(For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page.)
Peppers present some of the summer garden’s biggest flavors and brightest hues, and these striking fruits are simple to store and have a wealth of delicious uses in the kitchen. Plus, sweet and specialty peppers are among the most expensive produce at the grocery store, so growing peppers of your own can be a money-saving move.
Pepper Types to Try
Sweet bell peppers come in various sizes and colors, and the fruits’ colors change as they mature. They grow best where summers are long and warm.
Specialty sweet peppers include pimentos, frying peppers, and other sizes, shapes and flavors. Small-fruited varieties are among the easiest peppers to grow.
Southwestern chile peppers
have complex flavors with varying degrees of heat. Many varieties bear late and all at once, so they can be a challenge to grow in climates with short summers.
Specialty hot peppers range from moderately spicy jalapeños to hotter cayennes to hottest-of-all habaneros. Most are easy to grow.
Ornamental peppers may feature spicy, brightly colored fruits, purple or variegated foliage, or both.
See our chart of pepper types for more information to help you find the perfect pepper for your garden.
When to Plant Peppers
Start seeds indoors under bright fluorescent lights in early spring, eight to 10 weeks before your last spring frost date. If possible, provide bottom heat to keep the plants’ containers near 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure the seeds stay slightly moist. Seeds should sprout within three weeks. Transfer seedlings to larger containers when they are about six weeks old. Don’t set peppers outside until at least two weeks after your average last frost date, during a period of warm weather. (To find your last spring frost date, see Know When to Plant What: Find Your Average Last Spring Frost Date.) Always harden off seedlings by gradually exposing them to outdoor weather a few hours each day for at least a week before transplanting them outdoors.
How to Plant Peppers
All peppers grow best under warm conditions, but gardeners in cool climates can keep peppers happy by using row covers. Choose a sunny site that has fertile, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Loosen the planting bed to 12 inches deep, and thoroughly mix in a 1-inch layer of mature compost. Dig planting holes 12 inches deep and at least 18 inches apart, and enrich each with a spadeful of additional compost. Partially refill the…