Growing Hot Peppers

Add some kick to your gardening with this attractive, tasty plant

1. Choose Your Peppers

Pick pepper varieties to fit your tastes. Grow mild varieties like seña or poblano peppers. Or kick up the heat with medium varieties such as serrano or anaheim. Feeling daring? Go full blaze with habanero peppers, which have a distinctive citrus flavor lurking beneath all that spice. Or plant a variety and get experimenting in the kitchen.

2. Know Your Spice Level

The heat in hot peppers is ranked on the Scoville scale, which measures the amount of capsaicin they contain. Hot Peppers range from the milder hot cherry peppers (100-500 Scoville Heat Units) to jalapenos (2,500-8,000) to the spicy habaneros (100,000-580,000).

3. Grow Your Hot Peppers From Seed

All pepper seeds need warm soil to germinate, so, in all but the hottest climates, start them indoors 40-60 days before transplanting time, following the spacing and depth instructions on your seed packets. Transplant seedlings to the garden about 2 weeks after the last frost date. Plant in loose, well-draining soil amended with compost or garden soil, like Miracle-Gro® Organic Choice® Garden Soil. To prevent transplant shock, consider applying a starter plant food such as Miracle-Gro® Quick Start® Planting & Transplant Starting Solution.

4. Water, Weed and Feed

For strong plants and a good crop of peppers, keep the garden weed-free and water enough to keep the soil thoroughly moist. Adding a 3-inch layer of mulch, like Scotts® Natures Care® Advanced Color Enhanced Mulch, will help prevent weeds and keep the soil moist. Feed with MiracleGro® Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food every 7-14 days. Feeding is especially important while the plants are flowering. If your pepper plants get tall and start to droop, use stakes or tomato cages to prop them up.

5. Pick Your Peppers

Harvest hot peppers anytime for fresh use, but leave them on the plant until fully ripe if you want to dry them. Cut them off with scissors or pruning shears to avoid tearing the stems. You might want to wear gloves when harvesting or handling hot peppers (especially really hot ones like habaneros) to avoid getting capsaicin on your skin.