When to pick cherry peppers?


How to Know When a Red Hot Cherry Pepper Is Ready to Pick

Red hot cherry peppers also are referred to as cherry bomb peppers. The hot peppers are added to dishes such as salsa and chili due to their extreme heat. The peppers have a similar appearance to cherries. The thick-fleshed oval peppers mature from green to red in color. After the peppers ripen on the plant, they are then harvested carefully to prevent injury to the plant. Harvesting the peppers regularly will allow the cherry pepper plant to continue to produce peppers throughout the growing season.

Step 1
Inspect the red hot cherry peppers daily, 65 to 70 days after you transplant them. The cherry peppers are ready to harvest once they reach 3/4 to 1-1/2 inches in size.
Step 2
Examine the color of the cherry peppers. Cherry peppers start out green in color and then ripen to a bright red. Harvest the cherry peppers when they are uniformly red in color.

Step 3
Slice the stem of the pepper plant with a sharp knife. Leave 1 inch of the stem attached to the pepper.
Step 4
Harvest the pepper plants as they ripen. Harvest all the cherry peppers when the threat of frost arrives because the cold weather will damage them.

Cherry Pepper Facts – Learn How To Grow Sweet Cherry Peppers

You’ve heard of cherry tomatoes, but how about cherry peppers? What are sweet cherry peppers? They are lovely red peppers just about cherry size. If you are wondering how to grow sweet cherry peppers, read on. We’ll give you cherry pepper facts plus tips on growing a cherry pepper plant.

What Are Sweet Cherry Peppers?

So exactly what are sweet cherry peppers? If you read up on cherry pepper facts, you’ll discover that they are peppers unlike any you’ve seen before. About the size and shape of cherries, cherry peppers are a visual delight.

Sweet cherry pepper plants produce these tiny peppers. But tiny refers to the size of the fruit, not the flavor. The small veggies offer rich, sweet flavor. The

plants themselves grow to about 36 inches (.91 m.) tall and almost as wide.

They don’t just produce a few peppers, they bear profusely. The branches are laden with these small, round fruits. The young fruits are uniformly green but they ripen to a bright red as they mature. They are perfect for eating straight from the garden, but also serve well for pickling and preserving.

Growing a Cherry Pepper

If you want to know how to grow sweet cherry peppers, the entire process begins with a few sweet cherry pepper plants. In most climates, it’s better to start pepper seeds indoors a few months before the last expected frost.

Transplant the seedlings outside a few weeks after the last frost in an area that gets full sun. Start growing a cherry pepper crop in a bed with rich, moist soil rich in organic matter. Don’t plant them in a bed where you have grown tomatoes, peppers, eggplant or eggplant the year before.

Set your sweet cherry pepper plants 18 inches (46 cm.) apart in a row. The rows should be spaced 3 feet (.91 m.) apart. Give then regular irrigation.

Fruit begins to ripen 73 days after transplant. The plant spreads out almost as wide as it is tall and produces a generous crop.

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PHOTO: Christopher Murphy/Flickrby Jessica Walliser May 19, 2016

I’ve grown a lot of peppers over the years, but none pique my interest quite as much as cherry peppers do. These round gems offer serious flavors, from sweet to fierce, and are perfect, bite-sized pieces of garden goodness.

What sets a cherry pepper apart from other pepper types is its shape. These globe-shaped, thick-walled peppers are only slightly larger than a ping-pong ball. They lack the deep lobes of bell peppers and have smooth skin.

1. Fireball

One of the reasons I’m such a fan of cherry peppers is because of the complexity of their flavors. For example, one of my favorites, Fireball, is slightly sweet when you first crunch into it. It takes a moment for the heat to set in. And, unlike habaneros and other hot peppers, the heat from Fireball doesn’t ruin your taste buds. I love to use this variety in stir-fries, and I even toss a few into my homemade pickles every now and then to give them a little heat.

2. Cherry Stuffer

Cherry Stuffer is another personal favorite. This is a sweet cherry type; there’s no heat here. These beautiful little peppers are great for stuffing, but my favorite thing to do is coat them with olive oil and grill them whole. My son enjoys eating Cherry Stuffer in the garden, and thankfully, the plants are highly productive, so we always have plenty to go around.

3. Cherry Bomb

The most popular cherry pepper is probably Cherry Bomb. This variety packs quite a bit of heat and has a gorgeous, deep red color.

4. Red Hot Cherry

Red Hot Cherry is a similar variety to Cherry Bomb. Both make excellent hot pickled peppers and are easy to find in the retail trade as started plants.

Growing Cherry Peppers

Cherry pepper plants are treated just like other pepper varieties. They love warm soil, warm air and ample irrigation. Before planting peppers in the garden, try heating the soil with a layer of black plastic for a week or two. All types of peppers exhibit excellent root and shoot growth when planted in warm soil.

Cherry pepper plants reach about 2 feet in height at maturity with an equal spread. Most are ready to harvest about 75 to 80 days after planting. Avoid setting transplants out too, early as peppers are intolerant of frosts.

Harvest cherry peppers regularly for continual production and improved yields. Like other pepper types, cherry peppers drop their flowers when temperatures rise above the high 80s. But don’t worry; once the hot spell passes and temperatures cool down a bit, the flowers will no longer abort and production will begin again.

