Whether you like them sweet or spicy, you’re sure to find a pepper plant that’s perfect for you. Best of all, they’re ideal for growing in pots. Read on for our ultimate guide to growing peppers in containers. They’re easy to take care of, and you can harvest them for tasty meals in seconds.
Pepper Varieties You can Grow in Containers
Not all types of peppers grow well in containers. Both spicy and bell peppers offer varieties, however, that you can grow easily in pots. With the right care, container-grown peppers can prosper more than they could in a vegetable patch, especially if you live in a cold or windy location.
The best peppers for containers offer bushy foliage and small fruit. Many gardeners enjoy growing a range of peppers for a nice variety, and there are several different options to choose from. Some of the best and most popular varieties for container growing include:
- Redskin: This sweet dwarf variety grows to around 16 inches tall and features 2 or 5-inch bright red peppers. They grow quickly and do well indoors and planted in hanging baskets.
- Fushimi: Easy to grow in containers and prepare into delicious meals, this sweet Japanese variety is one of my favorites to grow in pots and eat as snacks.
- Mohawk: Sweet Mohawk peppers are yellow-orange dwarf bell peppers that germinate after only 10 to 14 days. They yield a high amount of fruit and often cascade down, which makes them great in planters and hanging baskets.
- Apache: If you love a bit more heat, the Apache chili pepper variety packs a punch and comes in a compact shape. The bright red peppers are super-hot, and the plant grows well in most containers.
- Devil’s Tongue: As the name suggests, this pepper packs a lot of heat. They grow well in 5-gallon containers.
- Jalapeno: America’s favorite pepper, the Jalapeno M variety offers large fruit and heat while the Early Jalapeno variety is perfect for both early season yield, or colder climates. Grow them in 5-gallon containers for the best results. There’s also a yellow jalapeno variety called NuMex Jalapeno Lemon Spice that’s beautiful in containers. It also germinates early in the season, but tastes hotter than other early varieties.
- Goat Horn: If you like both sweet and hot peppers, this variety will taste sweet when it hits your taste buds and grow into a lasting fire. They’re perfect for making your own dried hot pepper flakes, and they grow well in a 5-gallon container.
- Poblano: These have a mild heat range, and many people enjoy Poblano peppers for their heart-like shape. They’re easy to grow in a large 5-gallon container.
- Bulgarian Carrot Peppers: Because this spicy variety was adapted for cool Scandinavian climates, they’re easy to grow in containers throughout the year. The peppers are an orange shade, and the plants peak at 18 inches tall.
- Bolivian Rainbow: A bright and ornamental pepper plant that shows off a range of pepper colors throughout the season. They’re as gorgeous as a potted flower and they’re edible, making them perfect for creating your own hot pepper flakes as well.
Growing Peppers in Containers
Growing peppers in containers is surprisingly easy. Start out by either purchasing your favorite pepper plant from a local garden nursery, or cultivate them from seed.
You’ll also need to select a container that’s at least 10-12 inches wide and deep, and check for drainage holes in the bottom. A pot this size can hold 2 or 3 small (dwarf variety) pepper plants. Peppers will also grow well in raised garden beds, hanging baskets, and planters. However, avoid black-colored containers if you live in a warm tropical climate to avoid cooking the plants in heat.
Water the plants immediately after planting them into the soil.
Best Time to Plant
Begin planting seeds around 6 to 10 weeks before the final frost of the season. If you live in a subtropical or tropical climate, however, you can start seeds any time other than the full heat of summer.
Although peppers typically thrive in the tropics, you can grow them indoors in cold climates as well. These short-lived perennials grow as annuals in colder regions, and the plants love living in containers’ warm soil.
Sunlight and Container Placement
Peppers enjoy the heat and sun, so make sure to place the containers in a warm, full-sun location. A place where the plants can receive no less than six hours of sunlight each day is ideal, and you’ll want to protect them from strong winds or summer storms if you place them out on a patio.
The best soil for growing peppers in containers will have a slightly acidic or neutral pH balance. Choose a high-quality potting mix that drains well. You can also make your own rich potting mix with organic matter and well-rotted manure or compost, along with peat moss, and perlite or sand.
