how to grow peppers

Redskin Pepper in the Garden

I decided to try the Redskin pepper, even knowing my track record with bell peppers hasn’t exactly been stellar.  But I have to admit to being impressed with Redskin.  Finally, a bell pepper that actually produces for me in South Florida!

Planting Redskin Pepper

Redskin PepperI had to plant this versatile pepper from seed, as there were none in the local garden shops.   The plant started out a little spindly at first, but started growing nicely once in the garden.

Given my luck with bell peppers, I planted 4 Redskins, hoping at least 1 would produce some peppers.  Whoa!  They all are producing nice little bells.

Now Redskin doesn’t grow as large as traditional bell peppers, but it’s a great “personal size” snack.  My peppers are around 4″ long and maybe 2.5″ wide.  The taste is quite pleasing, even when green.  And speaking of color, this pepper is red when fully ripe.

Low-Growing Pepper

This pepper is a low growing pepper — wider than it is tall.  This makes it fantastic for growing in containers!  In fact, I have 3 of my Redskins in containers and only one in the ground (and yes, they do grow a bit taller in the ground).

For someone who traditionally cannot grow bell peppers, this one is thriving and gets an “A” in my book!  Looks to me like I will have plenty this year.  So if you’ve been having problems growing bell peppers, this is one variety I recommend you trying.

Growing Thai Hot Peppers

Growing Thai Hot Peppers means you’re growing a delight.  The low-growing plant blossoms profusely and produces a bounty of bright red peppers, pointing upwards.

A Little About the Peppers

Thai Hot PepperThai Hot is equally at home in a container or in the ground.  A three-gallon container will suit this pretty little pepper just fine.  You might even be able to get away with a 1-gallon container, if you keep it well-watered and fertilized.

I have the plant in the photo (and by the way, you can click on the photo to see a larger picture) growing in the ground, and it’s about 8-inches tall.  It’s also spread about 7 inches in diameter.

Now in the photo you only see 3 red peppers, but see all those blossoms and blossom buds?  In a couple of weeks, the plant will be covered with peppers.

Can You Eat the Peppers?

Sure you can, but be warned –they aren’t called “Thai Hot” for nothing!  One chopped pepper (with seeds) can easily season a large bowl of chili.

Speaking of the peppers, they are only about 3/4″ tall.  They aren’t large, but they are potent.

But the charm of these peppers is ornamental.  They make a great garden border, looking like bright red flowers.  And of course, you could each day pick a few of the peppers in the border and you’d never see a difference.

Growing Thai Hot Peppers

My pepper plant survived some very chilly weather early this season, with temperatures down in the 30’s.  It was a little sad-looking until the cold weather passed, but then came back admirably.

As with all chile peppers, they like warm weather and plenty of sunshine.  I mentioned that you can grow these in containers easily, and Thai Hot could certainly be grown indoors under lights.

An an FYI, there is a larger variety, called Giant Thai Hot.  I haven’t tried it yet, but the peppers get to about 2″ long, instead of the normal 1/2 to 3/4 inches.  There’s also a version that has orange peppers instead of red.

Germinating Pepper Seeds

Germinating pepper seeds can be a wee bit frustrating at first, mainly because it takes so long for the seeds to germinate. But once you have done it a few times, it’s pretty easy.

Why should you try germinating pepper seeds, instead of just buying plants at your local garden center? One reason is because the selection at your garden center is very likely limited. At best you’ll find 10 pepper varieties, more often less than that.

Usually the gorgeous ornamental-appearing peppers don’t show up in the garden center; these have to be grown from seeds. Two wonderful varieties that come immediately to my mind are Explosive Ember and Sweet Pickle.

Pepper Germination Rates

First of all, don’t expect a 100%  seed germination rate from your pepper seeds.  While you just might get 100%, in my experience in growing many, many varieties, 75% is more the norm.  So I plant 25% more seeds than I need, and if they all germinate and thrive, I can sell or give away the extras.

Germination rates vary according to how long ago the seeds were harvested, as well as how the seeds have been stored.  Generally, you want to use pepper seeds within 2 years, but they can germinate long after that time, too.

For example, I have some 10-year-old seeds that I planted a week ago, and I fully expect that some will germinate.  I just planted a lot extra, because I knew the germination rate was going to be low.  However, some of these seeds are rare varieties, so they are worth trying.

I tend to buy my pepper seeds online, but I’ve been known to pick up a pack at the garden shop from time to time.  Either way, you don’t know for sure how old those seeds are.  Always plant extra.

Germinating Pepper Seeds – Warmth and Humidity

When germinating your pepper seeds, the two most important things are heat and humidity.  Peppers like plenty of warmth, and germinate best at soil temperatures of 80 to 85 degrees.

While those seeds are sitting in the warm soil, they need to be kept damp, but not wet.  They need the moisture to soften the seed coats, so the plants can be born (so to speak).  I like to use a windowsill greenhouse when germinating pepper seeds; the top of the greenhouse keeps in the humidity.  And a bonus is that these little mini-greenhouses are inexpensive, so you can have lots for many windowsills.

However, if you live in a cooler climate, you may want to use a heat mat under your peppers to be germinated.   Please don’t use a household heating pad; that could be dangerous.  Instead, get one that’s waterproof and made for keeping seeds and seedlings warm.

If you are planting pepper seeds directly outside, wait until the soil temperature has reached at least 65 degrees and that they get full sun, to heat the soil even more. Remember to keep the soil damp, but not wet.

That’s it for now!  If you want to read more about seed starting for peppers, read my posts on seed starting part 1 and seed starting part 2.  Enjoy!