Growing Peppers from Sowing to Harvest

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Harvesting peppers

Whether you prefer the cool crunch of a sweet bell pepper or the feisty fire of a chilli pepper, there’s none more satisfying than those you’ve grown yourself. There are – literally – hundreds of varieties to choose from; deciding what to grow is half the fun!

Few crops come in the variety of shapes, sizes and, of course, heat levels as peppers and chilli peppers. With so many to explore, there’s always something new to enjoy. Grow them yourself and you’ll be able to harvest at the peak of perfection, so you can enjoy unrivalled flavour.

Now’s the time to get sowing, but before you so much as tear open a seed packet read on or watch our video to discover our secrets to pepper growing success...

Sowing Peppers

Peppers need warmth and sunshine to thrive. Warmth is especially important for germination and then to encourage strong growth of the seedlings, so they will need to be started indoors or under cover in most climates. Sow seeds in late winter or early spring, no more than two months before your last frost date.

Sow into pots or plug trays of seed-starting mix. Space seeds at least an inch (2.5cm) apart across the surface then cover with a little more mix. You might want to wear gloves if handling seeds from especially hot varieties – and, please, take care not to rub your eyes after touching them! Water the seeds in using a fine spray.

Seedlings appear quickly when pots or trays are placed onto a heat mat or into a heated propagator set to around 70ºF (21ºC). Alternatively, secure clear plastic bags over your pots using a rubber band then move them to a warm windowsill to germinate.

Once the seedlings emerge, remove covers then grow on somewhere warm and bright. After a few weeks carefully transfer seedlings to their own pots. Do this while they’re still fairly small yet big enough to handle, and always hold seedlings by their leaves, not their delicate stems. If you have grow lights, these will help give the seedlings a strong start while days are still short.

Continue growing, potting the young plants on again if the roots fill their pots before they are ready for planting.

Keep potting young peppers on as required

Planting Peppers

Peppers love sunshine, so reserve them a place in full sun where they will get at least six hours of direct sunshine every day. Acclimatise plants before setting them outside by leaving them out somewhere sheltered for gradually longer timespans over a two-week period. Take care that a late frost doesn’t accidentally damage them! Plant out once your last expected frost date has passed.

Plant peppers directly into open ground that’s been improved with plenty of organic matter, such as garden compost. Set plants a minimum of 16in (40cm) apart. You can also plant into containers that are at least 1.5 gallons (6 litres) in volume. Use good-quality potting soil enriched with added organic matter and plant the young peppers so that the soil surface reaches just shy of the rim. This will help to avoid runoff every time you water.

In cooler, temperate climates peppers will come into flower far quicker if they are grown on with the added protection of a greenhouse, polytunnel or conservatory. Plants may also be grown on a bright, sunny windowsill.

Peppers grow well in containers

Growing Peppers

Keep plants upright and encourage more reliable growth by pushing in a cane or stake next to each plant then tying the main stem to it with twine. Larger plants may need several canes.

Pinch out the growing point at the top once plants reach about 8in (20cm) to stimulate plants to produce more branches. This creates a bushier habit and healthier plants with the knock on effect of more flowers and fruits.

Once they start producing flower buds feed plants regularly with a liquid feed high in potassium, such as a tomato fertiliser. Water plants often in dry weather so the foliage doesn’t wilt, as this can cause undue stress and potential problems such as blossom end rot or leaf curl. In hot weather you may find you need to water daily. A tray or similar reservoir at the bottom of pots helps to contain the water that drains through so it can be fully absorbed back up through the drainage holes.

Peppers can be eaten fresh, frozen or dried

Harvesting Peppers

Peppers are ready to harvest as soon as they have taken on their final color. Cut the fruits away with a sharp pair of clean pruners then store in the refrigerator ready to enjoy. They freeze well too. Chilli peppers may also be dried then pulverized in a food processor to store as chili flakes in airtight jars.

What sort of peppers do you prefer? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Show Comments


