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.

Enjoy!

61 Responses to Growing Peppers in Containers

  • sarah thibault says:

    My plants are getting tall but not bushy. Should I pinch their heads? I have never grown peppers before. These are banana peppers. Thanks.

  • Gail says:

    Hi Sarah,

    The first thing you will want to check is that the plants are getting enough direct sunshine — at least 6 hours a day. Lanky growth can happen if the plants aren’t getting enough sunshine.

    If you’re growing your banana peppers in a container, be sure to fertilize them regularly, but only at about 1/2 strength — maybe once every couple of weeks.

    I find that the peppers I grow in the ground tend to be bushier than the ones I grow in containers, although that isn’t always the case (just a tendency).

    I wouldn’t pinch the plants back, though. You may find that the plants will start re-developing leaves lower on down the plant all by themselves a little later in the season.

  • Gramm says:

    Hi

    What’s to hot for pepper plants. We live in 110-115 summer weather and we noticed the plants are starting to burn. Any suggestions?

  • Gail says:

    Hi Gramm,

    I’m betting that with temperatures that hot, the peppers are also getting a lot of direct sunlight as well. Yes, sunscald can be a problem in that situation.

    If the peppers are in a container and can be moved to somewhere where they are shaded around noon, or if they can just get dappled shade all day, that should work during the hottest parts of the year. If they cannot be moved, then shade of some sort is in order; perhaps rig up some shade cloth above the plants.

    Best wishes!

  • Katherine says:

    I’m growing banana peppers and picked my first one last week, but I don’t think it was ripe yet. How do I know when they are? Also, when I get them in a restaurant, they’re juicy…or in a jar-what’s the juice – vinegar? Thanks

  • Gail says:

    Hi Katherine,

    Peppers are great in that they don’t have to be ripe to be eaten (unlike most fruits). However, the way to tell when they are fully ripe is when they change color. Typically for banana peppers, that means a scarlet-red color.

    Personally, I eat them at all stages — from really green to red-ripe.

    As far as in the restaruants, yes, it’s mostly vinegar. Next time you are in the grocery store, pick up a jar of banana peppers and read the label. But don’t try to preserve a batch of them without using standard sterliization techniques.

    Best wishes for your banana peppers!

  • D. says:

    We are trying to grow red, yellow and orange peppers. When is the best time to take them off the plant? Are they like tomatoes and you can take them and they will continue to ripen? The few that have changed colors had spots that were soft and when I cut into
    them there was mold. Any advice would be appreciated!
    Thanks

  • Gail says:

    Hi!

    I’ve had a lot of questions on picking peppers lately, so I went and created a whole new post for it: http://www.homegrown-peppers.com/growing-peppers/when-to-pick-peppers/

    The long and the short of it, though, is that you can pick your peppers at any time, and yes, they can ripen on the kitchen counter, just like tomatoes.

    (I talk about mold in the above post, and how to avoid it — because I’ve had it happen to me plenty of times.)

    Enjoy your bounty of peppers!

  • Tara says:

    Hi Gail,
    I am growing sweet red peppers, but I don’t have any flowers yet. My plants were started in March and some have grown much more than others, but not a flower on one.In early July I fed them organic fertilizers and saw a growth spurt. Are these plants late bloomers? Thanks!

  • Gail says:

    Hi Tara,

    It does depend somewhat on the variety of pepper — some produce flowers and fruit faster than others. But let’s assume that your peppers are of an average flowering/fruiting time.

    First, you need to double-check your fertilizer. Peppers need plenty of phosphorus in order to flower and fruit, and if you’re using standard organic mixes, you’re providing more nitrogen — which makes nice big plants, but not for blossoms.

    Kelp meal is a great natural source of phosphorus. If you can find organic asparagus fertilizer, buy some, as it’s usually pretty high in phosphorus.

    My guess is that your plants are getting more nitrogen than anything else. And although I use organic fertilizers most of the time, every so often I’ll give my peppers a weak solution of Miracle-Gro for Tomatoes, which is also high in phosphorus.

    Hope this helps!

