If you want to add a little heat to your garden space, then consider growing jalapeno pepper plants (capsicum annuum)! These easy-to-grow hot peppers pack some heat, but don’t require tons of space which makes them a great option to grow in containers.
The good news is growing jalapeño plants in a container is easy, but there are some things to keep in mind when starting your pepper patch in pots.
Why grow jalapeno peppers in pots
If you’re looking for a compact pepper that has more heat than bell peppers, then consider growing jalapenos in your spring and summer vegetable garden. These spicy peppers are mild compared to others on the scoville scale with a rating of 2500 to 5000, so not too bad!
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Jalapenos and other peppers, like cayenne peppers, are perfect for container gardening and are an easy way to try your hand at gardening if you’re a beginner. The right growing conditions can also get you the best results no matter which pepper varieties you choose to plant! So try out these tips for growing delicious peppers right at home, no matter the amount of space you have.
Choosing jalapeno pepper seeds
If you want to grow jalapeño peppers in a pot, the first thing to consider is the variety you’d like to grow. Like all other vegetables, there are a multitude of varieties of jalapeno peppers, and you want to choose the one that fits your needs.
To choose jalapeno pepper seeds, consider size, heat level, and color. The best way to get seeds before planting time is to order a seed packet or two from a high quality seed source such as True Leaf Market, Baker Creek Seed, or Southern Exposure Seed. Some of the best varieties to grow are:
- Purple jalapenos are larger, with a high heat level. They also have a deep purple hue when ripe. The Purple Jalapeno is a milder variety that usually has a bright yellow or orange hue when fully ripened.
- The Early Jalapeno will be the first to mature, so it’s perfect if you’re itching to have peppers ready to use early on in the season.
- TAM Jalapeno pepper has less bite but a larger plant that produces abundantly.
If you’re looking to grow jalapenos in the spring, then consider starting them in seed trays indoors four to six weeks before the last expected frost. This should give you hearty seedlings by the time they can survive outdoors.
Jalapeno seeds can also be directly sown in the soil after all danger of frost has passed, but this will slow down how quickly you can begin to harvest peppers, but to each his own!
Choosing jalapeno pepper plants
If you want to skip growing jalapeno peppers from seed, you can certainly buy jalapeno seedlings to use in your container or pot. When considering buying a seedling, check the size and growth habit of the particular variety. Some jalapeno varieties may be too large or vigorous to fit into a container.
Next check the leaves and stems for any signs of disease or pests. If you see any, then it’s best to buy a different seedling.
Finally, if it’s possible, gently lift the seedling out of the container it’s in and look at the roots. If the roots are black and soft at the bottom, then choose a different seedling. This is a sign of root rot, which can be brought on by overwatering at the garden center.
It’s always easier to have a successful jalapeno harvest if you begin with the healthiest plant possible.
Choosing a container for your plant
When choosing a container for your jalapeno pepper plants, it’s best to choose one that is at least 12 inches deep and wide. This will give your peppers enough room to grow a healthy root system which will help them to bear lots of fruit…. jalapenos!
You’ll also want to look for a container with several drainage holes in the bottom. This will help guarantee the soil doesn’t become water logged, and will help your plants to stay healthy. Another option would be to use a bottom watering planter, such as an Earthbox. (Here’s my post with instructions for making your own self-watering planter.)
Once a plant grows larger, it is possible to repot a jalapeno plant into a larger pot, and this is a good idea especially if you want to maximize the number of peppers your plant can produce.
Filling the pot with soil
Once you have your container and jalapeno seedlings ready to go, it’s time to fill the pot with soil. As an old timey gardener told me a very long time ago, you want a 5 dollar hole for a fifty cent plant. And while he was clearly talking about in-ground gardening, the same principle applies to growing plants in pots.
You want the soil that plants are grown in to be rich in organic matter and a healthy environment for whatever plants or seeds are grown there.
The soil requirement for jalapeno plants can vary based on preference. Some gardeners like to use a lightweight soil made specifically for containers. This usually includes some type of vermiculite or perlite to keep the soil light and loose. Mixes like these ensure that there is enough drainage, and that the soil will be light enough for the roots to easily take hold.
Others prefer to use a potting mix that includes fertilizer or other nutrients in it, as this can help the plants get off to a great start. There are a few brands that I recommend for this and you can see them below.
You can also create your own soil mixture from compost, sand, peat moss, and other materials. I have a full post with a recipe for DIY potting soil, and this can be used in raised beds and containers. It’s very versatile and easy to make.
