Pepper Questions

Here are some frequently asked pepper questions.  Peppers are pretty easy to grow in general, but you may still be wondering about a few things before you plant your peppers.

Pepper Frequently Asked Questions

Are peppers easy to grow?  Yes! Most pepper varieties will grow and produce delicous fruits for you. If you have a short growing season or lots of cloudy days, however, you should stick with the tried and true peppers like a sweet banana pepper or perhaps the feisty jalapeno (both are known to be prolific).  If you have a longer growing season with plenty of sunshine, you can grow almost any variety.

 So how do I grow peppers?  Here’s a post on germinating pepper seeds that gives information on how to grow those great-tasting peppers from seed!

What kind of insects or diseases are possible?  Here is the lowdown on insects and diseases that could come to pay a visit on your peppers.  Wherever possible, I’ve suggested organic (or at least chemical-free) solutions.

Can I grow peppers is a greenhouse?  Sure! The key to deciding the varieties that would be best are 1) the size of your greenhouse and 2) the warmth and sunlight your greenhouse receives. Most pepper varieties take up relatively little space, so greenhouse conditions are more of a determining factor.

When should I plant peppers?  It really depends on your climate!  For example, in South Florida, the Spring and Fall are our prime pepper-growing times, with Summer also being good for the chile peppers.  Here’s a general rule of thumb; start your seeds indoors at 6 to 8 weeks before your last expected frost for a main-season planting.  For more detailed information, check out the planting pepper seeds post.

How do I make chile powder?  Chile powder (or more specifically, ground dried hot pepper) is very easy if you have a dehydrator, but you can still dry them in an oven or in a warm dry place! First, pick your peppers and make sure they are clean and dry. Place them in your dehydrator in a single layer and dry them until they crack when you try to bend them.

No dehydrator? Place the peppers in a single layer in a warm oven, with the door slightly cracked (about 200 degrees). It will take a long time, though, depending on the size of the pepper!  Check every few hours and remove when dry.  After the peppers are dried (by any means), crush the peppers (seeds and all!) with a mortar and pestle.

One final note; if you are dehydrating a very hot variety of pepper (habaneros, scotch bonnet, etc.), you may want to wear gloves, eye protection and a face filter while you are crushing the dried peppers.  Yes, I’m being serious; these peppers are hot and if you’re at all sensitive, the fine pepper dust can wreak havoc with your eyes and lungs.

Oww! How can I cool down my mouth (and cool down the pepper)?  Check out the chile pepper post for some tips on cooling down that hot sensation!

20 Responses to Pepper Questions

  • will says:

    I have a green pepper plant that i’ve had over a year and it’s producing fruit how would i time this plant becuase it’s growing lots of leaves? thank you Will

  • Gail says:

    Hi Will,

    I’m not sure I understand your question, but that’s great you have such a long-lived (and long-producing) pepper plant! As long as it’s still producing new leaves, just keep on doing what you’ve been doing, because it obviously works! 🙂

  • Marc Fusco says:

    How do I know when the bell pepper is ready to be picked? Sometimes the red bells will not turn red, and die on the vine becaause I wait to long. The green and red sometimes get black spots on them, like a sore. I don’t know how to tell by feel if the pepper is ripe and ready to pick, so I wait for the color to change, and usually lose some.

  • Gail says:

    HI Marc,

    Peppers can be picked at any point, really; they are good green as well as ripe. Personally, I do pick a lot of mine green, if I think they’ve reached their full size. Then I either eat them green, or let them turn color (red, yellow, orange, etc.) on the kichen counter.

    You don’t need to wait for them to ripen on the vine — peppers are good at any time! 🙂

  • Jeff says:

    My peppers, both sweet and hot, have a marbled appearance. Is this due to some sort of pest or disease? The plants were producing great looking peppers until summer started.

    Thanks for the help.

  • Gail says:

    Hi Jeff,

    It’s kind of hard to tell from your description, but my first thought is sunscald (think “sunburn”). When the peppers themselves get too much direct sunlight, the fruit can get somewhat mottled brown spots, which then ends up disfiguring the peppers eventually.

    The sun at this time of year is so much more intense, the peppers are more vulnerable.

    If this sounds like it might be a possibility for you, try shading the pepper fruits themselves with something, to keep them out of the direct sunlight.

    Best wishes!

  • Richard Strang says:

    I am growing sweet banana peppers. All was going well for quite a long time, then suddenly the peppers are falling off the bush before they are ripe. The stem looks atrophied and inside the pepper turns black. Do you think this is a disease, or insect problem? Please advise.

  • Gail says:

    Hi Richard,

    It’s hard to tell, as you didn’t mention how the plants look. For example, do they look chewed, do they look wilted even when they get enough water? Are the leaves curling?

    If you live in the southeastern USA, my guess would be nematodes. If you live anywhere else, nematodes aren’t all that likely.