A word of caution: If you grow both sweet and hot cherry pepper varieties, label the plants well, especially if you have kids who like to snack as they walk through the garden. It’s quite a surprise to expect a bite of fresh, sweet pepper and end up with a mouthful of heat.

Pepper Joe’s Gardening Tips – FAQ

Why FAQ on growing peppers and growing sweet peppers?

I get a lot of mail on a daily basis.

Many of the emails have the same theme….about “How to grow peppers” or “Growing pepper plants in Michigan” or “Planting Bell Peppers in Dallas”. I’m committed to answering every question about the ‘how to’ on growing peppers from seed to growing pepper plants. And growing them WELL. So we do answer every email personally…but with the rush of day to day operations, many answers are short and to the point.
I decided to do this extensive FAQ that probably answers 90% of the most common Hot Pepper Planting questions from A to Z.

I hope it helps.

Epsom Salt and Fertilizers

Dear Pepper Joe,

Oh Master of everything Hot and Spicy, I have a question. You frequently recommend using Epsom salt on Hot Pepper plants. Why and how much should I use? Any other tips, oh wise one, on fertilizers?

M. Wells, Charlotte, NC

Hi M,

Epsom salt delivers a immediate shot-in-the arm of magnesium to the plants and boost growth when applied as a foliar spray. Mix 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt in an average size spray bottle…shake it vigorously and apply to plant every 2 weeks with a thorough soaking. My favorite fertilizer is Fish Emulsion. I like it because it is a great all-around fertilizer and 100% organic. An alternative if Organic isn’t important to you is Miracle-Gro or its equivalent.

Check Out Our Selection of Natural Fertilizers & Soil Boosters

Use your choice of fertilizer every other week on alternate weeks from the Epsom salt spray. Therefore, your Chile plants are getting fed weekly.

Fiery Regards,

Pepper Joe

Take a look at my video on this cheap and easy fertilizer:


Hi Pepper Joe,

First, let me tell you how happy I am with your germination rates. I bought the Bolivian Rainbow, Peter Pepper, Thai Sun, Turkish Cayenne, Hot lemon and Golden Habanero. By the way…that Golden Habanero is HOT!!! Ouch! Anyway, all peppers plants sprouted and every seed but 2 (I planted maybe 100 seeds) germinated. I’ve never done so well.

My question is this. My plants have some aphids on the undersides of the leaves. What type of pesticide do you recommend?


Hey there Julie,

I’m thrilled to hear about your wonderful germination percents. I get a lot of satisfaction when I hear glowing reports like yours. My pesticide of choice is to mix ~ 1+ teaspoon of dish soap in a large spray bottle and apply directly to plants and try to get a direct hit on the bugs. The dish soap is biodegradable and will stick to the plant and linger until you get a rain.

Here’s how it works. Soft bodied insects basically breathe through their skin and it suffocates them. With hard bodied insects it gives them a deadly case of dysentery. It works on most insects…very effective on Aphids…and is non toxic to your plants. By the way, it is the Ants that kinda ‘Herd’ the aphids. They carry them up the plants so the aphids can suck the sap out of the leaves. Then those smart lil’ ants ‘Milk’ the aphids…much as we do with cows. Ants hate citrus rinds…particularly oranges. So make a mix of your leftover citrus peels in the blender with some water and put at the base of the plants. It won’t kill the ants but usually they will move on.

Bottling Hot Peppers

What’s up Big Pepper Guy?

I have a ton of your Jalapeno peppers and want to put them up in bottles. Any advice?

Duke AKA/ Pepper Stud


I get asked this question a lot.

I recycle bottles that I save from other stuff that has a plastic seal at the top…like mayonnaise jars, pickle jars, etc. I like a mixture of 2/3 distilled white vinegar and water. I add 1 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp. of turmeric as an added preservative. That is the basic recipe. When I want to get fancy I’ll add a few cloves of garlic and bay leaves. Also, picking spice gives it a lot of extra flavor. Experiment and have some fun with it.

Keep the Chile Faith Pepper Stud,

Pepper Joe

Pickling Jalapeno or Cherry Peppers

Shop for Jalapeno Peppers Now

Freezing Peppers

Can I freeze my peppers? Last year I made a delicious Hot Sauce (from the recipe on your website) but this year I’d like to freeze them and use that way.

Yes, Peppers are easy to freeze.

Just rinse well and let dry. Slice off the stem and a tiny bit of the shoulder…just enough to expose the flesh. Put them in sealed baggies and freeze. When you thaw them out they are like fresh Hot Peppers. They keep well, at least for a year.

Enjoy! If you’d like, watch me prepare my peppers for freezing:


Hot Hands

Pepper Joe,

Anything to give me fast relief?

Pepper Bob in Arkansas…..Help!!

Pepper Bob,

I can relate. Not that you want to hear this now but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Wear plastic gloves next time. For now the best cure I’ve found is wash your hands in pure dish soap…without water for at least a minute. The dish soap will pull out most of the ‘Chile Oil’..like it pulls out grease and oils from dishes. After you start to get some relief rinse off well. Nothing takes 100% of the burn out immediately but this will help.

Pepper Joe

Overwintering Peppers/Growing Indoors

Hi Pepper Joe.

Thanks for answering my last question so quickly about garden pests.

My Peter Peppers are the talk of the neighborhood. I have many of the women in the neighborhood blushing. Ha!