  • Tara says:

    Hi Gail,
    Thanks! I will try this on my sweet red bell peppers. Do you think it is too late for flowering and fruit? We live 50 miles north of NYC.

  • Gail says:

    It’s probably a little late for fruit. Make sure your plants gets as much sun and warmth as possible, and you never can tell!

  • Mary-Lynn says:

    We grew two varieties of hot peppers this year in containers on our terrace in NYC. We bought the young plants from the pepper lady in Union Square. The plants grew beautifully and produced lots of beautiful looking peppers. However they had very little flavor and no heat at all. What went wrong?

  • Gail says:

    Hi Mary-Lynn,

    It’s kind of hard to tell, unless you know the variety of pepper that was grown, as there are some hot peppers that have very little heat. Or, the plants could have been mis-labeled (e.g. hot banana when they were actually the regular banana).

    Finally, the further north the chili/hot peppers are grown, the less heat they have in general.

    I am assuming that you let them get totally ripe before you ate them? Some peppers have very little heat until they are red (or whatever color) ripe.

    Hope this helps!

    Gail

  • CHarles says:

    Hi Gail,

    We live in a tropical climate and are growing 6 varieties of peppers that should all thrive as there are local species to the area. We’ve had no problems in seeding and we have many plants going that are all 6-10 in high that are producing countless flowers. The trouble is that as soon as the flower blooms and falls off the stem dies and falls with it, leaving no fruit. Its been quite frustrating for us. Any help is surely appreciated!

    Regards,

    Charles

  • Gail says:

    Hi Charles,

    It’s fristrating, isn’t it — all those blooms and no peppers. You’re in a tropical climate, and the peppers you’re growing are local, so that they grow easily. That makes me think that the problem is either sun or soil.

    In a topical climate, even peppers that are native can be effected by the sun, so you’ll want to rule that out — either too much sun or too much shade. If the amount of sunshine is OK for your area, then you’ll want to check your phosporus levels in the soil. Phosphorus is important for forming fruits, so try a fertilizer that has the phosphorus number (the middle of the three numbers listed on fertilizer) as the highest number. Go easy on the fertilizer, especially at first — no more than half strength. It’s much better to fertilize lightly, but more often, so you don’t shock the plants.

    You might also want to try a foliar fertilizer, like fish emulsion or kelp.

    Best wishes, and hope this helps you!

  • Frank says:

    I’m growing bell peppers in pots, the peppers have formed but are small and soft almost spongy with dull color. What is causing this?

  • Gail says:

    Hi Frank,

    I’ve had this happen with a few plants. While I can’t say 100% for sure, in my instances it was swinging back and forth between being too dry and too wet (overall more wet than dry, though).

    Another thought would be not getting enough phosphorus, which helps to produce the fruit.

    Have you checked the plant with a magnifying glass (or reading glasses) to make sure it doesn’t have an insect infestation? If you haven’t checked, do so.

    And then there is the possibility that you have a sickly plant overall (it happens sometimes).

    So my suggestion would be to make sure it has enough phosphorus, gets a moderate amount of water, good air circulation and plenty of sunshine.

    Hope this helps!

  • Frank says:

    Thanks Gail,

    I got some phosphorus and mix it in as directed on the instruction, the plants have responded, better color and seem to have perked up a bit. the fruit is still dull but we’ll see how things progress in a few days.

    Thanks!

  • hOLLYE says:

    My peppers (banana) are weirdly shaped and have a brown stripe from base to tip of the fruit..Any idea what could be causing this?

  • Gail says:

    Hi Hollye,

    Banana peppers can sometimes end up corkscrew shaped (among other interesting looks). Sometimes it’s because of the way the pepper started to grow, other times it might be a stress reaction. Stress might be heat, uneven watering, not enough nutrients, etc. Usually the peppers are fine to eat.

    The brown stripe — is it kind of corky in appearance? If so, it’s something that does happen from time to time on peppers, especially it they have been rather dry and then receive a lot of water (like a couple days of heavy rain). Basically it’s the skin of the pepper stretching. (And as an aside, jalapeno peppers often have a corky lines, which is perfectly natural for them.)

