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How to Grow Peppers in a Container

by Fern on July 8, 2009

in Fruits & Vegetables,How To,Popular

I’ve been growing peppers for the first time this year and I’m proud to say that in a matter of days I will be swimming in pepperoncinis, sweet peppers, and bell peppers. I thought I’d share some of what I have been doing in case your pepper plants aren’t doing too well. Mine also had a rough start, but a few simple things really turned my plants around.

peppers1

2 pepperoncinis, 2 grand marconis, and 1 fajita bell

Even a Smallish Pot is Enough

I started growing these peppers as an after thought. Because they weren’t planned, I didn’t save any prime pot real estate for them. Instead, the only spot left over was a long, low window box that I usually use to grow salad greens. I learned something interesting from this scenario though, peppers apparently don’t need much space to do their thing. These plants are about 9 inches apart, and the window box is about 9 inches deep. All my plants are 18-24 inches tall and covered in flowers and developing fruit, so it seems that you can have quite successful pepper production in virtually any sized growing space.

Consistent Fertilizer Makes for Happy Peppers

As I mentioned earlier, these pepper plants weren’t exactly a high priority for me earlier this year. I’m embarassed to admit it, but I left them in their nursery pots for way too long and often forgot to water them. Several of their compatriots didn’t make it. And the plants you see above did not look healthy when I finally got around to taking care of my garden about 6 weeks ago. The only thing I can attribute to their current good health to is the fertilizing regime I implemented.

  • When I planted them in the windowbox, I worked in worm castings into the dirt. I’d say it was about 3 tablespoons of castings per plant.
  • Once a week I spray their leaves with sea weed extract diluted in water (6 drops in a spray bottle that holds 1 cup of water).  After I spray the leaves I pour the rest of the seaweed-water in the dirt around the pepper plants.
  • Every 3 weeks I have been sprinkling a balanced organic fertilizer (look for something like 10-10-10) meant for tomatoes in the dirt around the plants and working it in to the soil. I plan on continuing to do this until the plants are done producing peppers.

Don’t go crazy with fertilizer though. If you notice that lots of the flowers are falling off (more than just 1 or 2 per plant) you might be over fertilizing. Cut back on the fertilizer and apply some epsom salts to help give your plants some magnesium. That should turn things around.

Be Generous with Water

Peppers like consistently moist but not soggy soil. Water them whenever the top of the soil is dry. You can also help them from drying out by covering the dirt with mulch.

Peppers like Sun, But Not Too Much

A spot with morning sun, or filtered light all day long is ideal. Direct afternoon sun can scorch peppers.

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Have you entered the Ups-A-Daisy contest yet? If not, be sure to click on over and check it out. Ups-A-Daisy planter inserts are a much more effective alternative to using packing peanuts in the bottom of your pots.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

ElleDee July 8, 2009 at 2:16 pm

My mom told me that peppers like to be crowded, so I’ve got 7 peppers and 3 calendula in a 14 gallon tub and they’re doing great even though they are less than 6″ apart. So, yeah, go for it even if you are short on space.

Where did you get your pepperoncini? I have them too and tried one and it was totally bland. I don’t know if the flavor develops in the pickling, if I picked it too soon or if it’s a poor cultivar or what. I really hope they can be salvaged because I have so many beautiful ones I want to can!

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Michelle May 9, 2012 at 11:21 pm

I have had the same problem in the past, so what I did was plant Jalapenos or Habaneros close by. I like spicy so just to give it a little zest or a cheer upon, I give it spicy company. Worked for me wonderfully since I started this 3 years ago, YUM! Good Luck!

