Growing Peppers in Containers

Growing peppers in containers is easy, and most (if not all) peppers will thrive.  In fact, some were selected for their ability to grow well in a pot!  Let’s look at some things to consider when growing your peppers in a container.

Choose the Proper Size Pot

It’s not so much a problem with the pot being too big, but rather don’t go choosing one too small.  Although many peppers don’t grow to more than 20″ tall, they still need enough room for their roots to spread out.

For the smaller peppers (under 12 ” tall), you’ll need a 2 gallon container.  For the larger pepper plants, a 5 gallon or even 10 gallon container will give the peppers plenty of room to grow.  Not sure what you need?  Try a 3-gallon container and a good soil mixture with plenty of nutrients.

Oh, and remember — your container needs to have drainage holes, so excess water has a way to escape.

What Kind of Soil to Use

I prefer to use bagged soil, seeing as the soil in my yard is fairly sandy.  I like a mixture of composted cow manure and organic potting soil.  The composted cow manure feeds the plants, and the organic potting soil lets the plant’s roots grow freely.  I generally use in a 50/50 ratio (just as much composted cow manure as potting soil).

I generally avoid any potting soil labeled as “african violet” or “houseplant” or any such designation.  I also like to avoid pre-fertilized potting soil.  If you can’t find any “regular” potting soil, try using sphagnum moss instead, at a ration of 40/60 (40% sphagnum and 60% composted cow manure).  Here’s some more information on the kind of soil peppers like.

If you have access to real compost (meaning, from your own compost pile), by all means use that!  Just make sure it’s fully “cooked” to destroy any lingering unfriendly bacteria or fungi.

Feeding and Watering

Your pepper plants will very likely need more frequent watering when being grown in a container, as well as more frequent fertilizing.

Watering should be done whenever you can stick your finger 1 inch into the soil and it’s dry (the tried and true method).  Soon enough, you’ll get to recognize whether that means watering every day, every other day, etc. for your particular growing conditions.

I like to use my fertilizer at no more than 1/2 strength, but I fertilize a little more often — usually once every other week.  When your pepper is first growing, it needs a fair amount of nitrogen, but once it starts producing flowers, it needs more phosphorus.  I prefer doing things as organically as possible, so I like worm castings, fish emulsion and seaweed extract.  (See the organic fertilizer and peppers post for more information.)

If I feel the plant needs a little boost of nitrogen or phosphorus (beyond the normal fertilizing), I’ll add in some blood meal (nitrogen) or bone meal (phosphorus).  Both can be found in most garden centers.

I am debating adding an organic tomato fertilizer to this mix — after all, tomatoes and peppers are related and have similar requirements.

Staking or Caging

Some peppers may need to be staked or caged due to their growing habits.  I usually find that bell peppers need to be staked, due to fruit weight.  Large rangey plants like jalapenos may need to be caged if they start overtaking your container gardening area.

Ultimately, it’s up to you, especially since there are now peppers like Mohawk that are more of a draping/hanging pepper, instead of upright.

Those Really Hot Chile Peppers

Please keep in mind that if you decide to grow the really, really hot chile peppers (like scotch bonnet, habaneros, etc.), please don’t do it around small children or pets.  Just touching the fruit of these plants can cause severe irritation and burning.

I also would recommend staking or at least caging such chile peppers, if they are in an area where people will potentially be walking near them.  All you need to do is brush by the peppers to get the oil on your clothes/body.

And remember, when staking or caging the extra-hot chile peppers, please use rubber gloves — preferably the disposable kind.  That’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way.  (And naturally, also use the rubber gloves when harvesting the peppers.)

Growing Peppers in Containers is Easy!

That’s pretty much all you need to know about growing peppers in containers.  This means that even if you don’t have a yard, you can have garden-fresh peppers.  Just make sure that the spot where you plan to put the pots gets at least 8 hours of sun a day, and is in a warm spot (peppers like heat).

If you plan to grow your peppers from seeds, you may want to check out the growing peppers from seeds post.  If your inclination is towards growing chile peppers, check out the growing chile peppers post.


61 Responses to Growing Peppers in Containers

  • Gail says:

    Hi Judy,

    My guess is an insect, possibly a worm of some sort. You may want to take a look at your plants early in the morning, and take a magnifying glass to see what you can find.

    Unfortunately, just being in a container isn’t a deterrent to having your peppers chewed on. 🙁


  • Gail says:

    Hi Elliot,

    Hmmm, you seem to have planted them with a good mix of ingredients, and a half whisky barrel is certainly big enough. Peppers indeed like heat, and although 100 degrees is really warm, it shouldn’t be too hot.

    If it was just wilting, I would say it’s a combo of heat, sun and not enough water; plenty of water is essential when you have the high temps and being planted in a container — I’ve had to water plants that are in the ground twice a day when I had a string of days like that. But the turning brown, curling up and falling off makes me suspect something else.

