How to Grow Peppers in a Pot
Container gardening with peppers is a wonderful way to enjoy tangy bell peppers and spicy jalapeños alike. Learn how to grow peppers in a pot for maximum results, including how to water peppers, tips for growing peppers and more.
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Growing peppers in containers is a great way to harvest homegrown produce even when you’re short on space. With the right tools, the proper plants, sunlight, fertilizer and water, you’ll be picking a peck of peppers before you know it. Learn eight easy steps to grow peppers in a pot this summer.
1. Select a Large Container
Peppers need room for their roots to spread, so choose a pot at least 12 inches in diameter. A young pepper plant may initially appear small in such a large vessel, but it will fill out the container when it’s full size.
Purchase a pot with holes in the bottom, or drill your own to ensure adequate drainage. Use a plastic or metal pot in favor of fast-drying terra cotta, especially because peppers require consistently moist soil.
2. Fill Your Container with Organic Potting Mix
Use a seed starting mix or potting mix for your peppers. They drain much more thoroughly than garden soil, which is key to preventing peppers from becoming waterlogged. Look for a natural, organic potting mix-they’re specially formulated for containers with nutrients already added. A good potting mix will hold moisture and provide the plant’s roots with aeration and important nutrients.
Pepper plants are susceptible to blossom end rot, a condition where the ends of the vegetable turn black due to a lack of calcium. Combat this by adding calcium granules to the soil at planting time and then again as often as the particular brand of calcium you purchase prescribes.
3. Pick the Right Pepper Plant
Start with seedlings rather than using seed packets to help maximize the growing season and opt for compact varieties well-suited for containers, such as Bonnie Plants® Lunchbox Sweet Snacking Pepper and Jalapeño hot pepper, as opposed to larger varieties of pepper seeds that can tower over 3 feet tall. Luckily, many hot pepper plants are naturally small in stature.
4. Place Plants Outside in a Sunny, Warm Spot
Most pepper varieties hail from hotter climates, so it’s no surprise that peppers peak during summer months in much of the United States. They thrive best at temperatures between 70 and 80°F during the day and 60 to 70°F at night. Too-hot or too-cold temps are not ideal for fruit production and may cause plant distress and misshapen fruits. So make sure to plant peppers after the last frost date.
Sun-loving peppers need a minimum of six hours of full sun per day, though more is preferable. A shaded backyard or covered patio will leave you with disappointing results, as will growing peppers indoors with a grow light. Seek a sunny front porch or driveway if needed.
5. Water & Feed the Plants
Peppers require consistently moist soil, and container-bound plants generally require more frequent watering than those in the ground. Plan on watering daily, especially in midsummer. Before watering, check the soil; you’ll know the plant needs water if the top inch of soil is dry. If it’s not dry, don’t water-you’ll risk overwatering the plant. Water early in the morning. Daytime watering evaporates too quickly to provide enough benefit, while nighttime watering can leave plants wet for too long and cause them to become waterlogged and harbor bacteria and fungi. A watering can will work just fine, as well a hose with a gentle-setting spray nozzle. Aim for the base of the plant, not the leaves.
Feed with a natural, organic plant food designed for fruits and vegetables, applying per the product label’s instructions (about every 7-14 days). Feeding is especially important while the plants are flowering.
6. Harvest When Ready
To know when your peppers are ready to harvest, check the plant’s tag to see what the mature color of the pepper should be. Bell peppers can be picked when green or left on the plant to turn yellow, orange and then red.
7. Eat Up!
Preserve your peppers with a sweet pickling brine or enjoy them fresh with one of these savory, summery dishes:
Learn how to grow peppers in a pot with this step-by-step guide for maximum results, including how to water peppers, tips for growing peppers and more.
Can You Plant Seeds Right Out of a Jalapeno Pepper?
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Faced with an abundance of fresh jalapeño (Capsicum annuum ‘Jalapeno’) seeds, frugal gardeners might wonder whether or not the seeds can be put to use to grow new jalapeño plants. While it might be possible to grow new jalapeño plants from fresh seeds, it’s not ideal. Success depends on a number of factors, including the type of pepper and its age, both of which determine if the seed will be viable and if the resulting plant will resemble the original.
