How To Grow Chili Peppers

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Planting a couple of chili pepper plants in your garden is a sure way to spice up your cooking. Chili peppers are usually hot and some varieties can cause an uncomfortable burning sensation. The immature chilies are green, which means the green chilies on the plant will eventually turn red and become spicier.

Types of Chili Peppers

Chili peppers are considered a warm season vegetable. Chili peppers are native to South and Central America and have been cultivated for thousands of years. Chili peppers cover the spectrum of hotness and pungency. The Scoville Heat Index measure the hotness of peppers. Peppers with a low Scoville number are mildly hot. The higher the Scoville rating, the hotter the pepper.

These chili peppers will grow well in the home garden:

  • Mild: Sweet bell pepper, pepperoncini and aji panca.
  • Medium: Cubanelle, paprika, Santa Fe Grande andAnaheim.
  • Hot: Pasilla, poblano, ancho, jalapeno, chipotle, Hungarian wax, serrano, tabasco pepper, cayenne and habanero

Planting Chili Pepper Plants

Most people will only need one or two plants of a variety of chili pepper. Chili peppers can either be grown in the garden or in containers. When choosing a location for a chili pepper plant, locate plants away from traffic areas such as patios and walkways. Chili peppers are colorful, attract attention and are burning hot. Keep plants out of reach of children and family pets.

Chili peppers can be started from either seeds or transplants. When starting from seed, start the plants indoors in a sunny location. Transplants can be purchased from a garden center. Young plants can be kept indoors until early spring after the last frost date for your area.

Here are some chili pepper growing tips:

  • Plants grow best when nighttime temperatures are above 60 degrees F.
  • Plants will not set fruit when temperatures rise above 90 degrees F.
  • Plant in an area that receives full sun but is sheltered from the wind.
  • Plant in well-drained fertile soil.
  • Do not plant in an area that had peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes or tomatillos growing the previous year.
  • When growing chili peppers in wet areas, plant in raised beds or containers to provide adequate drainage.
  • Spread a thick layer of mulch around the plant to keep the soil warm.
  • Plants will begin producing mature green fruit in about 100 days and red fruit in 140 days.
how to grow chili peppers how to grow chili peppers

Caring for Chili Pepper Plants

In warm climates, chili peppers are a perennial plant that can produce fruit for several years. In cold climates, chili peppers are annuals that die off during winter freezes. To extend the life of a chili pepper plant, bring the plant indoors during the cold months of the year.

Here are a few tips to keep chili pepper plants healthy and productive:

  • When the plants reach one foot tall, stake the plants to keep the plant from breaking under the weight of the fruit.
  • Apply compost or fertilizer after the first flush of peppers has set.
  • Supply the plants with a uniform amount of water. Do not let the plants dry out between waterings.

There are a few pests that will attack a chili pepper plant. Aphids and tobacco mosaic disease are two common problems that you’ll encounter. To prevent tobacco mosaic, smokers should wash their hands before handling the plants. There are also tobacco mosaic resistant varieties available. Aphids congregate on the undersides of leaves, mostly near new growth. Aphids can be washed off with a steady spay from a garden hose.

Harvesting Chili Peppers

Chili peppers that were planted in the early spring will begin to mature in late summer. If green chilies are desired, harvest when the chili is firm, the skin is glossy green and the fruit resists squeezing pressure.

Leave a few green chilies on the plant. These chili peppers will begin to turn red over the next month. Harvest red chilies when the skin is a uniform red color. To harvest chili peppers:

  • Use a knife or scissors to cut the fruit from the plant.
  • Leave at least one inch of stem.
  • Chili peppers will stay fresh for one or two weeks if kept in cool and moist conditions.

After the chili peppers have been harvested, it is time to enjoy your bounty. Here are some ideas:

  • Create a ristra. Tie the chilies by the stem to a wire strand. Hang in full sun with good air circulation. The dried peppers can be ground into chili powder.
  • Roast chili peppers on an outdoor grill until the skin is blistered. Place in a covered pan for 10 minutes. Wear rubber gloves to peel the chilies.
  • Also try Delicious Chili Recipes.

Chili peppers are a low maintenance plant that is easy to grow. It is a good plant for the beginner gardener. By giving chili pepper plants the right soil mix, full sun and consistent water, you’ll have a happy chili plant that will produce spicy hot peppers for years to come.

Last Updated: May 6, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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