Originating in Tabasco, Mexico, Tabasco peppers are juicy, hot chili peppers with an intriguing smoky flavor. The McIlhenny Company popularized this pepper with their signature Tabasco® Original Red Pepper Sauce. Today, it’s one of the most well-known peppers around the world—and gardeners can’t get enough of it!
Tabasco peppers need full sun, warm temperatures, consistent moisture, and an ideal pH level of 5.5 to 7.5 for optimal growth. Tabasco pepper plants can grow up to 5 feet (1.5 m) tall and produce around 30 or more peppers per plant. You can grow them indoors or outdoors under the right conditions.
While this spicy pepper is mainly grown on the Gulf Coast in the U.S. and in Mexico, it can be cultivated in other parts of the world. This article will discuss what Tabasco peppers need to grow, how many fruits they produce, and how to grow them indoors and outdoors.
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Tabasco peppers require at least six hours of full sunlight per day. Without it, yield may be considerably lower. When possible, grow them in a sunny location. However, if the heat is sweltering (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius) the leaves may scorch, so it may be wise to provide some afternoon shade.
These pepper plants prefer warm temperatures, usually above 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius). Still, they’ll do alright in lower temperatures if they’re looked after—although they may not grow to their maximum height or produce as many fruits.
With that said, they don’t do well in cold temperatures. If temperatures fall below freezing, the frost will damage the plants. Bring Tabasco pepper plants inside if they’re potted or cover outdoor plants with a mini greenhouse if the forecast calls for a drop in temperature.
The Topline Outdoor Mini Greenhouse, available on Amazon.com, is ideal for protecting outdoor plants. The greenhouse is 27 inches (69 cms) tall and protects plants from cold weather while maintaining interior warmth.
These heat-loving pepper plants are not drought tolerant. Because they were once tropical plants, they require consistent, regular watering. The soil should be well-draining, as standing water at the bottom of a pot can lead to root rot or pests like gnats or fruit flies.
Tabasco peppers require consistent moisture levels. Water the peppers whenever the top inch or two (2.5-5 cms) of soil feels dry to the touch. If the soil is moist, skip a day before watering to prevent saturated roots. During the cooler months, you may get away with watering once every two to three days.
Tabasco pepper plants tolerate pH levels between 4.3 and 9.7, but the ideal range is 5.5 to 7.5. As long as there’s enough organic material in the soil, the medium is well-draining, and other environmental conditions are met, the Tabasco pepper plant should do fine.
The best soil option for Tabasco peppers is a potting mix designed for them—or try a blend of sphagnum moss and manure (40/60). This ensures that the medium contains the vitamins and minerals Tabasco pepper plants need to grow, including phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. Make sure that nitrogen levels aren’t too high, however, as nitrogen can deter fruit production.
These pepper plants are often quite bushy, so it’s best to trim them back to prevent them from shading other plants. The peppers themselves are around a 1/2-inch (1.27 cms) wide and 2 inches (5 cms) in length.
The size of a Tabasco pepper plant depends on factors such as:
- Outdoor conditions
- Level of sun exposure
- Soil quality
A productive plant, the Tabasco pepper is well-liked for its high yield. The plant can hold dozens of peppers at any given time.
On average, a Tabasco pepper plant produces about 30 peppers per plant. Fruit is continually produced for 4 to 16 weeks after flowering.
You can encourage the pepper plant to produce more fruit by picking a few peppers while they’re still immature. Peppers may be harvested around 80 days post-germination.
Immature Tabasco peppers are often a creamy yellow hue or a lovely orange. Once fully ripened, they turn a vivid, fire-engine red. The young peppers continue to ripen after being picked, but most gardeners agree that they taste better when ripened naturally on the plant.
Are you interested in increasing your Tabasco pepper yield? The American Society for Horticultural Science published a study concluding that peppers produce more fruit when they’re spaced further apart.
Those living in cold climates above zone five in the USDA plant hardiness zones often have little success when growing Tabasco peppers. These frost-tender plants don’t do well when temperatures drop below freezing. Fortunately, there are ways to grow Tabasco pepper plants and enjoy their spicy flavor, no matter where you live.
You can grow Tabasco pepper plants indoors. In fact, it may be easier for beginners to grow these plants inside, where they can control the environment. Keep temperatures within the optimal range—between 75 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (24-38 degrees Celsius)—and ensure that the plant is receiving sufficient water and light.
When growing Tabasco peppers indoors, start the seeds in starter trays. As they grow, transfer them to a new pot, the next step up in size. Continue this process until the Tabasco pepper plants are in a 12-inch (30.5-cm) diameter or larger, well-draining pot. Place a saucer beneath the pot to catch any water runoff.
Ensure that the pots have enough soil—without it, their growth will slow, and yield will suffer. These plants require at least 3 to 5 gallons (11 to 19 liters) of well-draining, nutrient-rich soil.
Even the most well-lit home doesn’t provide enough light for a pepper plant compared to the sun. With that said, pepper plants can grow using artificial light, but the plant is unlikely to reach its maximum size and the peppers may be smaller, too.
