Growing Peppers

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Grow peppers plants. They're easy and produce a lot of fresh peppers. Try both hot and sweet peppers.

Peppers are one of the easiest and most satisfying vegetable plants to grow. This Sweet Banana pepper plant is an All America Selection that grows well in all regions.

From fruity sweet peppers in rainbow shades of yellow, orange, or red to habaneros hot enough to bring tears to your eyes, all peppers share a preference for a long, warm growing season. Set out plants a week or two after your last frost, when the weather is settled and warm. While cool weather reigns, keep your seedlings indoors at night, and move them to a protected sunny spot outdoors during the day.

Grow peppers in your vegetable garden. Growing them is relatively simple.

Try homegrown bell peppers. They have so much more flavor than store-bought peppers.

Peppers may be sweet and mellow or fiery hot, depending on variety. By growing an assortment of varieties, you can have mild, meaty peppers for salads or stir-fries, slightly spicy peppers for fresh salsas, and hot peppers for bold jolts of flavor. When choosing varieties, include a range of both flavors and fruit sizes. Under hot summer conditions, varieties that bear huge fruits may shed their blossoms, but small, thin-walled peppers often keep going strong. Small-fruited peppers also ripen faster, which is important in cool climates where summers are short.

As peppers change from green to yellow, orange, or red, both their flavor and their vitamin content improves dramatically. People who think they don’t like peppers often change their minds once they have tasted fully ripened, garden-grown peppers.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Grow several varieties of peppers.

It’s a good idea to grow several pepper types, not only to enjoy the different flavors and colors, but because some mature more quickly than others. An assortment of varieties will lengthen the time that you can harvest.

Peppers are easy to grow in any sunny, well-drained spot, and they are good candidates for roomy containers, too. Peppers have a naturally upright growth habit, so they often benefit from staking, which keeps brittle branches from breaking when they become heavy with fruit. Colorful peppers also make great additions to beds planted with flowers and other edible ornamentals, where they can easily serve as specimen plants. In beds or rows, the best spacing for most pepper plants is 18 to 24 inches apart (check the tag for exceptions). Peppers grow best in a soil with a pH between 6.2 and 7.0, although they can tolerate slightly alkaline conditions near 7.5. Mix a 3- to 5-inch layer of compost into each planting hole, as shown in the step-by-step planting directions. A generous amount of organic matter helps the soil retain moisture, and moist soil is crucial for good pepper production. After planting, mulch each plant to keep the soil cool and moist.

About 6 weeks after planting, soon after peppers begin flowering and setting fruit, it is often helpful to feed plants lightly with an organic or timed-release fertilizer to keep them going strong. Simply pull back the mulch, scatter fertilizer around the base of each plant, and replace the mulch before watering well. Or, simply use a liquid fertilizer like Bonnie Herb, Vegetable & Flower Plant Food both at planting and every week or two afterward to keep plants well fed.

Give your pepper plant support using a wire cage or stakes.

Small wire tomato cages make good supports for large bell pepper plants.

Gardeners in hot climates may need to be patient with big bells and sweet roasting peppers, which often wait until nights become longer and cooler in late summer to load up with fruit. The wait will go by faster if you have less flashy (yet phenomenally productive) banana peppers to combine with tomatoes and basil in cool summer salads while bigger varieties slowly load up with fruits.

Troubleshooting

Bell peppers may stop producing when the weather is especially hot. Don’t give up on the plants. They’ll start producing again when the weather cools.

After pepper flowers are pollinated, they develop fruit. Bell peppers may pause in hot weather, but they will start again when the weather cools.

Peppers have few serious pest problems, and common pepper diseases can be prevented by growing resistant varieties. Plants that look frail and stringy may be infected with viruses, which are spread by aphids and other small insects. Chronically thirsty peppers may be troubled by root-knot nematodes. One other potential problem is a late cold spell in spring. If planting is delayed while you await better planting conditions, place 2 inches of moist potting soil in 6-inch-wide containers, gently break open the bottoms of the peppers’ pots, and nestle the seedlings into the soil about 1 inch deep. A bit of extra downward growing room will ensure that the plants’ primary taproots have ample space for expansion. Later on, after summer heats up, this taproot becomes a pepper plant’s lifeline.

