When you’re looking for something spicy, you can never really go wrong with hot peppers. They just bring out that lovely kick in any dish that I’d love for you to grow one yourself! Allow me to share some tips and tricks on how to grow hot peppers at home.
If you’re questioning just how versatile this ingredient is, I urge you to check out the number of cuisines they fit right in. Trust me, you can find them almost everywhere. Be it Italian, Mexican, Thai or Chinese, there’s a bunch of cuisines that have their own take on hot peppers.
What can I say? People around the world just love their peppers. And I’m one of them.
Just think about all sorts of dishes you can elevate by adding this spicy ingredient. From classic Chilli con Carne to spicy wings, hot peppers can and will crank up the heat and flavor of your favorite meals.
Besides the range of flavors you can get from them, the health benefits of eating hot peppers are noteworthy as well. See, hot peppers are high in Vitamin A, C, and K1. Plus, they are rich in antioxidants that are linked to Pain Relief and Weight Loss.
I’ve been having so much fun growing hot peppers in my garden and now it’s your turn. Don’t worry if you’re new to this. I’ve made this growing guide for hot peppers to help you from planting to harvesting.
Time to spice up your garden!
Growing Hot Peppers – Difficulty Level, Maintenance, And Other Advantages
Hot peppers can be a finicky plant to grow. Even long-time gardeners might find germinating hot pepper seeds tricky. However, once established, this plant requires very little care. Actually, only two things come to mind when talking about its plant care.
You just need to give give it a moderate amount of water and remember to not over-fertilize it.
Aside from being a low maintenance plant to care for, there’s not much to worry about in terms of pests or insects when compared to other plants. There might be the occasional ‘pepper attackers’ but with simple troubleshooting, you can easily get rid of them.
Plus, they’re super rewarding to grow. When given the ideal growing conditions, most pepper varieties will be ready for harvest in just 2 ½ months!
Are you up for the challenge? Of course, you are! You can breeze through this whole growing process and taste your home-grown peppers in no time. With proper guidance, you’ll enjoy growing hot peppers at home with little to no problem.
Let’s start planting!
Planting Hot Peppers
When is the best time to plant hot pepper?
Before you start preparing your gardening tools and scoping your yard, check your calendar first. The best time to plant hot peppers is when the dangers of frost have finally come to pass. Hot peppers are warm-weather plants that thrive in temperatures ranging from 70° to 95°F.
In about 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost in spring, you can start transplanting your hot peppers on their final location. During this time, the soil temperature should have risen to at least 65°F according to Michigan state university.
Check your local frost date to be more accurate.
If you are blessed with a longer growing season, you can start sowing seeds directly into the ground. But most gardeners like me, start seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the optimum time for transplanting.
How do I start a hot pepper plant?
The best way to grow hot peppers varies from gardener to gardener. Although, most will definitely agree that the easiest way is to grow them from transplant. As mentioned earlier, germinating hot pepper seeds can be tricky. You need to be patient.
Starting from transplant saves you from the number of weeks you’ll spend germinating if you started from seeds. If you are a beginner, I even recommend you to grow them from a starter plant.
Although this gives you a smaller variety to choose from, it will definitely be much easier than starting them from seeds. You can visit your local garden center to purchase one or try online. This 3-pack live plants I once purchased from Amazon, gave me healthy looking peppers after.
If you do want to explore more varieties and experience the whole growing process of hot peppers, I suggest you start from seeds. It will take time, yes, but it’s so satisfying once you have an established plant in your hands.
It might be a little intimidating starting from scratch but no worries! I’ll tell you all you need to know about germinating hot peppers seeds later.
What hot pepper varieties should I grow?
One of the perks of growing hot peppers in your own garden is you get to choose the variety you want. And there are so many choose from. Depending on how spicy you want them to be or how you plan to use them, there’s a hot pepper out there that would suit your taste.