Ideally, you’ll want to purchase a full-spectrum LED grow light. This LUYIMIN 1000W LED Grow Light, available on Amazon.com, contains over 200 different hues of LED lighting, making it similar to natural sunlight. It’s ideal for plants of all growing stages. For supplemental lighting, you can use a clip-on LED when the plants are fruiting.
A bright, sunny, east-facing window is better than no light at all, but it’s still not ideal. Window lighting is often filtered through the glass and curtains, and little heat comes through. These peppers love heat and full sun. Without it, you may end up with leggy, weak pepper seedlings.
To reiterate, a grow light is the best choice, as you can adjust the light cycle to mimic the sun.
Chili peppers, including Tabasco peppers, prefer hot daytime temperatures and slightly cooler night temperatures. To ensure proper growth, keep the indoor temperature around the plants at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) throughout the day. A drop to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) should be okay when the sun goes down.
If the temperature in your home drops below this range, consider using a heating mat underneath the pepper plants to keep them from experiencing damage.
We’ve discussed the basics of growing Tabasco peppers indoors, but what about outdoors? In this section, we’re going to cover how to grow Tabasco peppers from seed to harvest.
Around eight weeks before the final frost of the season, plant your Tabasco pepper seeds in a starter tray. Fill the tray with a well-draining starter soil. Sow seeds about ¼ inch (0.64 cm) deep. Thoroughly water the starter tray. For best results, warm the soil to around 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit (27-29 degrees Celsius) using a heat mat. You can stop using the heating mat after the seeds sprout.
Once the seeds have sprouted, place the plants under a full spectrum grow light. These lights give your plants the best start possible. If you don’t have a full spectrum grow light, place the plant in a sunny, south-facing window, preferably in a warm area of your home.
Check the soil daily. Once the seedlings start to establish themselves and grow bigger, they’ll use more water. At first, you may not need to water the seedlings every day—only water if the soil is dry to the touch. Otherwise, skip watering to prevent drowning your pepper plants.
Sometimes, as seedlings grow, they become tall and skinny, which leads them to flop over. A lack of adequate light causes this phenomenon. The seedlings grow tall very quickly to reach the light, thus leading to a long, weak or “leggy” stem.
If you notice your seedlings becoming leggy, support them with small stakes and supplement the lighting with clip-on lights if possible.
When daytime temperatures reach or exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius), you can start placing your seedlings outdoors to harden them off. The sunshine will help them grow, and any light wind will strengthen their roots. However, don’t leave them out all night, especially if the temperature dips below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius).
Once the last frost of the season has passed, and soil temperatures have reached or exceeded 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), the plants are ready for transplanting. It’s best to transplant the day after watering, as it makes the plant easier to extract from its pot.
In a sunny location, dig a hole about two times the pot’s diameter and about as deep. Remove the plant from its pot and loosen the soil and roots with your fingers. Gently tip the plant into your hand before transferring it to the ground.
Note: If you’re unable to transplant your Tabasco plant outdoors due to prolonged cold temperatures, you may need to transplant it to a bigger pot in the meantime.
Place the Tabasco pepper’s root ball into the ground, about as deep as it sat in the pot. Refill the hole with a nutrient-rich potting mix. Pack the soil gently around the plant to keep it upright—but don’t pack it too tightly, or else there will be a lack of airflow. Just gently press around the base with your fingertips.
Place individual pepper plants between 12 and 24 inches (30 to 61 cms) apart. Give each pepper a thorough watering. After watering, fill the settled areas with additional soil.
Once your Tabasco pepper plants are in the ground, don’t forget about them! Check on your plants every day and see how they’re doing. Touch the soil to see if it’s dry, ensure they’re receiving enough sunlight, and look for signs of damage from pests or environmental conditions—the sooner you catch any problems, the better!
After about 80 days post-transplant, you’ll start to see flowers and fruits on your Tabasco pepper plant. Once the fruits are ripened (a deep, vibrant red shade), use shears to remove them from the plant (plucking peppers off may damage the plant). Enjoy the peppers in your favorite dish or dry it out and grind it up to use as a seasoning.
- In cooler zones, soil temperatures sometimes take a while to reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). To help speed things along, cover the garden with a layer of black mulch about a week before transplanting. Not only will the black mulch absorb more sunlight, making the soil heat up more quickly, but it will also help maintain consistent moisture levels in the soil.
- When plants start producing Tabasco peppers, you may need to stake them. The fruit-bearing stems may start to lean over, especially if the plant produces a large amount of fruit.
- While you can enjoy a Tabasco pepper in its creamy yellow or orange stage, they taste best when they’re fully ripened on the plant. However, it can be beneficial to pick a few immature peppers off your plant to encourage your plant to grow more peppers and increase your yield.
Tabasco peppers are a delicious, relatively easy-to-grow plant that can add a nice kick to nearly any savory dish. By using the advice, tips, and instructions outlined in this article, you’re well on your way to growing a successful Tabasco pepper plant indoors or outdoors. If you’re feeling adventurous, maybe you could even try your hand at making your own Tabasco hot sauce! Happy gardening!