When to pick peppers?

Sweet peppers and hot peppers are most easily grown in the garden from transplants started indoors. Start seed indoors 7 to 10 weeks before the date you intend to set peppers into the garden. Don’t rush peppers into the garden. Transplant pepper seedling into the garden 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost in spring, after the soil temperature has warmed to at least 65°F. Peppers mature in 60 to 95 days depending on the variety.

Pepper seedlings

Contents

Planting Peppers

Starting Pepper Seed Indoors:

  • Start pepper seed indoors 7 to 10 weeks before the date you intend to set seedlings into the garden.
  • Sow 3 to 4 seeds to a pot or across flats.
  • Sow seed ¼ to ½ inch (7-13 mm) deep.
  • Germination soil temperature is 75-95°F (24-35°C); the optimum soil temperature for germinating seed is 85°F (29°C).
  • Germination takes 7 to 10 days at 85°F (29°C) or warmer.
  • Keep the seed starting mix just moist until seedlings emerge.
  • Clip away the weaker seedlings once the strongest seedling is about 2 inches (5 cm) tall.
  • Seedlings started indoors should be kept under grow light or in a sunny window after germination. Keep the indoor nighttime temperature above 62°F (17°C).
  • Water to keep the seed starting mix from drying.
  • Transfer seedlings to a larger container once they are 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) tall; be sure that seedlings have sufficient room for root growth. This process is called “potting up”. Continue to pot up seedlings as they outgrow containers—until they are transplanted into the garden or a very large container.

More tips on growing peppers from seed: Pepper Seed Starting Tips.

Sweet and hot peppers grow best in air temperatures 65° to 80°F.

Planting Peppers Outdoors:

  • Transplant peppers into the garden 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost in spring when the soil temperature has risen to at least 65°F.
  • Young peppers transplanted should be 4 to 6 inches tall.
  • Plants started indoors should be acclimatized to outdoor temperatures before transplants. Set plants outdoors for a few hours each day before transplanting to the garden.
  • Sweet and hot peppers grow best in air temperatures 65° to 80°F. The ideal temperature for sweet peppers is a daytime temperature around 75°F and a nighttime temperature around 62°F.
  • Grow peppers in full sun. Peppers should get 8 hours of sun each day.
  • Plant peppers in soil rich in organic matter. Work aged garden compost or commercial organic planting mix into beds prior to planting.
  • The soil should be moisture-retentive but well-draining. Slightly sandy or loamy soil is best.
  • Pre-warm the soil before transplanting by placing black plastic over the planting bed for two weeks prior to transplanting peppers. The plastic will transfer solar heat to the soil.
  • Set transplants in the garden at the same depth they were growing in the container. Do not plant deeper; buried stem may rot.
  • Peppers prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.
  • Avoid planting peppers where another nightshade (Solanacea) family crop has grown recently—tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants. These crops can be attacked by the same pests and diseases.

Spacing Pepper Plants:

  • Space pepper plants 18 to 24 inches apart. Space rows 24 to 36 inches apart.

Container Growing Peppers:

  • Peppers can be grown in pots or containers that are at least 12 inches wide and deep.
  • Plant peppers in a commercial potting mix.
  • Choose a container with holes in the bottom for easy drainage.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Side-dress plants with compost tea or dilute fish emulsion every two weeks through the growing season.
  • In larger containers, set plants on 12-inch centers.

Caring for Peppers

Watering and Feeding Peppers:

  • Keep peppers evenly moist but not wet particularly when blossoms appear and fruit begins to form.
  • Soil that goes too dry can result in flower drop
  • Add aged compost to planting beds before planting and again at midseason. Aged compost will feed the soil and act as a mulch to stem soil moisture evaporation.

Plastic mulch can improve pepper growth by reducing weeding and watering.

Maintaining Peppers:

  • Keep planting beds well weeded to avoid competition.
  • Peppers are shallow-rooted, so cultivate around peppers with care.
  • Mulch around peppers with aged compost or straw to keep soil temperature and moisture even.
  • Plastic mulch can improve pepper yields. Organic compost mulches will reduce weeding and watering, but not fruit yields.
  • Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers which will create large leafy plants with few or no fruits.
  • Feed plants compost tea or water with a dilute fish emulsion solution every 10 days.
  • Support pepper plants with a stake or cage; plants heavy with fruit can break or topple. Pepper branches are brittle and can easily break.
  • High temperatures and wind can cause flowers to drop and plants not to set fruit.