Check out some of my favorite varieties to grow:
Habanero – If you really want to crank up the heat, this one will do just fine. When I say heat I mean high heat of 50,000 – 350,000 SHU. This variety will please anyone craving for intense spiciness.
Cherry Red – This one is good for stuffing. It’s small and round and most importantly, it has a thick skin. Perfect for the classic meat stuffed cherry bombs!
Jalapeno – Definitely one of the most popular varieties to grow, Jalapeno will give you medium to mild heat with Scoville Heat Units of 2,000 – 5,000. This cylindrical hot pepper will take about 72 days to mature. Expect short stubby peppers when growing.
Hungarian Yellow Wax – If you’re living in an area with a relatively short growing season, you might wanna consider growing this variety. It’ll only take 60 days for this cultivar to mature. It has medium heat (1,000-15,000 SHU).
You might confuse this one with the banana pepper since they look quite alike, but this variety is definitely much hotter compared to the latter.
Cayenne – Another popular variety, Cayenne is a long, tapering and curving hot pepper perfect for drying. Expect medium to high heat (25,000- 50,000 SHU). It will only take about 70 days to grow this cultivar.
And there’s so much more! You may also want to check out other varieties like Anaheim Chili (80 days), Jalapa (65 days), Tabasco (80-120 days) and Santa Fe Grande (75 days). If there are other varieties you would want to try, go! Plant what’s best for you (and your garden).
These varieties have more or less the same growing conditions so you wouldn’t have any problems trying different ones. Although, it wouldn’t hurt to consider the length of your growing season. Early varieties that only require shorter days to mature are probably the best for that.
Take note: Good quality seeds gives you a better chance for a successful harvest. Buy fresh quality seeds from a trusted source. You can buy a seed pack at your local garden center or if you want more choices, purchase one online.
Should I grow hot pepper in a container or grow it in the ground?
You can grow hot peppers in garden beds or in containers. Depending on the space you have in your house, you can choose either of the two.
If you do want to grow them in containers, I find that a one and a half gallon pot is perfect for growing a single hot pepper plant. If you want to plant more than one, either use a big pot like a 5-gallon container or just use another one and half-gallon pot for each plant you add.
Although, I must say, having a single plant in a one and a half-gallon container makes it much easier for me. It’s simpler to move around a small pot to adjust for sunlight than lug a heavy container.
Just make sure there’s an 18-24 inches space between each plant for optimum growth and development.
Visit your local nursery if you want to score some free pots. Although you might have to wait for the end of the growing season for a chance to have one. If you don’t want to wait until then, check out these planting pots I found on Amazon.
Certainly durable and totally inexpensive, these sturdy pots can literally last for years.
How do I prepare the soil?
Hot Peppers grow best in loamy soil that is fertile and well-draining. Preferably, the soil should have a pH ranging from 6 to 6.5 according to michigan state university. You can test your soil at a local garden center, local college or have it tested at your local government soil testing lab.
Amend the soil based on the results and recommendations. Do this at least 7 days before planting. Or use a ready potting mix that meets all the requirements above. This potting soil (link to Amazon) that I’m fond of using is definitely my go-to when planting hot peppers.
The soil you’re gonna use should also be rich in organic matter. Hot Peppers are known for being a heavy feeder so you really want that high fertile soil around your plants. See to it that the soil receives consistent moisture.
When planting in garden beds, make sure to work aged compost at least a week prior to planting.
Take note that 65°F or warmer is the soil temperature that your hot peppers will prefer and grow best in.
How do I plant the hot pepper?
If you started from transplants, skip to the transplanting part. You can directly seed hot pepper on the garden ground but only if you are fortunate to be living in an area with a long growing season.
I highly suggest you start seeds indoors. It’s much safer and it will allow you to start ahead of the season. To make this much simpler, I’ll divide this section into two parts: the first one will tackle how to germinate hot peppers seeds and the second will be about transplanting.