Harvest and Storage

Red, yellow, purple, or orange peppers start out green and turn to their mature color.

Peppers start out green and change color as they ripen. When you buy a red, orange, or yellow bell, the peppers will not turn that color until they mature.

Use pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut peppers with a short stub of stem attached. Pulling peppers by hand can cause entire branches to break off. Rinse peppers with water, pat dry, and then store them in your refrigerator. Fruits that are not eaten fresh can be dried, frozen, or pickled. Peppers harvested in cool fall weather that have just begun to change colors will often continue to ripen when kept in a warm room indoors for up to 3 days. Watch for signs of softening, and promptly refrigerate fruits that begin to shrivel.

Most pepper plants hold numerous green fruits when the first freeze kills the plants. Very immature peppers often taste bitter, so it is better to compost them than to serve them for dinner.

Download our How to Grow Peppers instructions. They are in .PDF format.

FAQs

What makes a chili pepper hot?

Capsaicin is the oil in peppers responsible for their heat. It is mostly found in pepper seeds and the membranes that hold the seeds. Heat is expressed Scoville units; the higher the number, the hotter the pepper. The hottest pepper we carry is Habanero, which has a rating of at least 300,000. Compare that to a Jalapeno, which has a rating of about 5,000.

Which peppers are best to stuff?

Our most popular stuffer is “The Big Early,” which is absolutely huge at 8 by 4 1/2 inches. For chile rellenos, the “New Mexico Big Jim” is a good choice. This 8-inch-long pepper has a wonderful flavor and mild heat. For poppers try one of the bigger jalapenos such as “Mammoth.”

I just purchased a young bell pepper plant and it has flowers on it. Should I pull the flowers off in order to get larger bell peppers?

Pinching blooms may help a little by redirecting growth to make branches instead of fruit. However, the tiny buds are often right at the growing tips, so be careful. A pair of tweezers will help. If you plant in fertile soil and plants are watered and fed properly, your plants will produce satisfactorily regardless.

Are tall, leggy pepper plants okay? Should I stake them to prevent breakage from the wind?

Tall plants are okay. Staking will help. Make sure to gently untangle a few roots if you’re just planting and the root ball is thickly matted.

Is it okay to plant hot peppers next to sweet peppers?

Yes. Normally they do not cross (and cannot within a single season), and you won’t have to worry about your sweet peppers turning hot. The plant tags will give a recommended spacing, but generally plant 18 to 24 inches apart.

Can I plant peppers in containers?

You can plant peppers in containers. Each pot should be at least a 5-gallon size, which is about twice the size of a standard mop bucket. A standard clay pot with a 16- to 18-inch diameter is a good choice.

How deep do I plant pepper plants in the ground?

Plant peppers at the same depth that they are growing in the container. Read our instructions on how to handle peat pots if your pepper plants are growing in these. Also see our step-by-step pepper planting instructions.

How often do I fertilize my bell pepper plants?

If you did not work in a timed-release or organic fertilizer at planting, you can fertilize now. Sprinkle a timed-release or organic fertilizer around the plant. Pull back the mulch, sprinkle the fertilizer on the ground, replace the mulch, and water. Or use Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food every week or two.

How often should I water my bell pepper plants?

Water enough so that the soil feels slightly moist when you poke your finger into the soil one inch deep. How often depends on how quickly the soil dries. Sandy soil drains faster than clay or well-amended garden soil. And it depends on rain, of course. Just be sure that the plants get enough water so that they are never drought-stressed, but avoid over watering, which leads to root problems. The answer will come from within your garden.

Why is my plant losing blooms?

You could also be losing blooms because of hot weather. Bell peppers will stop producing and even drop blooms when the weather is hot, in the 90s, but healthy plants will produce vigorously once the nights cool down in late summer. Keep your plants healthy and be patient.

How do I know when to pick my peppers?

It is important to use the estimated days to maturity and to judge by desired color. Red, green, and yellow bells will start out green but turn color as they mature. Do not pull peppers from the plant. Use hand shears to avoid inflicting damage. When harvesting hot peppers, use gloves to protect hands from capsaicin oil and a possible resulting burn.