Fern July 8, 2009 at 3:44 pm

ElleDee–I’ve had kind of hit and miss success picking pepperoncinis at the right time, and according to this site, it can be kind of difficult:

“Picking the peppers at the right time is very important. When picked too young, pepperoncini tend to be a little bitter, lack good texture, and just don’t taste so great. When they are too old they become thick skinned, unpleasantly crunchy or tough and again not so well flavored. However, it is actually a little hard to tell when they are just right, and I still sometimes feel like I don’t know quite what to pick. The flesh should be plumped out a bit, but only just. In very immature peppers, the wrinkles have thinner less filled out ridges, whereas the ones ready for pickling have ridges that are filled out just a little more. Since the peppers ferment quickly in a warm place, you should be able to sample your first batch within a couple weeks and begin to make your own judgments about the proper ripeness level. I find myself tending to wait to pick until there is a pretty good batch of “ready” peppers on the plant by which time there are inevitably a few that are over-developed, but that is OK. Most varieties are still quite green when they are prime for pickling. They turn a pleasant warm golden/green color in the ferment. If allowed to ripen too long they will begin to turn red by which point they are already well overdone and thick skinned. The Italian types are worth allowing to ripen fully into frying peppers if a few get away. Just remember that letting peppers ripen on the plant will reduce the number of new peppers setting on.”

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Kimberly July 8, 2009 at 4:33 pm

My purple bell peppers all have a dry, brown side on them, they only get morning sun, so surely they aren’t scorched? I also had to stake it because the supports I bought at the nursery were way too big for my containers :(

My Mohawk peppers (http://www.parkseed.com/gardening/PD/5637/) that I grew from seed are just starting to blossom, I’m excited.

I don’t even remotely fertilize as much as you recommend, I guess I should start doing that. Thanks for all the advice!

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kaivalya July 8, 2009 at 6:41 pm

This is my third year of growing hot peppers and I have some different observations. Growing Jalapenos, Habeneros, Cayenne and various other hot peppers, I find them to be one of my most drought tolerant eatables in my garden. And they can take all the sun I can give them! Perhaps it’s the frequent cool wind at a higher altitude that takes the edge off the heat in the garden.

I always crowd plants together, at least 9″ to 6″ apart or closer. Plants crowded closer than 6″ apart seem to get a bit stunted, but sometimes it’s worth it for the overall yield / use of space.

I’ve had plants do surprisingly well in soil with very little nutrients. That being said, it only gets better with some basic fertilizing. I’ve been primarily working with Alfalfa Meal this year and I use time-release pellets for long term yield.

Did you know, most ripe peppers have more vitamin C than an oranges and strawberries?!

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Jackie (Ellie Mae's Cottage) July 8, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Very informative post. I have some peppers in a 2 containers on my back deck. They were leftovers and didn’t fit in the raised bed that I have (where I already have 6 pepper plants growing). The ones in the container aren’t doing as well in the ones in the bed so I’ll definitely try some of the tips that you suggested. -Jackie

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Adriana July 8, 2009 at 10:35 pm

I know those peppers! My pepperoncinis are growing in nicely. I used Botanical Interests seeds. If you like jalapeno let me know; I have several plants. We’ll trade!

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Karen P July 9, 2009 at 8:53 am

Fern, thanks for the great advice on the peppers. My intentions this year was to plant peppers, but haven’t started yet. Is it really too late? I live in So Cal and it still sounds like a great idea.

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Fern July 9, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Karen–I don’t think it’s too late to start in So Cal. I would use transplants though, just to be safe. Starting from seed would put your plants maturing in late September, and that might be too late for a decent size harvest.

Adriana–I’m totally down for a trade!

Jackie–Let me know how they’re doing after the extra TLC.

Kalvalya–Interesting observations. Thanks for sharing your experience growing peppers. Have you figured out how to know when to pick pepperoncinis?

Kimberly–Are the sufficient leaves on your plant to shade the peppers? Any signs of bugs?

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patti April 12, 2010 at 4:26 pm

This is my first summer in Nagoya Japan and I am going to try and grow peppers and tomatoes and all kinds of vegetables on my balcony on the 14th floor. One part of the balcony gets sun all day long and the other side of the balcony gets morning sun.

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Fern April 12, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Good luck Patti!

