Peppers in Florida

Growing Peppers in Florida

Growing peppers in Florida seems like it should be a piece of cake, especially in the summertime — hot temperatures, plenty of rain, sunshine.  But what are some special concerns if you decide to grow peppers in Florida?

Summer is the Best (and Worst) Time

Summer is best in Florida because of the heat — peppers adore hot weather!  Conversely, it can be the worst time, due to rain (like what we had in 2008 – whoa!), humidity and super-bright sunshine.  Each can cause problems, but there are solutions!

Solution number one is to primarily grow your chile (hot) and ornamental peppers in the summer.  They love the heat, and especially the habaneros, scotch bonnets and bhut jolokia peppers.  Their original home is the tropics, which fits right in with Florida in Summer!

Bell peppers are better grown in the cooler, “shoulder” seasons.  I’ve had very little luck growing nice, big bell peppers in Summer.

The sweet peppers can be grown in the hot Florida summer, as long as you provide them shade during the hottest part of the day.  In fact, I like to grow all but my hottest peppers in dappled shade, during July and August.  Sun scald can be a problem!

Humidity can also be an issue , unless you leave plenty of room between your pepper plants for air circulation.  If the air can’t circulate, sweet and bell peppers in particular can get mold and fungus on the leaves.

What About the Other Seasons?

Here in South Florida where I live, I can pretty much grow peppers year-round, with one caveat; that I be able to protect them when the night-time temperatures go below 50.  Peppers, especially the really hot ones, are sensitive to the chilly weather.  They don’t like cold feet, especially cold wet feet.

Actually, in most of Florida you can plant your peppers outside in Spring, once the night temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees.  The soil should be really warm, though, if the evenings are still cool, so make sure where you plan to plant gets at least 8 hours of direct sun a day.  And if your peppers decide to be long-lived into the late summer, make sure you can give your sweet peppers at least some shade at mid-day or sun scald can be a problem.

In any case, it’s best that you germinate your pepper seeds inside; check out the germinating pepper seeds post for instructions.  And I’ve come to realize that especially with hot chile pepper seeds, I have to add warmth to the soil, when I germinate my seeds in the winter – even here in South Florida!  That’s where grow mats with heat some in handy.

(Before trying the grow mats in Winter, my chile pepper seed germination rate wasn’t all that great, even though my windowsill greenhouse is on a south-facing window.  Live and learn.)