More tips: Pepper Planting: Easy Steps to a Bumper Crop.

Pepper Pests:

  • Peppers can be attacked by aphids, cutworms, flea beetles, and hornworms.
  • Discourage cutworms by placing a collar around each transplant at the time of planting.
  • Handpick hornworms off of plants. Drop them into a can of soapy water.
  • Flea beetles and aphids can be partially controlled by hosing them off the plants and pinching out infested foliage.

Pepper Diseases:

  • Peppers are susceptible to rot, blossom end rot, anthracnose, tobacco mosaic virus, bacterial spot, and mildew.
  • Plant disease-resistant varieties. Seed packets and plant labels will note disease resistance.
  • Keep the garden clean and free of weeds where pests and diseases can shelter.
  • Remove infected plants before a disease can spread.
  • If you smoke, wash your hands before working with the plants to avoid spreading tobacco mosaic virus.

More to pepper pests and diseases: Pepper Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.

Pulling a pepper away from the plant can cause a branch to break or can pull the plant out of the soil. Use a garden clipper to harvest peppers.

Harvesting and Storing Peppers

Harvesting Peppers:

  • Peppers are ready for harvest in 60 to 95 days after sowing
  • Peppers mature from green to red as the seeds inside mature.
  • Color change can be slow when the weather is not consistently warm.
  • Sweet peppers become sweeter as they ripen and turn color.
  • Cut peppers off the vine with a garden shear or scissors; don’t pull them.
  • Leave a short amount of stem attached to the pepper at harvest time.
  • Peppers will continue to change color and ripen after harvest if place in a warm spot out of direct sunlight.

More harvest tips: How to Harvest and Store Peppers.

Storing and Preserving Peppers:

  • Peppers can be stored in a cool, moist place for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Peppers can be refrigerated for up to 10 days; place them in a plastic bag to avoid cold burn.
  • Blanched peppers can be stored in the freezer for 4 to 6 months.
  • Peppers can be dried or pickled whole or in pieces.
  • Be careful when handling hot peppers. They contain a compound call capsaicin which is concentrated in the veins, ribs, and seeds. Capsaicin can burn your eyes, nose, or mouth. Washed your hands thoroughly after handling hot

Sweet bell pepper

Sweet Pepper Varieties to Grow

Sweet peppers vary in shape and color and include the slender banana pepper; the short, round cherry pepper; the small bright-red, heart-shaped pimiento; the multi-colored Italian frying pepper; and the blocky green to yellow to orange to red bell pepper. Sweet peppers can be eaten raw, cooked, or pickled. Not all sweet pepper varieties are mildly flavored; some can be spicy and hot.

Peppers to plant: Pepper Varieties: Best Bets and Easy-To-Grow.

Jalapeno pepper plant supported by a wire cage

Hot Pepper Varieties to Grow

Hot peppers–also called chili peppers–vary in shape and color and include the bell-shaped pepper, the heart-shaped pimiento, the short and long podded yellow wax, the conical-shaped jalapeño, and the cayenne. Peppers easily cross-pollinate there are thousands of different hot peppers.

Hot peppers are rated by their heat–called Scoville heat units (SHU). The greater the number of units on the Scoville scale the hotter the pepper. Here are several hot pepper varieties starting with the hottest (all of these will cause most people discomfort when eaten):

More on hot peppers: How to Choose a Chili Pepper.

About Peppers

  • Peppers are tender perennials that are grown as annuals.
  • Peppers grow on compact erect bushes 1½ to 2 feet tall.
  • The fruit follows a single flower growing in the angle between a leaf and a stem.
  • Botanical name: Capsicum annuum (sweet and hot peppers).
  • Origin: New World Tropics.

More tips: Growing Peppers for Flavor.

Grow 80 vegetables: THE KITCHEN GARDEN GROWERS’ GUIDE

Magnesium

Magnesium is the most commonly deficient secondary nutrient. In many cases deficient plants show no obvious symptoms, except reduced yields. The most common visual symptom is the yellowing of older leaves, especially in the areas between the veins (leaf margins and veins stay green), giving the leaves a mottled effect. These yellow patches may eventually turn into necrotic lesions. The leaves (or their margins) often take on a reddish hue and their tips may curl upward. Affected leaves commonly drop and it can eventually defoliate most of the plant. Magnesium is quite mobile in the plant, so symptoms first appear in older leaves. Cauliflower and Potato are good indicators of magnesium deficiency.