Like most vegetables, jalapeños come in two major types: open-pollinated and hybrid. The difference isn’t obvious by appearance, but it makes a world of difference when it comes to growing the plants from seed. Open-pollinated seeds will produce a jalapeño plant that grows true to type, unlike hybrid varieties which might have nonviable seed or which might grow into plants that don’t produce a similar quality of pepper. Most heirloom varieties are open-pollinated, though some more modern varieties are also open-pollinated. Grocery store jalapeños are likely to be hybrid varieties, which won’t come true from seed. If you grow the jalapeño yourself and know it to be an open-pollinated variety, you still must consider other factors before attempting to grow the seeds.
Cross-pollination can occur in jalapeño plants, but it is usually not an issue since jalapeño plants typically self-pollinate.
When it comes to gathering jalapeño seeds, the riper the fruit is the better. The glossy, green jalapeños found in the grocery stores are not fully ripe and, as a result, neither are the seeds fully mature. A fully ripened jalapeño takes on a brilliant reddish color and will eventually dry and start to wrinkle, at which point the seeds are ready to harvest. Seeds taken from green jalapeños are unlikely to sprout, so it’s best to let the peppers ripen a bit before taking the seeds to increase the likelihood of getting viable seed. Warm temperatures will help green jalapeños ripen a bit, so place the peppers on the kitchen counter where temperatures stay warm but not hot. Certain fruits and vegetables give off ethylene gas, which hastens ripening in peppers, so consider placing the peppers in a paper bag with a ripe apple or tomato to hasten ripening. Check the peppers daily. Once the peppers are a darker shade of green, the seeds can be removed. If you’re growing jalapeños at home and intend to save seed, then let the peppers fully ripen on the vine until they darken in color, dry out and start to wrinkle, at which point you can gather the seeds.
Fully ripe jalapeños generally develop small cracks or fissures around the stem.
Saving Jalapeño Seeds
Once the type of the jalapeño has been determined and the fruit has been allowed to ripen, then the seeds can be saved, stored and sown. Jalapeño seeds can be saved using a dry or wet method. Both methods have their advantages, although the dry method is simpler and works fine for saving small amounts of seed. Simply cut open the pepper and remove the seeds from the spongy white membrane inside, then spread them on a sheet of newspaper to dry for two to three days before storing them. The wet method takes a little more effort, but it has the added advantage of eliminating immature or nonviable seeds. Put the seeds in a shallow bowl and fill the bowl with water. The bad seeds will float to the top and can be discarded while the good seeds will sink to the bottom. Remove the viable seeds from the water and spread them to dry on newspaper for a few days. Both dry- and wet-processed seeds must be stored in a clean, dry container out of direct sunlight. Properly stored pepper seeds will last two years.
Temperatures between 32 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit keep seeds viable for longer, so consider storing seeds in the refrigerator.
Growing Jalapeño Peppers
Jalapeño plants need a long, warm growing season, so they must be started indoors eight to ten weeks before the last spring frost to give them a head start, especially in cooler climates with coastal influence. Sow the seeds in peat pots or flats filled with moist seed-starting soil. Scatter the seeds over the surface of the soil; then cover them with a 1/4-inch-thick layer of soil. Jalapeño seeds germinate best when temperatures are above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so place the pots or flats on a propagation mat to provide additional warmth, especially if the weather is very cool. Cover the pots or flats with plastic wrap and mist the seeds with water every day. Watch for seedlings in one to two weeks.
Jalapeño seeds will not germinate below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Transplanting Jalapeño Plants
Young jalapeño plants need plenty of light and warmth to grow into vigorous transplants since low light and cold soil will produce leggy growth. Seedlings started in individual peat pots can be moved near an unshaded south-facing window without repotting, whereas seedlings started in flats must be transplanted into individual pots filled with soil. Grow the jalapeños indoors with daytime temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Provide water whenever the soil feels dry just beneath the surface. Wait until two to three weeks after the last frost before transplanting the jalapeños outdoors into a sunny bed with fast-draining soil. Space them 12 to 24 inches apart.
Jalapeños are typically grown as annuals, but they can survive as short-lived perennials above USDA hardiness zone 10b.
Can You Plant Seeds Right Out of a Jalapeno Pepper?. You can plant jalapeno pepper (Capsicum annuum “Jalapeno”) seeds collected directly from a pepper, but it has to be mature, and you have to dry the seeds properly for them to germinate. An immature, green jalapeno pepper purchased at a supermarket won’t get any …