"Poblanos peppers are the best hot pepper Much milder with a good flavor. I use these instead of jalapenos in my cooking "
Connie Tacke on Sunday 26 May 2019
"Thanks for that recommendation Connie. I've not grown Poblanos so will look to give them a go."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 30 May 2019
"Hi there and thank you for the great information and video. Recently I was given a baby Hungarian paprika plant which has grown really well and is producing Paprika. I keep it in a pot in the conservatory in a bright position. One question please? The Paprika's are very light green and quite a size but i'm not sure when i should harvest these or wether they will change colour? Any help would be greatly appreciated as I would like to grow other varieties. Many thanks Mike"
Mike on Wednesday 9 October 2019
"Hi Mike. They should eventually turn yellow or red, so I'd leave them on the plant for now to continue ripening. "
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 9 October 2019
"My chile piteen will not bloom . Where did I go wrong? I was given some dried chili’s and took the seeds from them and planted them. It’s been 3 weeks and nothing has happened."
Carlos on Friday 24 April 2020
"Hi Carlos. The plants take a little while to establish, so it may just be that the plant is still very young. Give it a few more weeks. Chiles take around three months from sowing to producing flowers. "
Ben Vanheems on Monday 27 April 2020
"I love the Carolina Reaper and ghost peppers i enjoy the flavor and the heat "
Ryan Hofstar on Monday 18 May 2020
"I noticed you put the chilli peppers in the chiller tray of your fridge with the head and all. Assuming you have the red pepper, If you carefully take out the green stalk including the head (stalk - connects fruit to the plant) carefully you will find reduced transpiration and your produce will last longer! "
Abhi on Wednesday 20 May 2020
"Hi Abhi. I had never realised that - what a handy tip, thank you!"
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 21 May 2020
"I’ve grown some red Romano peppers from seed and although they’re doing really well in this heat, some are like regular pepper plant seedlings and a couple are growing like vines / spreading horizontally like little bushes. Are they one make one female? Can I keep them in the same (large) pot?"
Nicky on Wednesday 27 May 2020
"Hi Nicky. They should all be growing like regular pepper plants, so I'm wondering if you have grown a few weed seedlings in among the peppers too? I would be tempted to separate the sprawlers out and grow them on separately, just to be sure. Meanwhile, yes, you could grow a couple of peppers per large pot, but generally it's best and easiest to grow one per pot - it makes them easier to tend, pick and ensures better air circulation around the plants."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 28 May 2020
"I bought some pepper plants about a3 or 4 weeks ago now and transplanted them into a raised bed. today I went out and saw that they had been growing flower bud and dropping them before they bloomed. The plants look fine other than that. I'm not sure what I did wrong for this to happen. Please help?"
aaliyah on Thursday 18 June 2020
"Thanks for your reply, you were right! It was giant chickweed! No idea how it got in, but back to my Romano’s only now. Which I have grown from organic shop bought peppers. But I read somewhere that seeds harvested from shop bought papers won’t fruit - is this true even if they were from *organic* peppers? 4 out of the 8 seeds i sowed are growing strong. Can I do anything to encpyrage fruit? They’re my favourite. "
Nicky on Thursday 18 June 2020
"Hi Aaliyah. It could be due to high temperatures, or lack of nutrition. The same factors that affect tomato fruit set are likely to apply to peppers. Search 'tomato fruit set' at the top of this page for a useful article on this and possible solutions."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 22 June 2020
"Hi Ben - I read somewhere that seeds harvested from shop bought papers won’t fruit - is this true even if they were from *organic* peppers? 4 out of the 8 seeds i sowed are growing strong and I’m following your advice. Can I do anything to encourage fruit? They’re my favourite. ""
Nicky on Monday 22 June 2020
"Hi Nicky. If the fruits are coloured - i.e. not green - then there is a good chance that the seeds will be viable and germinate. Seeds from green peppers are not physiologically mature, so are unlikely to succeed. Once they have germinated I don't see any reason why they wouldn't fruit. The thing you have to bear in mind, though, is that peppers sold in the supermarkets are often bred for specific growing conditions, which you may not have. But if you can offer them a warm, sunny position, then you may well get fruits. I'd say keep them growing, water and feed them and there's every chance you'll enjoy some fruits from them. "
Ben Vanheems on Monday 22 June 2020
"Hi, my pepper and chilli plants have only just flowered. I am in the northwest in the Uk, they are inside the house. Is there any chance they will fruit this year ? If not, how do I keep them over the winter or do I try again next year? Many Thanks"
RB on Saturday 19 September 2020
"Hi RB. If they are inside, there is in fact a good chance they may produce fruits, even this year. Keep them on the sunniest windowsill you have and keep your fingers crossed! You can, in fact, overwinter peppers and chillies for next year. Search 'Improve Your Harvest by Overwintering Peppers' in the search box at the top of this page for an article on this topic."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 21 September 2020
"very helpful tip[s. Thanks. "
owoicho ukangini on Friday 9 October 2020
"Hi information acquired is great. I've always produced ghost peppers, collards, eggs plants, tomatoe etc. I do have problem with buds and insects making holes in the leaves of the collards and the eggs plants, while the deer and rabbits destroying my vegetables in my backyard garden, I'm helpless without any clue for the destruction. How can I stop these destroyers. Thanks"
John Cooper on Monday 8 February 2021
"Hi John. We have articles and advice on these issues. If you type in 'deer' into the search field at the top, you'll be able to find our article on deer-proofing your garden. For pests on your peppers etc., search the 'Pests' tab at the top of the page, where you'll be able to search by crop to see what most closely matches the sort of damage you are experiencing - and how to control it. "
Ben Vanheems on Saturday 13 February 2021
"Sorry for asking possibly a stupid question. Your video shows you planting seeds about 2cm apart into the same pot. This then cuts to a clip of a single plant growing from each pot. Are you stripping out the weakest shoots to just leave one? But below the video however is an image of a cluster of plants growing from a single pot along with an instruction to grow each plant 40cm apart (as is not the case in that image). So are you growing them in clusters with each cluster 40cm apart? Again, apologies if this is a stupid question. Thanks! Rob"
Rob on Thursday 25 February 2021
"Hi Rob. That's not a stupid question at all. So, they are sown about 2cm apart and then once they have germinated and grown on just a little, they are then carefully separated and planted into their own pots - one seedling per pot. They are then grown on like this until planting them into their final positions. The pot you see with several peppers in was taken at a flower show. It was likely a dwarf variety of pepper, allowing for closer spacing. I would always advise checking the growing instructions of the seed packet for the correct final spacing. But usually they should be around 40cm apart. "
Ben Vanheems on Sunday 28 February 2021
"I do Lunchbox Mix, Sweetie Pie Hybrid and Hungarian Cheese peppers for the grand kids. They rarely make it into the house-seem to disappear either in the garden or on the way home :-)"
Marli on Monday 19 December 2022
"Sounds like a totally delicious selection that's clearly irresistible Marli! :-)"
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 20 December 2022

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