Peppers are perennial and they just and need to stay away from severe cold (50 degrees Fahrenheit and below), frost and snow to survive each year. Oftentimes, pepper plants produce larger chillies in greater quantities when they are allowed to mature. With care, you may get your plants to live 10 years or longer! A common solution is to get your plants into pots, and then use a few key techniques to protect chillies — especially if you’re in a colder climate.
Prune Your Peppers
Pruning helps your plants stay alive and go into hibernation so that they can store energy for the next growing season. Get out a pair of clean pruning shears and cut off any lingering peppers. If they’re still green, you can leave them on the counter for a couple days to ripen up, or try eating them in the immature stage — you might like the flavor. Cut all the leaves off as well as any brown limbs that are dead. You want to leave the chili plant bare so that it just has its original “Y” shape. These plants are in the process of being pruned for the winter:
If your plants try to produce buds after pruning, pinch them back.
Replenish the Potting Mix
Keeping your pepper plants alive for more than one year means replenishing the potting mix. A new mix delivers fresh nutrients and removes any bad insects that might be present. You have a couple of options here: A) Swap out the old potting mix for a new mix, or B) Use the same mix and add fresh compost, potting mix or soil conditioner. The method you use depends on how many pepper plants you have. If you have a lot of plants, buying new mix can be costly! Here’s what you’ll do for each option:
Swap Out Old Mix
- Dig out your chili plant and put it in a safe spot. I usually leave mine propped up against a wall or laying on the ground if it isn’t in danger of being trampled on.
- Trim the root ball and dispose of the old mix.
- Fill the container with new mix. * Note: if you’re worried about any diseases that might be present, carefully pour some boiling water in your pot to sterilize it first.
- Position your plant in the pot and water the soil well.
Add Fresh Compost or Soil Conditioner
- Repeat Step #1 above.
- Pour the old mix in in a clean container.
- Add compost and blend it in with the old mix. If you don’t have compost, you can add new potting mix. I usually use a ratio of 75% old mix to 25% compost or new mix. If using soil conditioner, such as Happy Frog, follow the instructions on the bag.
- Place your replenished mix and plant back in the pot.
Get Rid of Bugs
Ideally, you want your pepper plants indoors during colder weather. Before you do this, make sure any bugs are gone so you don’t end up with an indoor infestation. First, spray the whole plant, including the top layer of mix, with an organic insecticidal soap until it’s drenched. Wait about 5 minutes, and then spray water over the plants to wash the soap away. Leave your plants outside for a day, and if you don’t see any bug activity, you can bring them inside.
Tips on Moving Peppers Indoors and Lighting
A desirable indoor temperature for hibernating peppers is between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and never below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Look for available spots in a covered garage, basement or spare room.
My pepper plants increase each year and I don’t always have an indoor space for them. What I do is put them under a covered patio to give them shelter, cover them with a frost blanket or floating row cover at night to bring up the temperature and then remove the blanket in the morning.
As far as lighting, your plants can survive if they’re situated next to a bright window. Otherwise, add some fluorescent bulbs or grow lights a couple of inches above the pepper plants to keep them going.
So that’s about it! Continue to watch for insects, water your chili plants when the soil gets dry (my plants like a once a month watering when they’re being overwintered) and put them back outside when the temperatures consistently stay above 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the threat of frost has passed.
Soften the Seed Shell
One of the best things you can do for your seeds is to soak them before planting. This weakens the shell barrier so the seedlings don’t have to work so hard to come up. If you use a weak chamomile tea solution for the soaking, you also kill off any bacteria that may be present.
Make the Weak Tea Solution:
Brew a cup of chamomile and drink it. Use the same tea bag to make another cup of tea, and then use that batch to soak your seeds. Let your seeds soak for 24 to 48 hours before planting.
Use the Bag Method
You can create an effective germination environment for your chili seeds simply by using a paper towel, ziplock bag or coffee filter and water. This bag method is ideal for difficult varieties that have problems sprouting using the traditional seed-starting mix. Some peppers also germinate faster in the bag. Here’s how you do it:
- Fold a paper towel or coffee filter in quarters and then spray it with water until is damp.
- Place your pepper seeds in between the fold.
- Position your towel and chili seeds in the ziplock bag. Seal it up.
- Spray your towel and seeds each day with water to keep it damp.
- Check for sprouting seeds. When they germinate, bury them under a light layer of sterile potting soil.
If you use a paper towel, cut the portion of the towel that has the germinated seedling because if you pull the seedling, you can tear the root. You shouldn’t have to do this with the coffee filter.
Use the Cup Method
A lidded, 2.5 ounce gelatin cup creates another ideal setting for pepper germination. You can get these cups at a party supply or grocery store. Dampen a small piece of paper towel and stick it at the bottom of the cup. Place your seeds on top of the towel and put the lid on. Leave the cup on a warm spot and dampen the towel each day to keep the environment moist.