    If course, the first suspect is that the plants contracted a bacteria when they were at the store. The other option is that they contracted a bacteria from the Mel’s mix, although I rather doubt that. And finally, it could be something like aphids– get out the magnifying glass and take a look at the leaves still on the plant.

    If it’s aphids, you have a chance of saving them. If it’s bacteria, it will be harder. Meanwhile, make sure they have plenty of air circulation and keep them well-watered. If you don’t already have a mulch, mulch them down good — that will help to keep the soil moist.

    Best wishes!


  • Gail says:

    Hi Vince,

    That’s an interesting question. I don’t know that you’d have a whole lot of success, unless you mean a larger bonsai, but peppers sure do like to grow! You can keep them trimmed up, though, so that they don’t get too unruly.

    Sounds like you have a really interesting pepper! Best of luck!


  • Gail says:

    Hi Sarah,

    I suspect that the transplant might have temporarily set the plant to concentrating on getting used to the new soil and keeping the existing peppers growing. Give it a little more time and don’t forget to give the peppers plenty of phosphorus. Keep in mind that lots of nitrogen in the fertilizer (compared to phosphorus) will help the plants to grow lush, but won’t help produce more blossoms and peppers.



  • Gail says:

    Hi Bev,

    Part of it depends on the pepper you are growing, if the plant naturally has smaller fruit. If your plant is supposed to grow larger fruit (like a “Big Bertha” pepper), then you might need time and to pick off some of the peppers. When the plant is producing tons of peppers, there is only so much “plant energy” that each pepper can get. If the plant has fewer peppers, there is more “energy” per pepper.

    But first make sure that your peppers are just supposed to be naturally smaller.

    Good luck!


  • Richard Hall says:

    I have some black spots that have develooped on my peppers. Are the peppers still safe to eat. What causes the black?

  • Gail says:

    Hi Richard,

    Part depends on how extensive the black spots are. If they are small, it’s usually OK to just cut out the black spots before eating any of the rest of the fuit. But if the spots are larger or numerous on the peppers, I’d skip eating them — better safe than sorry.


  • Dave Stanfield says:

    my first comment is that if you post the questions that everyone is asking it might keep someone from asking it again. I have a garden and I also have about 5 pots with cherry tomato’s in them. I have peppers (jalapeno) growing in the garden. My leaves started falling off as well but could not find bugs. I put Seven’s on them and it seems to be doing much better. My real question is that I really want some Habanero,s this year. So I put a plant in a large pot. I have used Miricle grow and the plant looks great. My problem is that I am getting all kinds of blooms that grow into flowers but then they just fall off the plant. I read one of your other posts so I put some bone meal on the soil tonight do you think that could be my problem? Please help! Dave

  • Gail says:

    Hi Dave,

    I assume you are using Miracle Gro for Tomatoes, right? If not, try some of that.

    Meanwhile, you put bone meal on, which is good! It’s a source of phosphorus, which is what is needed for fruiting. It sounds like your plants need some extra.

    You can also try picking off some of the blossoms in the meanwhile, so as to let more energy go to the others.

    Best wishes with your plants, and may you end up with plenty of peppers!


  • Erich Reggel says:

    Gail, I am a first-time container gardener currently growing four different pepper types; Anaheim, Tabasco, Thai Hot and Cayenne. All four types have grown wonderfully although lately I have two main issues with my two Cayenne bushes. All my plants have been grown in a even mix of compost and Miracle-Gro potting mix. I have been using Bonnie liquid fertilizer concentrate (8-4-4) as per label instructions. I’ve used an insect dust for bugs up to the point of blooms on the plants.
    The first fruit I picked on the larger plant had a reddish-orange spot near the tip and was soft. I figured it to be rot of some kind so I cut it open and found that to be the case. Only one other fruit so far shows this symptom and there are many other fruit of similar length on the plant. A bug or mineral deficiency are my first and second guesses.
    On the other Cayenne plant there is a pepper easily six inches long with short brown/tan lines ringing the pepper its full length. None of the Cayenne peppers have turned red or even started to turn. I am unsure as to the meaning of these little lines. I think they might indicate maturity, but I just do not know. Any help concerning these issue would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • Gail says:

    Hi Erich,

    Sounds like you’re off to a really good start!

    Some of the hotter peppers will sometimes develop “corky” lines on them. While I haven’t had much of that on my cayennes, I have it almost every time on my jalapenos.

    With cayanne, I personally prefer to let them mature ont he vine — they will get red or yellow, depending on the variety. Then I pick them and dry them. However, lots of people also use them fresh.

    As I mentioned before, it sounds like your are doing well, but keep in mind that your fertilizer is higher in nitrogen than phosphorus, and it’s phosphorus that really promotes fruiting. So you might want to mix in a little bone meal into the soil.

    Best wishes!