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How to Grow Peppers

Grow hot peppers on horizontal wires for easy harvest.

Sweet peppers and hot peppers are most easily grown in the garden from transplants started indoors. Start seed indoors 7 to 10 weeks before the date you intend to set peppers into the garden. Don’t rush peppers into the garden. Transplant pepper seedling into the garden 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost in spring, after the soil temperature has warmed to at least 65°F (18°C). Peppers mature in 60 to 95 days depending on the variety.

Pepper seedlings
Pepper seedlings

Planting Peppers

Starting Pepper Seed Indoors:

  • Start pepper seed indoors 7 to 10 weeks before the date you intend to set seedlings into the garden.
  • Sow 3 to 4 seeds to a pot or across flats.
  • Sow seed ¼ to ½ inch (7-13 mm) deep.
  • Germination soil temperature is 75-95°F (24-35°C); the optimum soil temperature for germinating seed is 85°F (29°C).
  • Germination takes 7 to 10 days at 85°F (29°C) or warmer.
  • Keep the seed starting mix just moist until seedlings emerge.
  • Clip away the weaker seedlings once the strongest seedling is about 2 inches (5 cm) tall.
  • Seedlings started indoors should be kept under grow light or in a sunny window after germination. Keep the indoor nighttime temperature above 62°F (17°C).
  • Water to keep the seed starting mix from drying.
  • Transfer seedlings to a larger container once they are 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) tall; be sure that seedlings have sufficient room for root growth. This process is called “potting up.” Continue to pot up seedlings as they outgrow containers—until they are transplanted into the garden or a very large container.

More tips on growing peppers from seed: Pepper Seed Starting Tips.

Planting peppers in rows
Sweet and hot peppers grow best in air temperatures 65° to 80°F.

Planting Peppers Outdoors:

  • Transplant peppers into the garden 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost in spring when the soil temperature has risen to at least 65°F (18°C).
  • Young peppers transplanted should be 4 to 6 inches (10-15cm) tall.
  • Plants started indoors should be acclimatized to outdoor temperatures before transplants. Set plants outdoors for a few hours each day before transplanting to the garden.
  • Sweet and hot peppers grow best in air temperatures 65° to 80°F (18-26°C).
  • . The ideal temperature for sweet peppers is a daytime temperature around 75°F (24°C).
  • and a nighttime temperature around 62°F (172°C).
  • Grow peppers in full sun. Peppers should get 8 hours of sun each day.
  • Plant peppers in soil rich in organic matter. Work aged garden compost or commercial organic planting mix into beds prior to planting.
  • The soil should be moisture-retentive but well-draining. Slightly sandy or loamy soil is best.
  • Pre-warm the soil before transplanting by placing black plastic over the planting bed for two weeks prior to transplanting peppers. The plastic will transfer solar heat to the soil.
  • Set transplants in the garden at the same depth they were growing in the container. Do not plant deeper; buried stem may rot.
  • Peppers prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.
  • Avoid planting peppers where another nightshade (Solanaceae) family crop has grown recently—tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants. These crops can be attacked by the same pests and diseases.

Spacing Pepper Plants:

  • Space pepper plants 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) apart. Space rows 24 to 36 inches (61-91cm) apart.

Container Growing Peppers:

  • Peppers can be grown in pots or containers that are at least 12 inches (30cm) wide and deep.
  • Plant peppers in a commercial potting mix.
  • Choose a container with holes in the bottom for easy drainage.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Side-dress plants with compost tea or dilute fish emulsion every two weeks through the growing season.
  • In larger containers, set plants on 12-inch (30cm) centers.

Caring for Peppers

Watering and Feeding Peppers:

  • Keep peppers evenly moist but not wet particularly when blossoms appear and fruit begins to form.
  • Soil that goes too dry can result in flower drop
  • Add aged compost to planting beds before planting and again at midseason. Aged compost will feed the soil and act as a mulch to stem soil moisture evaporation.
Pepper protected by plastic mulch
Plastic mulch can improve pepper growth by reducing weeding and watering.

Maintaining Peppers:

  • Keep planting beds well weeded to avoid competition.
  • Peppers are shallow-rooted, so cultivate around peppers with care.
  • Mulch around peppers with aged compost or straw to keep soil temperature and moisture even.
  • Plastic mulch can improve pepper yields. Organic compost mulches will reduce weeding and watering, but not fruit yields.
  • Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers which will create large leafy plants with few or no fruits.
  • Feed plants compost tea or water with a dilute fish emulsion solution every 10 days.
  • Support pepper plants with a stake or cage; plants heavy with fruit can break or topple. Pepper branches are brittle and can easily break.
  • High temperatures and wind can cause flowers to drop and plants not to set fruit.

