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Victory Gardening 2.0 – Growing Peppers

victory gardening peppers

This post is provided as an educational/inspirational service of the National Garden Bureau and their members.

Ask An Expert: Growing Peppers in Your Victory Gardens 2.0

With so many different varieties, shapes, sizes, colors, and degrees of hotness, you can imagine why peppers are a very popular and desired vegetable to add to any Victory Garden 2.0. Did you know the pepper is a nutritional powerhouse? A serving of the most popular type in the USA–the sweet bell–contains more vitamin C than the average orange, a generous amount of vitamin E, and many antioxidants with only 29 calories.

Peppers have high nutrient levels at any stage but are the most beneficial when eaten fully ripe. The few colors of bell peppers in the average supermarket are only the beginning–blocky shaped bell peppers can ripen to many colors; ivory, pink, purple, red, yellow, orange, and chocolate. Sweet peppers come in many shapes as well; the elongated banana, the blocky bell, the oblong or “half-long” bells, flat “cheese” shapes, and smooth cherry types.

We asked the NGB breeder members to answer the most often asked “growing peppers” questions we receive. We hope that these answers will bring a delicious pepper season to you.

13 Top Growing Peppers Questions Answered…

1. I started bell pepper seeds indoors and they looked great. Hardened them off and transitioned outside. Still great, just zero growth in 3 weeks. Is that normal?

Peppers thrive in warm weather and really struggle under cool, wet conditions. If the soil temperatures are too cool and/or too wet, peppers grow very slowly. So when the weather warms up, the pepper will grow more quickly.

2. My peppers were nipped by frost, I cut the damaged leaves off and they are showing new growth. Will they be stunted?

The amount of re-growth will depend on the severity at which they were damaged. If only slight damage, then they will recover. If more severely injured remove and start with fresh plants as it is most likely still early in the season. Plants that are damaged and experiencing slowed growth are more susceptible to plant diseases

3. I am growing/planting sweet and hot peppers! It’s still a little too cool to plant. Should I chance it and plant it? Should I take the blossoms off?

I would pinch off the blooms and if your plant is too tall and lanky pinch back the terminal bud on top and let it grow out from the side nodes. But see notes above…do not plant when it’s too cool.

4. How do I plant my pepper plant in the garden?

Bury them a bit deeper than the root ball to encourage additional root growth that will make them sturdier.

5. Is it better to trim or pluck flowers off pepper plants?

It is not necessary to remove flowers from pepper plants. Peppers will abort flowers in instances where the plant is under stress thus avoiding excessive fruit loads.

6. Do I need pollinators like bees to fertilize my pepper flowers?

Peppers have perfect flowers, meaning each flower has both male and female parts and the plants can self-pollinate. Bees and other pollinators are not absolutely necessary for fertilization and fruit production.

7. About how many peppers does one plant produce?

This varies by type of pepper you are growing. Most large bell peppers will produce fewer fruits, like 8-12. AAS Winner Cornito Giallo produces 25-35 6″ long sweet yellow peppers. Emerald Fire jalapeno pepper produces 25-30 3 1/2″ peppers per plant. Aji Rico pepper produces between 50 and 75 3-4″ long peppers! The smaller the fruits, typically the more peppers per plant. Newer varieties, like these AAS Winners, are bred for productivity, taste and disease resistance so you can count on more fruits per plant.

8. My pepper plants do not produce a lot of peppers and the ones I get are small. What am I doing wrong?

Remember peppers, in general, like a lot of sun and heat. Make sure they are getting at least 8 hours of sun per day. A general use of garden fertilizer is helpful to the plant’s health and can help keep the plant producing all season. Also, peppers can handle a little stress so watch your watering and don’t overwater.

9. What is the typical root pattern for pepper plants? I’m experimenting growing some in large flower boxes this year to see how it works out but generally, if the container volume is the same is it better to have something deep but less surface area or shallow but more surface area?

Deeper pots would be preferred. Peppers do grow deep. Pepper plants grown in containers are often small but usually mature earlier. Each plant should have a 2-gallon or larger container, deeper than it is wide. The baby plant will look a little lonely at first but will grow to fill the container quickly.

A benefit of container growing is that the plant can be introduced to cool nights or warm days gradually to avoid shock. In the spring, bring plants indoors when nighttime temps are below 55 degrees. Introduce the plants to warm days (over 85 degrees) a few hours at a time until they are acclimated to their final location.

Once plants are established, water every few days (or when soil is dry and pulling away from the side of the pot). Fully soak the soil and avoid spraying water on the leaves. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package or add mature compost as flowers are setting. Taper off on fertilizer, especially nitrogen after plants flower. Nitrogen encourages the plant to put its energy into the leaves and not setting fruit.

10. Can you plant peppers in a garden with other vegetables?

Some plants are allelopathic releasing compounds that can inhibit the growth of other plants. Though peppers can produce allelopathic compounds, these will not be at the level to impact other vegetables in the garden. So yes, peppers can grow with other vegetables in the garden.

11. Do I have to worry about pests on peppers?

Pepper plants are fairly hardy and not as attractive to insects as other vegetables in the garden. To avoid conditions spread by water it is best to keep the leaves as dry as possible by drip-line watering or giving the plants time to dry in the sun if they are watered from overhead.

12. My pepper leaves look a bit pale, why is that?

Pale leaves can indicate that the plants need fertilizer. Big, healthy plants that fail to bloom can indicate over-fertilization. Space plants as instructed by the plant tag or seed packet. Plants that are planted too close will lack air circulation. Proper air circulation improves pollen distribution which is needed for fruit set. Crowded plants are disease-prone and do not set as well as those that have been properly spaced.

13. When should I harvest my peppers?

Sweet peppers can be harvested at any stage of maturity. Less mature green peppers will generally be green or pale yellow, smaller, crunchy, and have thin walls and a slightly tart flavor. A benefit of harvesting early is that it triggers the plants to produce more fruit. Mature peppers will change color, have thicker walls, and a mild sweet flavor. No matter the stage of harvest cut the peppers from the plant with clean pruners or kitchen shears to avoid damaging the plant.


Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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