Try the Freezer Method
One of our fans on the Grow Hot Peppers Facebook page was kind of enough to share a technique that he uses with great success. We haven’t tried this ourselves, but we encourage you to test it out and let us know if works for you. Here goes:
- Place your pepper seeds in the freezer for two days. Yep, we said freezer.
- Remove the seeds and position them in a folded-up paper towel. Dampen the towel with water.
- Place the towel on a plate and cover it with a dark bowl. Situate it on top of a warm spot. Ideally, you want the temperature to be between 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Check your seeds each day and dampen the towel when needed.
We hope these pepper germination techniques help you raise all the chile varieties you want.
Why We Fertilize Peppers
Your pepper seeds have just enough energy to support the cotyledons, which are the embryonic leaves that first appear. After that, pepper plants need help to build a strong structure and eventually grow fruit. When fed well, peppers display green leaves (unless they are a variety like Black Pearl), thick stems, lots of flowers and vibrant pods.
How to Start Fertilizing
After the first set of true leaves appear, you can start using a diluted amount of fish emulsion or fish and seaweed fertilizer to help along seedling growth. Read the instructions on the container and then use 1/4 strength when you water your plants. For example, if a full serving is 1 tablespoon per gallon of water, add 1/4 teaspoon to a quart of water. Repeat this feeding schedule every other week.
JH Biotech 9907 Aqua Power Fish Emulsion
After your plants have three or four sets of true leaves, you can apply magnesium sulfate (epsom salt) directly to the leaves and stem. Epsom salt keeps the plant foliage strong, and prevents light green to yellow leaves from developing. Make sure that the epsom salt you use does not have any additions such as scents or bath crystals.
Add a 1 teaspoon epsom salt to a gallon of water and shake it up well. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and then spritz the leaves and stems with the solution until thoroughly covered. Spray your plants every other week so that one week you water with fish emulsion, and the other week you give your plants the foliar feeding.
Feeding Outdoor Peppers
Continue with the fish emulsion / fish and seaweed fertilizer schedule, but this time increase the dosage to about half the amount described on the label. If your peppers are in the ground, you can use the full amount. Keep the foliar feeding with epsom salts the same.
Your outside chillies will also benefit from some additional nutrients to help them flower, fruit and maintain their health.
Add Compost to Pepper Plants
Not only does compost condition the soil, but it fertilizes your chillies and acts as a natural pesticide to insects. After your peppers are planted in containers, use a good-quality, organic compost and layer it on the top of the soil. You also have the option to mix the compost in with your potting mixture. If you’re planting chillies in the ground, drop a handful of compost in each planting hole before you place the pepper plant in it.
Intervale Organic Compost, 20 Qts.
Calcium and Phosphorous Requirements
As an added bonus, many growers use a calcium and phosphorous source such as Cal-Mag or bonemeal. These nutrients help build a stronger plant structure, keeps your chillies flowering and fruiting and prevent blossom-end rot (BER). If your chile plant ever displays crinkled or bubbly leaves (particularly Capsicum chinense varieties), or if the ends of pepper pods have dark, sunken lesions, you know your plant needs calcium and phosphorous.
Apply the Cal-Mag or bonemeal package by following the instructions on the label. Typically, you mix a designated amount of powder into the top layer of soil and then water your plant. A monthly feeding of calcium and phosphorous is usually sufficient for peppers.
Water Your Peppers with Compost Tea
You can give your chili plants a huge advantage by watering them with compost tea. This tea is a concentrated liquid of compost that has beneficial microbes that benefit both the plant and soil.
Follow the instructions on your compost tea container to “brew” up a batch of liquid. Pour the tea in a sprayer and drench the stems as well as both the tops and undersides of leaves so that the excess drips onto the soil. Do this once or twice a month to fight off foliar disease and promote growth. Make sure to use the tea within four hours (or whatever time frame is specified on the label) so that it’s most effective.
FloraBlend Vegan Compost Tea Gallon: J
What to Watch For
It’s very easy to give your chillies too much fertilizer. This is very harmful to your plant and it can even cause its death. Never give them more than what is instructed on the label.
After a feeding, especially if you are doing it for the first time, inspect the leaves for browning edges. This occurrence is known as “fertilizer burn,” and it lets you know you should cut down on the feeding. If your pots are outdoors in containers and you detect fertilizer burn, run water over the soil to help flush the excess nutrients out.
What to Look for in Pepper Soil
To start off, pick the right product for your purposes. If you’re just starting your pepper seeds, select a “seed-starting soil mix” that will give your chile seedlings the nutrients they need to turn into little plants. Otherwise, if they have surpassed this stage, choose a “potting soil” that meets the criteria below.
Growing your own hot peppers means that you need to provide a soil or soil-free mixture that has the ingredients that are light and allow for air flow. Ingredients that encourage this flow include vermiculite, perlite, sphagnum peat moss (peat) and sand (builder’s sand). A warning about peat moss: make sure that your soil or soil-free mixture is not composed primarily of peat because this organic material is very acidic and is known to effect the growth rate of peppers.
