Chili plants are great additions to any style garden, but the scorching heat of habanero or cayenne peppers just isn't for everyone. For those gardeners out there who can't stand the heat, there's fortunately an easy solution. Growing bell peppers! Unlike their spicy counterparts, bell peppers are mild and sweet, making them the perfect ingredient for countless recipes. So, how do you get some bell peppers of your own? Well, you could drive to the supermarket and pick up some commercially produced ones, or you can set up shop with a few containers, a sunny area, and a couple of seeds to start your very own bell pepper container garden. Obviously, we'll be discussing the latter of the two. Stay put to learn how to grow bell peppers in containers.
Pictured above is a young bell pepper seedling. It'll be growing orange bell peppers later in life.
Growing Bell Peppers - Necessities
- Containers - The smallest container that should be used to house a maturing bell pepper plant is two gallons. Since there's one plant per container, make sure to purchase the correct amount of containers. Also, if you plan to grow bell peppers from seed, plan on having a variety of smaller containers for gradual transplanting.
- Sunlight - Whether it be natural sunlight or artificial grow lights, bell peppers plants require a lot of it. Be prepared to provide bell pepper seedlings and young plants with at least 14-16 hours of direct light daily. Maturing and fruiting bell pepper plants will do best with 8-12 hours of direct sunlight daily.
- Potting Soil - A premium and well balanced potting soil is an absolute necessity if you want your pepper plants to produce maximum yields. The soil should preferably be organic, contain a great deal of composted material for initial nutrition, and be amended with perlite for excellent drainage.
- Nutrients - As your bell pepper plants age and use up available nutrients in the soil, you'll have to supply them with additional nutrients to help push them to produce all they can! An organic all purpose fertilizer or liquid nutrient with equal NPK values should be used. A little goes a long ways, so you won't need much.
Bell Peppers from Seed -
Store bought transplants are one way of growing out a healthy crop of bell peppers, but if you're up for a challenge, growing bell peppers from seed can be a great way to start your container garden. I've shortened the following instructions just a bit, so if you need an in depth clarification on how to germinate or transplant your bell pepper seedlings, have a look at my guide on growing Jalapeno peppers. The process for growing the two from seed is very similar indeed.
Inexpensive seedling trays work wonders for germinating bell peppers. The trays are usually sold with a clear plastic top piece. The top acts as a humidity dome and works to create a micro climate perfect for germinating seeds.
- For large healthy plants during the season, start germinating your bell pepper seeds 8-10 weeks before the average last frost in your area. You'll most likely need to do so indoors, as the bell pepper plants will need temperatures over 70° to sprout and survive.
- Using small seedling trays or recycled yogurt cups, plant seeds 1/4 inch deep in the soil and water them in well. Keep the trays moist and in a warm area with filtered light until the seeds germinate. Germination typically occurs within 7-14 days, depending on soil temperature.
- Once the bell pepper seeds begin to sprout, immediately situate them in a warm area with ample sunlight or artificial grow lighting. The seedlings and young pepper plants will need 14-16 hours of strong light, and must not be exposed to temperatures below 65°F. South facing windowsills are a good option.
- Continuously keep the soil moist but not over watered.
- In their two month stay indoors, the young bell pepper plants will need to be transplanted into gradually larger containers. Transplanting will help ensure that the roots do not become too cramped and that growth is not stunted.
Container Bell Peppers -
Regardless of whether you grew out your own bell pepper plants from seed or went and purchased some transplants, the real fun starts once the last frost has passed. Here's how to tend for your growing bell peppers:
Growing Bell Pepper. Photo By : Ken Cook
- If you haven't done so already, gently transplant your bell pepper plants into their final two gallon container. Since most bell pepper plants are started indoors, hardening off is a process that should not be skipped.
- Locate a sunny location, keeping in mind that your growing bell pepper plants will need a minimum of eight hours of direct sunlight daily.
- Water your pepper plants as needed. Bell pepper plants will do their absolute best when the soil is kept consistently moist. Soil that is allowed to become dry may inhibit fruit production and stunt growth. It may be necessary to water daily in hot arid climates.
