Updated: Jun 25
Here are some of our top tips for growing happy, healthy pepper plants.
1. Start with a good foundation. You want rich, healthy, well-draining soil that has been amended with compost and topped with a layer of mulch.
2. Start with high-quality transplants. Or if you have the space and plan in advance, you can also start your own seeds indoors 8-12 weeks before your average last frost date. The seeds need temps of about 65-80 degrees to germinate and the seedlings need bright light to prevent them from getting too leggy. Peppers are very slow to get going, so giving them a good head start is smart. You can also start your transplants outdoors once temps warm up, but that's maybe best for smaller varieties you plan to keep in pots.
3. Consider how you arrange your garden area. Most peppers will want full sun for maximum production, but they can tolerate some shade as well. Give them enough space (1.5-2 feet) to grow big and strong. As with other garden veggies, you'll also want to rotate your crops so you aren't planting the same thing in the same area every year. Different pepper varieties have different growing habits, so also do your research when making your planting plan. Some pepper plants can grow quite large and need sufficient support. Others are just a foot or two tall and do well in containers. Peppers are perennial plants, but are normally grown as annuals because they can't handle freezes. If you have the space, however, leaving some in containers will allow you to bring them inside and keep alive for years.
4. Consider the varieties you're growing. Choose varieties you know you'll use, but don't be afraid to experiment. There are so many fun peppers to try! Take notes each year and adapt your planting plan based on your needs.
5. Give them support. The limbs of pepper plants can get especially heavy when loaded up with fruit, so they benefit from stakes or cages. And when harvesting your peppers, be sure to use clippers. Pulling them off can accidentally break branches and leave wounds open to disease.
6. Give them food. A well-balanced organic fertilizer applied at bloom time will help with production, but so long as your soil is rich with compost, peppers are pretty hardy and generally do well without much fuss.
7. Incorporate companion plants. Peppers do well with basil and other herbs. Eggplant, onions, and carrots are other good choices. For other ideas, consider some of the tomato companion plants mentioned in our tomato growing guide.
Some of our favorite peppers to grow:
Chili pequins - A perennial plant and grows wild around Texas. It freezes to the ground in the winter, but will emerge again from the roots. This plant grows well in the shade, is fairly drought tolerant, and it produces an abundance of tiny spicy peppers.
Poblano Peppers - Delicious and versatile. Great roasted and stuffed or sliced and cooked into migas, enchiladas, fajitas, lentils, soups, stews, etc.
Shishito Peppers - very flavorful, delicious stir fried in oil and salt. Most are quite mild, but every now and then one is spicy!
Fish Peppers - Interesting African American hierloom. Compact plants with vibrant variegated leaves and striped, cone-shaped peppers that ripen from creamy white to stripey light green to orangish to dark red. Spicy.
Cayenne Peppers - Thin, spicy peppers that dry easily and are great tossed into soups, stews, stir fries, and chili garlic oil. Also it’s so satisfying to grow your own cayenne pepper flakes and powder.
Biquinho Peppers - Little teardrop-shaped peppers with a mild, smoky flavor. Great ornamental container plants as well. Eat them straight off the plant or pickle them, add to salads, garnishes, salsas, or marinades. Here's some biquinho pepper recipe ideas.
Banana Peppers - Mild peppers that grow easily and are great pickled or used raw in salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes.