Skip to Content

Which Peppers Grow Best in Colorado?

If you live in Colorado or just moved there, you may have considered growing some hot chili peppers as a fun hobby. But which peppers grow best in your area, when should you plant them, and how?

Since Colorado has different climates, it is important to pay attention to your local elevation and climate. Depending on your local climate, you might consider certain peppers such as Anaheim, Bhut Jolokia, Cayenne, De Arbol, Habanero, Jalapeño, Padrón, Pueblo, Scotch Bonnet, Serrano, or Thai hot peppers.

For example, peppers like Padrón suit moist environments like those in the southwest mountains. Pueblo peppers, on the other hand, adapt to the desert region’s shifting temperatures.

Photo of the state of Colorado
Photo by Rosa Melin

Types of Peppers That Grow Well in Colorado

There is an extensive list of peppers that grow in Colorado, even more than we could list in this short article. Depending on your local climate, you might consider certain peppers such as Anaheim, Bhut Jolokia, Cayenne, De Arbol, Habanero, Jalapeño, Padrón, Pueblo, Scotch Bonnet, Serrano, or Thai hot peppers.

However, we can start the conversation by addressing differences in climate and elevation. Let’s take a closer look at some specific peppers and how they adapt to their environment.

Peppers That Grow in Colorado’s High Elevation

Let’s start with high elevation areas. After all, Colorado is part of a series of states known as the Mountain West which lie in close proximity to the Rocky Mountains. The good news is that hot peppers grow well in the Mountain West.

If cared for, your garden in Colorado could include plenty of spicy and exotic specialty peppers, including Jalafuego Jalapeños, Cayenne, and some NuMex varieties. However, one unique and widely popular mountain pepper is the Padrón pepper.

Padrón peppers are famous for being unpredictable in terms of flavor. For example, this Spanish pepper gets described as ‘unos pican otros no’, or ‘some are hot, some are not.’ These peppers are only spicy about 10 percent of the time. In terms of Scoville Heat Units (SHU), Padrón peppers can be as low as 500 or as high as 2,000. Compared to the Jalapeño which ranks at 5,000 SHU, the Padrón pepper’s heat level is still reasonably low. That makes eating one an enjoyable, low-stake gamble.

Let’s talk descriptors: Padróns are sometimes red, but mostly bright green to yellow green in hue. They have a thin skin and elongated shape that measures 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cms) long.

Padrón peppers are a fantastic culinary pepper. Their flavor is striking, featuring piquant, sweet, and nutty tastes. The Padrón’s occasional heat is a bonus. Padróns often get fried, tossed in olive oil and sea salt, and can be served by themselves or added to dishes. They can get stuffed, roasted, or grilled as well.

Peppers That Grow in Colorado’s Low Elevation

Colorado is a geographically interesting state due to its changing environments. In addition to high mountainous regions, the state is also home to desert valley regions that sit at lower

Pueblo chilis.

The Pueblo chili goes by a couple of names. The first comes from its city of origin, Pueblo, CO. The town is famous for hosting an annual Chile and Frijoles Festival. Another common term for this pepper is ‘Mirasol,’ the Spanish word for “looks at the sun.” This phrase refers to the orientation of the fruit, which grows upwards towards the sun. When dried, they are known as Guajillo peppers.

The pepper is conical in shape and measures 2-3 inches (5-8 cms) long and .5-.75 inches (1-2 cms) wide. However, the pepper can grow as long as 4-5 inches (10-13 cms) and as broad as 2 inches (5 cms). The plants grow 18-24 inches (46-61 cms) in height and produce peppers within 70-80 days. In terms of color, Pueblo chilis age from a green tint to gorgeous and vibrant red and copper tones.

Pueblo chilis have excellent flavor, with the perfect balance of spice and berry notes. They measure 2,500-5,000 Scoville Heat Units, making them mild to medium spicy. The hottest Pueblo chili is equivalent to the heat level of a Jalapeño, which measures around 5,000 SHU.

Enthusiasts praise the pepper’s full-bodied and distinct flavor, which exhibits strawberries among other flavors. As you can tell, these qualities make a fantastic culinary pepper.

Peppers That Grow in Colorado’s Different Climate Zones

Colorado is an appropriate state to refer to when it comes to gardening in different climates because of its proximity to the Rocky Mountains. Mountain regions feature drastic elevation changes, which produce various environments.

Windfall also affects climate by creating a phenomenon known as rain shadows. Due to the unequal distribution of rain, these shadows make desert climates on the leeward side and greener environments on the windward side of the mountains.

If you want to know which peppers are best for which climates, refer back to your elevation.

Tips to Help Peppers Grow Well in Colorado’s Climates

You may have noticed that the biggest obstacle to growing peppers in Colorado is the climate. Considering how mountainous the state is, the climate can vary throughout the state. Here are some tips that can help with your pepper growing adventures:

Start Early and Indoors

February may seem early to think about growing peppers. However, pepper seeds take a long time to germinate. We suggest starting your pepper plants indoors to protect your plant from temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius).

Grow Companion Plants

Companion plants are a great resource because they attract pollinators to speed up your pepper plant’s growth. Some of the best plants to invest in include perennial herbs like thyme or oregano and cold-faring vegetables like lettuce or onions.

Attract Natural Pest Control

Companion plants can also attract animals that prey on garden pests. In this case, plant flowers that you know local birds and insects will munch on. These kinds of plants include seed-heavy flowers like sunflowers or cornflowers. Native flowers are great for accommodating predators that will kill eggs, larvae, and adult pests. Artificial accessories, like birdbaths, are also helpful. And you can also use natural pesticides if your plants do succumb to pests.

Final Thoughts

In short, the peppers that grow best in Colorado are the ones most malleable to its climate. One example in the mountains is the Padrón pepper. In the lower desert regions, the famous Pueblo pepper is a perfect choice.

Finding the best peppers for your Colorado garden is the first step. Once you find your seeds, you should plan how you will yield your peppers over the next few months. Planting early and providing helpful companion plants will only help your pepper plants thrive.