Pepper plants come in many different varieties. From sweet mini bell peppers to the extra spicy ghost pepper, there’s something for everyone!
If you’d like to learn how to grow your own sweet or spicy peppers this year, this guide is for you.
I’ll show you how to plant peppers from start to finish. Whether you’re interested in starting pepper seeds indoors or purchasing starter plants from a nursery, this guide has you covered.
Keep reading, and soon you’ll learn everything you need to know about planting peppers.
Different Types of Peppers
You’ve probably heard of classic green bell peppers but have you ever seen a chocolate beauty pepper?
Red, Green, Yellow, or even purple, peppers come in a whole rainbow of colors. They can be long and thin, short and round, and everything in between.
Peppers are usually divided into two main types: sweet peppers and hot peppers. The steps for how to plant peppers are pretty much the same no matter which variety you’re growing. Here are some interesting varieties of both sweet and hot peppers to try!
The Right Growing Conditions for Peppers
How to plant peppers starts with providing the right growing conditions. When peppers have what they need, the plants grow strong and healthy and produce plenty of large, tasty fruits.
Peppers can be planted in raised beds, directly in the ground, or in containers. If using a container, make sure it has adequate drainage holes at the bottom so the roots of your plants don’t get soggy.
For the most vigorous pepper plants, choose a location with rich, fertile soil. Adding compost or other organic matter like aged manure or leaf mold before planting is a good way to increase the nutrients in the soil and give your peppers a boost.
The soil should be loamy and well-draining. Peppers prefer a soil pH between 6.2. and 7.0.
For container growing, choose a high-quality potting soil like Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix.
Sun and Temperature
Full sun is best for peppers. They need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day.
Pepper plants like it warm, but temperatures over 90 degrees can cause them to slow down. In hot climates, afternoon shade is beneficial to keep pepper plants from getting overheated.
How To Plant Peppers from Seed
Starting peppers from seed is one of the best ways to grow them! Seeds are inexpensive and easy to find both online and in stores. When you start from seed, you have the opportunity to choose unique varieties that are harder to find as starter plants.
If you live in a zone with a long growing season, it’s possible to start pepper seeds directly in the garden. For areas with a short growing season, or if you just want to get an earlier harvest, start pepper seeds indoors 6-10 weeks before the last frost.
Where to Get Seeds
One of our favorite retailers for seeds is Hoss Tools. All of their seeds are non-GMO, and they have a wide variety to choose from. They offer over 50 different varieties of pepper seeds alone, plus many other fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs.
Starting Pepper Seeds Indoors
Peppers take a long time to grow. In many growing zones, starting peppers indoors is the only way to have time for a harvest.
Starting seeds indoors takes time, but it’s not difficult. I’ll show you exactly what to do.
Seed Starting Equipment
Having some high-quality equipment makes starting peppers indoors simple and convenient. You don’t need a huge setup, but a good place to work, containers for starting seeds, and a decent growing medium are a must.
Grow lights and heating pads are also helpful, though you can get by without them. Here’s a list of tools for starting peppers indoors.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that peppers like it warm. If you plan on starting seeds in a cool room, a heating pad and/or humidity dome is a good way to keep seeds warm and improve germination rates.
How to Start Peppers Indoors
Set up your equipment in a place that will be convenient but out of the way. If you have a grow light, any warm location will do. If you don’t have a grow light, you’ll need a large, sunny window.
Fill your containers or seed starting trays with seed starting mix and plant a few seeds per container or cell in the seed trays. Since pepper seeds are so small, one of the easiest ways to plant them is to sprinkle the seeds over the top and cover them with a bit more seed starting mix. Pepper seeds should be planted to about 1/4 inch deep.
Water gently to avoid displacing the seeds. The easiest way to do this is to use a spray bottle. Water regularly to keep the soil moist.
Place the containers or trays on a heating pad to warm up the soil and help the seeds germinate. Once seeds emerge, take the containers off of the heating pad. Humidity domes are good for trapping heat and keeping the soil moist.
Caring For Pepper Seedlings
As soon as seeds start to emerge, make sure the plants have access to plenty of light. Place them directly in front of a large, sunny window or use a grow light.
Water the seedlings regularly using a spray bottle or a small watering can. The soil should stay moist, but not soggy.
Thin the seedlings to one plant per cell or container when they have their first set of true leaves.
How to Plant Pepper Seeds Directly in the Garden
If the weather is right and your summer is long enough, you can direct sow pepper seeds right into the garden. Here’s how to plant peppers by direct sowing.
Wait until all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up to around 65 degrees.
Choose a suitable location and prepare the soil by adding organic matter like compost, aged manure, or leaf mold.
Poke small holes in the soil about 18-24 inches apart and plant 2-3 pepper seeds in each hole. Cover the seeds gently, making sure they’re planted no more than 1/4 inch deep.
