Pepper Trees

Gardening Question From Glennis:

We are in escrow of a home in Banning, CA. There are what we believe to be two very large California Pepper trees lining either side of the driveway. I can direct you to the website that will show you the front of the house if you would be so kind as to look (please advise via email and I will give you the site). Perhaps you can tell by appearance if we are correct?  They are beautiful, but, we think, need pruning and are concerned about their proximity to the house (especially the sewer line).  We would so appreciate your opinion.

Thank you in advance for any help you can offer.

Answer From Pat:

Yes these are California pepper trees and they look wonderful. The last thing I would do would be to cut them down—it would be a tragedy, but if I were you i would have your sewer pipes roto-rooted and then lined to the street. This is one of the most worthwhile expenses I ever did. I lined my sewer lines down to the street. (You can take out a small loan to cover the expense, if necessary.) Then you will have no more roots and no more problems or worries. My incoming water line comes a different way. Down a steep hill and it goes past many trees with invasive roots. It is copper and has never ever been a problem for 60 years. 

I would also hire an arborist to advise you of a good pruning company and have those pepper trees pruned about every 5 years in either fall or spring. (Ask your local UC Extension and the Master Gardeners to recommend to you an arborist for his advice on this.) Pepper trees can live to be hundreds of years old so take care of them and line those pipes! NEVER over-prune your pepper trees since they are subject to attack by shot-hole beetle. It would be better not to prune at all than to weaken them. 


Photo by kla4067


  1. Thank you so much, Pat. Your input and recommendations are invaluable to us! I so appreciate your taking the time out of your busy schedule to address my question.

  2. Actually this is more of a suggestion of the inquiries about what to grow under a Pepper tree. I like to ask this question myself once in a while. I have had this “problem” for over 30 years in the front yard of my house. I have had some success with allysums. When they drop seeds and they pop up after a while can transplant to more spots under tree. This way is economical and earth friendly. One issue I have found out is in my exasperation with all the peppers and leaves to rake I get too aggressive and take the alyssums with the raking. (Ha) So be careful with new plants. And unfortunately esp. in So Cal where I live have to water more in the beginning.
    Thank you for your time and an informative new website for me to learn.

    sorry I forgot to mention it is easy to trim, mow, (they come back) and clean up under the alyssums just be gentle.

    • Good point! Once again thanks for comment. When I was young I lived in Claremont Ca with my husband and children and I went back and taught ancient history as the graduate assistant in Freshman Humanities at the college from which I had graduated (Scripps College.) The woman who owned our rented house asked me not to plant a lawn. Sweet alyssum grew instead. I mowed it and watered it by hand, some birds added grass seeds and our landlady accused me of having planted a lawn against her wishes. I explained that nature had done it and I had merely mown it. She was very understanding but it was a funny situation, since for me everything grew and even the weeds cooperated and became a garden.

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