More tips: Pepper Planting: Easy Steps to a Bumper Crop.

Pepper Pests:

  • Peppers can be attacked by aphids, cutworms, flea beetles, and hornworms.
  • Discourage cutworms by placing a collar around each transplant at the time of planting.
  • Handpick hornworms off of plants. Drop them into a can of soapy water.
  • Flea beetles and aphids can be partially controlled by hosing them off the plants and pinching out infested foliage.

Pepper Diseases:

  • Peppers are susceptible to rot, blossom end rot, anthracnose, tobacco mosaic virus, bacterial spot, and mildew.
  • Plant disease-resistant varieties. Seed packets and plant labels will note disease resistance.
  • Keep the garden clean and free of weeds where pests and diseases can shelter.
  • Remove infected plants before a disease can spread.
  • If you smoke, wash your hands before working with the plants to avoid spreading the tobacco mosaic virus.

More to pepper pests and diseases: Pepper Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.

Peppers at harvest time
Pulling a pepper away from the plant can cause a branch to break or can pull the plant out of the soil. Use a garden clipper to harvest peppers.

Harvesting and Storing Peppers

Harvesting Peppers:

  • Peppers are ready for harvest in 60 to 95 days after sowing
  • Peppers mature from green to red as the seeds inside mature.
  • Fruit color change can be slow when the weather is not consistently warm.
  • Sweet peppers become sweeter as they ripen and turn color.
  • Cut peppers off the vine with a garden shear or scissors; don’t pull them.
  • Leave a short amount of stem attached to the pepper at harvest time.
  • Peppers will continue to change color and ripen after harvest if place in a warm spot out of direct sunlight.

More harvest tips: How to Harvest and Store Peppers.

Storing and Preserving Peppers:

  • Peppers can be stored in a cool, moist place for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Peppers can be refrigerated for up to 10 days; place them in a plastic bag to avoid cold burn.
  • Blanched peppers can be stored in the freezer for 4 to 6 months.
  • Peppers can be dried or pickled whole or in pieces.
  • Be careful when handling hot peppers. They contain a compound call capsaicin which is concentrated in the veins, ribs, and seeds. Capsaicin can burn your eyes, nose, or mouth. Washed your hands thoroughly after handling hot
Sweet bell pepper
Sweet bell pepper

Sweet Pepper Varieties to Grow

Sweet peppers vary in shape and color and include the slender banana pepper; the short, round cherry pepper; the small bright-red, heart-shaped pimiento; the multi-colored Italian frying pepper; and the blocky green to yellow to orange to red bell pepper. Sweet peppers can be eaten raw, cooked, or pickled. Not all sweet pepper varieties are mildly flavored; some can be spicy and hot.

  • Blocky Sweet Peppers: ‘Ace’ (55 days); ‘Bell Boy’ (75 days); ‘Bell Captain’ (72 days); ‘Big Bertha’ (72 days); ‘Bull Nose’ (55-70 days); ‘California Wonder’ (73 days); ‘Camelot’ (74 days); ‘Elisa’ (72 days); ‘Emerald Giant’ (74 days); ‘Jupiter Elite’ (66 days); ‘King Arthur’ (72 days);’ Little Dipper’ (66 days); ‘Midway’ (70 days); ‘North Star’ (66 days); ‘Secret’ (60 days); ‘Yankee Bell’ (60 days); ‘Yolo Wonder’ (73 days).
  • Red Sweet Bells: ‘Cardinal’ (70 days); ‘Rampage’ (66 days); ‘Redwing’ (72 days); ‘Summer Sweet’ (76 days).
  • Long Sweet Peppers: ‘Banana Supreme’ (65 days); ‘Hungarian Yellow Wax’ (65 days).
  • Space Savers: ‘Baby Bell’ (55 days); ‘Jingle Bells’ (55 days); ‘Park’s Pot’ (45 days).
  • Yellow-Orange Sweet Bells: ‘Canary’ (72 days); ‘Gold Finch’ (72 days); ‘Klondike Bell’ (72 days); Orobelle (70 days); ‘Peppourri Orange’ (75 days); ‘Summer Sweet’ (86 days).
  • Heart-Shaped Sweet Peppers: ‘Pimento’ (65-80 days).
  • Other Sweet Peppers: ‘Blue Jay’ (73 days); ‘Chocolate Beauty’ (58-86 days); ‘Cubanelle’ (62 days); ‘Purple Beauty’ (70 days).