222 thoughts on “Growing Peppers

  1. this is first time planting bell pepper and i thought it was going great, the plant shot up big ang and tall. the first pepper has started nicely it is now about 3 inches around. my problem is now when the other buds, i had 5 more that flowered well and the little peppers started growing, but today 2 of them fell off the plant. is that normal? it seems like a healthy plant and like i said the first pepper is growing really well. by the way my bonnie tomato plants are doing incredible this year

    • Hello Michael,
      Yes, I would consider that normal – especially if the weather is uncooperative. Blossoms may fall from peppers and tomatoes at certain temperatures. Make sure and keep the soil moist, thirsty plants, and overfertilized plants may drop blossoms as well. Keep up the great gardening! – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  2. Bonnie, I have a garden which has 6 rows each 3 plants deep. my 2 rows of tomatoes are doing superb! next is a row of bell peppers and onion, also doing well. ancho, cerrano and pequin, also thriving. The next is 2 poblanos and a jalapeno, and finally a row of all NM big jim chiles. the Jalapeno is already sprouting. The chiles (surprisingly) are the ones I’m worried about. all the others are doing quite well I water about every other day, with miracle grow added every monday. However, the leaves are starting to droop down with slight yellowing. although, the yellowing almost looks like withering more than anything. Do you think they need more water at this point? they are about a month old and get LOTS of sun.

    • Hello Chris,
      You have been busy! If you can, upload a picture to the Bonnie Plants Ask an Expert site. Check the soil – if it is staying damp to a depth of 4 – 6 inches, additional water is not needed. If it stay wet – too much water may be the problem. -danielle, Bonnie Plants

  3. Hi, I planted a mixture of peppers a few weeks ago in my garden the way the seed packet said that I had started inside. Since planting them, I have noticed that they are not growing any taller and are starting to take on a yellow shade. Does that mean they are dieing?

    • Hello Beth,
      Not to worry – if the pepper seeds were started indoors and recently transplanted into the outdoor garden, it can take a couple of weeks before peppers start to grow – especially if the soil had not warmed up adequately. Did you fertilize the garden vegetables at planting? If not, they will need the nutrients for growth – and a healthy, green color. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  4. this is my first attempt at container gardening and so far so good. my pepper plants all look great… but the first tiny peppers that were growing all washed off the stems in a light rain… any ideas on what to do to protect them and/or make them stronger?

    • Hi Melonnie,
      Keep up the great work – fertilizing, watering, and keeping an eye on pests. It is not uncommon for the first couple of blooms to fall from the vine. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  5. When I put my Bonnie green and red sweet bell peppers in the ground I neglected to mark which one was which. Both plants are producing really nice green peppers. I picked one from each plant when they were about 2″ long and both very green. When is the red sweet bell pepper supposed to turn red?

    • Hello Myrtle,
      It usually takes about 80 days for bell peppers to mature – if weather and environment work in the plants favor. Almost all peppers start out green – that is the immature stage. Most all peppers turn a different color when (and as) they mature – anywhere from yellows to purples to black to red. Green bell peppers are the immature pepper, and most will turn another color as they mature. Peppers that are grown as red bell peppers are a red variety chosen because of their taste and appearance. So, you will get red bell peppers on your red bell pepper plant as the green pepper turns red. Your green bell peppers will also turn red if they are left on the vine to mature. This variety of bell pepper is usually grown to harvest the green bell pepper – again chosen for size and taste. I hope that wasn’t too confusing :) – danielle, Bonnie Plants

    • Hello Joe,
      Sangria peppers are totally edible – just known more for the ornamental value than taste :) – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  6. We are having an issue with something eating ALL of my pepper leaves. We have tried putting beer out for snails, which has landed a couple but not enough. D you have any suggestions?