Reasons for deficiency:

Leaching: Magnesium cations are easily leached, so a deficiency sometimes occurs in light sandy soil in humid areas.

Low pH: Magnesium is most available at a pH of 6.0 to 8.5, so may be unavailable in acid soils. Simply raising the pH may solve a deficiency problem.

Nutrient imbalance: An excess of potassium or calcium can cause a deficiency of magnesium.

Sources of magnesium:

Organic matter in the form of compost or manure is the best source of magnesium for a mature organic garden.

The most common source of magnesium for the garden is dolomitic lime (calcium magnesium carbonate). If your soil is deficient in magnesium always lime with this in preference to calcitic limestone. Basic slag is another liming agent that contains magnesium.

In alkaline soils you can’t use dolomitic lime, because it will raise the pH even further and can lead to other problems. In such a situation you can dissolve 10 ounces of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) in 10 gallons of water for every 100 square feet of soil. If a magnesium deficiency shows up in the early stages of growth, you can use Epsom salts as a foliar feed (3 ounces in a gallon of water). You may also try a liquid seaweed fertilizer.

When it comes to growing sweet peppers, the choices now available are simply astonishing!

It used to be that most home gardeners were limited to planting and harvesting the traditional sweet varieties of red, yellow or orange bell peppers. It was simply all you could find to plant. But those days are long gone!

When it comes to growing sweet peppers, the lunchbox variety is an instant winner!

With the resurgence of many old-time heirloom peppers, along with new hybrids hitting the market every year, the selection of sweet peppers available today is mind boggling! Even better, there are selections for almost any garden style – from traditional backyard gardens, to patio planters, containers, hanging baskets and more.

No matter how you will be growing sweet peppers, the keys to success are the same. Peppers need well-drained, fertile soil, and plenty of regular water to reach their full potential.

They also need to be picked as they ripen. Pepper plants will stop producing new flowers if a plant is too loaded with existing fruit. So to keep those peppers coming on, keep picking!

With that said, here are 3 great sweet pepper selections to grow this year!

Growing Sweet Peppers – 3 Great Varieties To Grow

Sweet Carmen Italian Pepper

This is an absolute winner when it comes to sweet peppers! Perfect for grilling, cooking, or simply slicing and enjoying!

The sweet Italian Carmen bears peppers that are 6″ long and 2″ to 3″ in diameter. They grow best in a traditional garden setting, but can be planted in larger containers as well.

Their flavor is simply pure heaven!

The Lunchbox Pepper

The Sweet Carmen Italian Pepper

When it comes to growing sweet peppers in any setting, the Lunchbox is an outstanding choice. It’s smaller, compact nature is perfect for planting in a container, on the patio in pots, or right in the garden.

Lunchbox pepper plants grow 18 to 24″ high, and provide plenty of juicy 1 to 1.5″ long red, yellow, and orange sweet peppers. They have a small seed core, and a big crunch, making them perfect for snacking. They are also delicious in everything from salads to omelets.

The lunchbox variety is a heavy producer, and performs best when a little support is given in the form of a small stake or trellis.

Mini Bell Blend

Red mini bell peppers ready for picking

If you love the taste of big, sweet bell peppers, then you will surely adore the mini bells. The aptly named mini bell sweet peppers are a miniature version of the traditional sweet bell pepper

Much like the Lunchbox variety, they are perfect for snacking. Their stout shape however also lends itself well for stuffing with your favorite filling for an excellent appetizer. Plants grow to about 24″ in height and are filled with peppers ranging from red, chocolate, purple, orange or red. Each plant will grow one color of pepper, so be sure to plant several seeds to get a good selection of colored peppers.

They are perfect in the garden, in pots, or in containers too.

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Lunchbox Mix Organic Pepper

Pepper Seed Planting: Peppers require a long, warm growing season. Seed should be started indoors in March or 8 weeks prior to transplanting. To start seed indoors, sow 2-3 seeds 1⁄4 inches deep, in 1×1 inch cells and provide constant moisture and a soil temperature of 26-29 degrees C. After germination (1-2 weeks), thin seedlings to one per cell. Once seedlings develop 2-3 true leaves, transplant into larger containers (2×2 inches or 3×3 inches). At transplanting time, set transplants 18 inches apart in rows 30 inches apart.

