Grow Several Varieties of Peppers
Planting different kinds will lengthen harvest time, as some varieties mature more quickly than others.
- Set pepper plant seedlings out after the last spring frost. They grow well in raised beds, containers, and in-ground gardens.
- Plant them 18 to 24 inches apart in a sunny, well-drained spot. Pepper plants need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day.
- Mix compost or other organic matter into the soil when planting.
- Water immediately after planting, then regularly throughout the season. Aim for a total of 1-2 inches per week (more when it’s hotter).
- Feed plants regularly with either a continuous-release fertilizer or liquid plant food.
- Spread mulch (such as chopped leaves or straw) around the plants to help keep the soil cool and moist.
- Support each pepper plant with a stake or small tomato cage, to help bear the weight of the fruit once it begins to produce.
- Harvest peppers with shears or a knife, then store in the fridge. Be sure to pick all peppers before the first fall frost comes.
(Read on for more information about and tips for growing peppers.)
From sweet, crisp peppers in rainbow shades to habañeros hot enough to bring tears to your eyes, all peppers share a preference for a long, warm growing season. Set out plants a week or two after your last frost, when the weather is settled and warm. While cool weather reigns, keep seedlings indoors at night, and move them to a protected sunny spot outdoors during the day.
By growing an assortment of varieties of peppers, you can have mild, meaty peppers for salads or stir-fries, slightly spicy peppers for fresh salsas, and hot peppers for bold jolts of flavor. Under hot summer conditions, varieties that bear huge fruits may shed their blossoms, but small, thin-walled peppers often keep going strong. Small-fruited peppers also ripen faster, which is important in cool climates where summers are short. Get help picking which peppers to grow with our Pepper Chooser.
As peppers change from green to yellow, orange, or red, both their vitamin content and flavor improve dramatically. People who think they don’t like peppers often change their minds once they have tasted fully ripened, garden-grown peppers. For many hot peppers, the ripest fruits (the ones that have turned red) pack the most heat.
Soil, Planting, and Care
- Give your pepper plant support using a wire cage or stakes.
- Small wire tomato cages make good supports for large bell pepper plants.
- Growing peppers is easy in any sunny, well-drained spot, and they are good candidates for roomy containers, too. Peppers have a naturally upright growth habit, so they often benefit from staking, which keeps brittle branches from breaking when they become heavy with fruit. Colorful peppers also make great additions to beds planted with flowers and other edible ornamentals, where they can easily serve as specimen plants. In beds or rows, the best spacing for most pepper plants is 18 to 24 inches apart (check the tag for exceptions). Peppers grow best in a soil with a pH between 6.2 and 7.0, although they can tolerate slightly alkaline conditions near 7.5. For in-ground gardens, mix a 3- to 5-inch layer of compost into each planting hole. A generous amount of organic matter helps the soil retain moisture, and moist soil is crucial for good pepper production.
- Planting in a container or raised bed requires different, lighter soil. When planting in pots, fill them with a fluffy, premium quality potting mix like Miracle-Gro® Moisture Control® Potting Mix, which helps protect plants from under- and over-watering. In raised beds, try Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil, which provides excellent drainage and an ideal environment for root growth. Wherever you plant, be sure to put a few inches of mulch down around each pepper plant to help keep the soil cool and moist.
- For bigger harvests, it’s helpful to feed plants with a continuous-release fertilizer like Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed® Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food both at planting and regularly throughout the growing season (see label directions for timing). Simply pull back the mulch, scatter fertilizer around the base of each plant, and replace the mulch before watering well. Or, use a liquid fertilizer like Miracle-Gro® LiquaFeed® Tomato, Fruits & Vegetables Plant Food both at planting and every week or two afterward to keep plants well fed.
- Gardeners in hot climates may need to be patient with big bells and sweet roasting peppers, which often wait until nights become longer and cooler in late summer to load up with fruit. The wait will go by faster if you have less flashy (yet phenomenally productive) banana peppers to combine with tomatoes and basil in cool summer salads while bigger varieties slowly load up with fruits.