Peppers in Florida

What’s Growing – Fall 2014 Garden

So, what peppers will I be growing for my Fall 2014 garden in South Florida?  Normally I don’t start new pepper plants at this time of year, but this year I have a greenhouse – woo hoo!  I’ll be putting it to use with growing peppers, you can bet on that!

Seeing as this will be my first greenhouse — which is probably more like a “grow house” — and I will not have any heating, I don’t want to chance my hotter-than-hot seeds for Carolina Reaper or Ghost Scorpion.  The super-hot peppers take a long time to germinate, plus they like really warm weather.  That being the case, I’ll be starting those seeds sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Still, even though I won’t be starting my super-hots at the moment, I am trialing some other peppers that have struck my fancy.

Peppers On Deck for Fall 2014

I’ll be growing a mixture of bell, no-heat and ornamental peppers this Fall and Winter.  They are as follows:

  • Flamingo:  This is a bell pepper hybrid, which turns multiple colors on the way to ripening.  It appears to start out as an ivory color, then moves to orange and then red.  Should be interesting!
  • Trinidad Perfume:  This is one of the no-heat peppers.  It’s supposed to taste like a habanero, but without the heat.  Given that I only know what the heat of a habanero is like (and not the taste, LOL), I am looking forward to sampling this one.
  • Sweet Datil:  I love datil peppers, and this is the first time I have seen them with the wonderful taste, but without the heat.  Hooked by the description, I just had to buy ’em so I could try ’em.  😉

For the ornamentals, I am trying out:

  • Sangria:  Upright peppers that are between 2 and 3 inches on a short plant.  Peppers appear to start off purple and move to red when ripe.  No heat, so great for areas where kids or pets might brush against them.
  • Explosive Ember:  This is a purple pepper that ripens to red.  The two big differences between Explosive Ember and Sangria are  that Explosive Ember has purple-tinged foliage (Sangria is green), and Explosive Ember is hot.
  • Black Pearl:  Another purple pepper / purple foliage plant with hot peppers.  These peppers are round (thus the “Pearl”), while EE is cone-shaped.
  • Pretty in Purple:  A long-time favorite of mine (see photo on the right, from the last time I grew it), I want to see how the others above stack up against this wonderful pepper plant.  In addition to the purple-tinged stems and new foliage, the peppers are hot!

Of course I have just planted the seeds, so I won’t have any pictures for a bit.  Stay tuned!

Growing Peppers in Florida

Growing peppers in Florida seems like it should be a piece of cake, especially in the summertime — hot temperatures, plenty of rain, sunshine.  But what are some special concerns if you decide to grow peppers in Florida?

Summer is the Best (and Worst) Time

Summer is best in Florida because of the heat — peppers adore hot weather!  Conversely, it can be the worst time, due to rain (like what we had in 2008 – whoa!), humidity and super-bright sunshine.  Each can cause problems, but there are solutions!

Solution number one is to primarily grow your chile (hot) and ornamental peppers in the summer.  They love the heat, and especially the habaneros, scotch bonnets and bhut jolokia peppers.  Their original home is the tropics, which fits right in with Florida in Summer!

Bell peppers are better grown in the cooler, “shoulder” seasons.  I’ve had very little luck growing nice, big bell peppers in Summer.

The sweet peppers can be grown in the hot Florida summer, as long as you provide them shade during the hottest part of the day.  In fact, I like to grow all but my hottest peppers in dappled shade, during July and August.  Sun scald can be a problem!

Humidity can also be an issue , unless you leave plenty of room between your pepper plants for air circulation.  If the air can’t circulate, sweet and bell peppers in particular can get mold and fungus on the leaves.

What About the Other Seasons?

Here in South Florida where I live, I can pretty much grow peppers year-round, with one caveat; that I be able to protect them when the night-time temperatures go below 50.  Peppers, especially the really hot ones, are sensitive to the chilly weather.  They don’t like cold feet, especially cold wet feet.

Actually, in most of Florida you can plant your peppers outside in Spring, once the night temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees.  The soil should be really warm, though, if the evenings are still cool, so make sure where you plan to plant gets at least 8 hours of direct sun a day.  And if your peppers decide to be long-lived into the late summer, make sure you can give your sweet peppers at least some shade at mid-day or sun scald can be a problem.

In any case, it’s best that you germinate your pepper seeds inside; check out the germinating pepper seeds post for instructions.  And I’ve come to realize that especially with hot chile pepper seeds, I have to add warmth to the soil, when I germinate my seeds in the winter – even here in South Florida!  That’s where grow mats with heat some in handy.

(Before trying the grow mats in Winter, my chile pepper seed germination rate wasn’t all that great, even though my windowsill greenhouse is on a south-facing window.  Live and learn.)