Peppers Growing Guide

Sometimes peppers are a challenge to grow in cooler areas of the country. The many varieties of sweet and hot peppers thrive on full sun, warm weather, well-drained soil and modest fertility.

Site Characteristics

„ full sun
Soil conditions:
„ requires well-drained soil
Well-drained, light, moderately fertile soil, high in organic matter. Needs steady supply of water for best performance.
Special locations:
„ outdoor containers - Provides attractive plants and ornamental as well as edible fruit

Plant Traits

Lifecycle: annual
Perennial in tropical regions, grown as a tender annual in cooler climates.
Ease-of-care: moderately difficult
Fruiting can be temperamental. Requires warm temperatures. Using black plastic and row covers can speed early growth.
Height: 1 to 3 feet
Spread: 1 to 3 feet
Bloom time:
„ early summer
„ mid-summer
„ late summer
Flower color: white
Foliage color: dark green
Foliage texture: medium
Shape: upright
Shape in flower: same as above

Special characteristics

„ not native to North America - Native to tropical America.
„ bears ornamental fruit - Green bell peppers turn red when fully ripe. Other varieties are yellow, orange, purple and chocolate brown. Hot peppers, chiles, and others come in many interesting shapes.

Growing Information

How to plant:
Propagate by seed
Germination temperature: 70 F to 95 F - Will not germinate below 55 F.
Days to emergence: 7 to 10 - at soil temperatures around 85 F.
Seed can be saved 2 years.

Maintenance and care

Sow seeds indoors, 1/4 inch deep in flats, peat pots or cell packs, 8-10 weeks before you anticipate transplanting outside. Seed germinates best when soil temperature is 80 F or higher. It will not germinate below 55 F.

Keep plants indoors in a warm (70 F during the day, 65 F at night), sunny location. Lack of light will produce leggy, unproductive transplants.

Don't be in a rush to transplant outside. Cold temperatures can weaken plants and they may never fully recover. A few days at 60 F to 65 F with reduced water will help harden plants and reduce transplant shock.

Over-hardened plants grow slowly after transplanting.

Set plants out 2 to 3 weeks after average last frost when the soil has warmed and the weather has settled.

Plant them 12 to 24 inches apart, in rows 24 to 36 inches apart, or spaced about 14 to 16 inches apart in raised beds.

Use black plastic and/or row covers to speed soil warming and early growth. Use caution with row covers not to overheat plants and cause them to drop their blossoms. If not using black plastic, mulch plants after they are well established and the soil has warmed to retain
moisture and control weeds.

Peppers can be temperamental when it comes to setting fruit if temperatures are too hot or too cool. Nighttime temperatures below 60 F or above 75 F can reduce fruit set.

Too much nitrogen fertilizer may promote lush vegetative growth but fewer fruits. Peppers usually responds well to phosphorus fertilizer.

Stake tall varieties for earlier and heavier harvest.
Peppers need even moisture for best performance. An even supply can reduce blossom end rot, a disorder caused by lack of calcium.

Do not plant in same spot more than once every 4 years.


Aphids - A hard stream of water can be used to remove aphids from plants. Wash off with water occasionally as needed early in the day. Check for evidence of natural enemies such as gray-brown or bloated parasitized aphids and the presence of alligator-like larvae of lady beetles and lacewings.
Borers - Remove by hand. Destroy infested plants.

Other pests:
Tarnished plant bugs


Cucumber mosaic virus - Disease causes ringspots and oak-leaf patterns on fruit. Rogue plants. Remove and destroy entire infested plant. Control aphids that spread the virus. Eliminate perennial weed sources such as milkweed, marsh-cress and yellow rocket and avoid planting next to susceptible ornamentals.
Blossom end rot - Water during drought or mulch to keep moisture level constant. Grow in soil high in organic matter. Fertilize properly. Avoid cultivating close to plants.


In cooler areas of the state, choose short-season varieties. Disease-resistant varieties are good for warm, humid conditions.

Peppers are often classified by the shape of their fruit -- the familiar bell, round cherries, heart-shaped anchos, long cayennes. Any of these shapes may be either sweet or hot.
Two of the hottest peppers are closely related but different species: Capsicum chinense (habañero) and Capsicum frutescens (tabasco).