    If the stripe is smooth and appears to be in the flesh, it might be mold or bacteria inside the peppers; it’s hard to tell until you cut it open. In any case, while the rest of the pepper is probably fine to eat, don’t eat the brown stripe (to be on the safe side).

    Hope this helps some!

    Gail

  • Ashley says:

    Like some of the people who wrote, I too am new at peppers growing. I have two Jalapeno pepper plants in a large pot. It has been doing well and so far I have 13 Jalapenos growing between the two. I am now having an issue and have no clue what it meansor what to do. The leaves of my Jalapeno plants have brown forming at the tips of all the leaves. What does this mean? I live in a hot climae (9A) and water daily and use the Miracle Grow liquid you mix with the water, once a week. So why are all the leaves to my Jalapeno plants forming brown on the tips? Please help!

  • Gail says:

    Hi Ashley,

    Since you live in zone 9A, my first question to you is are the plants in direct sun all day long? I don’t know about where you live, but I am in zone 9b ant it has been extremely hot so far this year! If your plants are in direct sun for more than 6 hours a day in your climate, then they might be getting sunburn.

    If it’s just the tips of the leaves, and the plants are otherwise growing well, I wouldn’t worry too much. And if it’s just the old leaves that have the brown tips appearing, I definitely wouldn’t worry — I have that happen all the time. If the new leaves that are forming on the plant look normal, you are fine.

    Best wishes, and enjoy your jalapenos! 🙂

    Gail

  • mike says:

    Hi Gail
    Years ago I had a three-acre truck farm in East Texas planted principally in watermelons (very sandy soil) but I stuck about 30 row feet of peppers in there, too. I included jalapenos, banana peppers, sweet bell peppers, etc. There were about 45 plants. All of them came out tasting as hot as jalapenos. Was that a one-off event, or do peppers consistently crossbreed such characteristics? Like your site.

  • Gail says:

    HI Mike,

    It’s a bit unusual for all the plants to come out hot/spicy, but here are some thoughts. If you planted the hot peppers near to the other plants, oils from skins of the jalapenos could have gotten onto the others, making them seem spicy. For the banana peppers, there are spicy varieties, and there have been times where I have gotten either mixed seeds or someone switched labels on a plant from a garden center.

    The bells are something a bit different, in that there are no real hot true bell peppers, and very few hot peppers that look anything like bells, so for those I am guessing it’s just oils from the jalapenos.

    However, if you are growing your own plants from seeds that you have gathered from your own plants, it’s entirely possible that you have some crosses between the plants, especially if you grow different varieties within 15 feet of each other. Because yes, peppers can easily crossbreed.

    Best wishes with your truck farm (and peppers, of course).

    Gail

  • Mary Claire says:

    I love growing the NM chile varieties. This season my NM Big Jim has lots of good sized fruit, but the peppers are dull, not the typical waxy gloss. Any thoughts?

  • Gail says:

    Hi Mary Claire,

    Thanks for stopping by! I don’t grow a lot of the NM varieties, mainly because I like my hot peppers in the super-hot range. But I have grown NM Big Jim. Mine didn’t turn out very glossy either, but that wasn’t a big deal to me seeing as many of my hot peppers act that way. So I’d say that if your plants are healthy and your peppers look nice otherwise — enjoy! 🙂

    Gail

  • Debbie says:

    My jalapeno plant that I planted back in the spring is in a pot, on the back patio, with partial sun. I moved it a month ago due to high heat/drought (Houston, TX). Question: 1. At the joints of all the branches there is black? 2. The peppers seem to be much smaller than they had been? Other than that the plant seems to be healthy.

  • Gail says:

    Hi Debbie,

    It’s not unusual for peppers to get smaller in size as the season continues. This can partially be fixed by pinching off most of the new flowers that form, letting the plant direct more energy to grow the peppers it has.

    As to the black at the joints, do you water from above? I sometimes see that when watering from above later on in the season. As long as the branches themselves seem to be doing well, it’s not really a problem. If the branches start wilting and dying off, then it’s probably a mold. You could nurse the plant back to health, but as late in the season as it is, I personally wouldn’t bother.