So don’t skimp when it comes to filling your pots and containers. While you don’t have to buy the most expensive soil your local garden center has to offer, look for quality options that are close to local if possible.
How to Plant Jalapenos in Pots
Now that you have your seeds or seedlings, as well as container full of good quality garden soil, you’re going to plant your jalapeno plant. The best time to plant young plants is after all danger of frost has passed and the soil temperatures can hold steady at 65 degrees.
- Begin by making a small hole in the soil, deep enough for the seedling to fit into but at least twice as wide.
- If you are using seeds, follow the instructions on the package as to how deep and far apart they should be planted. For a container, you want to just plant a few seeds, since a smaller pot can probably only handle one full sized jalapeno plant. Once the
- If you’re using a seedling, gently remove it from the container it came in by squeezing the sides and carefully lifting it out. Use one hand to gently loosen the roots and soil from where it has grown in the original container.
- If the roots are unable to loosen, take the bottom of the seedling and place it in water for 30 seconds or so. If your watering can is nearby, you can always use that.
- Once the soil has soaked up enough water, you should be able to easily loosen the roots and prepare to plant the jalapeno plant.
- Place the seedling in the hole and fill in any extra soil around the sides of the plant. Don’t pack down the soil around the plant, but do make sure the plant is in the soil securely and won’t tip over.
- Lastly, give your jalapeno plants a good watering and make sure that their soil stays moist but aware of excess water. Pots are helpful since many have good drainage, so this isn’t too much of a worry with jalapeno plants grown in pots.
Following these planting tips will help them to get established quickly.
Caring for jalapeno plants in containers
Caring for a jalapeno plant is just as easy as planting one. They require minimal maintenance to grow and thrive in the garden or in a pot.
Make sure your jalapeno plant is in full sun with ideally six hours of sun per day; a partial shade location can also work if the pepper plant can get at least four good hours of light per day.
To feed your pepper plant, fertilize with a balanced organic fertilizer such as Espoma every two to four weeks. I like the slow-release fertilizer in granular form during the summer months, and a liquid fertilizer in cooler months.
Another plant food option could be organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion or compost tea for an added boost of nutrition. Compost itself can also be used as a mulch around the plants which will also help to supply the plant with some nutrition as it grows.
Watering Jalapenos in Pots
Water your container-grown jalapeno plants regularly, about an inch of water per week, making sure the soil is moist but not soggy. If you’re growing your plant in a garden bed, make sure to water deeply every few days.
You may need to container-grown jalapenos more often when the weather is hot and dry. Plants in pots tend to dry out more quickly since they have drainage holes in the bottom and cannot soak up water from the ground around them.
Jalapeno plants should be watered about one to two inches per week, depending on the climate and location of your garden. Always use the finger test when deciding if your plant needs water.
Push your finger down about an inch into the soil around the plant. If your finger comes back out moist, then you can wait to water. If it comes out dry, water your plant.
You will eventually notice white blooms on your pepper plant. These blooms will actually be the first peppers if left to develop. Many gardeners pinch off the first few blooms so the plant will focus its energy on growing and not on fruit production.
How to Harvest Jalapenos
The blooms on your jalapeno plant will turn into small green peppers and eventually mature to a deep green pepper (depending on the variety you chose). To harvest these delicious jalapeno peppers, snip them off the stem with pruners or scissors that are clean.
Handle jalapenos carefully as they can irritate your skin. Some jalapeno plants will produce far more peppers than you can use at once. Don’t worry though! You can harvest jalapeno peppers when they are green and let them ripen completely off the vine or you can also freeze them for later use.
Using extra jalapenos at the end of the season for pickling is also a great way to have them on hand all winter long. See my recipe for pickled jalapenos here.
Overwintering jalapeno plants in pots
If you’d like to try your hand at overwintering your peppers in their pots, then try these simple steps. Before the first frost of the fall/winter, trim your plant back to a base stem with two limbs extending out. Trim off all leaves that may still be remaining.
Place potted pepper plant in garage or storage building for the winter season, watering only on occasion. After the last frost has passed in the spring, bring your pepper plants back out. Repot your over wintered plant with fresh soil and top with compost. Grow as usual!
No matter how you decide to enjoy your peppers grown from a jalapeno plant in a pot, you will be sure to reap the rewards of growing your own when you get a taste of the fresh, homegrown pepper. Enjoy!
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