Starter Plants Care
Important! Upon Arrival: Please open blister packs and notify us immediately by email, or by phone at 1-800-363-7333 if there is a problem with your plugs.

Drench the root balls with water. These young plants must be potted as soon as possible upon arrival. Handle these plugs gently. Plugs are rooted cuttings that are started in trays of individual cells. They are ready to be transferred into larger pots to continue growing. After several weeks they can be placed outside (after last frost date) and will provide you with several months of beauty and enjoyment!

Transplant your plants individually into any 3-4 inch pots or directly into a hanging basket, large container or window box. We recommend 3-4 plugs per 8-10″ hanging basket, or 6-9 plugs per 12″ basket. In a mixed container do not plant too close to the edge. Keep plants at least 2-3 inches away from the container rim to prevent the roots from getting too hot or dry. Handle the plug by the root ball, never by the stem. Use a peat based soilless mix that contains perlite or vermiculite for drainage. Handle the plug by the root ball, never by the stem. Place the plant in the center of the pot and at the same depth at which it is already growing. Gently firm the soil around the new plant and water in well.

Growing Conditions: Provide lots of sunlight or artificial light. If you must place pots on your windowsills, be aware that it may get very hot on sunny days and very cold at night. Plants may dry out or get frost or heat damage. Turn containers frequently to allow plants to grow evenly. Protect plants from extreme temperature swings. Room temperature is fine. Water whenever potting mix is dry to the touch. Feed regularly with any balanced water-soluble fertilizer. It is better to feed with a weak solution every time you water (constant feed), than with a strong solution every 2 weeks. You may also use a slow release fertilizer especially for containers, such as SmartCote Hanging Basket Food. Organic alternatives would be Jolly Farmer Earthworm Castings. Removing 1-2 sets of leaves from each stem or “pinching” may help some varieties stay bushy and produce more flowers.

Moving Outside: Gradually adjust your plants to outside conditions over a period of a week or two. First place them outside on a warm, calm day in the shade for a few hours. Work up to more sun, wind, and cooler temperatures and finally leave out overnight. Permanently place or plant them outside after your last spring frost date. Check moisture levels everyday, and water when neccesary. Continue to fertilize throughout the season. Watch out for the usual insect pests: whiteflies, aphids, thrips, and spider mites.

Growing Outdoors: Sheltered, full sun area with soil pH of 6.0-6.8. Peppers are moderate feeders and require plenty of compost and well-rotted manure mixed into the soil prior to planting. Fertilize sparingly until plants start to set fruit. Too much nitrogen causes an excess of foliage and dropping of flower buds. Provide even moisture, particularly during flowering and fruit set. Use black plastic or paper mulch to attract heat, hold water and prevent weeds.

Harvest: Begin harvest when peppers reach a useable size. Cut rather than pull from branch.

Problems: Blossoms will drop when temperature falls below 60 degrees F (15 degrees C) or goes above 80 degrees F (27 degrees C). Blossom End Rot-Fruits blacken and decay at the blossom end due to a calcium deficiency. Poor fruit set is usually due to cold weather. Excessive nitrogen fertilizer during early growth may also delay fruit set.

Pests & Disease: Aphids – small pear-shaped soft bodied insects, green, red or black in colour. Aphids feed by sucking plant sap which causes curled, stunted leaves and shoots and reduces plant vigour. Spray plants with an insecticidal soap.

Companions: Carrot, onion, parsnip, pea, basil.

Harvesting Your Chili Peppers

Are your peppers ripe and ready to pick? Knowing when they are ripe is key to enjoying a full harvest. There are so many different types of peppers, but you can still follow some general rules for knowing when it is time to pick your peppers.

General rules for determining if a pepper is ripe and ready to pick

Good idea: Review the plant information or seed packet information from your place of purchase. This will include details of how your peppers should look, including size and color, and should also include approximate days to maturity. Normally, peppers are ready to pick 75-90 days from planting.

Are my bell peppers ripe?

