The pepper plant is a perennial woody vine growing up to 4 m (13 ft) in height on supporting trees, poles, or trellises. It is a spreading vine, rooting readily where trailing stems touch the ground. The leaves are alternate, entire, 5 to 10 cm (2. 0 to 3. 9 in) long and 3 to 6 cm (1. 2 to 2. 4 in) across. The flowers are small, produced on pendulous spikes 4 to 8 cm (1. 6 to 3. 1 in) long at the leaf nodes, the spikes lengthening up to 7 to 15 cm (2. 8 to 5. 9 in) as the fruit matures. Pepper can be grown in soil that is neither too dry nor susceptible to flooding, moist, well-drained and rich in organic matter (the vines do not do too well over an altitude of 900 m (3,000 ft) above sea level). The plants are propagated by cuttings about 40 to 50 cm (16 to 20 in) long, tied up to neighbouring trees or climbing frames at distances of about 2 m (6 ft 7 in) apart; trees with rough bark are favoured over those with smooth bark, as the pepper plants climb rough bark more readily. Competing plants are cleared away, leaving only sufficient trees to provide shade and permit free ventilation. The roots are covered in leaf mulch and manure, and the shoots are trimmed twice a year. On dry soils, the young plants require watering every other day during the dry season for the first three years. The plants bear fruit from the fourth or fifth year, and then typically for seven years. The cuttings are usually cultivars, selected both for yield and quality of fruit.
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