How to Grow Peppers in Containers

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Chilli peppers 'Cayenne' growing in a pot

If your summer gardening plans include growing a few vegetables in containers, peppers should be on your planting list. When the right varieties are given attentive care, peppers can grow better in pots than in a garden, especially in cool or windy climates. Early in the season, peppers grown in containers enjoy warmer roots than they might have deep in the ground, and later on when the plants become loaded with fruit, moving them to a protected spot will keep the brittle branches from breaking off.

Not all varieties are a good fit for containers. In my experience and that of others like the Pennsylvania Master Gardeners, small-fruited peppers with a bushy, branching growth habit are the best choices for pots. That said, one of my reasons for growing peppers in containers is to make sure I have them close to the kitchen door for quick picking, so I veer toward little sweet peppers and moderately hot jalapenos.

If I were limited to growing all of my peppers in containers, I would favor ‘Redskin’ or ‘Mohawk’ for sweet peppers, and perhaps ‘Apache’ for more spice. Cool trivia: all three of these excellent container varieties were bred in the UK.

Potting peppers on into a larger container

Potting On Peppers

Whether you start with purchased seedlings or sow your own, you will quickly discover that young pepper plants benefit from “potting on” to the next size container as often as every two weeks. Use a good quality potting mix and avoid disturbing the roots at each repotting, in which the new container should provide about two inches of new growing space on all sides. By the time my peppers are in their permanent pots, I have usually repotted them four times. Big pepper plants often need daily watering in hot weather, so I like to use lightweight, water-retentive plastic pots when growing peppers in containers.

Depending on your climate, your peppers may be fine growing on a patio table, but in hot weather the plants benefit from having their roots shaded from intense sun. This is easy to do by placing the pots in a shallow crate or planter, or even a cardboard box. If left unshaded, dark-coloured pots in particular are prone to overheating on sunny days.

Shading pepper roots using a crate

Feeding and Watering Container Peppers

Peppers may have few insect pests, but they have an above-average need for thoughtful feeding and watering. First let’s talk water, because peppers grown in containers must never be allowed to dry out, and grow best with constant light moisture. How often you must water depends on the weather, but you can easily tell how dry the pots are by tipping them slightly to judge their weight. Very light pots are dangerously dry. Should a big potted pepper dry out to the point of wilting, you will need to water it several times to put things right.

The easiest way to feed peppers growing in containers is to use a water-soluble liquid plant food every week or so, when the plants are well hydrated and not under stress. Underfed plants have pale green leaves and show little new growth, while happily fed ones get busy producing lots of flowers and fruits.

Pepper ‘Cupid’

I often alternate homemade liquid fertilisers with various commercial products, which makes feeding my peppers as much intuition as science. If I were to buy a fertiliser especially for potted peppers, it would serve as a good source of all three major nutrients, plus calcium and magnesium to prevent nutritional stress during fruit set. Most organic fertilisers developed for tomatoes will fill the bill, but do read the label so you will know what your peppers are getting.

Supporting Peppers

Pepper varieties with a spreading growth habit like ‘Redskin’ need no staking, but upright jalapenos benefit from being tethered to a secure stake – or maybe two or three. Grow-through plant hoops are great for large plants, or you can make a wire cage to fit the pot. In addition to staking, you can move container-grown peppers to a place sheltered from wind and strong sun when they load up with fruit. This is the best way to be sure that your beautiful potted peppers make it into the kitchen.

