Do you seek the heat? Chili peppers, including jalapeños, are warm-weather vegetables that are fun to grow (and eat) at home. Learn how to plant, grow, and harvest jalapeño peppers and hot peppers in your garden. Plus, we’ve added a great video demo showing how it’s done!
About Jalapeño Peppers
The jalapeño is the most popular chili pepper in North America! This medium-size pepper produces deep-green 3-inch fruit that mature to a bright red.
Hot peppers love the sun and grow in temperatures that range from 70 to 90 F (21 to 32 C). They don’t take up a lot of growing space. A half dozen plants should provide a family with peppers all summer long. You can also grow peppers in containers; look for compact varieties.
All chili peppers vary in heat. On the Scoville heat scale, the jalapeño is rated 2,500 to 5,000 units—a “medium-hot” pepper. If you’re interested in growing other hot peppers, you can follow this same guide. It’s fun to grow a variety, especially if you yearn for the burn!
Slightly less heat than the jalapeño: sriracha and tabasco
Slightly more heat than the jalapeño: serrano pepper
Ratchet up the heat: cayenne pepper and Thai chili
Buckle down for the hotlist: habanero, ghost pepper (one million units!), and Carolina Reaper (the record holder at 2.4 million!)
Video: How to Plant Chili Peppers
If you’ve never grown chili peppers, it can really help to see how to plant seedlings in pots or outside—as well as how to water, feed, and harvest these red hot fruits! See this video as well as the complete growing guide below.
Jalapeños need full sun to blossom and set fruit. Choose a sunny place sheltered from the wind. They’re happy up to around 90°F (or 32°C). Soil should be well-draining and rich in organic matter. In the spring, prepare the soil by working in a 3- to 5-inch layer of compost to a depth of 6 to 10 inches. Read more about preparing soil for planting.
When to Plant Jalapeño Peppers
Note: Many gardeners purchase transplants (small starter plants) from a local nursery garden center because their climate is not hot enough. Others start seeds indoors early, then transplant to their garden. Of course, if you’re in a hot climate (most southern states), just seed them outdoors!
If you are buying transplants, choose plants with green leaves and strong foliage. Avoid any yellowed leaves, sparse foliage, or spindly stems.
For those starting seeds, sow indoors 8 to 10 weeks before your last spring frost date under grow lights. You’ll also need heat for seed germination—again, at least 70°F (21°C)—so the seed tray or pots should be on a heat pad. Of course, if you have a greenhouse, that’s the ideal solution.
To transplant (your own seedlings or starter plants from the nursery), wait until the weather has warmed to a daytime temperature of 70 to 75 degrees F. and nighttime temperature above 60 degrees F.
How to Plant Jalapeño Peppers
If you’re sowing seeds into trays or containers to plant in the ground later, fill with seed-starting mix that is best for growing chili peppers. (Potting mixes are fine but hold onto moisture a little too well which peppers can’t stand). We recommend mixing a half ordinary all-purpose peat-free potting mix combined with half coir or coco fiber, with a good few handfuls of vermiculite thrown in for good measure.
Plant seeds just 1/4 inch deep (you can just cover lightly with seed-starting mix). Water in and keep peppers moist (though never wet). Ensure your seedlings have good airflow and aren’t crowded.
Once the seedlings are a good enough size and big enough to outgrow a tray, we will repot them and give them some liquid feed, using half-strength seaweed feed.
Note: You can start with a bigger container if you wish to avoid repotting; bigger pots take more potting mix to fill, but they also need less watering. You can also decide to continue to grow your peppers in containers, especially if your region is temperate. But be sure your final container is about 5 gallons—big enough to grow through harvest.
About 10 days before transplanting your jalapeño seedlings (or starter plants that you bought) outdoors, begin to harden off to better transition to the outdoors. Learn how to harden off plants.
In cold regions, you can use black plastic mulch to warm the soil prior to planting.
Once soil and nighttime temperatures reach at least 60°F (15°C), transplant your seedlings (or purchased starts) outdoors, spacing them 14 to 24 inches apart.