Bell peppers are ready to pick when they are full size, about 3.5 to 4 inches and firm to the touch. However, if you planted a variety other than green, you should wait until the pepper has turned the expected color. Sweet bell pepper varieties include reds, yellows, purples, whites and even a chocolate brown color. Once they begin to change color, they do so quickly.

Pick them as soon as you can to encourage the pepper plants to keep producing.

Are my banana peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Banana peppers are 6 to 8 inches long when fully developed and they will change in color from the pale yellow to darker yellow, then orange and finally red. They can be picked and eaten anytime once they’ve reached their mature size, however, many people prefer to let them turn red for better flavor. This is a good one to experiment with. Pick them at various stages to decide how they taste best.

Banana peppers can be either sweet or hot and they look pretty much the same. If you’ve forgotten which you planted take a look at how they are growing. Hot banana peppers grow up and sweet banana peppers grow down.

Are my cayenne peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Cayenne peppers grow to about six inches long and just 1.25 inches in diameter. They have a very strong flavor, even when they’re small.

Are my cherry peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Cherry peppers are so named because their shape and appearance when ripe resembles a tree cherry. They are a sweet mildish pepper that turns a bright red and is usually one to two inches in diameter when fully grown – about the size of a cherry tomato.

Are my habanero peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Habanero peppers typically turn orange or red when fully mature. They are 1 to 2.5 inches long and get hotter as they mature to their final orange or red color.

Are my jalapeno peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Jalapeno peppers can be picked as soon as they are a deep green about 3 inches long. Jalapenos are most crisp when they are green, but they are also very mild. While ripening, jalepenos go from green, to dark green and then start turning red. When fully mature they are red and have a sweet/hot flavor.

Learn much more about the jalapeno pepper here – Jalapeno Peppers Information.

Are my poblano peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Poblano peppers are a larger pepper variety – about 4 inches long and 2.5 inches wide and very dark green until fully mature they turn reddish-brown in color and get sweeter.

Are my serrano peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Serrano peppers have thin walls and will ripen to red, orange, yellow or brown when ripe. They can be used green or fully ripe.

How to harvest your chili peppers

Use a knife or garden clippers to remove peppers from the plant to prevent any damage to the plant. You’ll also want to consider protecting your hands when picking hot peppers. The oils can irritate sensitive skin and you’ll also want to be sure to wash your hands before touching your face or your eyes so any residual pepper oil doesn’t burn your eyes.

You’ll also want to make sure to harvest peppers when the plants are dry to avoid inadvertently spreading disease. This is important to remember even if you can’t see any signs of disease.

General Notes and Tips on Harvesting Chili Peppers

When peppers are done growing they will pull off the plant very easily. If they don’t come off easily they are still growing. Sometimes tiny brown lines will form on the peppers. These are growth lines and indicate the pepper is done growing. If these lines are forming, pick the pepper regardless of it’s size.

If for any reason a pepper is picked before it is ripe, you can place it on a south-facing windowsill until it is bright green and ripe.

The more peppers you pick the more will harvest so pick peppers often as soon as they are ripe to continue your harvest growing.

No matter what type of pepper, they do not like weather that is too cold. If there is fear of frost, you can cover it at night and uncover it in the morning. Weather.com has a garden area that tells you the risk of frost and the freeze risk. Do not go by frost risk, but instead go by freeze risk. If there is a chance of freezing, the plants will not survive.

I’d suggest picking every pepper prior to any freeze risk or prior to it getting around 35 degrees at night. If the temperature drops lower than this the plant will die and the peppers will shrivel and die.

Tomatoes are only slightly different. Most of the tomatoes can still be picked even after the plant has died. Then they can finish ripening on the window sill in the sun.

Store the peppers in a clear bag in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer for up to two weeks.

If you aren’t able to eat your peppers within two weeks, there are many ways you can preserve them for continued use all year long.

Preserving Your Chili Peppers

Now that you’ve harvested your peppers and have so many, here is some information on How to Preserve Your Chili Peppers.

Learn more about growing chili peppers here – A Guide to Growing Chili Peppers.

Additional Information

  • Growing Chili Peppers from Seed
  • Growing Chili Peppers in the Ground
  • Growing Chili Peppers Indoors
  • Growing Chili Pepper Plants in Pots
  • Harvesting Your Chili Peppers
  • Winter Gardening for Chili Peppers and more

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Your ultimate sweet pepper guide where you’ll find tips for growing and caring for this versatile vegetable, the best varieties to grow, plus a treasure trove of recipes to preserve and cook with sweet peppers.

