How to Grow Capsicum – Pepper

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Capsicum–commonly called pepper or ornamental pepper–is a tropical perennial usually grown as an annual. It is cultivated for its glossy green foliage, white, yellow, or purple flowers, and edible or ornamental green, yellow, red, or purple fruits.

Capsicum is mostly grown for its masses of colorful fruits. There are many pepper cultivars to choose from, both ornamental and edible, all are members of the species Capsicum annuum. All bloom in early summer. Fruits can be round, tapered, or cone-shaped and change in color from white to ivory, chartreuse, purple, red, or orange as they mature.

Chili peppers are edible but usually hot; there are varying degrees of hotness. Chili peppers include Jalapeno and serrano are milder types; Thai peppers are very hot; habanero are among the hottest. Sweet bell peppers are mild and sweet; they include ‘California Wonder’ and ‘Jingle Bells.’

Some peppers are almost strictly ornamental; they are cultivated as ornamental houseplants and grow 4 to 12 inches tall, cultivars include ‘Fireworks’ that grows to 8 inches tall with slim fruits, ‘Holiday Flame’ that grows to 12 inches tall with slim fruits, ‘Holiday Time’ which grows to 6 inches tall, and ‘Red Missile’ which grows to 10 inches tall.

Capsicum is a genus of 10 species of annuals and perennials native to forest margins in tropical North and South America.

Get to know Capsicum

  • Plant type: Annual
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 2-11 as a summer annual
  • Hardiness: Tender; where not hardy, capsicums are used ornamentally as houseplants, for windowboxes, beddings, and containers.
  • Height and width: 12 to 24 (30-60cm) inches tall and wide
  • Foliage: Entire oval to lance-shaped glossy green leaves
  • Flowers: Star to bell-shaped, yellow, white, greenish white, purple, or purple-tinged flowers
  • Fruit: Shiny, chambered, many-seeded, variably shaped fruit which are green at first, often ripening to yellow, orange, purple, or red including bell pepper that are sweet and crisp and hot chili peppers that are tender and spicy.
  • Bloom time: Summer
  • Uses: Edible fruit, vegetable garden; decorative fruits, houseplant
  • Common name: Pepper, ornamental pepper, Christmas pepper
  • Botanical name: Capsicum
  • Family name: Solanaceae
  • Origin: Tropical North and South America
Ornamental peppers, Capsicum annuum
Ornamental peppers, Capsicum annuum

Where to plant Capsicum

  • Light outdoors: Grow Capsicum in full sun.
  • Soil outdoors: Grow Capsicum in humus-rich, well-drained soil for sweet peppers; sandy soil for hot peppters.

When to plant Capsicum

  • Set container-grown Capsicum in the garden in spring or sow seed indoors or outdoors in spring.

Planting and spacing Capsicum

  • Space Capsicum 12 to 24 inches 30-60cm) apart.

How to water and feed Capsicum

  • Water Capsicum freely; keep the soil evenly moist but not wet for best, sustained growth.
  • Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every 10 days until fruit begins to color.

Capsicum care

  • Provide Capsicum with support.
  • Pinch out the growing tips of young plants to promote branching.
  • To ensure fruit will set, tap the branches gently when they are in flower to aid pollination.
  • If left ont eh plant too long, fruit production will decrease and peppers will start to deteriorate.

Growing Capsicum as a houseplant

  • Grow Capsicum in direct light, warm temperature, and average to high humidity.
  • Capsicum grows well in all-purpose potting medium as long as it is kept evenly moist.
  • To keep plants compact, pinch out growing tips.
  • Dry harvested hot peppers by using a needle to run a heavy thread through the bases of fruits. Hang in a cool, dry, airy place; peppers will dry in a few week.
  • Ornamental pepper is an annual and will die after it has finsihed flowering and fruiting; it can then be discarded.

Capsicum pests and diseases

  • Capsicum is vulnerable to attack by aphids, virus, and damping-off.
Ornamental chili peppers, Capsicum annuum
Ornamental chili peppers, Capsicum annuum

Capsicum propagation

  • Capsium is grown from seed.
  • Seed can be sown in spring to produce fruiting plants in summr and fall. Start peppers in spring indoors 6 to 8 weeks beofre the average last frost date.
  • Sow seeds indoors at 75° to 80°F (24°-27°C); seeds germinate in 5 to 8 days.
  • Seed sown in summer will produce plants that bear fruits for the winter holidays.

Capsicum varieties to grow

  • Capsicum annum, chili pepper, ornamental pepper. Grows 12 to 24 inches tall, as tall as 5 feet in tropical climates; lance-shaped to ovate mid-green leves to 5 inches long; star shaped or bell shaped white or yellow flowers; pendent narrowly conical fruit to 6 inches long; many cultivars.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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