How to Grow Hot Peppers
Hot Pepper Varieties
I thought hot peppers were rated as hot, hotter, and tears-rolling-down-your-face-smack-your-hands-on-the-table hot. But, I was wrong. There is a Scoville Scale or Scoville Units, created by an American chemist, used to rate hot peppers. Who knew?
Hot Peppers are fun to grow. Sometimes, it becomes more of a game to grow these. They’re easy to grow—that isn’t the game. The game is, can you eat the hot peppers you grow? There are some milder varieties of hot peppers, like poblanos, or can you take the heat of a Cayenne pepper?
There are tons of hot pepper varieties. But, here are some popular hot peppers grown in home vegetable gardens. List starts with the milder hot peppers first.
Robustini, Paprika Supreme, Hungarian Hot Wax, Big Chili, Cherry Bomb, Ancho 101, Jaloro, Serrano, Super Cayenne II, Habanero, Congo Trinidad, Jamaican Hot, Yellow Mushroom, Jamaican Hot Chocolate, Scotch Bonnet, Tabasco, Thai Hot, Chiltepin.
Hot Peppers that grow well in containers are: Tabascos, Thais and Pueblos.
Preferred Growing Conditions
Hot Peppers will grow best in warm climates, with well drained soil high in organic matter. Grow in full sun. Pepper plants, sweet and hot peppers, will need a few hours of late afternoon shade in very hot, intense climates. The shade will prevent sunscald on the peppers. You can, also, plant peppers closer together so their leaves shade the peppers from the sun. That is a little intensive gardening tip!
How to Plant Hot Peppers
Hot pepper plants should be spaced 18-24 inches apart in rows 2 feet apart. It’s easiest to plant hot pepper plants from started plants two weeks after last frost. Remember, pepper plants are very warm season plants. If you want to start from seeds, they need to be started 8-10 weeks prior to transplanting.
Companion Plants for Hot Peppers
Growing these companion plants around hot peppers will be helpful: tomatoes, geraniums, and, petunias.
Some plants actually are bad to the health of hot pepper plants. Avoid these plants around hot peppers: beans, kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts.
Maintaining Hot Pepper Plants
Water hot pepper plants regularly. Blossom end rot can be caused by inconsistent watering. Mulching around hot pepper plants will help control moisture loss, too.
When to Use Organic Fertilizer
Hot Pepper plants can be fertilized when transplanting, and then again after the first fruit is produced. Be careful not to over fertilize. Over fertilizing hot pepper plants can cause blossom end rot.
Focus on overall plant health and fruit production with any follow fertilizers. Stick with something low in nitrogen. Seaweed or fish emulsion is a great organic fertilizer.
Harvesting Hot Peppers
The most important thing you need to know about harvesting hot peppers: wear gloves, and don’t rub your eyes. It’s easy to be out in the garden and wipe your brow. And, that can ruin a nice day in the garden!
It takes about 60-75 days, after transplanting for hot peppers to be ready for harvest. Once harvested, there is a lot you can do with hot peppers—dry, can, pickle, or even grind into a powder. Check out this pickled hot pepper recipe from University of Minnesota Extension.
Hot Pepper Pests and Diseases
Check your hot pepper plants for aphids, tarnished plant bugs, pepper maggots, and pepper weevils. Aphids will be the most common. Sometimes, a garden hose can knock aphids off the plant, or check into organic pest control options.
Sunscald and blossom end rot are big pepper problems. Watering consistently and mulching hot pepper plants will help prevent blossom end rot. And, tackle sunscald by planting hot pepper plants a little closer together to shade the plants a bit.