This sweet pepper guide is a part of a continuing series of Ultimate Guides where you can find all kinds of growing information and delicious recipes for cooking a specific fruit or vegetable (both fresh and to preserve). See more fruit and vegetable guides here. Some links in this article are affiliate links and if you click on them I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.

I decided to title this ultimate guide a “sweet pepper guide” and not simply a “bell pepper guide” because our options for sweet peppers are now many more than the traditional bell pepper. There are varieties like the popular tri-colored mini peppers, elongated mild varieties like pimento and Italian frying peppers, and even cute little cherry peppers – all are classified as sweet (in comparison to hot peppers).

When the pepper world started expanding a few years ago, you almost always had to grow the newer varieties from seed in order to try them, but now it’s just as easy to find them at farmer’s markets and often even regular grocery stores.

Which means that everyone has a chance to experience the wonderful variety there is in sweet/mild peppers, whether you grow them or not.

Are green bell peppers unripe peppers?

In my book, every discussion of sweet peppers must start with this often unknown or misunderstood fact:

Yes, green bell peppers are just unripe peppers!

Imagine if you only ever ate green tomatoes and never tasted the luscious, full-bodied flavor of a fully ripened tomato – that’s what eating only green peppers is like. You are missing out on the full flavor, not to mention the added health benefits of fully ripened (colored) peppers which include higher vitamin C and betacarotene levels.

Growing up, I never understood why people called green bell peppers “sweet” because like most unripe produce they are bitter.

I don’t remember seeing sweet red peppers, so that was my only experience until I started gardening. When I saw those big green peppers turning red, yellow, orange – and even purple and brown, depending on the variety I was growing – I realized that the growers were just not wanting to wait long enough to get truly ripe peppers.

I’ve read that they’ve now bred bell pepper plants that stay green – but that is bizarre to me. Why would you never want a delicious truly ripe pepper? Harvest them green if you want some, but do at least let some ripen so you experience the way the peppers were meant to be enjoyed!

Below you’ll find how to grow sweet peppers, including tips to get those peppers to fully ripen, even if you live farther north. Plus you’ll also find links to how to preserve peppers when they’re in season as well as lots of recipe ideas for using this versatile and tasty vegetable.

Ultimate Sweet Pepper Guide: Plant & Grow

Types and Varieties of Sweet Peppers

I’ve read a number of sites that say that yellow peppers are just red peppers that aren’t all the way ripened. I don’t know what kind they are growing, but after 20 years of growing peppers that has never been my experience.

If you buy a red pepper seed or plant, they will ripen from green to red, yellow peppers from green to yellow and so on. Some of the more unusual peppers do have different stages (I think there is a white pepper that goes from green to white to red), but mostly, you get what you purchased.

Here are some of the sweet pepper varieties I’ve grown and loved in my zone 8 PNW garden:

  • Red Bell Pepper: Big Red Pepper (75 days), New Ace Red Pepper (62 days)
  • Yellow/Gold Bell Pepper: Flavor Burst Pepper (75 days), Sweet Sunrise (80 days)
  • Orange Cherry/Mini Pepper (‘Eros’ 75 days)
  • Tri-Color Mini Bells (‘Mini Belle Blend’ 60 days)
  • Red Cherry Pepper (75 days)
  • Purple Bell Pepper (‘Lilac’ 70 days)
  • Chocolate Bell Pepper (‘Chocolate Beauty’ 74 days) – SO good and sweet!
  • Pimento Peppers (75 days)

How to Grow Sweet Peppers

Growing Peppers From Seed

Start seeds indoors a good 10 weeks before you want to plant (which will be when your days are warm and your nights don’t go below 45 degrees – peppers like it warm!). Pepper seeds take a long time to germinate – sometimes up to 2 weeks. It really helps to use a heated seedling mat, which I’ve found speeds germination by 5 days or so.

Feed with a fish emulsion 2 times during the seedling stage, transplanting to larger 4-inch containers when the seedlings are about 5 inches tall (get more information on starting plants from seeds here). Harden off a week before planting out.