Peppers to plant: Pepper Varieties: Best Bets and Easy-To-Grow.

Hot peppers in garden
Jalapeno pepper plant supported by a wire cage

Hot Pepper Varieties to Grow

Hot peppers–also called chili peppers–vary in shape and color and include the bell-shaped pepper, the heart-shaped pimiento, the short and long podded yellow wax, the conical-shaped jalapeño, and the cayenne. Peppers easily cross-pollinate there are thousands of different hot peppers.

Hot peppers are rated by their heat–called Scoville heat units (SHU). The greater the number of units on the Scoville scale the hotter the pepper. Here are several hot pepper varieties starting with the hottest (all of these will cause most people discomfort when eaten):

  • ‘Bhut Jolokia’ (also called ‘Ghost Pepper’): 1,001,304 SHU (100days)
  • ‘Scotch Bonnet’: 100,000-580,000 SHU (120 days)
  • ‘Habanero’: 100,000-500,000 SHU (90-100 days)
  • ‘Jamaican Hot’: 100,000-200,000 SHU (95 days)
  • ‘Chiltepin’: 100,000 SHU (95 days)
  • ‘Thai’: 50,000-100,000 SHU (90 days)
  • ‘Cayenne’: 30,000-50,000 SHU (72 days)
  • ‘Aji’: 30,000-50,000 SHU (85-90 days)
  • ‘Tabasco’: 30,000-50,000 SHU (80 days)
  • ‘Serrano’: 8,000-23,000 SHU (75-80 days)
  • ‘Mirasol’: 5,000 SHU (100 days)
  • ‘Jalapeño’: 2,500-9,000 SHU (75 days)

More on hot peppers: How to Choose a Chili Pepper.

About Peppers

  • Peppers are tender perennials that are grown as annuals.
  • Peppers grow on compact erect bushes 1½ to 2 feet tall.
  • The fruit follows a single flower growing in the angle between a leaf and a stem.
  • Botanical name: Capsicum annuum (sweet and hot peppers).
  • Origin: New World Tropics.

More tips: Growing Peppers for Flavor.

Grow 80 vegetables: THE KITCHEN GARDEN GROWERS’ GUIDE

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52 Comments

  1. I think it’s safe to say that when the pepper ripens (turns red) it becomes much, much sweeter. The green pepper is simply an unripe pepper, and is much sharper in taste than the red, orange or yellow.

    • You can sow three or four seeds per hole; once the seedlings are up cut away all but the strongest plant within a few weeks. If you are transplanting seedlings into the garden, plant just one seedling per hole. Choose a seedlings 8 to 10 weeks old that is not spindly and is deep green colored.

    • Fruit can be composted and then used as a mulch–however, ripe fruit will contain a lot of seed, so be aware that all of that seed could lead to new seedlings next spring. As well over ripe fruit can attract insect and animal pests to your garden. If possible compost your ripe fruit for several months before adding to the garden.

    • The best fertilizer for sweet peppers would be the addition of aged compost to your planting beds. Compost is rich–but not too rich–in the major and minor nutrients. Generally avoid a high nitrogen fertilizer which will produce green growth but inhibit fruit production. A fertilizer higher in phosphorus would be best — such as 5-10-10.

    • Sweet peppers are often available during the summer months at farmers’ markets. Visit a farmers’ market to see what sweet pepper varieties are growing in your region.

    • Peppers are a perennial plant in tropical regions where they originated. If you have no frost where you live then your pepper plant may grow for 6 or 7 years before it dies a natural death. If you live where winters get cold, then you will need to replant each year or grow your peppers in a greenhouse where temperatures stay warm.

  2. Today is October 23 and the weather in my region of Canada has dropped to overnight lows of 3 Celsius…how cold hardy are bell peppers and what will cold temperatures do to the fruit on the vine?

    • Cold temps much below the mid 40sF will burn bell pepper flesh. If you do not want to harvest the peppers, you should protect them under clear plastic tunnels or sheeting. Cold will wick the moisture out of pepper skins leaving them shriveled. If temperatures go to freezing, moisture in the plant cells will freeze and burst the cells.