Space Between Seedlings
Plant two pepper seeds 2 to 3 cm apart in a small pot, or use a seedling tray to begin. The plants require around 18 to 24 inches between them if you grow a larger variety in-ground, but starting out often involves cutting the plants back (more on this later).
Pepper seeds take 1-3 weeks to germinate, depending on conditions like weather and seed quality. Once the plants germinate and contain two leaves per plant, thin them down to one plant per container. If you start seeds in a tray, this is when you should transplant the peppers into their individual pots.
How to Care for Potted Peppers
Caring for peppers in containers is easier than if you planted in-ground, especially if you don’t live in a tropical climate. They’re easy to keep near the kitchen, and sunlight and water requirements may vary based on the variety of peppers you grow and your climate.
Water regularly as the soil must remain slightly moist at all times. If the soil feels dry, water the plants immediately. You also need to avoid watering the plant’s foliage from above to avoid fungal infections. Water at the plant’s base for the best results, and avoiding overwatering as well.
Bell peppers grow best with a soil temperature over 60 degrees F, and temperatures must remain over 68 degrees F while the seeds germinate for the best results. Although peppers tend to tolerate temperatures between 50- and 95-degrees F, they enjoy a growing temperate range between 70 and 90 degrees F the most.
To avoid watering the plants frequently and reducing the amount of water that evaporates before roots can absorb it, add mulch. Organic matter like leaves, straw, pine bark, or paper works well. This method is particularly helpful if you live in a dry climate. Additionally, if you live in a hotter climate, spreading mulch also helps keep the plants cool in the summer.
Similar to tomatoes, peppers enjoy heavy and regular fertilizing. Feed your pepper plants around every 15 days. Avoid a fertilizer that’s too nitrogen-rich, which increases the amount of foliage on your plants, and feed them with fresh compost once per month as well. Some gardeners use a tomato fertilizer or manure tea, while others enjoy making a spray for their plants by mixing 2 tsp of Epsom salt and a gallon of water. With regular health maintenance, you can grow more peppers that taste and appear better than ever.
While you don’t really need to prune pepper plants, doing so can help you shape the plants. When your pepper plants are young, you’ll need to pinch the tips off regularly to create a bushy plant.
Deadheading, on the other hand, is required if your plants begin to flower too early. Getting rid of the blooms will allow the plant to direct more energy into growing healthier instead and stopping fruits from forming too early can also help your peppers mature earlier than expected.
Pepper plants often need support, and either tomato cages or a stick make perfect tools. Just poke the stake or stick into the soil near to the main stem and tie the plant onto it. The stake should bear the weight of the fruit, keeping the plant from toppling over.
Common Problems to Growing Peppers in Containers
Growing peppers in containers doesn’t make them more or less vulnerable to pest or disease issues. As long as you water the plants correctly, you’ll protect them from fungal infections. Disease-resistant varieties are also helpful. A plant that appears stringy or frail, however, may contain a virus that can affect other plants as well.
The main pest issue you’ll face is aphids. The tiny bugs love pepper plants, and hot, dry weather easily leads to spider mite infestations as well. Protect your plants with an organic option that’s safe for consumption such as neem oil.
Finally, late spring frosts can hurt your plants. If you can’t move them indoors when temperatures drop, try covering them for protection.
How to Harvest and Store Peppers
Bell peppers are ready for harvest after about 60 to 90 days after transplanting them into their containers. Once the peppers grow to reach their full size and feel firm to the touch, they’re ready for harvest—even if they’re still green. They’ll turn orange, red, or yellow when ripe and edible. They’re high in vitamin C and work well in a variety of recipes.
When harvesting peppers, use a knife or shears to cut them from the plant, then store them in the fridge or eat them right away. Make sure to pick off all the remaining fruit before the first frost strikes. The peppers should have just started changing color, so they’ll remain green for around three days often you pick them. They’ll continue to ripen in a warm location, but you can eat them green as long as they’re fully grown.
With so many types of peppers to choose from, you can easily grow a wide variety of flavors throughout the year! I enjoy growing both an early season variety and a spicier jalapeno or habanero to add heat to our summer meals. Try out a few types to find the best one for your taste buds.