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How to Grow Hot Peppers

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Growing Hot Peppers is one of America's hot garden plants. Hot peppers are easy to grow. And, they provide a "kick" to meals and snacks.

As a lover of hot peppers, you will likely grow several varieties. In addition to varying degrees of "heat", each hot has it's own taste and texture. Think of what you can do with the choice and selection! For starters, there are recipes galore. Many call for a specific variety of hot pepper. Try substituting with different varieties. Perhaps, you will make your own hot sauce or salsa. You can also hold a "hot pepper tasting". You, your family and your friends, can sample the different varieties, and rank them.

Did you know? The hottest part of the hot pepper, is the seeds. Of course you did!!!

How hot is hot? Ask several people what is the hottest of the hot peppers, and you get several different answers. Capsaicin is the chemical ingredient that makes hot peppers hot. The Scoville Organoleptic Scale was created in 1912 to measure the level of capsaicin in hot peppers. The unit of measure for the scale is Scoville Heat Unit (SHU)

More on Capsaicin

Did You Know? Pure Capsaicin has a SHU rating of 15,000,000 to 16,000,000.

The Hottest Hot Pepper:  The California Reaper is currently the hottest of the hot peppers at a scorching 2,200,000 SHU.

Common Varieties of Hot Peppers and their Scoville Rating for Hot Peppers:

Pepper: Scoville Score (SHU):
Anaheim 200
Paprika 1,000
Cherry Bomb 2,000
Jalapeno 4,000
Serrano 8,000
Cayenne 30,000
Tobasco 80,000
Thai 80,000
Habanero 200,000
Jolokia (Ghost Pepper) 855,000 - 1,041,427
California Reaper 2,200,000

Did you know? Paprika is a pepper!

Sowing Hot Pepper Seeds:

Hot Pepper plants are best started indoors, eight to ten weeks or more before the last frost date for your area. They are a somewhat difficult seed germinate, Seedlings grow slowly at first. Many growers simply visit their local garden store for seedling to transplant. Avid garden hobbyists, will find pleasure and satisfaction in starting their own pepper plants indoors.

Tip: Provide bottom heat or heat lamps to raise the soil temperature to 80 degrees. This will promote better and quicker germination.

Days to Maturity:

70 to 90 days or more, depending upon the variety. Read the package for the specific time for the variety you acquire.

How to Grow Hot Peppers:

Hot Pepper plants are grown in the same manner as sweet peppers. Grow the plants in full sun. Prepare the garden, adding plenty of compost, manure, and a general fertilizer.

No matter what variety you grow, they like the weather hot. Transplant young seedlings outdoors after the last chance of frost. If the weather is still cool, delay transplanting a few days,  to avoid stunting the plants. Keep them in a cold frame, indoors or next to the house.

Space 18-24 inches apart, in rows 24 to 36 inches apart. This spacing will vary somewhat, depending upon the variety of hot pepper you are growing.

Hot Pepper plants prefer moist soil. Add plenty of water during hot, dry summer months.

Add mulch around the peppers to keep down weeds, and to retain soil moisture. As the peppers develop, switch over to a fertilizer higher in Phosphorous and Potassium. Gardeners often make the mistake of providing too much nitrogen. The result is a great looking bushy, green plant, but few fruit.

Peppers are self pollinators. Occasionally, they will cross pollinate from pollen carried by bees or other insects. If you are going to save the seeds for next year, you need to minimize the possibility of cross breeding. Do not plant different varieties near each other.

Also See:

Plant Problems

Soil Temperatures

Ideal Soil pH


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Peppers can be picked as soon as they reach a size which is edible. Leaving the fruit on the vine to mature, maximizes their "heat", or capsaicin in the fruit..

Continuous harvesting will promote new fruit to set.

Insects and Pests:

Many insects are harmful to pepper plants. Spider mites and aphids are the most common, with an occasional borer. In many areas, it is infrequent. For the infrequent problem, try an organic insecticide or dust.

Deer will eat the leaves of both sweet pepper and hot pepper plants.

Plant Problems - Diagnosis, causes and cures for many common plant problems.


While many viruses and diseases can affect Peppers, it is somewhat infrequent. Fungal infections can be treated with fungicides. Apply treatment as soon as you see it.


No doubt about it, your hot peppers like warm weather. Like sweet peppers, they do not like frost. In the spring, frost will stunt or kill the plants. Cold weather can cause the plant to slow down or stunt it. In the Fall, cover the plants, if frost is expected.

Tip: For a quick cover-up on cold fall nights, use five gallon buckets. They are the perfect size, and can be quickly placed over the plant.

Pepper Links:

Do you know your Hot Peppers? Check out the varieties of hot peppers.

How to Grow Peppers

More on Capsaicin

Hot Pepper Trivia

Pepper Recipes:

Tim's Salsa Recipe - it's quick and easy

Sautéed Peppers and Onions

Our Garden Recipe Collection


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