I know you like container gardening. When I brought my Orange Habanero plant indoors many of the leaves fell off. Will it survive?

Worried in Wilmington.

Dear Worried,

NOT to worry. When you bring container grown peppers indoors they go into a state of semi-dormancy. Meaning, they will not grow much…some varieties will continue to ripen for a while…but basically the growth slows down. Initially several varieties drop leaves due to the climatic change. It is not a problem.

The major reason to overwinter plants is to keep them alive and take out in late spring/early summer the following year and get a big jump on production and crop.

Their requirements are few.

Bring plants indoors before first expected frost in a location that gets some sun. Water every few weeks while indoors and fertilize lightly about once a month.

They will flourish when you bring them back outdoors.

Bring plants indoors before first expected frost in a location that gets some sun. Prune the limbs back into 4″ ‘crotches’. Leave about 8 to 12 of these. Basically you’re pruning back about 2/3 of your pepper plants. Water every few weeks while indoors and fertilize lightly about once a month. Below is a good video on over wintering your pepper plants.

They will flourish when you bring them back outdoors. I’m frequently asked if you can grow peppers indoors and the answer is yes. There was a time when I did not recommend it…but with grow lights now and hydroponic gardening indoors…we have many customers that are growing peppers indoors all year long very successfully. We’re not experts at that so look online or on Google for more information. How about those Peter Peppers, huh?

Fiery Regards,

Pepper Joe

How to Overwinter Your Pepper Plants

Learn More: How to Survive the Winter as a ChileHead

Drying Chiles

Hi there Pepper Joe!

I love your website. I visit it often and it always brings a smile to my face. There is so much to do there and it is so informative. I have a large crop of Turkish Cayenne and Pueblo Peppers. Any tips for drying them?


Hello John,

Thin skinned varieties dry best. You need to be careful with thick skinned, fleshy varieties such as the Jalapeno or Cherry pepper due to the high moisture content. They can be dried with a food dehydrator. If you don’t have one you can try dicing up very tiny and putting in direct sunlight. Don’t let them get wet or moist because they will get moldy.

Thin skinned varieties, such as the Cayenne family, however, dry easily.

For example, the Pueblo is so easy to dry I just string them up with a needle and thread placed through the stems and hang them up in a sunny location.

For most other varieties just slice in half, de-seed them and place on paper plates in a sunny windowsill.

Here’s a great tip:

It’s a good time to mention one of my favorite ways to preserve my Chiles…and the tastiest.

I love to de-seed them, dry them and then roast them slightly for a gourmet, nutty flavored treat.

I use two types of Hot Peppers. Tiny ones like the Thai Sun and Flourescent, I slice in half and cut out the seeds. After drying put them in the oven and broil for about just 30 seconds at about 350 degrees…WATCH THEM CLOSELY…they burn quickly…as soon as they turn slightly black they are done. If you overcook them they start to ‘Smoke’ and that stuff hurts your lungs.

The other type is thin skinned Cayenne varieties. I cut them in 1/2″ x 1/2″ squares after de-seeding them and do the same as above.

These dried and roasted Chiles are just awesome in Chicken soup…any soup for that matter…on Spaghetti, Chili, Omelets, actually experiment them in your favorite dishes.

Bon Apetit,

Pepper Joe

Drying Cayenne Peppers

Sulfur as Fertilizer

Big Pepper,

I read in one of your newsletters that you recommend sulfur as a fertilizer. Where can I find it?

Buddy S.

Hey Buddy,

Yes, I love sulfur as a fertilizer. When I transplant my seedlings outdoors I bury a pack of matches…fanned out…a few inches below the roots in the root zone. As the plant grows the roots extend down to the matches and feed off of the sulfur. Between this and my Epsom salt spray, I’ve grown bell peppers as big as cantaloupes and Hot Peppers with up to 300 little Chiles on one plant.

You can also find sulfur powdered in most drug stores and apply a tablespoon monthly around the base of your Pepper plants. Your Chiles will love ya!

Take Care,

Pepper Joe

Seed Starting Soil Mix

Dear Pepper Joe,

I’m about to plant my seeds and start them indoors. If I want to make my own potting mix do you have any recommendations? I saw you on TV with Dianne Devough-Stokes. Those Yellow Jellybean Peppers looked hot! So did you.


Little River, South Carolina


Thanks for the compliment.

There are many commercial potting and seed starting mixes that work real well.

If you want to make your own I like to use the following mixture:

  • 1/3 Potting Soil
  • 1/3 Sand
  • 1/3 Garden soil (needs to be well tilled)

Mix all 3 parts together very well and make sure there are no lumps…to give you a well aerated mixture. Peppers like sand and it gives the roots a good chance to spread out. The garden soil has nutrients for the roots to feed on and the potting soil is nice and friable to prevent compaction. The root zone should be happy with this combination. Watch my Growing Chilies 101 video below to see me make up this perfect soil for your plants.

Great Gardening,

Pepper Joe

Hardening Off

Pepper Joe,

Is it important to harden off my Hot Pepper Plants?

Jimmy Jackson


This is absolutely KEY. Gardening is mostly common sense. Keep in mind your plants have been in a controlled indoor climate. Probably between 65 and 70 degrees with no wind and partial sunshine through a sunny windowsill in most cases. These are not the conditions outdoors where these tender plants will have 30 degree swings in temperature, direct sunlight and some windy conditions. Not to worry … just let them adapt GRADUALLY.

