Caper Bush Plant Profile

A Striking Low-Maintenance Plant in Sunny, Dry Climates

Caper Bush close up

Dorit Bar-Zakay / Getty Images

The unripened flower buds of the Caper Bush (Capparis spinosa), sometimes also called Finders Rose, are used for culinary purposes across the world. When dried and brined, they add a burst of tangy, intense flavor to a variety of dishes. They're particularly popular in Mediterranean regions, where the bushes grow in abundance.

Even if you're not a fan of capers, if you have the right conditions, these plants can make a wonderful addition to garden spaces. Caper Bushes produce impressive, ornamental, fragrant white flowers with beautiful, delicate, long violet stamens. The flowers only last for a day, but if you let the bush spread, you'll see flowers appearing right through the summer.

These plants grow well in old walls and gravelly soils, so they can make a good addition to a courtyard or rock garden that gets plenty of sun. It's twisting vines can sprawl and scramble up walls and over stones. Traditional Caper Bushes have sharp thorns on their vines, but many commercially available varieties have been developed to be spineless.

Botanical Name Capparis spinosa
Common Name Caper Bush, Flinders Rose
Plant Type Evergreen shrub
Mature Size Up to 2 meters
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Tolerates a variety of well-drained soils
Soil pH Tolerates a variety
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White, pinkish-white, red
Hardiness Zones 8 to 10
Native Area Mediterranean and Himalayas
Capers growing on the bush
The flower buds are harvested for use as a flavoring in a variety of dishes Caroyl La Barge / Getty Images
Close up of a Caper Bush flower attracting bees
The beautiful flowers on Caper Bushes are most commonly white and are attractive to pollinators a Iropa / Getty Images
Caper Bush hanging from a wall
Caper bushes are very hardy and can often be seen growing from the walls of ancient buildings in the Mediterranean  Happy window / Getty Images

How to Grow Caper Bushes

In the right conditions, Caper Bushes will grow prolifically and won't require a lot of maintenance. They're drought-tolerant and can handle poor quality, rocky soil. They do, however, need hot, dry and sunny conditions.

Light

Caper bushes need plenty of direct sunlight to thrive. If you have a shady garden, this won't be the right plant for you.

Soil

These bushes do well in poor quality rocky, sandy or gravelly soil types. It's essential, however, that the site is well-drained.

Water

Drought-tolerant Caper Bushes have a deep root system and foliage that finds and retain moisture easily. When you first plant them, they will need more frequent watering to allow them to establish. After this, minimal watering will be needed. It's vital to ensure they don't get too much moisture. You can kill off Caper Bushes if they're left in standing water.

Temperature and Humidity

Caper Bushes are native to regions with an arid climate. They will thrive in locations where they can experience dry heat. You're not going to see successful growth in cold or humid regions.

In very hot regions, the plant can remain evergreen, but they will lose their leaves if temperatures drop significantly in winter. If you experience hot summers but chillier winters, you could also keep your bush in a suitably sized container and bring it indoors when the temperatures drop. They're only hardy down to around 18°F and will die if exposed to temperatures lower than this.

Fertilizer

An established Caper Bush can thrive in highly infertile soil and won't need additional feeding. For the first couple of years, while the plant is still young, feeding a weak, slow-release fertilizer solution a few times through the spring and summer could be beneficial.

Propagating Caper Bushes

Patience, perseverance and careful care will be required if you plan to try growing Caper Bushes from stem cuttings. If you're successful, keep in mind that you won't see any flowers for at least the first two or three years.

Select spring basal cuttings which have a decent number of buds on them. Ideally, they should be around four inches long. Dipping the bases in rooting hormone will give your cuttings a better chance of establishing. They also need to be kept warm and moist.

Don't forget that if you want to enjoy both flowers and edible capers, it's best to plant a fair number of cuttings. That way, you can harvest some and let the others continue to bloom.

Pruning

Hard pruning your Caper Bush in the winter will encourage healthy new blooms the following year and will help the shrub retain a tidy shape. For new, young plants, you shouldn't prune them during the first several years while they're establishing.

Harvesting

Once your bush is well-established, you'll be able to start harvesting the buds during the summer months. Make sure the buds are tight and that they are a dark green shade. They should be at least a 1/4 inch wide. Picking them in the morning is best as they start to open as the day gets hotter.

The buds will then need to be sun-dried before they're brined, salted or pickled.

Growing From Seeds

Many people opt to buy a young caper bush from a nursery. The dormant seeds of this plant are well-known for being tricky to germinate. If you want to give it a try, soaking the seeds for 24 hours produces better results than sowing them dry. If the seeds aren't fresh, they will also need a period of cold stratification. The seeds should be kept moist, sealed and refrigerated for at least a couple of months.

After the stratification process is complete, make sure that you give the seeds a further 24 hour soaking in warm water before sowing them. The medium you sow the seeds into should be loose, very well-draining and moist. Although germination can start around a month after sowing, it can take up to three months.

Great care should be taken when transplanting the seedlings. They don't take kindly to having their roots disturbed. Overly hot or cold temperatures are also problematic. Until they're well-established, they should be kept out of direct hot sun and covered or housed indoors if temperatures are lower.