If you’re a spice fanatic like we are, then peppers are an essential part of your diet. We consume a lot of peppers, from bell peppers to Habaneros, and everything in between that spice spectrum, so if you’re like us, you might wonder: is it more economical for me to just grow my own peppers?
Peppers are a great resource in the garden and can be used to make a variety of fresh, pickled, and prepared foods. They do take up a good deal of space in the garden, though, so many gardeners may wonder whether they’re worth putting the time into or if it’s more practical to get peppers at the grocery store.
Depending on the variety and growing conditions, homegrown peppers only take two to three months to grow from seeds, which makes them perfect for most summer gardens. It takes peppers a while to get going, but once they begin to produce, pepper plants will put out bushels of peppers throughout the growing season if maintained well.
Growing peppers from seeds is easy, and with just a few weeks’ worth of effort, you can haul in tons of fresh, spicy peppers straight from your yard. Read on to learn more about how long it takes to grow peppers from seeds and the best way to get a good harvest with them.
How Many Days Does It Take to Grow a Pepper Plant from Seed?
On average, it takes pepper plants anywhere from 60-90 days (or two to three months) to produce peppers. For pepper plants to have optimal productivity during the growing season, it is recommended that you start the pepper seeds indoors before the end of the first frosts of spring to get a jumpstart on getting them to harvest.
Gardeners should know that when you look at a pack of pepper plant seeds, the package will typically say how many days it takes the plant to grow. However, this number of days is only the amount of days from the time the plant is large enough to be transplanted up until the time it produces its first fruit. It doesn’t include the few weeks it takes to get a pepper plant from seed to a transplantable size.
Much of the variability of a pepper plant’s maturity time is due to the variability in sunlight, water, and other factors in the garden. Pepper plants that are well kept, with the right amounts of water and optimal exposure to sunlight, will result in a plant that both grows faster and produces more fruit.
How Long Does It Take for a Pepper Plant to Flower?
The first eight to ten weeks of a pepper plant’s life is its infancy, and this is the point at which the plant is most vulnerable to diseases that can cause seedling die-offs. This is one of the reasons that new pepper seedlings are typically tended indoors before the spring thaw to give them a strong start where they can be meticulously cared for and protected from the elements.
Pepper plants will begin producing flowers and fruit within 60 to 90 days of being planted, but most pepper plants will not begin to produce their best peppers until after 150 days. Peppers thrive when given exposure to a very long, warm growing season, and this is the secret to getting good peppers all year.
How Long Does It Take Pepper Flowers to Produce Fruit?
How long it takes pepper flowers to produce fruit depends on how long it takes for them to pollinate. While peppers are self-pollinating, hand-pollinating and encouraging natural pollinators such as bees and wasps to assist in the process, can help boost pepper plants to produce more fruit.
How Long Does It Take Peppers to Pollinate
Peppers will begin to pollinate at 60 to 90 days when they reach maturity, but the exact timing depends on the conditions that the pepper plant is growing in. If a plant is receiving more than enough nutrients to sustain it, it may begin to flower earlier. In contrast, plants that are struggling just to survive will have a delayed flowering and, subsequently, delayed pollination.
As mentioned above, pepper plants are self-pollinating, which means that they can be fertilized by pollen traveling within a flower rather than having to be moved to a different flower on the plant or a flower on a separate plant. This is very convenient, as it means that a high success rate of pollination can be guaranteed just by going through the effort to hand pollinate.
To hand pollinate, perform the following:
- Take a small paintbrush and gently brush it along the inside of the flowers on the pepper plant to disperse the pollen inside.
- Hand-pollinate each flower on each pepper plant to ensure the greatest number of peppers produced.
- Be sure to clean the paintbrush between pollinating sweet peppers and hot peppers, as these pepper types can cross-pollinate.
If you don’t want to hand-pollinate your pepper plants manually to help them to produce peppers more quickly, another option is to encourage insects to pollinate the pepper plants. This can be done by growing companion flowers and herbs with the peppers such as bee balm to attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
It’s also a good idea to set up a bee waterer to provide a source of water for the bees during the hot summer months. If you are a generous host to pollinating insects in the garden, you’ll find your productivity for fruit-bearing plants goes way up!
Why Is My Pepper Plant Growing Slowly?
There are several reasons why a pepper plant may grow more slowly than usual. Here are a few likely causes:
- Not enough water: If a pepper plant doesn’t receive at least an inch of water a week, it will find it difficult to thrive, and this can delay new growth.