In cold climates, you can make slits in the black plastic to plant.
Space plants 2 feet apart. Rows should be spaced at least 2 feet apart to provide good air flow.
For transplants, dig a planting hole just deep enough to cover the root-ball of the plant and, when you set the plant in the hole, ensure the top of the root-ball is level with the ground surface. Do not plant deeply like tomatoes!
A time-release fertilizer can be added to the soil before you backfill it and firm gently around the plant.
Water thoroughly and mulch to hold in moisture.
Don’t overwater. Chili peppers HATE sitting in the wet. We can’t emphasize that enough. Too much water can disrupt the flow of nutrients around the plant, causing growth problems and weakening plant so they’re vulnerable to attack from pests and diseases. But worst of all, too much water literally waters down the capsaicin in the developing fruits, quashing all those dreams of super-spicy chilies.
Let the top inch or two of soil dry out before watering again. We water just enough to keep plants from ticking over; these are plants that thrive in hot, dry conditions after all. You can even let plants wilt a little, especially later in the growth cycle when the fruits are maturing – and don’t water in the hours leading up to harvest if you want spicier fruits.
When the first flowers appear, give your pepper plants a tomato feed or a feed that’s high in potassium. (There are also feeds made specifically for pepper plants.) Or, you could also spread fish fertilizer around the base of the plant.
Tall varieties—and those that bear a lot of peppers—will need some support. Bamboo sticks or small tomato cages work well.
Weed carefully around young plants to avoid disturbing roots.
In warmer regions, use shredded leaves, straw, or grass clippings to keep the soil moist and cool during blistering hot weather.
Bring container grown jalapeño plants indoors at the end of the season. Place the container in a sunny spot and, with luck, you’ll get more peppers on the plant.
‘Señorita’ grows to nearly 2 feet high. This pepper is very hot.
‘Sierra Fuego’ produces a large amount of peppers per plant. The peppers are 3.5 inches long and are mildly hot.
‘Mucho Nacho’ is a fast maturing, large plant. It reaches full maturity in a little over 2 months. The peppers are large, but not very hot.
Your chili peppers are ready once they have taken on their final color and full size.
They’ll be at their spiciest once they’re mature, so resist the urge to pick them before they are ripe. However, the skin of the pepper may grow leathery over time, so harvest when peppers are green if you prefer that classic jalapeño snap.
Never tug chili peppers off the plant. Use a sharp knife or pruning shares to cut peppers, leaving a short stem attached to the pepper.
Wear gloves! And do not not to rub your eyes afterwards!
How to Store Jalapeño Peppers
Fresh peppers with a short stem will store longer.
Store unwashed jalapeños in a loosely closed plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Drying peppers is another way to store them. Dry the jalapeño peppers and keep them in a dark cool place. Usually, this is done by either air- or oven-drying:
Wash and dry the peppers. Place on a tray or wire rack in a well ventilated room or put outdoors on dry sunny days.
You can also string the jalapeño peppers on a heavy thread and hang to dry. Space the peppers a few inches apart and hang in direct sunlight.
It will take a couple of weeks for the peppers to dry with this method.
Wash and dry the jalapeños. Cut in half and place on a baking sheet. Bake at low heat (100° to 130°F), turning the peppers occasionally. It may take several hours before the jalapeños are dry.
WIT AND WISDOM
Avoid planting jalapeño 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 shared diseases.
Many people swear by placing match heads in the planting hole to add sulfur.
The jalapeño pepper is named for the town of Jalapa in Mexico.
Chipotles are mature jalapeños which have been smoked and much of their moisture removed.
Jalapeños seeds are called “picante” and are used as a spice.
Even though Mexico is considered part of Latin America, and Southern neighboring countries, it and Canada are in North America, but neither are The United States of America (a separate North American country) SO-CALLED America. LOL. Far Southern North America are the Central American countries, even Southern Panama - South of The Panama Canal, til it reaches the Columbian border, that's where South America begins.