    • Hi Candy,
      Are entire leaves missing or does it look more like insect damage? It is hard to recommned an insecticide without knowing what types of insects are dining (different insecticides control different insects). Hopefully, this publication from the Florida extension system can help you identifying your damage. Insects create damage from tiny marks that leave a yellowing on the leaf, shot gun type holes, to ragged edges. You can also upload a picture to the Bonnie Plants Ask an Expert site to get a better look. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  7. Hi,

    I have sweet and hot banana peppers as well as jalapeños in pots. My banana peppers have started to flower and even one has produced a pepper. My worry is that my plants have not grown in size and I am afraid I will only get one or two pepers at a time.I live in Texas and it is about to start getting warm, do I just need to wait for the warm weather or do I need to do something to help them along???

    Thanks

    • Hello Rachel,
      Keeping your peppers happy is the best thing for you to do (water, sun, fertilizer, free of pests). Peppers, like tomatoes and eggplant, may have a slow period in the middle of summer when temperatures are over 75 degrees F at night (and hi 90s during the day), but it will only be temporary before the yields kick back into high gear. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  8. Hi,
    I purchased 3 pepper plants about a month ago, red and purple. The orange went into a pot, and is doing well, having 1 pepper already, even though it hasn’t grown much vertically. The purple is planted near some geraniums, but something is putting holes in the leaves. And the red is another part of the garden with more sun; getting the same holes, needs more water, but is getting flowers now.

    My question is, do I need to prune them? They are all a bit on the scrawny side.

    • Hello Eileen,
      There is no need to prune your pepper plants, but staking the plants (like tomatoes) will help with stability. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  9. I’ve planted my bell peppers in the ground in full sunlight I water them regularly (in el paso it never rains) as I have every year. I’ve noticed some leaves are turning yellow, thinking I may be over watering I checked the soil and at the time the soil was just lightly moist. what could be the cause

    • Hello David,
      Yellowing leaves on vegetable plants can happen for quite a few reasons. One is fertilizer…or lack thereof. Leaves take on a faded or yellowing caste when the plant is in need of nutrients such as nitrogen. You mentioned overwatering. This can also cause yellowing leaves – especially as excessive water leaches fertilizers from the soil. Other things to take into consideration are insects and diseases. Insects and diseases are annual so keep an eye out on your plants. If you have additional problems, you may want to upload a picture to the Bonnie Plants Ask an Expert site for a better diagnosis. -danielle, Bonnie Plants

  10. I planted a variety of peppers from seeds nearly 2 months ago.They were slow to start, looking great for a while but now are basically stagnant. I live in the NW region so still have them indoors and am using a light. Do I need to use a special light? What should I do for them?

    • Hi Sandra,
      Plenty of light and heat (for the growing media) are two of the limiting factors in starting seeds indoors. Here are more specifics from Oregon State Extension System. I’ll bet those peppers will be ready to go in no time! – danielle, Bonnie Plants

    • Hello Joe,
      Yes you can eat a sangria pepper. Although they are better known as for their ornamental value. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  11. Bonnie,
    Ihave a ton of different types of pepper plants in my garden and the leaves are starting to yellow a bit. I think i am over watering but not sure. is yellowing a cause of over watering? I planted them about a month ago.

    • Hi Patrick,
      Overwatering will cause yellowing. Soils should stay wet, but not soggy as roots have to breath in the soil. Here are basic watering tips for vegetable gardens. Did you apply fertilizer at planting? If you did not, you may need to now. Nutrient deficient plants start looking a little pale (yellow). -danielle, Bonnie Plants

  12. Bonnie,

    I planted a container habanero about 2 1/2- 3 weeks ago and it hasn’t grown an inch. Am i just being impatient or is something wrong?

    • Hi Rachel,
      You may be worrying unnecessarily. Pepper plants grow well in a very warm soil. Depending on where you live, the soil may not be quite warm enough for good growth yet. If the plants are green and healthy, I would wait for soil temperatures to warm up. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  13. I planted banana pepper and green pepper plants the second week of March. My plants have not blossomed as of yet. How long before they should blossom?