I recommend bringing them outdoors the first day for 1/2 hour in just partial sunlight in an area protected by the wind. Some gardeners start out even simpler than this by opening the window where plants are growing a few inches for an hour, then two, then three hours per day. After your plants are outdoors for 1/2 hour somewhat protected increase the time daily to 1 hour, 2, 3, 4, leading up to 8 hours per day. Then leave them out overnight for a full day. As the amount of hours increase you can gradually expose them to more direct sunlight and some wind. Keep in mind the soil will dry faster outdoors due to sun and wind so water more frequently outdoors. The soil in containers will dry faster than your actual actual garden will. This entire process takes about 2 weeks. If there is a thunderstorm or high winds..obviously skip that day. Again your primary objective is to let your plants acclimate gradually to the new outdoor environment.

Pepper Joe

In my Growing Hot Peppers 101 video, I talk about hardening off:

Transplanting into the Garden

Pepper Joe,

One more question if I’m not bugging you too much. What do you advise for transplanting?



No problem at all. I love to give direction to our customers to ensure a good crop.

Now that your plants are Hardened off properly you are just about there. Your plants are adjusted to being outdoors and you’re moving them to their permanent home. The key now is:

  1. Don’t disturb the roots.
  2. Create a favorable soil environment.
  3. Transplant the right depth.

To prepare the soil I like to mix into the hole a healthy shovelful of sand (most tomatoes and peppers originated in a tropical climate..besides sand allows the roots to aerate) and a shovelful of composted cow manure or compost. This will continually feed your plants throughout the growing season. Handle the roots gingerly and place into hole about 1″ above the established root line so that more of the plant is underground than when in pots. Tomatoes and peppers will grow additional roots from the stem that is now underground. This will “anchor” the plant better and it will grow stockier. Immediately water the plants well at the soil level. It’s best to do your transplants at early evening so that they are not immediately in full sunlight.

Watch the transplants closely the first week. If the weather is real hot they’ll need more water. If plants start to wilt slightly water them right away. Occasionally I’ve had to partially shade them if the weather was real hot with a temporary cardboard shelter.

Pepper Joe

Animal Problems

Hi there Pepper Joe,

I’ve been a Newsletter subscriber to ‘Chile News & Views’ since the beginning, I guess for about 3 years now. Your advice has taken me from a novice to a semi -novice (: ..just kidding…I do pretty well, actually.

I sometimes have a problem with groundhogs and deer eating my plants. Do you have any way to prevent this?

Suzie Hamilton


They are two determined ‘Critters’. There is no 100% solution but I’ve had success spreading blood meal at the base of my Chiles – the deer, groundhogs, rabbits, etc. don’t like crossing a spot that smells like blood or where a carnivore may have been feeding. And putting some human hair in a used pair of nylons around the plants is also a good deterrent. For real serious problems you can buy urine type of applications from predators, such as coyote.

Good Luck and Great Gardening,

Pepper Joe

Pruning/Overwintering Peppers

Dear PJ,

I read somewhere that you say it is OK to prune pepper plants to extend the season and increase yield in colder weather areas in particular. Can you explain?

Sissie Spellman

Hancock, Maine

Hey There Sissie,

Most people don’t know you can prune pepper plants. About six weeks before the first frost, snip back top branches and flowers. The plant strength will go to existing peppers, not new growth, and remaining peppers will mature faster. Also, just before the first freeze, pull entire plant and hang upside down in a dry, airy location. A garage or basement is ideal. Green peppers will ripen right on the plant. This is a good tip for shorter season gardeners. Watch my YouTube video on this:

Pepper Joe

Container Gardening

Hi Pepper Joe.

You seem to be a big fan of container gardening. Can you tell me why and also which peppers do you recommend for containers?

I took your “Pepper Joe Trivia Test” and scored a perfect score. Do I get anything?

Thank you,

George Demographolis from UK

Hi George,

Congratulations for a perfect score on my trivia test. You will be automatically entered in my give-away contests. We’ve had hundreds of winners and you can see their names in my ‘Winners Circle’.

Back to your question on container gardening.

I am a big fan of container gardening. Anyone can grow Chiles from seeds anywhere in containers…even if you live in a condo or apartment and have limited space.

If you have a small garden this is a way to increase your yield.

I like a 5 gallon size for most peppers. You start the seeds indoors than transfer your seedlings to the container after danger of the last frost is over. Make certain to harden them off properly first.

Most varieties of peppers do well in containers.

However, the more compact the plant is the better it does.

Some of my Habaneros grow to 6′ and 7′ tall. Obviously these would fall short of ideal for container gardening because they would be top heavy. However my Orange Habanero is more compact and does well.

My #1 choice for containers is my Thai Sun. It grows to 1′ high and just about as wide. It is perfect for this type of gardening. Here’s some others that are ideal: Hot Lemon, Jalapeno, Cherry, Tabasco, Mushroom, Pasilla, Charleston, Flourescent, and the Peter Pepper. The Peter Pepper is definitely rated XXX and is not for customers who are too modest. (:

Watch me talk more about growing peppers in containers:

Fiery Regards,

Pepper Joe

Free Seeds, Treated Seeds

Greetings from Bermuda Pepper Joe.