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Show Comments


"What size pot? 1 gallon? 5 gallon? What is the minimum required?"
Gard on Saturday 11 June 2016
"Good question! In warm climates where peppers grow into big plants, some gardeners grow them in large 5 gallon containers. However, a 3 gallon pot (14 inch diameter) is suitable for small fruited peppers that like growing in containers. A heavy pot is helpful with tall varieties such as jalapenos, which tend to topple easily when they become top-heavy with fruit late in the season. "
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 13 June 2016
"For a 7 gallon pot and 2 jalapeno plants, how much would you do during one watering? A gallon of water? Or more/less?"
Jason on Wednesday 19 April 2017
"Jason, it will probably be more like a quart if you don't allow the soil to go completely dry. Tip the container a little to judge its weight, and try to keep the moisture levels even from day to day. Good luck!"
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 20 April 2017
"does pinching pepper plants help with branching? will pinching adversely affect fruit production?"
Sarah Boles on Saturday 6 May 2017
"Sarah, pinching will delay production, which some people think is good. Peppers vary widely in their growth habits, and it's only the early sweet peppers that sometimes set fruit before they are big enough to handle it."
Barbara Pleasant on Saturday 6 May 2017
"I just bought an Orange Habanero plant from Home Depot. It's covered in green peppers and have a few tiny orange peppers but I have no idea how to care for it! I've seen a lot of articles on how to start growing them from seeds but nothing for already matured pepper plants. Any advice???"
Kathryn on Tuesday 19 September 2017
"At this point you only need to provide warm, sunny conditions for your plant. The peppers that have already set will continue to ripen, and the plants will keep blooming, too. The newest peppers won't have time to ripen before winter comes. Container-grown habanero plants can be cut back by half and brought indoors for the winter, but they are aphid magnets. It is usually best to start over with a young plant in late spring. "
Barbara Pleasant on Wednesday 20 September 2017
"I bought a Bonnie brand green pepper plant (small, in the peat containers) last weekend. I accidentally planted it a bit too deep and I "replanted" it properly a day or so later. I planted it at the pot height that it had already been in. It looks like its I too late to save it? It's probably only about 5-6 inches high."
Rhonda on Friday 16 March 2018
"Rhonda, your plant has been through a lot of stressful changes. Plants are stay-in-one-place beings, so transplanting is always traumatic. I suggest finding a warm, bright spot indoors or on a warm patio outdoors, and letting the baby rest for a few days. Keep the soil lightly moist for now, and increase water once the plant perks up and shows new growth. Good luck! "
Barbara Pleasant on Friday 16 March 2018
"Hi! I bought a bunch of very young pepper plants at a garden festival last weekend. Planted them all in new plastic planters a day after purchase. All of them have "sprouted" to differing degrees so far. I live in Virginia, so although it's technically mid-spring, the babies are already dealing with an impromptu heat wave.This morning they looked great. 6 hours later in direct sun and 90 degree heat, they all looked a bit thirsty (I watered them as soon as I saw), but one particular baby pepper plant was completely wilted and flopped over onto the soil. It almost looked like he had been stepped on; he was standing around 4.5 inches this morning. Is this a bad sign? Will the watering help, or is he not taking well to his new home? Any tips and advice would be great. Thank you!"
Madeleine Ludwig on Wednesday 2 May 2018
"Hopefully your fainting pepper will perk up, but meanwhile find a more sheltered spot for those seedlings. Mine are outdoors under a patio umbrella, which suits them perfectly. A friend keeps her seedlings-in-waiting under a shade tree. Good luck!"
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 3 May 2018
"I am going to plant green pepper seedlings in pot for my summer experiments and the pot size is 14 inches. Now I am wondering how much water and fertilizer should I need to apply per pot. Please give me some suggestions."
Joba Purkaystha on Tuesday 29 May 2018
"Joba, most potting soils contain an initial supply of nutrients, but after a month you will need to start using a liquid fertilizer about once a week, depending on how much water the plants need. Watering leaches out nutrients. You can learn to guess at the moisture level in the pots by tipping them a bit to judge their weight; light pots are too dry. Peppers need constant light moisture, so they will need checking daily in warm weather. "
Barbara Pleasant on Tuesday 29 May 2018