    • Hi Kristie,
      They should blossom very soon escpecially as Spring temperatures are starting to warm up. I am not sure what the temperatures are in your area, but cool soils have plagued a lot of the country – not a good thing for peppers! – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  14. Do you have any suggestions on what kind of calcium to add to my containers? I have bought a variety of pepper plants over the last month (and a couple of eggplant), and after dealing with issues such as over-watering, the problem with my pepper plants are that new leaves are coming out shaped weird and the leaves are small (as are the leaves on the eggplant). I finally found what I think is the problem – lack of calcium. This stems from my whole house water softener which replaces the calcium and magnesium in the water with sodium.
    So I am looking for something to add to the potting soil in my containers which will solve this problem. But most of the garden lime seems to be for lawns, not vegetables. Also the potting soil already contains some slow-release fertilizer (I use Miracle-Gro moisture control potting soil) so I want something that will add just the missing calcium (and maybe magnesium) from my water.
    I also wonder if the sodium which replaces the calcium and magnesium in the whole house water softener is another issue that needs to be addressed.

    • Hi Jong,
      A lack of calcium usually shows up in the fruit as blossom end rot. Take advantage of the Bonnie Plants Ask an Expert system so you can upload pictures of the plant to get a better look. -danielle, Bonnie Plants

  15. hello my name is kyle and I love growing bonnie plants. I was wondering if I could cross breed a hot pepper with a sweet pepper like a habanero with a bell or just some sort of hot pepper with a larger sweet pepper. Thank you

    • Hello Kyle,
      You can try anything you want! Plants of the same species can be crossed. You will not find the cross in the fruit that is produced, you wil have to wait a generation. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  16. We have had alot of late season cold weather here in Tulsa. My tomatoes look like they are doing ok, but this am my peppers look droopy. Any chance they will perk back up. I don’t believe we had an actually frost, but it got down to the mid to upper 30’s last night.

    • Hi Helen,
      Yes, there is a chance they will perk back up. Temperatures in the 30s make pepper plants very unhappy. Try covering them with a milk jug or 2 liter bottle if it happens again. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  17. I have a range of green, red yellow, banana hot, and chili peppers that I bought for my garden. I’ve had them for about two weeks and have been watering them in the morning of the day. They have been fine until a heavy rain the day before yesterday. Today, there is a black color appearing where the trunk and branches meet. I have most of the plants in containers, but several in the ground. All have the same whatever it is on them. I rubbed them to see if maybe it was a fungus, but nothing comes off. What is it and what can I do to fix it!

    • Hi Harold,
      This sounds normal. A lot of pepper plants have black crotch angles – where the branches meet the main stem. Look closely at the picture in the Growing Peppers article – it is a picture of banana peppers with black branch crotches! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  18. My “helper” planted our green pepper and banana pepper plants but doesn’t remember which is which. I was going to put the green peppers in a completely different spot. They have only been in the ground 3 days. I can’t figure out which plants are the green peppers so I can move them. Is there any way to tell the difference. They are 10 inches tall.

    • Hello Kim,
      A lot of pepper plants look a whole lot alike :( Bell peppers and banana peppers both have leaves with rounded ends as opposed to some of the leaves that are thin and longer. You are welcome to upload a picture to the Bonnie Plants facebook page to see if that helps. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  19. I am container planting vegetables, is it ok to use Black & gold Perlite?
    I live in Phoenix AZ if that matters.

    • Hello Pennie,
      Perlite is a great soil amendment and an important part of soil mixes that are used in container veggie gardens. Read more about what a good potting mix consists of here. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  20. I planted jalapeno peppers 2 1/2 weeks ago, three days after planting they got a little too much rain, 5 days after planting they flooded. The ground dried out in about 3 days and I dug up everything and transplanted to pots 7 days ago. I’m noticing some of the leaves turning black on top, but the plants look pretty happy otherwise. What might it be causing the leaves to turn black?

    • Hello Tiffany,
      Sounds like your pepper is a bit stressed and some of the roots may have been damaged because of too much water. Root damage will always show up in the leaves as they are directly connected. Hopefully, the pepper plants will start to recover soon. Keep us updated. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  21. Bonnie,

    My green bell pepper plant started to flower and before the fruit became large, the flower pedals started to brown and peel back. Instinct told me to pull them off. What does this mean? Normal. Fruit looks fine for now and more are coming to flower.

    • Hello Neal,
      If you mean the flowers that were bearing the fruit became brown and started to peel back, that is normal. Sounds like you getting ready for a big pepper harvest! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

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