Are your seeds treated? I ordered from you last year and received Free Seeds. Do you still send them with every order?


Hi David,

My seeds are not treated. I have a problem with treated seeds being labeled “not fit for human or animal consumption”. What in the world do they put on those seeds that you can’t eat them? Maybe I don’t want to know.

My seeds are dried with a little sunshine and plenty of fresh air. I hand select them and choose only the finest specimens. Seeds have survived and reproduced for millions of years without being treated. Some have been found in Egyptian tombs that were thousands of years old and they still germinated…they were not ‘treated’.

Yes, I give a pack or two of Free Seeds with every order. It’s my way of saying “Thanks” to my customers and I appreciate your business…bigtime!

The seeds are a combination of Family Heirloom seeds that I don’t offer in the catalog, seeds we are still testing to sell in the future, some from customers that we haven’t offered for sale yet, etc. Just a fun, diverse bunch of seeds that customers are delighted to get for frees.

Enjoy your Free seeds David.

Pepper Joe

I Want My Peppers HOT!

Pepper Joe,

Is there any way to get my peppers hotter? I read that they are hottest in a drought. True?

Stephanie Richards, a big Pepper Joe Fan

Hi Steph,

Good to hear from you again.

There are a lot of myths about getting Chiles to grow hotter.

A drought won’t do it. What it will do is hasten ripening because when a Pepper plant is stressed it goes into a survival mode and ripens some peppers fast…although they may be puny…so the seed matures and the plant is assured of reproduction.

The major factor in Heat Levels in Hot Peppers is genetics. If the parent plant bore Hot Chiles, the offspring is very likely to do so also, providing the plant didn’t cross-pollinate.

Heat levels are tricky…sometimes a varieties heat level varies from seed to seed even from the same pepper.

Your best bet is to buy seeds from a reliable company.

Check out my Pepper Joe Heat Scale to see my opinion of the Hottest Peppers that we offer.

Pepper Joe

Germination Pointers

Hi Pepper Joe,

You Da Man. I follow your advice and am the envy of my fellow gardeners in the neighborhood. Any tips for germination?

Vick Fontaine from South Philly

Hi Vick,

Hot peppers need to be coaxed through germination and the transplant stage. Keep in mind they all originate from a tropical climate. But once they grab hold in the garden, they become a robust plant.

We highly recommend the wet paper towel method, detailed in this video:

If you prefer a more traditional method, start indoors and sow 1/4 inch deep, 8 to 12 weeks before the last frost. The soil needs to be a good mixture so it is light and friable so that the tender seedlings can push their way through the soil surface. A commercial seed starting soil is fine.

After planting, keep moist and warm in a sunny location. Allow soil to dry for a day in between thorough waterings. Good results are also achieved by putting plastic cling wrap over the containers to create a ‘hothouse’ environment. Remove the plastic cling wrap when seedlings emerge. Whichever method you use, be patient. Finicky varieties can take 6 to 12 weeks to germinate. In general, the hotter the pepper, the longer the germination time.

Pepper Joe

Hot Sauces

Dear Pepper Joe.

I’m new to gardening and grew my first peppers this year, with your seeds of course. Now I’m overrun with Hot Peppers, I’m going to be brave and try to make my own Hot Sauces. Do you have a recipe?

Amy Tedrone in Canada


Sure I have some great recipes.

Pepper Joe’s Original Hot Sauce Recipes

Make Your Own Gourmet Roasted Pepper Hot Sauce

By: Joseph Masabni

New! Click or tap the image to view the new Growing Peppers Guide

Peppers are a warm-season crop that will grow in most Texas areas. Red and green peppers are good sources of vitamin C, some vitamin A, and small amounts of several minerals. Red peppers have more vitamin A than do green peppers.

Peppers are good raw or cooked. Eat them as a snack, use them to decorate food, or add them to salads and casseroles. You can also stuff peppers with seasoned bread crumbs or meat and bake them.


The best varieties of sweet peppers for growing in Texas include:

  • Bell Tower
  • Big Bertha
  • California Wonder
  • Gypsy
  • Jupiter
  • Yolo Wonder

Suitable hot pepper varieties include:

  • Hidalgo Serrano
  • Hungarian Wax
  • Jalapeño
  • Long Red Cayenne
  • TAM Mild Jalapeño

Site selection

Peppers grow in all types of soils but do best in heavier, well-drained soils. Plant them in areas that receive at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.

Soil preparation

Several weeks before planting, work the soil 8 to 10 inches deep and rake it several times to break up the large clods. Work the soil only when it is dry enough not to stick to garden tools. Incorporate large amounts of organic matter into the soil, especially if you are working with heavy clay. You can use compost, peat moss, rotted hay, or other organic matter.


Because a few plants will feed most families, it is best to buy pepper plants rather than grow them from seed. Buy healthy plants that are 4 to 6 inches tall (Fig. 1). About three to four hot pepper plants and eight to ten sweet pepper plants usually are enough for a family of four.

Figure 1. When buying pepper plants, choose those that are dark green and 4 to 6 inches tall.

Peppers grow best in warm weather. Plant them only when all danger of cold weather has passed. Plant fall peppers 12 to 16 weeks before the first expected frost.

Make the transplant holes 3 to 4 inches deep and about 1½ feet apart in the row. Space the rows at least 3 feet apart. Before planting, fill the holes with water and let it soak in.