- Not enough nutrients: A pepper plant that isn’t receiving enough nutrients may be able to put on new leaves and show growth but may not be getting the minerals that it needs to produce flowers and fruit. The soil where the peppers are growing should be tested to make sure that it is providing all of the necessary minerals that pepper plants need. Store-bought potting soil for potted pepper plants should have fertilizer added to it to encourage lush growth.
- The soil is too cold: Peppers are a tropical plant and will not grow well in soil that is less than 60° Fahrenheit—they prefer much higher temperatures than that (up into the 80s). Baby pepper plants should be kept indoors until all threat of frost is gone, and the soil temperatures outside are consistently 70 degrees or above. This means many peppers may need to be kept indoors longer and hardened off more gradually than other types of plants.
- The plant is rootbound: Pepper plants that were forced to grow in a smaller container than their roots needed to expand end up rootbound, and this condition can cause the plant to grow more slowly even after it is freed from the container and planted in the ground. Rootbound plants may take several weeks to catch up to their counterparts that were potted correctly.
- The plant is getting too wet: While pepper plants can tolerate afternoon summer showers easily enough, too much rainy weather and cooler temperatures can put a serious damper on a pepper plant’s productivity as it tries to grow. To combat this, make sure the soil at the base of the pepper plant dries completely between watering sessions, and try to water from beneath with an irrigation hose to discourage soilborne disease such as early blight.
Do Pepper Plants Grow Faster with More or Less Sunlight?
Peppers are a sun-loving plant, and they grow faster when exposed to between six and eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Peppers are tropical and enjoy hot, humid climates, so you’ll want to give them a place of honor in the brightest spot in the garden if you want to end up with plenty of peppers.
What Type of Soil and Fertilizer Make Pepper Plants Grow Faster?
Pepper plants prefer a loam soil that is full of micronutrients for them to leech to produce their flowers and fruit. Loam soil is a rich soil that is thick with organic matter but still drains well. Pepper plants do not like a “wet foot” and will become unhappy quickly if left in soil that collects water and drains poorly.
The best type of soil for pepper plants is soil that has been treated with fertilizer, as pepper plants require large amounts of nutrients to create good peppers.
Here are some elements that peppers require out of fertilizer and soil amendments:
- A high ratio of potassium and phosphorus versus nitrogen should be included. Potassium and phosphorus encourage fruit set, while nitrogen encourages the growth of foliage. Pepper plants that are exposed to high levels of nitrogen will be lush and green but have almost no fruit.
- The soil used to plant peppers should be amended with an additive to keep the soil friable, or loose, and to keep it from becoming compacted since it should have a high level of organic matter. Vermiculite is a good mineral option for keeping the soil loose.
- Once pepper plants have set fruit, additional fertilizer that is balanced more towards nitrogen can be used to help maintain the plant’s greenery and discourage disease.
When it comes to raising good peppers, good warm soil is one of the key elements to getting the most from your harvest.
Which Month Is Best for Planting Peppers?
As mentioned earlier, pepper plants that are grown from seed should ideally be started indoors eight to ten weeks before the end of the spring frosts, when the ground is still too cold (or even frozen) to plant. This can help gardeners in northern climes make up the difference in a shorter growing season and can help southern gardeners extend theirs.
The best month to start pepper plants from seed if you are in the Northern Hemisphere is in January or February, when outdoor temperatures aren’t even remotely ready to support pepper plants. So, to grow a good batch of peppers, you’ll need to dedicate indoor space to maintaining them in their infancy.
Do Peppers Grow Faster in Pots or directly in the Ground?
Whether pepper plants grow better in pots or the ground is a matter of debate between gardeners, but the truth is that pepper plants will usually grow more quickly in the ground than they will in a pot. This is because plants in the ground can spread their roots across the surface of the soil (pepper plants have shallow root systems) without being restricted by the edges of the pot and becoming rootbound.
Pepper plants also tend to grow more quickly in the ground because the ground heats up and maintains a warm temperature. Pots may become chilled by nighttime temperatures well into mid-spring, potentially stunting pepper plants in colder climates.
As long as they are grown in warm conditions and kept in a large enough pot, however, pepper plants can do very well as potted plants. Raising peppers in pots can help gardeners avoid many of the problems inherent with growing peppers, such as insect pests and soilborne diseases.
How to Get Pepper Plants to Produce Better and Grow Faster
Pepper plants vary wildly in how quick they can produce peppers and the quality of the peppers they produce, but luckily these are factors that can be influenced by the gardener.
