Growing Peppers: A Guide to Planting and Caring for Pepper Plants

USDA Zones – Variety Dependent
Soil pH 5.8-6.5
Full Sun

Planting Peppers

Peppers are best started indoors in late winter or early spring. Start from seeds in peat pots or cell packs and then transplant into the garden when night-time temperatures in your region are consistently above 50 degrees.

Peppers are generally grown for home gardens from using transplants rather than direct seeding. If you are buying transplants , select sturdy plants that have at least 4 sets of true leaves. Avoid plants that have already flowered, and inspect plants at the time of purchase – be sure they have no spots or lesions on them .

Space plants 16-18 inches apart in rows 24 inches apart or more, depending on the type of cultivation used. Water plants thoroughly immediately after transplanting.

Soil temperatures of at least 65f is best, and will reduce the need for most protection from cooler spring weather. In cooler regions early season transplants should be Protected with cloches, hotcaps, gardening cloth or cold-frames. Pepper plants are highly sensitive to frost – avoid exposure at all costs.

An early season spray of Horticultural Soap is a good idea on young seedlings and it will eliminate many soft-bodied insects before they can become established.


Peppers require moderate amounts of fertilizer. A soil test is the best method of determining the needs of your crop, but is generally not feasible for home gardeners

Home gardeners should make a pre-plant application of dehydrated manure, followed by 5-10-10 fertilizer at the rate of 3 pounds per 100 square feet See: Understanding Fertilizer Labels .

Use a starter solution for transplants, and side dress cautiously after the first fruit reach about the size of a dime using three tablespoons of 33-0-0 per 10 feet of row).

Side dress cautiously until a large number of peppers are set. Too much nitrogen before fruit set causes all foliage and no fruit. After fruit set, fertilize regularly using a complete fertilizer. Soil pH should be 5.8 to 6.5 for best growth.

After the plants have set and are well established, apply a thin covering of mulch to conserve soil moisture, and suppress weed growth. I also like to spray my pepper plants with an Epsom Salts water mix, about one heaping teaspoon of Epsom salts well blended into every gallon of water. This mix can be sprayed directly on the foliage for absorption. The Epsom salts supply a much needed dose of Magnesium. This should not be done on a regular basis , just once or twice per season.

Pepper plants, especially hot peppers also require sulfur, throwing some match heads in the ground with your transplants will help supply it. Don’t laugh , it works and it’s “cost-effective” .

Companion Planting

Companion planting is the placement of various crops in close physical proximity to one another so as to symbiotically compliment each others progress.

Good candidates to companion plant with peppers include Corn, Onions, garlic and Alliums, Marigolds, Carrots, Parsnips, Beans.

Bad candidates to companion plant with peppers include cabbage and cabbage family plants, fennel. For extensive data See – Inter-cropping Peppers

Pruning and Thinning

Peppers, as well as eggplants produce multiple small flowers. Removing some of these flowers will make your plant devote more energy to developing bigger vegetables rather than a lot of smaller ones.

Early season pepper plant pruning should be done when the plant is one foot tall and should cease once peppers have set. Generally, pepper plants have a Y shape and branches then create smaller and smaller Y shapes jutting off of the main stems.

By the time the plant is a foot tall, you will be able to see the strongest branches on the plant. Cut back any smaller branches, including suckers. Be careful not to damage the main stem ,which will cause the plant to perform poorly.

Removing some of the flower nodes early will force the plant to devote more energy into the remaining blossoms, resulting in larger and healthier fruits.


Fruits can be harvested at any time during the growing season and at any size desired. Green bell varieties, are generally picked when they are fully grown and mature – 3 to 4 inches long, firm and green. Fruits will easily snap off the plant when they reach maturity.

Care should be taken when picking your peck of peppers from the plants, the branches are generally brittle. Hand clippers can be used to cut peppers from the plant to avoid stem breakage.

Sweet and Bell peppers are generally picked immature but full-sized and firm. However, if they are allowed to ripen on the plant they will be sweeter and higher in vitamin content. Hot pepper Varieties are usually harvested at full maturity.

Cutting the fruits rather than pulling off is always best. The new, colored bell pepper fruits may be left on the plant to develop full flavor and develop fully to red, yellow, orange or brown; or they may be harvested green and immature. Hot peppers are usually harvested at the red-ripe stage.