Figure 2. Peppers should be planted at least 1½ feet apart in a slightly sunken area to retain water.

Move the plants carefully from the box or flat, and set them in the transplant holes. Leave as much soil as possible around the roots. Fill the hole with soil and pack it loosely around the plant. Do not cover the roots deeper than the original soil ball. Leave a slightly sunken area around each plant to hold water (Fig. 2). Water the plants after planting. It is best to transplant peppers in the evening or on a cloudy day. This will keep the plants from drying too much and wilting.


Add 2 to 3 pounds of fertilizer such as 10-10-10 per 100 square feet of garden area. Spread the fertilizer evenly over the garden. Work it into the soil.

If you will plant single plants, place about 2 level tablespoons of fertilizer on the soil in the planting area. Mix it well with the soil (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. If you are planting single plants, work organic matter and 2 tablespoons of fertilizer into the planting area.


Water the plants enough to keep them from wilting. Slow, deep watering helps the root system grow strong. Do not let pepper plants wilt because this will reduce yield and quality of the fruit.

Care during the season

Hoe or till the soil lightly. Deep tilling will cut the pepper roots and slow growth. Pull by hand any weeds that are close to the plants. After the first fruit begins to enlarge, place about 2 tablespoons of fertilizer around each plant about 6 inches from the stem. Water the plant after adding the fertilizer. This will increase the yield and the quality of the peppers.


Many insecticides are available at garden centers for homeowner use. Sevin is a synthetic insecticide; organic options include sulfur and Bt-based insecticides. Sulfur also has fungicidal properties and helps control many diseases.

Before using a pesticide, read the label and always follow cautions, warnings, and directions.


Because diseases can be a problem on peppers, watch the plants closely. In mild weather, diseases start easily. Leaf spots are caused by fungi and bacteria and can be treated with neem oil, sulfur, or other fungicides. Again, always follow label directions.


If you pick the peppers as they mature, the yields will be greater. The first peppers should be ready 8 to 10 weeks after transplanting.

Pick bell peppers when they become shiny, firm, and dark green. If left on the plant, most peppers will turn red and are still good to eat.

Harvest most hot peppers when they turn red or yellow, depending on the variety. Jalapeños are mature when they reach good size and develop a deep, dark green sheen.


Store peppers in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator or use other covered containers. Use them within 3 to 5 days after harvesting.

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View this publication in Spanish: Cómo cultivar pimientos

New! Growing Peppers

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Cherry Bomb Pepper: A Firecracker Of A Chili


Big name…but very eatable heat.

Scoville heat units (SHU): 2,500 to 5,000
Jalapeño reference point: Equal heat
Origin: United States
Products and seeds: Cherry Bomb pepper on Amazon

Boy, the Cherry Bomb pepper comes loaded with a lot of expectation due to its moniker. You may be thinking mouth explosion! But, really, this hybrid chili carries more of a modest boom, about the heat of a milder jalapeño pepper. It’s very eatable heat for those that enjoy spicy food, and it’s a wonderful step-up from the more milder “cherry” pepper , the pimento. It’s terrific stuffed or pickled, so it’s a unique alternative to jalapeños for many of your favorite stuffed popper recipes.

How hot are Cherry Bomb peppers?

Their Scoville Scale range falls at the very bottom of medium heat peppers, from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville heat units. That puts it inline with jalapeño peppers, but jalapeños do have the potential of carrying quite a bit more heat (up to 8,000 SHU). This level of spiciness is well in the family-friendly zone for most eaters who can handle a moderate amount of spicy food.

Cherry Bomb peppers? Are these cherry peppers? Or are pimentos?

Yes, there is a lot of “cherry”-like names and references in the pepper scale. It’s all due to the shape of the chilies that get the label – pimento peppers and Cherry Bombs share the same cherry lines, plump and round. They are about as close to circular as you see in the world of hot peppers, and they’re rather tiny in the scope of the pepper scale, about 2 inches in total length.

Cherry Bomb peppers are sometimes referenced as hot cherry peppers, but so are pimentos even though they carry very mild heat (100 to 500 SHU). And then there’s the wiri wiri pepper that carries the same rounded look (but smaller), and packs a real bomb-like wallop at 100,000 to 350,000 SHU – the same heat as the uber-spicy habanero pepper. If you see chilies labeled “cherry pepper”, though, you’re likely getting a pimento.

What do they taste like?

There’s a sweetness to Cherry Bomb peppers that’s quite delectable. It pairs well with cheeses and savory meats like sausage and bacon. They are meaty, too, with thick walls so there’s a substance to the eating experience despite their smaller size.

How can you use these chilies?

Due to those thick walls, Cherry Bomb chilies are terrific for stuffing. Those cheeses and savory meats are perfect for stuffed pepper recipes here. Their sweetness is a delicious stuffing pepper foil to the brighter and grassier flavor of the jalapeño. Try some of those popper recipes with a Cherry Bomb – you may be surprised at the deliciousness it yields.

These chilies also are perfect pickled – again because of those thick walls. Here, the tang from the pickling plays well against that sweet firecracker heat making for a very tasty side to BBQ and other big flavor meals.

Where can you buy Cherry Bomb peppers?