Your mixture must also meet the nutritional needs of your chile pepper plants. Look for organic ingredients, which include composted pine bark, chicken manure, alfalfa, coir and kenaf. Alternately, non-organic mixtures should contain a commercial fertilizer to feed your chillies.
With a combination of the above ingredients in the mixture that you choose, growing your chile peppers will become much more successful. As a side note: many seed-starting mixes that are labeled for orchids contain many of these essential ingredients and are sufficient for germinating and raising your chillies.
Natural Beginnings Seed-Starting Mix
Pepper Soil No-No’s
Watch for mixtures that have large chunks of materials because these substances will prevent the airflow that is so crucial to pepper plants. Hold the soil in your hand and make sure that it feels light.
Also, if you open your soil bag and find insects do not put your pepper seeds or hot chillie seedlings in this soil. The adult bugs will eat the nutrients and your growing plants before they have time to grow and chances are that these mature bugs had time to lay eggs in the soil, which will become a nightmare to your seedlings once they hatch.
Lastly, don’t use an older mixture (older than a year) because the fertilizer or other nutritional elements may not be as effective in feeding your growing pepper plants. Buy a fresh bag to give your chillies a healthy start.
Growing Hot Peppers with Organic Mixes
Organic seed-starting soil mixes that are organic do not include pesticides, wetting agents or other chemicals that are synthetic. The absence of this non-natural ingredients gives you the ability to grow certified organic peppers and ensure that your hot chillies are as healthy as possible.
Look at the seed-starting or potting mixture bag to ensure that it says “organic” on it because it if doesn’t, then you can safely assume that it is not. If you purchase your soil from a distributor, check if they will prepare an organic mixture for you.
Habanero Chili Peppers: Capsaicin Nutritional Value
Although it may not seem like it at the time of ingestion, the capsaicin component produced by nature does not hurt you permanently. Being a very good source of intense heat, habanero peppers also provide vitamins A, C and E. These rich in folic acid and potassium sources, are low in calories, sodium and do not contain carbohydrates. Even better, this pepper contains a slightly fruity flavor and is known to cause an endorphin rush brought on by the capsaicin heat.
Recent Uses of Capsaicin
Currently, many industrial uses exist for capsaicin. For example, capsaicin is utilized in pepper sprays that are found in many self defense retailers. Further, you can find this ingredient in marine coatings, which prevent barnacle growth through environmentally safe methods.
Capsaicin is also available for uses in the home. Your pest repellent sprays often include capsaicin to get rid of garden intruders such as squirrels. Medically, capsaicin encourages circulation and stimulates pain receptor cells to produce endorphins. Even more, this beneficial property is used in various analgesic solutions that cure arthritis.
For those that love the heat and want to eat habanero pepper (which I’m guessing you do if you’ve come to growhotpeppers.com), just remember that pure pepper capsaicin causes your eyes and nose to run and your lips to swell. Wear vinyl or latex gloves while handling your habaneros and keep the dish soap and milk close by just in case.
Anyone who loves hot sauces or salsas may think of growing the habanero plant. If you are capable of growing tomatoes, habanero peppers can be grown easily, since their conditional requirements are similar.
The habanero chile pepper is the hottest chile pepper of Capsicum family. The unripe fruit is green, though the mature peppers may be red, orange, pink, white or brown. A mature habanero is around 3 to 6 cm long.
Thought to have originated in Cuba, the habaneros are indispensable components in the Yucatán peninsular cuisine. Each year at least 1,500 tons of peppers are harvested there. Other regions that they are known to grow in include Costa Rica and Belize, as well as US states like California, Texas and Idaho. No matter their origins, you can grow these peppers in your own location.
Optimum Growing Conditions
Though habaneros prefer hot weather, too much sun exposure can cause damage to these nightshade family members. When growing habanero peppers, it is important to understand that they thrive well under a good morning sun with a soil having ideal pH of 5 or 6. Water the habanero plants only when dry because too much watering can cause the peppers to taste bitter or even die out.
Habanero bushes may be sown directly in the ground, or can be grown in containers and live for several years in pots.
The habanero, a perennial plant, can produce flowers and fruits for several years if cared for properly. In temperate climates, it is considered an annual plant, which grows dormant each winter and is replaced the following spring.
In tropical as well as sub-tropical regions, this plant produces fruit year round as long as the growing conditions are favorable.
The habanero chile pepper is around 100 times hotter than the jalapeno. The red savina habanero pepper, a cultivar of habanero pepper and once certified as the “World’s hottest spice,” is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Habaneros usually rate between 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville units. When growing the habanero plant, attempts have been made by many to breed habanero peppers selectively and produce heavier, hotter and larger chillies.
Did you enjoy this article? If so, check out the "Grow Your Own Jalapenos and Super Hot Peppers in Containers" e-book for detailed, step-by-step instructions that explain how to grow all of your favorite chillies from beginning to end.