Water thoroughly using a watering can or a hose with a watering wand attached. Seeds need to stay moist in order to germinate so water regularly to ensure the soil dry out before sprouts emerge.
When seedlings emerge, thin the plants to one every 18-24 inches.
It’s a good idea to provide support for your pepper plants. Many varieties have large, heavy fruits that weigh plants down. Tomato cages or staking methods both work well.
Add support when you plant the seeds or when you thin the plants to avoid disturbing the root structure later on.
How to Plant Pepper Seedlings
Whether you started your own pepper plants from seeds or purchased seedlings from a nursery, here’s how to plant peppers in the garden.
Harden off Seedlings
If you started peppers indoors, make sure to harden off the seedlings before transplanting them to the garden. Seeds that have been started indoors live a somewhat pampered life. They’re used to stable, predictable indoor conditions. They need time to get used to the unpredictable conditions of the outside world slowly.
Give your plants a few hours of outside time each day, then bring them back inside. Slowly increase the time plants are outside each day until you’re leaving them out overnight. Once they’ve spent a night or two outdoors, they’re ready to move into the garden.
Seedlings purchased from a nursery are usually exposed to outside conditions already so there’s no need to harden them off.
Planting Pepper Seedlings
Pepper seedlings are ready to plant when they have at least three sets of leaves. Wait a couple of weeks after the last frost to plant them to give the soil time to warm up.
Make sure your soil is rich and fertile by adding organic matter such as compost before planting. Dig a hole for each seedling, leaving about 18-24 inches of space between plants. The holes should be about twice as wide and deep as the container each plant is currently in.
Carefully remove your seedling from its previous container and place it in the hole. Bury the pepper plant about an inch or two deeper than it was in the previous container.
Fill the soil in all around each seedling and gently press it down.
Water thoroughly and watch them grow!
As I mentioned above, peppers do best with some sort of support. Add stakes or tomato cages when planting your seedlings to avoid disturbing the roots later on.
Caring for Pepper Plants
Once you’ve learned how to plant peppers, providing the right care is simple. With proper care, pepper plants grow strong and healthy and continue producing until the first frost of fall.
Pepper plants do best with regular, even watering. They need at least an inch of water each week, more when the weather is very hot or dry.
Peppers are average feeders. If you have rich, fertile soil that may be enough to keep them happy and healthy.
If your plants need a boost, use a balanced fertilizer to feed pepper plants after they start putting out flowers.
Avoid adding too much nitrogen, which results in a lot of leafy growth at the expense of fruit production. Choose a balanced formulation, such as 10-10-10, or one with lower nitrogen, like a 5-10-10.
Adding a natural mulch around the base of your plants is beneficial in several ways.
It holds in moisture, keeps soil from splashing up on the plants, keeps the soil cool, and adds beneficial organic matter as it breaks down. For best results, use a natural mulch like crushed leaves, compost, or straw.
Tips for Growing Spicy Peppers
If you like your hot peppers extra spicy, here are some ways to bring out that heat.
- Don’t overwater. A bit of drought when the peppers are ripening causes the flavor to get hotter.
- Leave the peppers on the plant longer.
- Add sulfur to the soil.
- Avoid cross-pollination with mild or sweet peppers. If you’re planting different types of peppers, try placing them on opposite sides of the garden.
- Choose an extra-hot variety like Trinidad Scorpion or Carolina Reaper.
After working hard learning how to plant peppers and caring for your plants, there’s nothing like getting a good harvest!
Sweet peppers are ready to harvest between 60-90 days after planting. Hot peppers take a bit longer to develop their spicy flavor, between 90-150 days.
You’ll know your peppers are ready when they’ve developed their full color and have reached full size.
To harvest peppers, use sharp pruning shears to cut the fruit off of the plants, leaving a bit of the stem still attached.
When harvesting hot peppers, wear gloves and avoid touching your face until you’ve washed your hands. The oil on spicy peppers can rub off on your hands and it does not feel good to get it in your eyes!
Fresh peppers keep well in the refrigerator for about 7-10 days.
If you have an abundant harvest, there are several ways you can preserve peppers to enjoy long after the season is over.
Pickling, canning, and dehydrating are some of the most common ways to preserve peppers.
For more information on preserving, check out The Complete Food Preservation Guide.
Wrapping up How to Plant Peppers
Now that you’ve learned how to plant peppers, you’re ready to get growing! Whether you’re looking for the fresh crunch of a sweet pepper or the scorching heat of an extra spicy pepper, you’re sure to enjoy a tasty harvest this year.
For more planting and growing guides, check out the Seed Starting page on our website. There we’ve put together resources to help you plant dozens of different fruits. vegetables, flowers, and herbs. Whatever gardening questions you have, you’ll find an answer there!