You don’t often find them fresh at stores. If they are, they may be labeled as “hot cherry peppers”, but again that’ll likely be pimentos you’re grabbing. Your better bet is farmer’s markets or to grow them yourself. These are popular home-grown chili peppers due to their eatability and sweet flavor. You can easily pick up Cherry Bomb peppers seeds online, or check out your local gardening center. You may be in luck.

We love the Cherry Bomb as a unique alternative to jalapeños. They both share similar heat ranges, yet provide vastly different flavor experiences. If you grow (or find) these chilies, try mixing up those popper recipes with a little of each chili. It adds a delicious twist to those appetizer poppers.

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Ghost pepper. Cayenne. Thai hot. Most of us are familiar with the idea of unpalatably spicy food. And whether it’s painful internet challenges to handle the spiciest food possible or that one friend who is always trying a new hot sauce, spicy food has a masochistic following.

Not to mention most of us have had to question whether the pepper we were buying at the store was a mild or intense variety. Where does a serrano fall compared to an Anaheim? Or we’ve had to do a cautious taste test of a jalapeño or other spicy pepper before deciding how much to throw into a soup or salsa, wondering if it would be a mouth-scalder or a dud. It can be hard to figure out which peppers will send you running for a glass of milk and which are relatively harmless.

Since it’s impossible to tell how spicy a pepper is just by looking at it, we’ve created a guide that’ll let you know exactly how hot a pepper is judging by the Scoville heat index. Invented by Wilbur Scoville, the Scoville heat index ranks peppers in order from mildest to hottest. It starts with 0 being the mildest and goes over 1,000,000 to indicate the hottest peppers.

There are too many different kinds of peppers for us to include them all, but here’s the 411 on some of the most common types.

Bell pepper

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Bell peppers, which can be red, yellow, green or orange, aren’t hot peppers. They are very common sweet peppers. Since this type of pepper has no heat, its Scoville heat index is 0. You can cook bell peppers in a variety of ways, however don’t expect this type of pepper to add spice to your food.

More: Spicy Skittles & Starbursts Are Here to Make You Break a Sweat

Cherry pepper

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Also known as pimento peppers, cherry peppers are heart-shaped and about 4 inches long and 4 inches wide. These peppers are actually very mild, scoring about a 500 on the Scoville heat index. Cherry peppers are perhaps best known to be the red filling that can typically be found inside olives.

Anaheim pepper

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Another mild type of pepper is the Anaheim pepper. This pepper is usually maroon in color and has a long, skinny body. While the Anaheim pepper usually has a Scoville heat index of around 1,000, some varieties can have a rating as high as 5,000. Relative to the rest of this list, this pepper is not very hot.

Jalapeño pepper

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The jalapeño is one of the most common types of peppers in the U.S. Many people like it because it’s spicy yet not overwhelming. Jalapeños are usually either red or green and about 2 to 3 inches long. Their Scoville heat index is around 5,000, however they can range anywhere from 2,000 to 8,000. When used sparingly, they add just the right amount of spicy flavor to most Mexican dishes. Many people also deep-fry jalapeños stuffed with cheese for a tasty appetizer.

Serrano pepper

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The serrano pepper is similar to the jalapeño in its look, but this pepper is much hotter. On the Scoville heat index, the serrano pepper can be between 10,000 and 25,000. This pepper is usually small (around 2 inches) and green in color. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the serrano pepper, the hotter it will taste.

Next Up: Cayenne pepper

A version of this article was originally published in August 2008.

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Cherry Peppers

The Cherry Paprika – A mild chili of sweet cherry-optics?

The cherry-paprika (capsicum annuum) has its origins in Hungary, although the original name comes from Mexico. This is a derivate of the word rattle, because of the characteristic sound the dried fruit makes when shaken. Today, the chili is widely spread in the Mexican and Hungarian cuisine and is also an important part of our antipasti.

Where does the cherry paprika actually come from?

Although the name is derivative of Mexican, the fruit is originally Hungarian. This is why it is also called Hungarian Cherry Pepper. Today it is cultivated in the depths of South America as well as in Hungary and is an important component of cultural meals.

The fruit of the Cherry Paprika

As the name already points out, the Chery Paprika looks oddly similar to a cherry. They grow between 1 and 3 cm in diameter and the thick pulp changes color from green to red during the maturing process. Sometimes brown or yellow breeds can make singular appearances. The fruit grows straight upwards on a bushy shrub of about 50 to 70 cm in height. The fruits are round and by comparison have many seeds. In the crown, you can find lots of fruits, which makes for a nice view of the balcony or garden, together with the white flowers which can be admired between the months of May and August.

The heat of the Cherry Paprika

Depending on the breed and the fruit, the heat of the Cherry Paprika can vary strongly. Normally it ranks between 1 and 5 on the international heat scale. This corresponds to 0 – 3000 Scoville. As a mild variant we have the Cherry Sweet whilst the Red Cherry Hot is the spicier variant.

Where is the Cherry Paprika cultivated?

As said before, Hungary and Mexico are the main cultivation regions for the Cherry Paprika. There, they are mostly cultivated in greenhouses. However, those who are looking for a challenge can set out and deal with the cultivation of the seeds, as many hobbyist gardeners today love to have the Cherry Paprika in their greenhouses, gardens or balconies. After about 9 days at room temperature, after they have been planted, the cherry chili germinates. At high humidity and temperatures of 22 to 25 degrees centigrade you can see the first leaves pop out after about 4 weeks.