- Keeping to a strict watering regimen, your bell pepper plant should begin to bloom and set its first fruits within a couple of weeks. When you can see the initial peppers just starting to form, apply your first application of nutrients/fertilizer. Follow the provided instructions.
- If your plants look like they need additional fertilization, apply nutrients once every two weeks. Discontinue use of nutrients two weeks before your expected harvest.
Ripe Yellow Bell Pepper. Photo By : Denim Dave
Bell peppers are slow growers throughout the summer season, but the wait is definitely worthwhile. When harvesting your bell pepper plants, you'll want to look for peppers that have reached a size of 3-4 inches in length. At this size, they may either be picked green or allowed to ripen into yellow, orange or red. If you plan to harvest the peppers during their immature green stage, be sure to cut them from the plant. Bell peppers that have been allowed to ripen to color are much easier to hand pick from the plant.
Alright, and that just about does it for the basics of how to grow bell peppers. If you find yourself with pests or less than perfect looking pepper plants, please feel free to leave me a comment. I'll help out the best I can. Thanks for reading my article on growing bell peppers in containers. Feel free to have a look through some of my other gardening guides below:
- Grow Broccoli in Containers
- Radishes in Containers
- Growing Carrots From Seed
- How to Grow Lettuce Indoors
If that's just not enough for you, try having a glance through my complete list of Vegetable Gardening Guides, or check out the progress of my own Container Garden Below:
Lisa Bean from Nevada on December 12, 2018:
For all the times I've grown bell peppers in my garden, I've never had good luck growing them. They are always small and not so fabulous. Thanks for the growing tips here!
Zach (author) from Colorado on October 03, 2018:
Thanks so much!
Thelma Alberts from Germany on October 01, 2018:
I have seeds from the bell peppers that I have bought from the supermarket. I germinate them today and I hope they will grow soon. Your article is very helpful and very informative. Thanks for sharing.
Jen on November 30, 2016:
Hi! I'm currently growing jalapeños and bell peppers. The plants are growing and producing fruit wonderfully but it appears as though some of the leaves are starting to whither. I water them regularly and the fruit is growing nicely. Any suggestions about the leaves?
Zach (author) from Colorado on July 07, 2012:
It sounds like you're on the right track with finding a higher phosphate nutrient. As for dosage of your nutrient, I'm really not quite sure if four tablespoons is enough or too much. I'd suggest that you try to seek out some sort of manufacture's instructions. Just try to keep in mind that it's better to feed at half strength more often than it is to feed a full strength once in a while. Your plants will begin to flower and fruit properly once you start them on a different feeding program, but it will take a couple of weeks for you to start seeing results.
As for your ant invasion, I would never recommend spraying with any sort of poison. If you're interested in deterring them, try some organic and non-toxic methods. Mint leaves, cinnamon, black pepper and even vinegar are great natural options, that when used properly can keep ants away.
Bell peppers and Jalapenos will cross pollinate, but you won't have spicy bell peppers the first year. The spiciness may show up in the seeds if you keep them. Again though, it's a process that I would recommend against. Unless you have a strict breeding program in place, it's really difficult to achieve the results you want starting from two grocery store pepper plants. The genetics and resulting phenotypes will be all over the place, and often not anything that you'll want to grow the next year.
Use the composted wood as a mulch! It won't have a whole lot as far as nutritional value goes, but it still can be used to hold in moisture. Since you've asked a lot about plant nutrients, I'd like to point you in the direction of what I use in my garden: CompTea! If you go checkout comptea.com, they offer a full line of compost teas to feed your garden with. There's grow formulas for early season growth, and even a flowering formula to help plants fruit and flower! Really easy to use and great results from a natural product! I've got over 100 habanero peppers on one plant, so hopefully you too can start enjoying your fruits!
Trevor A from Iowa on July 05, 2012:
I have large wood piles sitting by my shed, been there for a decade in snow and rain, the rotted stuff is basicly compost right wood that be good for my plant and what kind of nutrients do you think itd give my plants thanks for the wood ash idea im going to try it in the morning just got my daughter to sleep and i had that one last question before bed. High level of detail to your hub, very useful.