"My container garden is doing very well, Tomatoes, beans, cukes, jalapenos. My green peppers seemed to be doing fine lots of fruit buds flowered. I had a nice size pepper on both plants. All of a sudden the stems on the other pepper buds or flowers turned yellow, dried up and are falling off the plants, what is wrong. I have kept moist, mulched to keep in moisture, feed once per week, what happened?"
Rachel L Chappell on Sunday 10 June 2018
"Peppers are really perennials, so they "think" they have the luxury of waiting out poor growing conditions and often abort fruits set in hot weather. As nights become longer in late summer, fruit production picks up as more flowers appear and become fertilized. Be patient, and don't expect every flower to become a fruit right now. "
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 11 June 2018
"I am growing Baltimore Fish Peppers in pots indoors from seeds I saved the year before. They have done VERY well and have produced many peppers and are flowering again. However some of the leaves are turning yellow and I was wondering if at this point I need to change the soil or if fixing the soil with liquid fert. will be enough. I know transplanting is shocking for the plants so I feel like putting new soil in it probably not the right choice. I have 5 plants and 3 exceptionally healthy ones (despite the one getting yellowish leaves). Just looking for advice. Also I made the mistake of fertilizing them during bloom which caused blossom dropping at first. So since they seem to be blooming again and making new baby peppers should I be wary of fertilizing them heavily now? Thanks!"
Zoe on Wednesday 26 September 2018
"Zoe, your plants may be reacting to a reduced light supply as days get shorter. Many small fruited peppers "think" they will be successful perennials, so they keep blooming no matter what. If you plan to keep the plants indoors through winter, check them very carefully for aphids. Fertilizing at this point might invite aphid problems by pushing out new growth. "
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 27 September 2018
"Hi there! I just wanted to get your thoughts on self watering planters and if you think those would work well? "
Martin on Wednesday 8 May 2019
"Martin, I love self-watering planters, from the pots with attached drainage trays to larger ones made from plastic bins. When the weather gets hot, a small reservoir of water can help plants get through the day. "
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 9 May 2019
"I planted chili peppers about a month 1/2 ago and I have about 5 peppers. 3 of them are dark green and about 3 to 3 1/2 inches long. Should I pick them so that I can yield more peppers or should I wait longer?"
Daniel on Monday 27 May 2019
"Many peppers taste bitter before they are ripe, and about the only peppers that are ripe when dark green are pablanos. When you can't wait any longer, clip off one pepper and taste it. Good luck!"
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 27 May 2019
"I have started Jalapeno peppers in plastic cups and they are about an inch high sprouts, multiple sprouts in each plastic cup. I would like to transplant into 2 gallon plastic potting containers. Is this possible to just skip multiple different container sizes and go straight to 2gal? Also would I be able to do 2 plants per 2gal container? Thanks for your help!"
Ryan on Friday 31 May 2019
"Ryan, if you don't want to pot up to intermediate containers, at least thin the seedlings to one per cup by pulling out all but the biggest one. Jalapenos are stiff, angular plants that don't like growing as doubles (sorry!). One plant per 2-gal container is borderline cramped, so you might plan on larger containers as the plants gain size. Mature peppers in small containers become top-heavy and prone to falling over. Good luck! "
Barbara Pleasant on Sunday 2 June 2019
"I planted sweet peppers from seeds in one of those seedling trays. I have about 3 seedlings per container within the tray. The seedlings are now about 4-5" tall and need to be transplanted. I will be growing these indoors in containers, in a greenhouse. Do I need to separate the stems within each little container or do I simply move the entire container to a larger peat container?"
Susan on Tuesday 4 June 2019
"I spotted some green peppers around 2 months ago (I believe). I bought a tomato plant at the same time that I bought the bell pepper and it is flourishing I mean it has lil tomatos on it and everything. I cant seem to get this bell pepper thing together. I get these black rings around the joints of my plant. Some say its caused by overwatering and is very common and needs to be removed from the plant. The problem is whenever new foliage grows, its coll for while and the same thing happens. The problem doesnt occur on a specific timeline but it always does the same thing. My leaves also wilt in that area. "