Buying Pepper Transplants

Purchase healthy transplants from a growing center. Buy the biggest you can afford – you will need all the time you can get to get fully ripened peppers.

To plant your transplants in the garden or containers:

  • Select the sunniest spot you have – the sunnier, the better. Peppers produce best with 8+ hours of sun and temps between 60-85 degrees.
  • Plant 18 inches apart in garden rows or raised bed. For containers, choose pots at least 10-inches deep and across to give them adequate room to grow.
  • Use an organic fertilizer in the hole during planting and add compost to the soil.
  • To keep the ground warm, hold in moisture, and eliminate weeds, plant the peppers through a sheet of black plastic laid over a soaker hose or drip system. Simply stake the plastic over the area to plant and use scissors to cut large X’s in the plastic at 18-20 inch intervals. Make a hole in the opening, add the fertilizer and then the plant before tamping down the dirt around the base.
  • Plant the transplants deep – up to the first few sets of leaves. The stems will root and provide a stronger base for holding up the fruiting plants.
  • Add a 2-foot tall stake next to the stem of each plant and hold it to the plant with a flexible tie. This will be very important to holding up the plant when they’re loaded with large fruit later – believe me, you don’t want to skip this step!
  • TIP: Remove any fruit or blossoms when you plant so that all the energy will go into developing healthy roots – it’s hard to do, but you will be rewarded with a heartier plant and more fruit, I promise!

Tips to Grow Fully Ripe Sweet Peppers

Since peppers like it so warm (they originated in Mexico), it’s hard for many gardeners to grow them all the way to fully ripe and colored in a typical 4-5 month growing season. Over the years I’ve found a few things that work to help get a good harvest of those delicious truly sweet peppers which include:

  • Start seeds as early as possible or buy the biggest transplants you can. Basically, you’re extending the growing season by having the plants grow inside for a few months.
  • Cover the peppers with a plastic covered hoop house. You can see mine in the photo above. I use a perforated plastic cover that allows air through and regulates the temperature to some degree without me having to manually lift the ends all the time. Any type of cover you can create to elevate the temperature will help ripen the fruit faster, especially when combined with the black plastic that warms the soil I mentioned in the planting stage.
  • Grow varieties that ripen in the shortest amount of time. Some full sized bell peppers have been bred to ripen quicker, but you can also grow mini bells and cherry sizes that will definitely get you fully colored peppers in typical growing seasons.
  • Open the ends of the hoop house in the warmest weather, both for cooling (the plants may drop blossoms in temps over 85 degrees) and to allow pollination from bees. While peppers are self-fertile and don’t need pollination to produce fruit, it will increase the pollination which is always a good thing, right?
  • Harvest the peppers while there’s still some green showing (see the top photo of my peppers in all shades of coloring). Leave them at room temp (or even put them in a brown bag with an apple or banana) and they will continue to fully ripen (then refrigerate when ready to keep them crisp). Doing this allows the plant to put effort into ripening the other fruit and not working to fully ripen the first fruits.

For more sweet pepper growing information, check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac here and Mother Earth News here.

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Sweet Pepper Guide: Harvesting

If you’re like me, you’ll want to wait to harvest sweet peppers until they are just that – sweet. So don’t pick green peppers only. However, like mentioned above, if you pick peppers that still are showing some green and let them ripen fully indoors, the plant can put it’s energy into ripening the other fruit.

Here’s my biggest tip for actually picking the peppers:

Use Scissors!

While you may be able to hand-pick smaller mini bells with little damage, I’ve found that the bigger bells have thick enough stems that if you just pull them, you’ll often break off an entire branch with other immature fruit on it. So sad when that happens! My solution is to use garden scissors to cut off the fruit to avoid this completely.

If you don’t have scissors available, then you’ll want to pull up on the fruit gently at first to break the stem from the branch before twisting and pulling off. Holding the plant with your other hand may also help avoid any damage to the plant.

I’ve found the following books helpful in learning how to garden and care for sweet peppers:

  • The Backyard Homestead
  • All New Square Foot Gardening
  • Perfectly Grown Peppers

Sweet Pepper Guide Cook & Preserve Recipes

How can I preserve sweet peppers?