Here are a few quick tips on how to produce stronger pepper plants that fruit faster:
- Avoid heat stress in plants. Even though peppers like hot weather, there’s such a thing as too much heat and sun for pepper plants. If the sun starts to scorch your plants, be sure to provide shade during the hottest parts of the day and don’t prune or water plants during peak daytime temperatures to avoid hurting them.
- Prune your pepper plants. It may seem counter-intuitive to cut on your pepper plant, but pruning pepper plants can encourage them to put out more flowers and fruit.
- Harden off baby pepper plants rather than moving them outdoors all at once. Exposing young pepper plants to cooler outdoor temperatures for a few hours a day rather than leaving them out overnight (and not until well into the spring) can help prevent cold stress and stunted growth caused by forcing your pepper seedlings out of the house too early.
- Make sure that growing pepper plants don’t become rootbound. This may mean you have to pot up your seedlings into a slightly larger pot indoors before moving them outside to avoid them becoming too cramped, but it’s worth it to avoid a permanently stunted plant.
By making sure that pepper plants have the right growing conditions and giving them a little tender loving care early on, you can reap the benefits in bushels of peppers later in the growing season.
Which Types of Pepper Plants Grow Fastest?
Some types of pepper plants naturally grow more quickly than others. These are a few of the quickest-growing peppers if you’re looking to get your salsa bushel off in a hurry:
- Miniature bell peppers: Because of their small size, miniature bell peppers are usually ready to pick on the earlier side of the spectrum of pepper growing durations, with some varieties of miniature bell peppers ready to harvest at 57 days.
- Shishito peppers: These spicy peppers from Japan are a favorite of foodies and are ready to harvest at around 60 days.
- Jalapeño peppers: Jalapeños are one of the earliest producing peppers, with plants producing flowers and fruit after only 60-65 days.
There are plenty of early harvest pepper varieties, so finding a set of them for your first batch of peppers is easy to do. Just check different seed companies and go through their pepper roster. Under each description, the pepper should list the days to harvest, so you’ll be able to plan exactly when to start planting and pulling your peppers!
Which Types of Pepper Plants Grow Slowest?
There are plenty of pepper varieties that grow quickly, but some are slower (worth the wait!). Here are a few varieties of peppers that have a longer growing season:
- Bell peppers: Because they produce peppers that have a large size and heft, it takes longer, about 60 to 90 days, for standard bell pepper plants to produce the big meaty bell peppers that they’re famous for. Without good growing conditions, these plants will often put out stunted fruit.
- Cayenne and hot salsa peppers: Peppers that are grown for their heat often take longer to mature than sweet peppers, and these peppers usually don’t produce good fruit until between 90 and 150 days.
- Habanero peppers: Habanero peppers are a variety of pepper that requires a long and intensive growing season for best results, with most plants not producing good flowers and fruit until 100 to 150 days. This means that Habaneros should be started early and indoors to ensure a fruitful harvest.
So, what’s the moral of the story? If you want to harvest bunches of hot peppers like Habaneros, you need to get started as early in the growing season as possible!
Growing Peppers Requires Patience
It takes a special kind of patience to grow pepper plants from seed, but it is well worth the effort. Not only are homegrown peppers more delicious than those you can usually get in a store, but you can also grow varieties you’d never be exposed to otherwise. So, if you grow some pepper seeds, and tend carefully and be patient—they’re worth the wait!
Here are Some of my Favorite Gardening Products and Tools
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful for growing some new plants in your home or garden. Here are some products I like that I hope you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, and I am compensated for referring traffic. But in all honesty, these are the exact product that I use or recommend to everyone.
Soil: For high-quality soil, I really like Fox Farm Ocean Forest. I do all my growing in containers and this soil has worked great for me. I like how they use nutrient-rich contents like earthworm castings, bat guano, and composted crab and fish.
Fertilizer: Currently I am using a seaweed-based organic fertilizer call Neptunes Harvest. This is a great milder fertilizer option if you want to use something organic. If you want a more powerful fertilizer, I recommend Fox Farm Liquid Nutrient Trio, lots of people have had great growing success with this product.
Pruning Shears: Pruning shears are one of the most useful gardening tools to have because it’s important to prune your plants to keep them healthy. The pruning shears I recommend are the Gonicc 8’’ pruning shears. I like them because they are built sturdy and work both on bigger and smaller plants, so you don’t need to have multiple pruning shears.
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