Destinee on Wednesday 5 June 2019
"Susan, you should water the seedlings well, slip them out of the container by pushing on the bottom, and carefully pull the plants apart. Use the leaves as handles, and try not to bruise the main stems. Then pot up the seedlings with the most roots in individual containers, and discard the weaklings. Good luck!"
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 6 June 2019
"Destinee, many pepper varieties naturally show a dark ring, rather like a halo, at leaf and branch junctures, so what you are seeing may be normal. Peppers are always slower than tomatoes, perhaps because they are perennials and think they have plenty of time. That said, if you plant simply refuses to grow, it may benefit from repotting into fresh potting soil. "
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 6 June 2019
" Barbara, slowly I am getting the hang of peppers grown in pots. That's good because I was a real loser with them here in central MN. Anyway, a few years ago I had a South American family renting a house that I had established a big yard and garden in. They did all their peppers in plastic tubs and had phenomenal success. The only difference I saw was that they covered the top of the pot with aluminum foil. Have you heard of this? Would you recommend this? It is mid-June and I have not done this yet. My plants are maybe 12-14 inches and have strong flower set and some peppers have started. BTW, I grow a Ghost Pepper. Had it for three years. In for the winter. Will cut back. How many years will it produce? This is fascinating. Thanks for you reply. "
Clifford on Tuesday 18 June 2019
"Clifford, my guess is that the foil reduced surface evaporation and helped retain heat overnight, like a swimming pool cover. In your climate, peppers in containers benefit from warmer roots anyway, and the foil may enhance that benefit. I have grown Aji Dulce, a Chinense pepper, as a short-lived perennial by bringing it indoors, where it seems to draw aphids like a magnet. Ghost is a Chinense-frutescens cross, so maybe it won't have that problem. Good luck! "
Barbara Pleasant on Tuesday 18 June 2019
"I have planted big Jim peppers in an 8 inch pot... I’m assuming I’ll need to invest in a bigger pot for it to grow and produce. Am I right?"
Hunter on Tuesday 5 May 2020
"Hunter, you can gradually move your pepper to bigger pots as it fills the one it's in. By the time the plant reaches full size it will need a 12 to 14 inch pot. Good luck!"
Barbara Pleasant on Wednesday 6 May 2020
"I live on the SE coast of England (near the sea) and have just bought a pair of 'redskin' pepper plants each in a 6'6 inch pot. Both are producing flowers and minature teppers; when should I pot them up and to what size? We are experiencing a really warm/dry spring (80F day 55F night) and the forecast is for it to continue; can I leave them outside? I have 'balcony yellow' tomatoes in the same size pots with fully formed minature unripe tomatoes..The same questions, as above, apply.. Regards Joe.. . "
Ann Bailey on Sunday 31 May 2020
"I have recently bought sweet peppers and they have been repotted. I am worried about them being outside with all the rain we get here in Scotland. Should I put them in a growhouse when it raining heavy or leave them out."
Pauline Pearson on Thursday 2 July 2020
"I have recently bought sweet peppers and they have been repotted. I am worried about them being outside with all the rain we get here in Scotland. Should I put them in a growhouse when it raining heavy or leave them out. "
Pauline Pearson on Thursday 2 July 2020
"Good article. Chilis are mainstay in most homes here, South central Arizona. Each September, I make a run east to see family that moved to Ohio and Penna, and on the way home, stop in Hatch, NM, to pick up a hundred or more pounds of roasted chilis and some fresh reds for drying. I like Chimayo because while they do not like a lot of heat, if potted and left along the south wall of the house will bloom all winter. Those in-ground sometimes burn off, but light frost is tolerable and come back from the roots by early summer. Potted 'pet' chilis are 3 years old and tend to give flushes of bloom and fruit, then stop till the fruit is ripe, then produce a mass of blooms. Chimayo in pots tend to stay small, mine are 3 years old and not yet 3 feet tall. They turn into natural bonsai over time with crooked thick stems and branches. It's nearly summer here (1 April) and all too soon will be too hot for them to make fruit, but as long as it's under 85 F, I'll be eating red, ripe chilis. Happy Spring! "
red on Saturday 6 March 2021
"I have bell pepper plants in pots and am wondering if the second season, now, I can keep these plants or start over with new ones. If I can keep them, should I cut them back or let them be? Thanks for your advice."
Deb Zak on Wednesday 5 May 2021

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