Trevor A from Iowa on July 05, 2012:
I picked up some 3-10-3 concentrate today highest phosphate i could find with littlest nitrogen couldn't find anything with low N and high K, it doesn't say how much i should use its liquid i was guessing 4 table spoons per gallon of water but wanted ur opinion. Will my plant pull out of the rut with the nitrogen problem and how long do you think it will take? Also that 10-10-10 stuff caused lots of ants to want my pepper roots and tomatoes (and basil and lettuce and radishes i could go on) will they cause any real harm? there not eating the veggies yet but i don't know how much longer that will last. I bought some raid anti insect soap the ones i sprayed died but the rest that walk through it are fine ( i did this 20 mins ago) So i sprayed down the plants as well as there holes. Also how often does cross planting work from bells to jalapenos id like my bells to be spicy i did the q tip thing when the blossoms were just forming nicely so it should work right? Hey if i graft a jalapeno to the top of a bell pepper would it make bigger less hot jalapenos for poppers or would the benefits be only a bigger jalapeno plant with better disease resistance? thanks sorry for so many questions
Zach (author) from Colorado on July 05, 2012:
Thanks for stopping by to read my articles. From what you've described, it does sound like your bell peppers are receiving too much nitrogen. Excess nitrogen won't cease the growth of any peppers that are currently growing, it will just cease the production of any new fruits, as you've experienced thus far. An all purpose (10-10-10) nutrient is fine during the early stages of pepper growth, but as the plants begin to set fruit, the nutrients should start to favor P & K. When the first blooms begin to appear, I normally switch to a nutrient that is somewhere in the (5-10-10) range. This heavier P & K will help your peppers focus on fruit production instead of foliage. Organic bone meal is a great addition to the garden, especially right now during fruit production. I would recommend using it. As far as getting your potassium levels up, look into wood ash. It is a great source of potassium and also contains calcium to help fight against blossom end rot. Gardening is constantly a learning process, so never feel bad about being a beginner!
As far as tomatoes go, they're actually a lot like peppers. They like nitrogen early on, but excess during fruiting will just cause lush foliage and no fruits. Oh, and honestly, my tomatoes normally take more nitrogen than my peppers! If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask!
Trevor A from Iowa on July 05, 2012:
1 of my bell pepper plants has 2 about 3 inch bell peppers on it and there growing fine but no others have started growing on it. Ill admit this is my 1st garden ever but ive spent hours reading up on peppers and i think the 13-4-5 jobes sticks i used may be to much nitrogen but wouldn't the 2 larger peppers quit growing to? my jalapeno plants [Except one] look real good except i had problems with end rot, to much water i think. oh and is organic bone meal a good thing to sprinkle around both types of peppers stem once a month 6-9-0 i realize the k is low, but i have some 10 10 10 non organic i didn't want to use because i thought its to much N with the sticks i used i planted them outside 2 months ago from 1ft high plants i bought at the grocery store. Please keep in mind this is the first time i planted something since i was 6 and my gparents took care of the flowers i planted then sry one more thing i know this is off topic but do my tomatoes take less N then my peppers?
Insane Mundane from Earth on June 05, 2012:
This will be good information for the people with limited space, that still wants to grow some stuff.
I've grown Jalapenos in one gallon containers and had some of the most high-yielding plants, so I know that this works well. One of the biggest advantages for container-growing, is that you have full control of the soil content and the moisture level, etc.
Anyway, good hub; cheers!
Zach (author) from Colorado on June 03, 2012:
Anita - You sure can! The easiest way is to dig the containers into the ground, and when the cool temperatures of autumn come around, bring them inside! Thanks for dropping by! Good luck
Anita on June 02, 2012:
Can you plant the pepper containers in the garden so they can come out if there is danger of frost?
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on March 01, 2012:
How very timely this hub is. I was about to plant some peppers this weekend. Will definitely be referring to this. Thanks for sharing.
Voted useful and socially shared.