Michelle May 9, 2012 at 11:35 pm

I have live in Japan for 3 years myself, and the first year I failed miserably. I lived in a remote area and had to learn the language, Wonderfully worked out well for me. I did some volunteering with the Japanese community with the women, and most if not all do a lot of gardening at home with a lot of vegetables and herbs. It was a great bonding experience for me. So maybe you could go to the community somehow to learn how to grow a garden there as well as make new friends. And it is so different trying to do this in a whole different climate. It’s nice to have tips and…new friends while you’re there… Good Luck!

Kyle May 1, 2010 at 10:31 am

i want to start growing jalapeno peppers, but my portch gets too much sunlight. what should i use to filter or dillude the sunlight so my peppers wont get fried alive?

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Fern May 2, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Kyle–There are all sorts of kinds of sun fabrics that will filter out some or all of the sunlight your porch gets. You could hang them like a curtain and pull them open during the hottest/sunniest part of the day. Or you could also use plants that love tons of sun to shade your jalepenos during the part of the day that is hottest/sunniest.

Michelle May 10, 2012 at 12:14 am

First how hot is it here? You really don’t want your plants to consume a degree over 90 degrees for atleast 6-8 hrs a day. If too hot can burn your leaves and not produce fruit. The great thing is that you are growing Jalapeno pepper, they like hot! So when you are off to work leave in window and when you get home drop them down to non sunlight. Don’t forget to fertilize and water once a week. But never during sunlight, fertilizer and water will scorch the plants if not enable them to produce fruit but kill them. Good Luck!

New Guy to Peppers April 16, 2011 at 11:27 am

Hi, I just planted my first jalapenos, and red cherry peppers. I need help everything I have ever planted i have killed except tomatoes. ( I use lots of cow product ) I am trying to grow them in a large couple of pots. What are watering procedures, for a clay pot with direct sun at least 6 hours a day. Also how many days till i see fruit? Any thoughts on how to maximize fruit?

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Michelle May 9, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Using to much cow dung may be over fertilizing can be more harmful than helpful. This is just my perspective. Also clay pots are not recommended for container growing. Plastic containers such as 5 gallon buckets are preferred with holes drilled out in them just to promote just the right moisture the vegetation needs. Pruning your tomatoes is essential and 6 hrs sunlight I don’t think will hurt your plants, Mine get about 8-12, But I live up north. And I think it depends on how hot it is. We average about 80-90 degrees during planting and harvesting season. Maybe something I have said will help you. Good Luck!

javier July 15, 2011 at 6:17 am

I have lots of good looking ghost peppers with planty of flowers but no fruit the flowers keep dropring of is there anything I can do to have my flower turn it in to fruits.

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Fern July 17, 2011 at 2:59 am

Javier–Blossoms will drop off if temperatures rise above 90 degrees. Try providing some light afternoon shade. If the plants are stressed because they need more water, they will also drop their flowers. If you think that’s the case, try watering more frequently.

Michelle May 10, 2012 at 12:06 am

I think watering is a wonderful Idea but watering at the wrong times can burn your plants, water in shading times as well as when you fertilize once a week. Good Luck!

Pat October 4, 2011 at 2:36 am

This was my first year with peppers in a container and my luck or skill was just bad. I grew up in a family where most of our fall and summer veggies were grown in a backyard gardenand decided that my wife and I should give it a go. I live in the high desert of SoCal and have quite a bit of acreage but because of the sandy rocky land I decided a raised bed filled with organic potting soil and compost would be a good start. I planted 5 Jalapenos, 5 bell peppers, 2 red cherry peppers, 2 Seranos and 1 Habanero..I know I know sounds like a remake of a bad Christmas song. I read and heard that peppers didn’t take kindly to extreme sun so I built a shade to protect from noon and afternoon sun..Temperatures often reach 120 in the afternoon here. I watered regularly to keep the soil moist about 2″ down and fertilized every 2-3 weeks. My total yield was 3 jalapenos and a bell pepper that was produced early in the season. Anyone have any pointers I can try for next year? I had similar problems with my tomatoes, they’re wrapping up now but did mildly better. Maybe it’s just a bad zone for trying anything green?!?

