Pointers for Prolific Pepper Plants

June 4, 2024
Sue Adams

Chose a sunny location that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day.

Peppers like well-draining, rich soil that’s slightly acidic (pH 6.O-6.8). Amend the soil with compost. Peppers can be planted in the ground or in containers. Make sure your container is big enough and has drainage holes.

How to Plant
Space about 18 to 24 inches apart to allow enough room for growth and air circulation.

Don’t allow the soil to dry out completely and water frequently. Your plants need about 2 inches of water a week, more frequently if they’re in containers. Water at the base of the plant.

Mulch not only keeps down weeds, but also helps retain moisture in the soil.

Fertilizer (Plant Food)
Pepper plants need fertilizer (plant food), but too much, especially nitrogen, can lead to excessive green growth and no fruit. I would recommend a granular low nitrogen fertilizer, for example 5-10-5. Apply a teaspoon around the base of each plant once a week. My sonin- law, Michael, Pepper King of the D.C. Fair, recommends Fox Farm fertilizer for containers.

Pepper plants can get large and fall over, especially with the weight of of peppers. Provide a stake or cage for the plants to keep them standing upright.

Pinching off Flowers
Believe it or not, pinching off early pepper flowers will encourage larger, more productive plants. Instead of focusing its energy on growing fruit right away, pinching will encourage the young plant to grow bigger in size first – then it can grow more peppers later on. You can remove all of the earliest buds, or only some of them.

Harvest peppers at any size or leave them on the plant to ripen to red (or the color of the variety you’ve planted). Their stems are brittle, so it’s best to cut rather than pull peppers off by hand. Use sharp shears or clippers and cut the stem close to the plant, leaving some of the stem attached. Hot peppers develop more heat as they turn to their mature color. Wear gloves when harvesting hot peppers. And don’t rub your eyes!

Not sure which pepper plants to grow? Check out my Pepper Guide to find the right one for you.