Jalapenos in the Garden

Jalapenos have to be the most-recognized chile pepper around.  You probably see them at the grocery store, and you’ve likely downed your share of them.  But what about growing them in the garden?

The Humble Jalapeno

Jalapeno Pepper PhotoYou may not know this, but there are a multitude of jalapeno varieties.  They all have the same basic pepper shape, but would you believe they come in different colors?  Not to mention different sizes and Scoville units (“heat” to the uninitiated).

Now most of the time the jalapenos you see and/or grow are the green peppers we all know and love.  But they come in yellow and purple, too!  And all varieties ripen to red (which can be fire-engine or quite deep burgundy).

How Hot — Or Not?

Yes it’s true, these versatile chile peppers come in several degrees of heat.  There is the “regular” jalapeno, which is around 4,700 Scoville Units.

There’s also a “lite” variety called Tam Jalapeno that has less heat — somewhere in the vicinity of 2,000 SUs.

And for those who love these peppers but for whatever reason can’t take the heat — there is at least one variety that’s barely at 500 SUs.

To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t a super-hot jalapeno, but if you live in a warm climate, your peppers will get hotter as your weather warms up.  In addition, if you let the peppers ripen to red, they are hotter yet!

Jalapenos — Does Size Matter?

You can look at this two ways — size of the pepper itself, or size of the plant.

There’s a variety called Mucho Nacho whose peppers are roughly twice the size of the standard jalapeno — great for anyone who can’t get enough of a good thing!

As far as the plants go — well, be prepared for the possibility of a large plant.  Like 4 feet tall and just about as wide (yes, I’ve had them like that).  That’s when they are planted in rich, well-drained soil and have plenty of warmth and at least 8 hours a day of direct sunlight.

If your soil, warmth or sunshine isn’t up to snuff, the plants will very likely be smaller; how much smaller depends on the conditions.   But 2 feet tall is a good guesstimate.

Jalapeno Plant, Growing in a ContainerYou can also grow these chile peppers in containers (which is what I am personally doing now).  A 5-gallon pot will give you plenty of peppers to pick.

Just make sure to keep it well-watered and fertilize it more often than you would if it were in the ground.  (I like to fertilize weekly, with 1/3 to 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer — fish emulsion is my favorite.)

The plant in the picture is roughly 18 inches tall at the moment, and it’s come through some chilly weather the last month or so.  But now that the weather is warming up, I expect it to  grow at least another 12 inches by the time everything is said and done.  For more information, check out my post on growing chile peppers in containers.

No peppers are ready for picking, but I’ve got plenty of blooms to tantalize me, knowing that most (if not all) will become a hot jalapeno.

While I don’t know for certain, I’m pretty sure this is the variety called Jalapeno M.  It’s a nice open-pollinated variety that does well in most climates.  If you need some tips, check out the growing chile peppers post.

Jalapeno peppers in the garden are easy to grow and quite forgiving.  Give your plant(s) some care and you may end up with more peppers than you know what to do with!

6 Responses to Jalapenos in the Garden

  • jODI says:

    Hi – I’m growing peppers (jalapenos, cayenne and a habanero) in a pot on my deck for the first time. I was told by a friend that planting the habanero with the others will increase their heat, simply by being in the same pot. Is that true? Do I need to segregate the habanero?


  • Gail says:

    Hi Jodi,

    That’s not totally accurate that the peppers growing together in the same pot will increase the heat. However, by growing in the same pot they will cross-fertilize and any peppers grown from the seeds will likely be hotter.

    The only other way the peppers could seem hotter would be if the oils on the peppers rub onto each other. However, that’s only on the surface — it can be washed or wiped off.

    So if you want to save some seeds for replanting, then yes, you will need to segregate the plants. But if you just want to enjoy the peppers they produce this season, they can stay in the some container.

    Best wishes!


  • Tina says:

    Hi I’m growing green peppers and jalapenos in the same pot. The green peppers bloomed first and I got one pepper. As soon as the jalapeño started growing, my green pepper stopped growing. Do they need to be separated? Why does this happen?

  • Gail says:

    It depends on how big the pot is, but in general, I’d say no — do not separate them once they’ve started blossoming. If the pot isn’t at least 5 gallons, you’ll need to give them a weak solution of fertilizer every other watering. Also make sure the phosphorus content is high enough — the middle number should be almost the same as or higher than the other two.

    I personally am a little hit-or-miss with the regular bell peppers — sometimes they produce a ton of peppers, sometimes only one or two. However, the smaller strains of the bells seem to produce really well for me.

    Also — while jalapenos seem to grow however large they want to grow (I’ve had some plants go more than 4 feet), bells tend to not be as vigorous — they seem to grow out more than up. Well, for me at least. 🙂

  • Kathy says:

    My husband has been growing a jalapeno plant for the past two years, this year it has produced peppers that are so hot, even touching them can be dangerous. I know the weather affects the hotness, and we live in N.Florida. He is thinking on destroying the plant, we use the peppers to make replellant as well as using the not so hot ones in dishes, but these new ones and plenty of them we can not even use a tiny bit in a dish without making it unable to digest. Wondering if while the weather cools, if the peppers will be able to be consumed… and what do I do with the 20 or so that he brings in a couple times a week!

  • Gail says:

    Hi Kathy,

    Yikes! I had a habanero like that one time, so I know what you mean.

    As to the peppers that you currently have, you can try drying them and then grinding (although you might want to do the grinding outside, because of the pepper dust). Then use the “dust” in chile or other dishes — just a tiny amount will get a whole put hot. That’s what I did with my habaneros. Gave away a lot of the dust, as others loved it as well.

    When the weather cools off some, it’s likely that the peppers will lessen the heat a bit, but based on what you are saying, I don’t know if it will be enough for you.

    I assume you are eating them green? If not, then try them green. (I figure you probably are already, but thought I would throw that out there.)

    I would say enjoy them, but they sound fire-y. So I will just say best wishes and hope they cool down somewhat.