  3. hi, can yellow pepper seeds germinate if i replant? (i mean if i take seeds from a yellow pepper fruit and plant them , will they germinate, if not , how do i propagate yellow pepper seeds?)

    • You can save seeds from open-pollinated peppers and replant them next season and they will grow true to the parent. If the variety of of pepper you are harvesting this season is a hybrid, it will likely not grow true–meaning you will not get the same pepper next year but a fruit that has reverted to one of the parents of the hybrid. Seed packets and and plant labels usually tell you if the plant is a hybrid or open-pollinated (OP). If you know the name of the pepper, you can also check online.

  4. Problem with growing my Poblano Peppers, 3 years ago we planted Pablanos. Plants grew beautiful and huge. lots of peppers, but with tiny bumps all over the skin. The second year they grew fine, no bumps…This year I have a few fruits on plants and can already see tiny bumps on the skins…the bumps are not discolored and are not insect bite marks. Do you have any idea what this is and how to fix it?

    • Peppers can have bumpy, scarred skin when infected with the Cucumber Mosaic Virus. This virus is commonly spread by aphids. Placing aluminum foil under plants will reflect light and confuse the aphids and other pest insects. The virus is not curable; the only defense is prevention.

    • Peppers will naturally turn from green to dark red if left on the plant long enough. If the skin is thin or easily damaged then you will want to feed the plant with an organic fertilizer that contains calcium. Calcium will help the plant build strong cell walls. Keep this in mind for next season.

    • The way to know how many plants of one crop you should plant over the course of a growing season or a year is based on your own use or the use of all of the people in your household. If you eat peppers and onions with every lunch and dinner, then you will plant quite a few onion and pepper plants over the course of a year. If you eat one pepper or one onion with a meal only occasionally then the number of plants would be less. Keep a food log for a week or a month and record how often you eat a vegetable or fruit, then you make an educated estimate of how many to plant. (You would not plant all at once, but successively so you have a continual harvest.) If you plan to can or preserve your crops, you will grow more. This link may help:
      https://harvesttotable.com/vegetable_crop_yields_plants_p/

  5. I was given a pepper plant. It was rootbound so I took it out of the pot it was in and put it in a bigger pot. All of the flowers and the little chilies it had dropped. Now the leaves are small and starting to curl. I brought the plant inside the house and put it under a light because the weather is cold outside. The leaves haven’t grown much. I don’t know if it’s in shock. Can you please help

    • It is likely your pepper plant is suffering transplant shock even though you were careful moving the plant to a new pot. When a pepper plant is stressed the first thing it will do is drop fruit and leaves. Keep the soil just moist and place the plant under two fluorescent shop lights for 12 hours each day; keep the light about 6 inches above the plant. You can feed it a solution of B-1 fertilizer to help it recover. If the plant recovers from the shock of transplanting, it will generate new leaves and if the temperature is right (in the 70s and 80sF), it will flower and fruit again.

  6. No comment to bring forward, already the comments above have provided all the answers I may have had, and for that I say big thank you and thank you for everything else provided.

  7. I have grown a mix variety of peppers. i have transplanted seedlings about 10 days ago.
    most of them are doing fine. one or 2 are slow as they were slow at germination too.
    I recently noticed that one plant was chewed at the middle of the main stem (above 2 sets of leaves and below the other 2 sets and new growth), causing the top 4-5 leaves to wilt, then the plant died after 2-3 days. I noticed the same damage on another one this morning which was fine last evening. otherwise it was all healthy and growing happily.
    Any idea what may have caused it/

    • Slugs, snails, and earwigs are the likely culprits when you seed chewed seedling stems. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in a circle around the seedlings. Diatomaceous earth will act as a barrier; it is a desiccant that will harm crawling insects. Another option is to place a paper towel or toilet paper cardboard ring around each seeding–insert the ring two inches into the ground with another two inches above the ground; this will also keep soil-borne insects from getting to the seedlings.

    • Peppers can be planted in succession. That may be a good idea if you have a very long warm growing season, a warm-season that lasts 8 to 12 months. A pepper succession crop could be planted every two months for a continuous harvest. If you live where there are cold winters, successive crops of peppers may be difficult (unless you are growing indoors); in a short growing season region, there may simply not be enough warm weather to bring peppers to harvest. Pepper plants will continue to set flowers and fruit if fruits on the plant are picked as they near maturity. If you leave peppers on the plant to mature at the same time, the plant will slow or stop producing new flowers and fruit.