Don’t worry, it isn’t as complicated as it sounds!
Germinating Hot Pepper Seeds
- Start seeds indoors eight to ten weeks before transplanting
- Before you open your seed packets, make sure you washed your hands first. If you have clean latex gloves, I suggest you use them to avoid contaminating the seeds with bacteria.
- Mix equal parts of water and hydrogen peroxide and soak the seeds in that mixture for 5 minutes. Dong this will kill any bacteria.
- After rinsing the seeds, place them evenly on a damp paper towel. Damp not soaking.
- Fold the paper in half and put it inside any zip lock bag.
- Take note not to squeeze the air out of the bag. The seeds will be needing a large air bubble for their oxygen supply.
- Place the zip lock bag on top of your refrigerator but if you do have a heat mat, that’s better! Set the mat 85º F. Place a thick towel atop the mat as a barrier, then place the zip lock bag.
- Expect that within a couple of hours, you’ll observe droplets on the top of the bag.
- Always check the bag and do not let it dry out. Add water as necessary.
- Every few days, open the bag and check if white roots are forming out of the seed shell.
- Transfer the seeds individually as soon as it sprouts into a seed tray or pea pots.
- Sow each seed ¼ inch deep. (Make sure that the roots are pointing downwards.)
- Cover with soil and press down gently.
- Water the seeds and see to it that there’s an adequate ventilation provided.
You have to be patient. Germinating hot pepper seeds require a lot of monitoring and waiting. This process takes from 14 to 30 days. If you do want to speed up the process, you might want to try seed priming.
Priming is done to reduce germination time. To do this, you have to use a seed germination accelerator. You can do this after step no. 3. Soak the seeds with the seed germination accelerator solution for 12-24 hours.
Your seedlings should have 14-16 hours of sunlight daily. Allow the soil of the seedlings to slightly dry out to avoid overwatering. When the first true leaves appear gradually place your seedlings near a sunny area closer and closer to its final location.
Transplanting Hot Pepper Seedlings
- Start transplanting 2-3 weeks after the last spring of frost has passed. By this time, your plants would be already 8-12″ in tall.
- If using pots, place a single hot pepper plant at the center of a one and a half-gallon container. Follow the depth of the roots.
- If planting in the garden, give 18 to 24 inches of space between plants and space rows 24 to 36 inches.
That’s it! The hardest part is over. Now it’s time for plant care.
Growing Hot Peppers
How and when do I thin my hot pepper plant?
Since we placed individual seedlings in seed trays or pea pots, thinning is not really necessary.
How much water does my hot pepper plant really need?
Moisture retention is the key. You don’t want to overwater your plants. Allow the hot pepper plants’ soil to dry out between waterings. See to it that you give them at least 1 inch of water per week.
How often does my hot pepper plant need to be fertilized?
The organic matter you’ve incorporated during soil preparation will provide adequate nutrients for the hot peppers to grow. If you want, you can even add a handful of Epsom salts to the soil for a magnesium boost.
Once the first flower appears, add the appropriate amount of balanced fertilizer as per instructed. Do not use fertilizers that are hind in nitrogen. Hot pepper plant’s energy should be focused on the production of the ‘fruits’ and not the foliage.
Doing this will result in leafy plants with small and a few peppers. You don’t want that. Overfeeding your plants will have the same results as mentioned above.
How much sun does my hot pepper plant need?
Hot peppers will thrive in full sun. It needs at least 6 hours of sunlight daily to generate enough energy to grow healthy peppers ready for harvest. If you give your hot peppers any less than that, it will look a bit anemic. You definitely don’t want that.
Remember, the part of the hot pepper plant that you’re gonna harvest is its ‘fruit’, not the leaves nor the stems. It will require all the energy it can have to produce large tasty peppers. Less than 6 hours of sunlight will give you smaller plants so pick the right location.