    Best wishes with your jalapeno! 🙂

    Gail

  • Paul R. says:

    I just bought a habenero plant that is 2-3ft. in a 3 gal pot. It has no blooms on it but it is a good sized plant. Is there something i need to do or is it a matter of waiting? Thanks…

  • Gail says:

    Hi Paul,

    That’s a big plant for a 3-gallon container, so you’ll need to give it a little more frequent fertilizer — diluted, but more often. Meanwhile, you don’t say what part of the country you live in (I am assuming USA), but lots of plants are going a bit dormant this time of year. So, it may be a matter of waiting. I would say that once you see the new growth starting in earnest, make sure to use a fertilizer with a high percentage of phosporus (compared to nitrogen) to encourage blossoms.

    Best wishes for lots of hotter-than-hot hobaneros! 🙂

    Gail

  • MIke Curry says:

    I did not see any info on your site that says when to transplant the seedlings from the germination cups to the pots they will live in. What size should they be for this?
    Thanks,
    Mike

  • Gail says:

    Hi Mike,

    I usually will go from a germination cup to an interim pot or cup. I will use a large disposable drinking cup (16 or 20 ounces) or a 1-gallon pot. I will usually make this change when the seedling is about 1.5 inches tall.

    After living in the interim pot for 3 to 4 weeks, I then transplant them into the pot in which they will finally live.

    Hope this helps! 🙂

    Gail

  • Daniel Kitko says:

    I am growing some Butch T Moruga Scorpions and Bhut Jolokia peppers in containers. They are in small 1 gallon pots now and are about 9 inches tall. Should I transplant them to five gallon buckets? Do the plants need a polinator? Soil mix? Thanks…I’m new to this container growing and any help is greatly appreciated.

  • Gail says:

    Hi Daniel,

    Congratulations on growing your peppers! Yes, You can transplant them into 5 gallon puts now. I like to use a combination of potting poil and organic compost for the 5 gallon containers — 70% compost, 30% potting poil.

    The plants should not need a pollinator. If you want to keep the strains separate (like if you plan to keep and plant the seeds), then you might want to bag a few of the blossoms. This will help to prevent bees or butterflies from cross-pollinating.

    Just remember that peppers will need to be fertilized regularly — I like a weak solution every other week. If the weather is really hot and so are getting watered a lot, give them a weak fertilizer solution weekly.

    Enjoy your peppers, and best wishes!

    Gail

  • Maria says:

    need help I got my jalapenos from aerogrow and now they are big and starting to get buds on them.They are diffrent kinds of peppers(red fire, mini jalapenos,purple super hot) can I grow these all together or in diffrent pots? Also I live in NV and it is still cold outside can I keep them indoors? So glad I found this site I hope you can help thanks Maria

  • Gail says:

    Hi Maria,

    You can grow them together — I am familiar with Aerogrow, and their pepper plantings. However, don’t expect to save seeds and have them grow the same — they will almost certainly have some crossing (which could of course be quite interesting).

    If you think they are getting too crowded with the Aerogrow and want to put some (or all) outside, you can certainly do so — I’d suggest separate containers unless you have a really big one (like around 15 gallons or bigger). But if it’s cold where you are still, please do keep them inside until it warms up. Or at least until the nights are consistently above 57 degrees. Peppers, especially hot peppers, like warmth.

    Hope this helps, and happy jalapenos! 🙂

    Gail

  • Richard says:

    My jalapeno plant has bloomed flowers but after they fall of so does the little pepper that is growing. K don’t know why this is happening.

  • Gail says:

    Hi Richard,

    My guess is that you don’t have enough phosphorus in your soil, as phosphorus promotes blooms and fruits. While I prefer organic fertilizers, if there is a plant that needs extra phosphorus, I will give it a diluted (about half-strength) dose of Miracle-Gro for Tomatoes.

    If your weather has been cold, that can also be an issue with blossoms/peppers — they could fall off if they are not warm enough.

    Best wishes!