    • If bell peppers have not grown blocky but have developed a pointed end, check first your seed to be sure that the variety you planted is what you thought you planted; is it possible the seed was a different variety than you thought. Most bell pepper varieties have a square end or bell shape, but some such as ‘Ace’ are more angular. Most chili peppers have an angular form. ‘Pablano’ is a mild-flavored chili pepper that some folks consider closer to a bell pepper. If the seed was to produce a bell-shaped pepper and the pepper was more pointed (subulate), then it is likely the plant did not receive constant soil moisture during development. Make sure the soil stays evenly moist and feed peppers with a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus than nitrogen such as 5-10-10.

  8. Thank you for the detailed post, it was very informative. The issues I’ve dealt with (hot peppers in the Pacific Northwest) include challenges attempting to harden off the seedlings as well as grows uprooting those seedlings. Temperature swings can be significant near the coast even into the summer, and winds can get quite high. Any suggestions for quickly and reliably hardening off seedlings are much appreciated.

    • Growing near the coast can be a challenge–as you have noted. Growing peppers in a plastic tunnel or hoop house is a way to moderate the temperature and to shield plants from wind. If you are hardening off young seedlings and are not using a plastic tunnel erect an open-topped enclosure by placing stakes around a plating bed and then running sheets of clear plastic between the stakes to enclose the bed from the sides. As the stems of the peppers grow strong you can stake the plants or early on you can place a tomato cage around each pepper plant; this will help protect them from strong wind and the threat of stem or branch breakage. Peppers not in a plastic tunnel or hoop house can be protected from dips in temperature with floating row covers.

  9. I am planing to use coco-peat medium in the 18’X18″ pots for Bell-pepper cultivation in a plant house. Albert’s solution would be used as the nutrient feed, I am doing this cultivation in tropical region where average humidity is 90% and average temperature 28C.
    How do you find this plan of cultivation? Could you please explain the fertilizer regime to be applied for bell-peppers at different growth stages? Ex: Days after sowing vs type and amount of fertilizer per plant.

  10. I got an already leafed red bell pepper plant from the store. It was planted in a big tub at the beginning of summer. Since then it produced 2 nice sized bell peppers- 1 broke off while still small and green. The other took awhile to grow and is now big a ready to harvest yet is still green and the only 1. The plant had 2 of what looked like bell peppers starting to grow in with flower buds around them but they dissappeared while still little and I don’t what happened.

    • Some pepper varieties mature green, but most mature orange or red. You can eat a green bell pepper or you can wait for it to turn color–if the plant label says it is supposed to be orange or green. You can eat peppers at any color as they mature. Pepper fruits can fail for many reasons; it may have been related to temperatures too warm or too chilly; it could be over or under watering, or too much nitrogen in the fertilizer.

    • Sorry, we are not familiar with a garden chemical called Attack. Take a list of the ingredients to a nearby nursery, garden center, or cooperative extension service office for their recommendation.

    • Sweet peppers, harvested green, should average 25 tons to 30 tons per hectare, with good crops yielding in excess of 40 tons. When harvested red, average yields are only 8 tons to 12 tons per hectare, partly due to losses from sunburn.

  11. Thanks for your presentation about pepper plantation, so anthracnose is a diseases that can attack pepper most time and reduce production . i want to know appropriate way to prevent and treating this diseases

  12. Hi I am from Sri Lanka. I am a new farmer and planted Scotch Bonnet pepper. Now 9 weeks after planting. Planted in plastic bags and in a greenhouse.
    Recently I noticed some leaves are having brown colored patches underside and after couple of days leaves are falling down. It is spreading rapidly and now almost all the plants with the problem. Used several fungicides and insecticides but still it is in same condition. Please help me to solve this issue.

    • Be sure your plastic bags allow for good drainage. Wet roots can lead to rot and result in leaves turning white or brown. You may want to use grow bags that are well-drained. Keep the plants in full sun. Make sure there is good air circulation or a gentle breeze to ward off fungal diseases. Feed plants with a dilute solution of fish emulsion every 10 days.

    • Shelter the plant from the direct midday sun. Keep the soil just moist. Use a fertilizer for tomatoes–that is high in phosphorus.

    • Aged compost is organic matter that is well-decomposed. The organic material such as leaves will not be recognizable. Aged compost is also called humus; it is organic material that has sat for several months and is nearly fully decomposed. Aged compost is often found at the bottom of a compost pile that has been sitting for several months to a year or more.

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