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Fern October 5, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Hi Pat! What were you fertilizing with? Were the plants healthy over all? You said you watered to keep the soil moist about 2 inches down, what exactly does that mean? If you were only wetting the top two inches, you didn’t apply nearly enough water.

Michelle May 10, 2012 at 12:04 am

I have lived in Southern California, San Diego. It is was hard on me as first timer trying to grow anything in cement central. I networked there to try to find some way of having a home garden somehow. Well we got a house close to swamp areas but planted garden about 12 feet away, because the ground is so wet, sometimes is a bad thing.. Hot peppers require more sun, green peppers medium, As far as sun goes, Most plants say they want 6-8 hours sunlight, I had most growth by cutting it in half, and making sure the moisture level was atleast 2″ in the soil. The Sun helps but it can hurt too! And I think that it was a great idea. If that doesn’t work you may want to try container gardening, which I did as well, and worked out well for us. Good Luck

Julie May 8, 2012 at 12:19 am

My husband planted a few seeds from a store bought bell pepper about 2.5 years ago. . . last summer I finally broke the curvy flower pot they were in and repotted them in a larger pot, but I didn’t (know to) do anything to loosen the root ball before repotting. Now a lot of the leaves are more curly or wrinkled than flat and smooth. We also forget to water it often, and haven’t fertilized since last summer. The plant has never lived outside and is on its fourth production- there are 5 good sized peppers on it, 3 smaller ones and several flowers. The peppers it has produced in the past have been small (2 or 3 inches) without much flesh to them.
I got to wondering how to take care of this plant to help it have better fruit- appreciate the watering tips, thanks!

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Brian Roberts May 30, 2012 at 10:40 am

Great, informative post and now I have fifteen various bells going on our deck. I used Jungle Growth vegetable container mix which has a little slow release fertilizer in it already. I’ve got my peppers four to a big pot, about 7 inches apart. They’re getting really big and I’m expecting them to bloom within the week. I bought some Jobe’s Organics granular fertilizer, which includes feather meal, bone meal, composted poultry manure, and sulfate of potash (I almost typed Sultan of Potash) and I’ve applied it once since they’ve been in the pots (made the liquid fertilizer from this site by letting the granules steep in hot water, then cool down) because I’ve read watering can flush nutrients out the containers. Quick question, to anyone, really: How much fertilizer tea should I water each pepper plant with? just a nice, healthy drink each a couple times a month?

Also, what do y’all think about neem oil and its effects?

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John August 28, 2012 at 7:13 am

Hi, Fern

I know I’m jumping into the conversation pretty late, but I just stumbled on your pepper page and wanted to leave a comment. First, great stuff! I (and my company) am new to growing anything beyond a fern or flower over the years. Actually, my wife tends to kill everything we have in the house because she depends on me to water it all. Big mistake.

My company recycles food waste into soil amendment products using a fermentation process. For about two weeks now, I’ve been growing one control plant and one experimental plant, both jalapenos. The experimental plant receives the juice produced from our fermentation process, diluted about 1:100 with water. That little guy has just taken off. It grew two inches in five days, leaving the control plant in the dust.

The information here has inspired me to try other peppers, though, and I wanted to say thanks!

John

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David January 28, 2013 at 9:36 am

Do jalapeno pepper plants need any kind of support such as a tomato cage or are they self supporting? Thanks this is also my first attempt at growing peppers.

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Fen February 10, 2013 at 11:26 am

Hi,

I have never left a comment on a message board like this before. I’m curious, what fruits or vegetables would you suggest growing in an apartment without a patio or balcony? My concern is pollination. I would like to grow cherry tomatoes and green bell peppers. Thank you.

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