
Bloomtime: Spring
Height: 2-3 feet
Width: 3-4 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Seaside: Yes
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 10-15 F
Capparis spinosa (Caper Bush) - A deciduous sprawling shrub with large swollen roots and basal stems bearing semi-succulent medium-green heart-shaped leaves that often have a bronze or reddish tinge when newly emerging. The flowers buds (the edible caper) begin to appear in late spring and often continue to late summer. The buds open as delicately scented pinkish-white flowers, adorned with long lavender stamens, that open at dawn and close late in the afternoon. Caper bushes thrive when planted in lean well-drained soil in a hot sunny location with little or no water. Although appreciative of some summer irrigation in well-drained soil, a sure way to kill a caper bush is to over water it. Tip growth can be damaged by temperatures in the mid 20s F but plants are root hardy down to at least 18 F. A simple rule of thumb is that the caper bush can be planted where the olive tree grows. As an ornamental plant caper bushes can be an attractive loose groundcover, a specimen small shrub or can be used as an espalier, which presents the flower buds well for picking. The caper bush is salt-tolerant and will flourish along shores within sea-spray zones. As flowers are born on first-year branches, one can cut back plants back annually without sacrificing flowering and have a healthier and bushier plant. The true species of Capparis spinosa has stipular spines, as the specific epithet would imply. The varietal form that San Marcos Growers produces, C. spinosa var. inermis, lacks these spines. Capparis spinosa has a long history of being cultivated; capers were noted as being a marketable commodity for the ancient Greeks by Dioscorides and their use was mentioned by the Roman scholar, Pliny the Elder. In this several millennia of use a simple rule for cultivation of caper bush has developed, that is to give plants a similarly harsh condition as it would grow in naturally.  This description is based on our research and observations of this plant as it grows in our nursery and our own landscape plantings and in other gardens that we visit. We also incorporate comments we receive from others and appreciate receiving feedback of any kind from those who have additional information about this plant, particularly if they disagree with what we have written or if they have additional cultural tips that would aid others in growing Capparis spinosa