Growing Pepper Plants (Overview)

John's Mystery Pepper Plant -- Purple Variant
John's Mystery Pepper – Purple Variant, 2018

When it comes to growing great plants, yield is a key metric. A high yielding plant not only provides a seemingly endless supply of flavorful fruit, but it’s also an innately satisfying experience for the grower – an unmistakable confirmation of a job well done. Yield is important, though not all pepper varieties are created equal. The following plant characteristics influence the realized yield...

Plant size
Big plants have more potential to produce many peppers.
Pepper density
A plant dense with peppers not only provides a lot to harvest, but is also visually stunning when they start to ripen.
Pepper size
A couple hundred peppers on a plant is great, unless they’re tiny – making them time consuming to pick for a smaller payoff.

Some varieties tend to provide a nice, large, bush-like plant (habanero), while others (jalapeno) tend to grow more stick-like with branches splitting off in pairs every 4-12 inches, and still others, have a smaller plant size at maturity (Australian lantern) or small fruit (pilli pilli).

Like anything else, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Flavor, size, shape, coloration, disease resistance and production are all worthy aspects in what makes a pepper plant great. The goal is to get the best results from your chosen varieties. Below are a few quick tips for getting the most from your plants...

  • Get them plenty of sun. Pepper plants love sun, while many of the pests that affect them do not.
  • Plant pots/soil should have good drainage and let the soil dry out between watering. Yellow droopy leaves are a sign of over-watering or poor drainage.
  • If leaves start wilting, increase watering amount and/or frequency. This is especially true for potted plants as the plants become large. Most potted pepper plants will eventually become root-bound and use up their water quickly.
  • Give them room. Many pepper plants, especially those in the habanero family, like to grow large. Planted too close together, or in too small of a pot, will limit their yield and require more frequent watering. For our larger peppers, we recommend four foot spacing when planted in a garden or pots that are 20 inches in diameter.
  • Give them plenty of calcium. Wrinkly leaves are usually a sign of calcium deficiency. A good sprinkling of bone meal once a month will help to keep your plants looking good.
  • Maximize their growing season. Once the plant starts producing peppers, it will continue as long as the weather remains favorable. Here in northern Georgia, we’re typically harvesting peppers from the 4th of July to as late as Thanksgiving. A hard frost will kill a mature plant, while a light one, or prolonged near-freezing, will kill a young one. The key is to have healthy-sized seedlings ready for when the danger of frost has passed and allowing them to grow as late into the year as possible.

The above provides most of what one needs to know and is likely enough for most growers. Though, there is more and sometimes the devil is in the details. We've created a Step by Step Growing Guide for those interested in learning more.

Additional Resources