    Check the pages on pepper diseases and also the one on pepper insects — they might help to narrow down the issue (or at least rule out what it isn’t).

    Meanwhile, if there are any peppers on your plant that aren’t bright green (you want more of a yellow-green) then pluck them off the vine and let them ripen on the counter, like you would a tomato.

    Hope this helps!

  • Suzanne says:

    I am trying pepper plants for the first time this year and they are not very tall (maybe 12 inches) and starting to produce fruit. How do I get them to grow more before these fruits topple them over? HELP!!!!!!

  • Gail says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    You’re OK as far as size — I have plenty of plants 12 inches tall that have peppers — they don’t generally grow as tall as their relatives the tomato.

    As far as your plant falling over, your best bet is to stake it or put a cage around it, to keep it from toppling. Here’s a hint if you want to tie it to a stake — old pantyhose, cut in strips, make great ties — they don’t chafe the stems like rope or twine, and are flexible as the plant grows.

    If you really want your plants to grow more before producing, your best bet is to pinch off the flowers or baby peppers, then give it a moderate amount of fertilizer. I think you’re fine, though — just stake the plants.

    Best wishes for a bounty of peppers!

    Gail

  • Javier says:

    What can I do about flower droping My ghost peppers are tall and they look really good with lost of flowers but the flower keep droping and only get one or two peppers per plant I hope you can help Thanks.

  • Gail says:

    Hi Javier,

    If it’s really hot, peppers will sometimes drop blossoms — especially bell peppers. So if your daytime temps are 95 or above most days, you’ll have some issues. (Hot peppers like jalapenos seem to have fewer problems in this regard, though.)

    You might also be somewhat low in phosphorus in your soil; without enough of this nutrient, your blossoms may be shy to form and have a hard time setting fruit. Phosphorus is the middle number when looking at fertilizer strength — you want a higher ratio of phosphorus, compared to nitrogen or potassium.

    Hope this helps!

    Gail

  • joeguthrie says:

    how do you dry ghost peppers to save seeds for next planting season i tried but they mold

  • Gail says:

    Hi Joe,

    It sounds like either your climate is humid, or your seeds aren’t being spread out enough while drying.

    When you take the seeds out of the peppers, separate them and spread them out on a paper towel — don’t let the seeds touch each other. Leave them this way for a couple of days, then gather them up into a paper envelope. Store the envelope in a cool dry location.

    I live in a very humid climate, and this usually works for seed-saving for me. In a drier climate, you might be able to air-dry the peppers, then break out the seeds.

    Hope this helps!

    Gail

  • joeguthrie says:

    THANKS ALOT ILL TRY IT OUT

    JOE GUTHRIE
    CASTLE HAYNE, NC

  • charlotte says:

    Hi,
    I hope you can help. My pepper plant seems very healthy and has lots of fruit but they are all ripening when they are very small, about 2″ maximum. I am feeding it with a tomato food weekly, and watering daily. I live in England and it hasn’t been particularly warm this summer. The plant is indoors on a windowsill, so gets plenty of light, but I don’t know if the temperature would affect it in this way.
    Thanks in advance,
    Charlotte

  • Gail says:

    HI Charlotte,

    It could be a few things. First, the pepper variety could be a small one, and 2″ might be fairly normal. If that’s not the case, then my guess would be a combination of coolness and sunshine. The cooler it is, the more sun the plants need. I know that when I grow peppers down here in the late winter (nights around 55 F and days in the upper 60’s F, 10 to 11 hours a day sun), the peppers remain small. It’s when the days get longer and warmer that the peppers get larger before they ripen.

    (Remember — plants on a windowsill don’t get as much light, unless the window is open and there is no glass between the plant and the sun.)

    Hope this helps!

  • Shannon says:

    I have a hot pepper plant (i’m told it’s ghost pepper, but I’m not sure) they’re about 5-6″ long and very dimpled/wrinkly fruit texture. They do turn a very nice shade of orange/red when ripe, however we’re nearing the end of our growing season and one of the branches, bearing 20ish peppers, broke off, but they are all still green. Can I get them to ripen on the counter or use them green?

  • Gail says:

    Hi Shannon,

    Yes, they can ripen a bit on the counter, but you can also eat them green! They would be great in soups and chile, as well as lightly sauteed.

    They may not ripen all they way — depends on how green they really were. But there is a really good chance that they’ll ripen to at least a light orange.

    Enjoy!

  • Gail says:

    Hi Archie,

    It depends; if the plants got a lot of nitrogen, they are putting their energy into growing leaves and not as much the blossoms. You might want to give them some phosphorus, to help promote blooming.

    Another possibility — there isn’t enough pollination from bees or butterflies. You can try using an arist paintbrush to gently brush the pollen down the blossom, if the natural pollinators are scarce.

    Best wishes!

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