Sweet Pepper Preserving Recipes

How to Freeze Peppers (freezer)

Canned Roasted Red Peppers in Wine (boiling water canned)

Pickled Sweet Peppers @ Taste of Home (boiling water canned)

Sweet Pepper Relish @ National Center for Home Food Preservation (boiling water canned)

Canning Plain Peppers @ Healthy Canning (pressure canned)

Quick Pickled Sweet Peppers @ Simply Whisked (refrigerated)

Italian Sweet Pepper Pickles @ Shades of Cinnamon (refrigerated)

Red Pepper Onion Chutney @ Recipes Plus (refrigerated)

What recipes are there for sweet peppers?

Sweet Pepper Cooking Recipes

Cheese Stuffed Mini Peppers with Roasted Corn Salsa @ AOC

Roasted Sausages with Onions & Peppers @ AOC

Creamy Pesto Tortellini with Red Peppers @ AOC

Spicy Asian Slaw with Peppers @ AOC

Golden Pepper Soup @ Martha Stewart

Sweet Pepper Pasta with Sausage @ Southern Living

Cheesy Bacon Stuffed Mini Peppers @ Bell of the Kitchen

Roasted Sweet Mini Peppers & Asparagus @ Tori’s Kitchen

Taco Stuffed Mini Sweet Peppers @ Betty Crocker

Sheet Pan Roasted Fish with Sweet Peppers @ NY Times

Cauliflower Rice Stuffed Sweet Peppers @ Eating Well

Chicken with Sweet Peppers and Balsamic Vinegar @ Genius Kitchen

Grilled Mini Peppers with Feta @ What’s Cooking America

Shrimp, Bell Pepper & Onions Skillet @ Primavera Kitchen

Roasted Bell Pepper Tostadas @ Pinch of Yum

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Ground Beef @ Foodie Crush

Unstuffed Bell Peppers @ Budget Bytes

Bell Pepper Oven Fries @ Delish

I hope you enjoyed this Ultimate Sweet Pepper Guide. Check out some of the other Ultimate Guides below (or go here to see them all):

The Ultimate Tomato Guide

The Ultimate Rhubarb Guide

The Ultimate Asparagus Guide

Disclosure: affiliate links in this article will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn’t change your price. to read my full disclaimer and advertising disclosure.

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If you are like me, you love to grow (and eat) banana peppers. There are many uses for these delicious peppers such as in salads, pizza toppings, spaghetti sauce, and can be used as many other flavorful additions to food. There is much confusion on when is the right time to harvest banana peppers once they begin to grow. It is important to know when and how to properly pick banana peppers.

What To Look For When Picking Banana Peppers

Your banana peppers are setting fruit and growing like crazy, but when are they ripe for picking? The first thing to look for is the size of the banana pepper. It should be 4 – 8 inches long depending on the variety you are growing. The next thing to look for when picking banana peppers is the color. The pepper should turn from green to a bright yellow, to a bright red when ripe.

In the picture above you see a banana pepper plant that is full of peppers. The pepper towards the top, left-hand side is small and still very green. This pepper needs more time to fully ripen. The pepper at the bottom center has proper length and has turned to a bright yellowish tint. This pepper is ready to pick and enjoy! You can also let the banana pepper ripen further until it turns red, but I like my banana peppers when they are yellow.

How To Properly Harvest Your Ripe Banana Peppers

Now that you have found some banana peppers that are ready to pick, let’s look at the best way to pick them from the bush.

First, take one hand and gently move the plant over to one side so that the ripe peppers are exposed. (Be careful though, you don’t want to break the plant or accidentally knock any unripened peppers off!) This makes it easier to see what you are doing without all the leaves in your line of sight.

Once the plant leaves are out of the way, take a pair of sharp scissors or garden shears, and cut the pepper from the bush a 1/4-inch above the pepper. When cutting the pepper, just let it fall to the ground. This makes the picking faster and easier. If you can get someone to catch the peppers as you cut, that’s fine too.

It is important to cut the peppers off the bush rather than just pulling them off. Pulling the peppers off the bush can damage the plant and the peppers. Cutting them off will ensure the pepper plant will continue to thrive.

Continue cutting the ripe peppers off the plants until you have collected all of them. That is it – it is that simple. Remember, picking your banana peppers often will promote more banana peppers to grow.

Now that you have your harvested banana peppers, give them a good rinse, and you can store them in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, you can freeze them for later use, or use them immediately for absolute freshness.

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