Usage of the Cherry Paprika

The most beloved use of the Paprika around here is as antipasti. For that, the fruits are filled with fresh cheese or with sheep’s cheese and then pickled. Usually the fruit combines very well with cheese. In its cultivation regions, it is a very popular ingredient of culinary dishes and always a good choice, as the plant offers lots of possibilities.


(F1) Cherry Pepper Seed

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Capsicum annuum
CULTURE: Peppers thrive in well-drained, fertile soils with a pH of 6.5. Abundant phosphorus and calcium is needed for the best results.
GROWING SEEDLINGS: Sow seed in 20-row or shallow flats, 4 seeds/in., 1/4″ deep, in late March or about 8 weeks prior to transplanting. If possible, maintain soil temperatures at 80-90°F (27-32°C). Pepper seeds germinate very slowly in cooler soil. When the first true leaves appear, transplant seedlings into 2″ cell-type containers or 4″ pots. Grow plants at approx. 70°F (21°C) day and 60°F (16°C) nights.
COLD TREATMENT: Exposing the seedlings to controlled cold treatments can increase the number of flowers and fruits. When the third true leaf appears, grow the plants at a minimum night temperature of 53-55°F (12-13°C) for 4 weeks. The plants should receive full sunlight. After 4 weeks adjust temperature to 70°F (21°C) day and night. If this technique is used, peppers should be seeded 1-2 weeks earlier than usual.
TRANSPLANTING: Transplant out after frost when the soil is warm and weather is settled. Ideal seedlings have buds, but no open flowers. Set plants 12-18″ apart in rows 24-36″ apart, or 2 rows on poly/paper mulch, 18″ between plants. Water-in transplants using a high phosphorus solution.
ROW COVERS: Cold weather is buffered and earliness increased by using plastic mulch, especially in combination with lightweight fabric row covers supported by wire hoops. Remove row covers in sunny weather above 85°F (29°C) to prevent blossom drop and heat damage.
INSECT PESTS: Control climbing cutworms with Bacillus thuringiensis, or with paper cylinder collars. Control tarnished plant bugs, aphids, and flea beetles with pyrethrin.
DISEASES AND PROBLEMS: To prevent bacterial spot and Phytophthora, drip irrigate only, plant only in well-drained soils, minimize soil compaction, and follow a 4-year crop rotation. Sunscald is caused by an inadequate foliage canopy. Prevent blossom end rot with adequate soil calcium and regular moisture. Big bushy plants with few peppers can be caused by an excess of nitrogen, hot or cold temperature extremes during the flowering period, tarnished plant bug injury, and choice of late, poorly-adapted varieties.
BACTERIAL SPOT NOTICE: Bacterial spot can be seed borne. All Johnny’s pepper seed lots are tested for bacterial spot.
NOTE: A disease-free test result does not guarantee a seed lot to be disease-free, only that in the sample tested, the pathogen targeted was not found.
HARVEST AND STORAGE: Pick the first peppers promptly when they reach full size to encourage further fruit set. Wash and hold at 45°F (7°C) and 95% relative humidity.
DAYS TO MATURITY: Approximate days from transplanting outdoors to first pickings of full size fruit.
AVG. TRANSPLANT SEEDING RATE: Avg. 19 plants/ Pkt., 750 plants/1,000 seeds, 19,360 seeds per acre of transplants (avg. 14,520 plants), 12″ between plants in rows 36″ apart.
SEED SPECS: SEEDS/OZ.: Avg. 4,300.
PACKET: 25 seeds.

Planting Instructions:

  • Start indoors 6-10 weeks before your last spring frost. Sow 4-5 seeds 6mm (¼”) deep in 10cm (4”) pots and cover lightly with soil medium. Keep soil moist but not too wet. We keep under lights at a temperature of 26.7-29˚C (80-85˚F). Germination rates can vary drastically from 10 days to 21 days. Thin seedlings to 2-3 per pot. Once seedlings develop their second set of true leaves, prune the first set of true leaves. Pruning the leaves forces secondary growth and creates a bushier plant. We do this on several leaf sets. If seedlings become too leggy, place them in a cooler location. This will slow them down and make their stems thicker. Transplant seedlings when soil has warmed up to 15.6-18˚C (60-65˚F). Plant transplants 30-61cm (12-24”) apart in or blocks each way.
  • Note: Peat pots are not recommended for germinating peppers. The pH may be too high and peat pots retain a lot of water that may drown the seeds.
  • Soil Conditions: Well worked, rich, loose, well-drained soil. Ideal pH: 5.5-6.8
  • Planting Depth: Sow seeds 6mm (¼”) deep.
  • Germination: 14-21 days.
  • Height at Maturity: Plants reach 45-61 cm (18-24″) tall. Compact bush habit. Spread can be 41-61 cm (16-24”) wide.
  • Days to Maturity: 75-95 days.
  • Watering: Peppers require about 2.5cm (1”) of water per week. Allow water to completely soak the soil 15-20cm (6-8”) deep. This will ensure good growth. The amount of rain that falls during the week will help supplement how much you should water your garden. Soil should remain moist.
  • Sun/Shade: Full Sun
  • Spacing after Thinning: Plant transplants 30-61cm (12-24”) apart in rows or in blocks each way.

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