How To Plant bell peppers

General Introduction

Sweet bell peppers are a tender, warm-season crop. Here’s how to grow them in your garden! 

Peppers resist most garden pests and offer something for everyone: spicy, sweet, or hot; and a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. For this page, we will focus on growing sweet bell peppers.

Unlike their spicy brethren, bell peppers do not contain capsaicin, the compound that gives hot peppers their pungency and heat.

Planting

  • Start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before your last spring frost date.
  • Bell peppers require a fairly long growing season (60 to 90 days), so it’s best to get them started indoors.
  • Pepper plants require full sun to produce the largest and healthiest fruit, so pick a site that won’t get shaded out by trees or other garden plants.
  • Soil should be well-draining and rich in organic matter. 
  • A soil consistency somewhere between sandy and loamy will ensure that the soil drains well and warms quickly. 
  • Soil pH should be on the acidic side—5.5 to 6.5, ideally.
  • A week before transplanting peppers into the garden, introduce fertilizer or aged compost into your garden soil.
  • Avoid planting peppers in places where you’ve recently grown other members of the nightshade family—such as tomatoes, potatoes, or eggplants—as this can expose peppers to disease.
  • We recommend starting seeds indoors rather than in the garden.
  • The soil temperature must be at least 70°F for seed germination, so keep them in a warm area for the best and fastest results. Use a heat pad under the seed tray, if necessary.
  • Plant seeds about ¼-inch deep.
  • Begin to harden off plants about 10 days before transplanting outdoors.
  • Once nighttime temperatures reach at least 60°F (16°C), transplant seedlings outdoors, spacing them 18 to 24 inches apart.
  • Plant the transplants no deeper than they were already; otherwise, the stems may become susceptible to rot.
  • Soil temperature should be at least 65°F, as peppers will not survive transplanting at temps any colder. Northern gardeners can warm up the soil by covering it with black plastic.

Care

  • Soil should be well drained, but be sure to maintain adequate moisture either with mulch or plastic covering.
  • Water one to two inches per week, but remember that peppers are extremely heat sensitive. If you live in a warm or desert climate, watering everyday may be necessary.
  • Fertilize after the first fruit set.
  • Weed carefully around plants to avoid disturbing roots.
  • If necessary, support plants with cages or stakes to prevent bending. Try commercially available cone-shaped wire tomato cages. They may not be ideal for tomatoes, but they are just the thing for peppers. Or, build your own garden supports.

Pests/Diseases

  • Pollination can be reduced in temperatures below 60°F (16°C) and above 90°F (32°C).
  • Too much nitrogen in the soil can produce healthy foliage growth but discourage fruit from setting.

Harvest/Storage

  • Harvest as soon as peppers reach desired size or color.
  • The longer bell peppers stay on the plant, the more sweet they become and the greater their vitamin C content.
  • Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut peppers clean off the plant for the least damage.
  • Peppers can be refrigerated in plastic bags for up to 10 days after harvesting.
  • Bell peppers can be dried, and we would recommend a conventional oven for the task. Wash, core, and seed the peppers. Cut into one-half-inch strips. Steam for about ten minutes, then spread on a baking sheet. Dry in the oven at 140°F (or the lowest possible temperature) until brittle, stirring occasionally and switching tray positions. When the peppers are cool, put them in bags or storage containers.

Recommended Varieties

  • Green peppers that turn Red: ‘Lady Bell’, ‘Gypsy’, ‘Bell Boy’, ‘Lipstick’
  • …Orange: ‘Milena’, ‘Orange Sun’
  • …Yellow: ‘Golden California Wonder’

Wit & Wisdom

  • Are red and green peppers the same thing? Yes, the popular green and red bell peppers that we see in supermarkets are actually the same pepper; the red peppers have just been allowed to mature on the plant longer, changing color and also gaining a higher Vitamin C content. More mature peppers also tend to be sweeter than their greener counterparts.
  • Are there male and female peppers? There is a popular myth which states that pepper fruits can be either male or female—the difference between them being that male peppers have 3 bumps on the bottom and are better for cooking, while female peppers have 4 bumps, have more seeds, are sweeter, and are better for eating raw. This is not true! Pepper fruits do not have a gender and any obvious difference between fruits is simply the result of growing conditions or variety.

Recipes

  • Roasted Red and Yellow Bell Peppers
  • Stuffed Bell Pepper
  • Sweet and Sour Peppers

Cooking Notes

  • To learn how to make pickled bell peppers, watch this video!
  • Get more tips on cooking with peppers.

How To Plant bell peppers

Botanical NameCapsicum annuum
Plant TypeVegetable
Sun ExposureFull Sun
Soil TypeLoamy
Soil pHSlightly Acidic to Neutral
Bloom TimeSummer
Flower ColorWhite
Hardiness Zones4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Special Features

video instructions


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