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Growing Peppers in Containers
If you’re low on space or have a short growing season, you don’t have to give up on growing bell or even hot peppers! Growing peppers in containers is the ideal solution – you grow all the peppers you want, and don’t have to worry as much about inclement weather. They take up less space and are easy to move once fall sets in. What’s not to love?
Peppers are actually one of the easiest vegetables to grow in containers. Growing bell peppers in pots will give you excellent green, orange, yellow, or red peppers perfect for cooking or eating fresh. Growing hot peppers in pots can allow even us northerners to grow spicy varieties without having to worry about the cooler weather hurting them. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you grow them.
Choosing a Container
You can use all kinds of containers for growing peppers depending on the variety and how many peppers you’ll be planting, but keep in mind each plant should ideally have 5 gallons of space. Additionally, your pots should have at least a 12″ depth and diameter per plant. If you’re planting two or more peppers in one container, you’ll need a bigger pot.
If you’ve chosen a small pepper plant variety, it can grow in a container as small as 8″ too.
So what containers can you use? A large decorative pot, grow bag, or even a plain old five gallon bucket will do just fine. Just make sure it has drainage so the pepper’s roots don’t get waterlogged.
As with all container plants, you’ll need to use a high quality potting soil rather than dirt from the garden.
When you’re growing peppers in containers, you can either start them yourself from seed or purchase them from a nursery.
Starting Peppers from Seed
If you plan on starting peppers from seed yourself, you have many options for varieties. Some seeds are marketed specifically as “compact” or for container gardening, which may be useful if you’re exceptionally low on space since the plants will grow smaller and need less support.
That said, most peppers will grow just fine in a container. Don’t hesitate to buy regular bell pepper seeds, jalapenos, or even more exotic hot pepper varieties like tabasco to try in your containers.
If you really love peppers of all shapes and sizes, you can even try a pepper seed variety pack.
You can plant them 6-8 weeks ahead of time and then transplant into a larger pot, but since they’re already going to be in a container, you’re better off just starting them in the larger container directly. They will grow quickly and be much happier than if they’re transplanted.
Purchasing from a Nursery
If you’re short on time or just don’t feel like taking the seed-starting gamble, you can purchase directly from a local greenhouse or nursery. While you may not have as many variety options in a typical family-run greenhouse (although you’d be surprised at the wide assortment some offer!), you’ll have the benefit of being able to ask the employees specifics about each variety’s care and container needs.
Once you’ve brought your peppers home, simply transplant them into their new, larger container and water them well.
If you’re living in the Catskills, here’s a list of local greenhouses where you can find started peppers.
Growing Peppers in Containers Outside
While some peppers like it hotter than others, most peppers will be quite pleased with temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees. Nice summer weather from June through August is generally perfect for them, especially if it’s a warm summer!
Simply set the pepper containers outside in a warm, sunny location. A south-facing deck or yard will easily give your pepper the 6+ hours of sun it needs a day.
When you’re growing peppers in containers, the most important aspect of their care after sunshine is watering. Especially outside, peppers will dry out quickly if they aren’t kept watered. Try to water them once a day when it isn’t raining, preferably in the morning. Don’t make them sopping wet, just keep the soil nice and moist.
Peppers self-pollinate, which means you shouldn’t have to do much to keep the fruits coming. Wind and pollinators will likely take care of everything for you! That said, you can shake the plant gently when it blooms or hand-pollinate them to make sure.
Growing Peppers Indoors
If the weather turns at all cold, you’ll want to bring your peppers inside. Make sure they continue to get plenty of sunshine. You can keep them in front of a sunny window or near deck doors.
You can also grow peppers indoors from seed to harvest if you like. Just make sure they’re in a sunny location or have access to a good grow light. Water them as needed, and when they blossom gently shake the plant or dab pollen from one flower to another to encourage pollination. Otherwise, follow all the other suggestions, and you will have fresh peppers without even leaving your home!
Other Tips for Growing Hot and Bell Peppers in Pots
When growing hot peppers, especially ones like the tabasco variety, use an extra deep pot.
Growing bell peppers in pots is easy as long as you have plenty of sun – a mistake I made early on when I lived in a north-facing apartment. However, even with very little direct light I still got a few palm-sized green peppers each year!
Common garden lore encourages getting at least two peppers and arranging them closely enough that their leaves touch once they’re full-grown. They can be in the same or separate pots. This isn’t essential, however, and if you only want one pepper plant, feel free to just plant a single.
If you have a large container and don’t intend to save any seeds from your fruits for next year, don’t hesitate to plant both hot and bell peppers in the same container! They will enjoy each other’s company, and cross-pollination isn’t a problem until the second generation.
To harvest your container-grown peppers, simply watch for them to grow to their expected size and color.
If you’d like them earlier, that’s fine too! Many varieties, especially bells, can be harvested early as green peppers. Some hot pepper varieties can also be harvested early and placed in a sunny location to reach maturity.
Happy Pepper Growing!
You should now have all the tools you need to start growing peppers in containers. Whether you want hot or bell peppers, they will grow happily in containers with a few modifications.
Enjoy your fresh peppers!