If the temperature exceeds 105°F, I highly suggest you use a shade cloth or bring the hot pepper plants somewhere with partial shade altogether to protect them from sunburn.
Which climate better suits hot pepper? (Best Hardiness Zones)
When planted in USDA Hardiness Zones 11 and above, hot pepper plants are hardy perennials. However, anywhere else, they are most commonly grown as annuals. This warm-weather plant will not like cold temperatures and prefers the tropical climate.
Basically, hot pepper plants can perfectly grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 through 11.
How long does it take to grow hot pepper?
Depending on the variety you chose to grow and the growing conditions in your garden, days to maturity varies. Although, most hot pepper varieties take at least 55 – 80 days from transplant to mature.
When cold temperatures remain or excessive rain continues, it will take longer for the plants to be ready for harvest – for it to flower and for the fruits to ripen.
What are the common pests that could ruin my hot pepper plant and how do I avoid it?
A healthy pepper plant is a formidable plant to attack, so always keep them happy and healthy! Plus once you’ve got an established and thriving plant, it will have the natural ability to protect itself from nasty pests.
But it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Here are the following pests you need to look out for:
- Tomato Hornworms
- White Flys
- Pepper Maggots
- Spider Mites
An effective way to control or prevent these pests from attacking your plant besides keeping them healthy is by spraying them with an organic pesticide like Neem Oil. See to it that you spray both sides of the leaves.
Pests like aphids and thrips can infest older plants. Once infected, your plant will have crinkled or very narrow leaves. If you see any of your plants having this symptom, destroy the infected plant immediately to prevent spreading the disease.
Cutworms, on the other hand, targets young plants. It can cut them off at ground level. To avoid this, wrap the base of the plants with a foil or even toilet paper tubes.
What other crops could I plant together with my hot pepper to maximize my garden space?
In order to maximize your garden, companion planting is a must. If you’re not familiar with companion planting and you’re relatively new to gardening, here’s the idea behind it.
There are certain plants that are better when grown together. Some of the benefits they can get from each other include natural pest control, higher crop yield and shade protection for sun-sensitive plants.
For example, planting basil next to your hot pepper will help ward off the aphids, thrips, mosquitoes, and flies from your precious plants. Corn, on the other hand, can act as a shade protector for hot peppers.
Here are some plants you can grow next to your hot peppers:
- Swiss chards
You can grow some of these plants at the same time, saving you hours of consecutive planting and will give you a higher yield in the future. I’m just gonna cut it at ten, just to provide you a glimpse of what your garden could be.
What are the crops that will not go well with hot pepper?
Sadly, not all plants can be grown together as it wouldn’t be beneficial for both parties. Either their growing conditions just don’t fit well together or some pests and diseases can travel or spread faster among them when grown near with each other.
Here are some of the plants you should not grow next to your hot peppers:
- Brussel sprouts
Harvesting Hot Peppers
How do I harvest hot pepper and when is the best time to do it?
Hot peppers are ready for harvest in 55 to 80 days after transplanting. Check the growing time of the variety you chose to plant for more accuracy.
When hot peppers have reached their full size and their mature color, it’s time to pick them out. Do not pull the peppers away as you might damage the plant. Instead, cut the peppers off the vine.
If you harvest regularly, you’ll encourage your plants to produce more hot peppers.
What is the best way to store the hot pepper that I have harvested?
For the tastiest and nutrient-dense hot peppers, consume them the same day they’re picked up to a week. Tasting the literal fruit of your labor is so satisfying! You can leave the hot peppers on your kitchen counter up to two days to allow it to ripen.
Hot peppers don’t really store well that long in cool temperatures so it’s not advisable to place them in a crisper for a long time. They can keep in the refrigerator for a week. Otherwise, check these other options you might try: Freezing (6 months), Picking (2 years), and Drying.
Use latex gloves when handling high heat hot peppers, they might actually sting or ‘burn’ your fingers.
|Botanical Name||Capsicum frutescens|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|