    Gail

  • ian says:

    I am growing Thai chilies and they grow tothe point where the begin to flower but and even turn up but then the flower will fall off what causes that

  • Gail says:

    Hi Ian,

    Several things could be causing that. One is not enough phosphorus in the soil. Another may be that the flowers aren’t getting pollinated (if it’s in a spot where it doesn’t get much wind or insects). Also make sure that the plant has enough sunlight — 6 hours a day minimum.

    Hope this helps!

    Gail

  • Mindy says:

    Hi. My green peppers are in pots. I water them almost every day and they are in sunlight for bout 8-10 hours a day. I am getting growth and new leaves. No am also getting blooms. Howeve, once they are pollinated and the flower petals die off, the tiny stem with my tiny pepper falls off. I also have a bug issue as I have some large holes in my leaves. Any thoughts? I read your previous posts and thought maybe phosphorous might help.
    Thanks!

  • Gail says:

    Hi Mindy,

    If you aren’t already, you will need to feed the plants a weak fertilizer solution every week, as the daily watering can wash out nutrients fast.

    Yes, phosphorus will help — it is necessary for blossoming and fruiting.

    You’ll need to figure out what kind of insects are eating on your plants — when the plant loses its leaves to bugs, the plant gets stressed. You may need to go out early morning or at dusk to find the insects (and you may or may not need a magnifying glass).

    Best wishes! 🙂

    Gail

  • pierre says:

    hey i am wondering i am an aspiring chef and love to cook with super hot peppers (trinidad butch t,ghost chili, etc. and i started them in my garden in the ground its been a while about 3 weeks can i save them by putting them in pots? and i live in kentucky.

  • Tina says:

    I am growing red and green bell peppers in a rectangular containers. My plants seem to be growing leaves but that’s it, is it possible that my container is not big enough? Can I transplant into a bigger pot without affecting the plant?

  • Billy says:

    I have a couple green peppers in a large rectangular pot. They’ve grown substantially since I bought them and are now blossoming white flowers. The problem is: once the balls form white flowers, the white flowers dont pollinate or whatever and turn brown and fall off a few days later. My dad has used a technique with a small artists brush and will lightly brush the little green feelers (for lack of a better word) inside the white flower, and he seems to produce amazing peppers! So after the first couple didnt produce, i tried that and still coming up pepper-less. I will say, i do not get a full 6-8 hrs of sunlight….probably more like 4-5. Is it the sunlight? Is it the phosphorus? I use an organic 2-7-4 fertilizer for veggies, with phosphorus being the highest percentage. Seeing lots of flowers but no peppers! Frustrating! Any thoughts?

  • Gail says:

    I’m not sure of your question, because I don’t know what you’re saving them from. Or do you mean can you put them into pots so that you can still keep them growing when the colder weather starts? In any case, it will be tough unless you have a greenhouse, because the hotter the pepper, the more it likes hot weather and sunshine. You can certainly try, though!

  • Gail says:

    If your pots are 5 gallong containers or more, they are OK for size. If they are three gallon containers, I would suggest moving them to a larger one. However, if they are more than 6 inches tall, you might be best off just making sure that the plants get plenty of water and a weak solution of liquid fertilizer every other watering. In any case, you may not be having enough phosphorus in your fertilizer, so check your fertilizer. If the middle number isn’t close to or more than the first, then you don’t have enough.

  • Gail says:

    If you live north of north Florida in the eastern and central US, or north of northern Arizona in the west, you may not be getting enough sunlight. Peppers like warmth and sun, so while they may grow, they may not flourish.

    Your dad indeed has a nice way to pollinate, especially if he grows them in an area without many butterflies or bees. It’s also useful if he wants to breed a specific kind of pepper (control the “cross”). However, keep in mind that the pollen is best after the flowers are just open, and not after they have been open a day or so.

    You do seem to have enough phosphorus, so see if you can get your peppers more sunlight.

  • What could be eating the ends off my red cayenne peppers……at various areas ….not just at bottom or top…looks as if it’s been ‘chewed’ off…. My plants are in a container….not on ground. Thank you!