Peppers can be a little tricky to grow. So, even if you have a garden, you might want to grow your peppers in containers. That’s because you can control temperature, water, and fertilizer more easily in containers—which means you might just get better pods from peppers planted in pots.
Most varieties of peppers grow well in containers given the right conditions. Recommended varieties include: Yolo Wonder, Keystone Resistant Giant, Canapé, Red Cherry, Jalapeno, Fat’n’Sassy, and Early Thickset. Hot pepper devotees have had success growing many different types of specialty peppers in containers.
Peppers require warm air and soil, so it’s best to start seedlings indoors rather than plant seeds. You can buy seedlings or grow your own. One advantage to growing your own seedlings is that you will many more varieties to choose from. Select thick, compact, bushy plants for your containers, and give each plant about one foot of space in all directions.
You can transplant seedlings outdoors when temperatures remain above 55 degrees F at night and hit 70 degrees during the day. If you expect a cold snap, move your containers indoors or to a warmer spot outside, or cover them at night.
Growing Peppers in Containers
Peppers have moderately large root systems, so the containers need to be at least 14 inches deep, the deeper the better in terms of productivity. Small peppers (less than one foot high) grow well in two-gallon containers, but bigger plants need at least five-gallon pots.
You can grow peppers in any type of container as long as it’s big enough and has good drainage. You can drill holes if your container doesn’t already have them. Cover drainage holes with mesh to keep soil in and pests out. Some growers put a layer of gravel on top of the mesh. Don’t set your pot in a saucer or outer container without drainage, or you’ll defeat the purpose of the holes.
Some pepper varieties with pendulous habits, like Lemon Drop, make attractive and productive hanging baskets. You might even try some of the smaller varieties in window boxes.
Experienced gardeners suggest using white or silver containers in very hot and sunny climates to reflect the sun and prevent roots from overheating.
Planting Mix for Peppers
Most gardening professionals recommend against using garden soil in containers, because garden soil is heavy, slow to drain, and may contain pests that can harm the plants. They recommend using commercial potting mixes or making your own from equal parts of perlite, compost, and potting soil. Some gardeners, however, report success with using soil right from the garden, either by itself or as part of a potting mix.
Caring for Peppers
Depending on your climate, peppers may prefer partial shade, morning sun, or full sun. They need warmth, but can get overheated in hot climates. One great benefit of gardening in containers is that you can move your plants to better conditions as needed.
Dry soil is disastrous for peppers; it will slow or even stop production. Your challenge will be to keep the soil evenly moist but not wet. Mulching will help retain soil moisture and keep weeds down.
Starting early in the growing season fertilize with a weak solution of a balanced liquid fertilizer, a time-release release fertilizer, or fish emulsion. Too much nitrogen will create plants with lush foliage and few peppers.
Key an eye out for aphids and flea beetles. If you smoke or handle tobacco wash your hands before you touch the pepper plants, because peppers are vulnerable to the tobacco mosaic virus.
To harvest, use a clean knife to cut the stem of the pepper. Pulling or twisting can damage the plant and leave it susceptible to insects or diseases.
Want to learn more about pepper gardening and growing?
Growing peppers is a hot topic. Check out these websites:
Ohio State University has some great information about Container Grown Peppers from Penn State Extension.
Bella Online has a article about Growing Sweet Bell Peppers in Containers.
Do you like your peppers hot? Here’s a great deal of info for Growing Peppers in Containers.