Growing hot peppers

If you've had trouble getting tomatoes started from seed, peppers are worse. I have found them to be the hardest plant to get going.

They need a long time to go from sprouting seed to being large enough to transplant outside. Here in zone 4, that means starting really early, in midwinter. January is not too soon. February at the latest.

They also love heat, especially when it's time to get them sprouting. Heat? In Jan/Feb in Vermont?

I handle this by putting the seeds in a small, sealed plastic bag that contains moist potting soil and a few seeds. The bag is placed on top of my oil furnace for a couple of weeks. That room is generally around 80 degrees F even in winter. (I've considered putting them under the wood stove, but it doesn't run all day. It is left to cool down so that I can remove ashes before restarting the fire, so that spot wouldn't be as consistently warm as the oil furnace.)

I've still struggled to get the pepper plants to grow after sprouting. I can either put them in the dark, warm furnace room, or under lights in a much cooler room across the hall. I thought the cool temp would be a problem, but now that I have much brighter grow lights installed, they seem to grow there (if a bit slowly).

Here is the result in early May:

On the left we have mild Ancho peppers, in the middle medium Santa Fe peppers, and on the right hot Bubba Joe peppers. All three are available in a single tri-pack from Renee's Gardens.

The very large peppers on the right were started a couple of weeks earlier than the others. Most of these plants, including the small Bubba Joe plants tucked under the large ones, are from the second batch. I didn't have very many Ancho seeds, so there are only two of those plants, but there are plenty of Santa Fe and several Bubba Joe.

I am really looking forward to having my own fresh hot peppers this year, and will try saving some of the seeds for next year. Don't give up on growing your own!



  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,377 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Last year I started my seeds on a damp paper towel in a plastic baggies. They grew but didn't get to many peppers. I'd bought a ghost pepper plant and it got so many peppers that we couldn't eat because they were extremely hot! I had to give a lot away.

    This year I just bought a couple banana, jalapeno, and bell pepper plants from a growers outlet. I figured it was easier.

    Good luck with yours!

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Hot Peppers are definitely a challenge. Most seed packets say 20 days for them to sprout. I had to try several times before I got them to grow for me but it was worth the effort to get the pepper varieties I wanted.

    Great photos@VermontCathy

  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 1,465 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This year I started my hot peppers on a heat mat. So far I'm seeing my best results over previous years. I think I am 1 plant short of what I was hoping to have. I haven't given up on a few slow pokes still sprouting. I won't be moving them outside until the beginning of June so they have time.

    I'm trying a few new varieties this year. I'm also planning to try to save some of my seeds this year so that I can continue with these new varieties too.

    Last year I did end up purchasing starts from a local nursery because none of my pepper seeds did well.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I've considered the heat mat approach, and I think that would likely work well for both tomatoes and peppers. I've been reluctant to buy another thing, but it is probably worth it.

    In past years, I never had more than 2 pepper plants, so this is a huge increase. Even if half the current plants died, I would still have plenty of peppers.

    Last year I grew a single cayenne pepper plant bought at a local nursery, and it struggled because I had mistakenly planted it next to some plants that grew tall and overshadowed it. Even so, it produced tasty fruit. This year I am going to set aside space for peppers and not put anything else in that immediate area.

    On the other hand, bell peppers seem to be harder to grow than hot peppers. I've read that hot peppers are closer to the original wild pepper, and the mild bell peppers are the result of a lot of breeding. The one time I planted a bell pepper plant (bought from a nursery), I only got a single fruit on that plant. Not worth it!

  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 1,465 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy I have had the same experience with nursery bell peppers plants. One pepper each on 3 different plants. This year I started several of my own. We will see if they do better.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Michelle D When I was a kid, my parents grew bell peppers and they did much better than one fruit per plant.

    I don't know if it was the zone 7 climate, something in their soil, or if they just had a better variety of bell pepper plants.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,640 admin

    I have more luck with hot peppers than sweet bell peppers to the point that I have given up on growing sweet peppers altogether. I have never had a bell pepper get to much more than 1/3 of the size they should be and usually only one of that size per plant.

    I have started cayenne, habanero and jalapeno from seed in the past. Yes, they seem to take about 3 weeks to sprout but grow fairly consistently, if a bit slow, after that. I grow them in my greenhouse or in pots on the porch. I read somewhere that peppers do better in pots; something about liking their roots contained. That has been true for me. When I plant them directly into the soil in the greenhouse, they don't do nearly as well as when in pots. Last year I bought plugs and they didn't do well at all. If there is a good selection in the garden centres this year, I will experiment and buy one of each. More of the cayenne, though, cause I use it for salves.

  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 1,465 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have had better luck with bell peppers from seed than from the garden center.

    @torey mine are also usually disappointingly small. Maybe I will try growing them in pots on the patio this year instead of in the raised bed. I wouldn't complain about having to find something else to fill that space.