University of Florida

Hot Peppers

Whether you grow them to eat or just to admire, hot peppers will add a kick to your garden.

Characteristics

Hot peppers are a great vegetable crop to grow during the summer in Florida. Unlike some other vegetables, hot peppers will keep producing even when the temperatures and humidity climb.

Hot peppers get their spicy flavor from a compound known as capsaicin, and the relative spiciness of peppers is compared on a heat index known as the Scoville scale. Milder peppers like Anaheims or  jalapenos rank between 1,000 and  10,000 Scoville units, while spicier peppers like the cayenne or habanero can check in at 50,000 or  250,000 Scoville units. There is even a pepper called the Trinidad Moruga scorpion that measures more than 1.2 million Scoville units.

After you grow your own hot peppers, you can add them to stir fries, curries, and other dishes to increase the heat. Another option is to try making your own hot sauce.

Even if you don’t want to eat them, hot peppers can still be fun to grow. Their colorful fruits can be red, purple, yellow, or orange, and they easily add interest to landscape beds and containers. In fact, some pepper varieties like Black Pearl, Calico, Purple Flash, and Sangria are grown almost exclusively for their ornamental value.

Planting and Care

You can buy hot pepper transplants at your local feed and seed or garden center, or you can start your own from seed. If you’re interested in trying some of the more exotic peppers like the ghost pepper, you may need to order seeds online.

For best success, choose varieties that are known to do well in Florida and that are resistant to diseases. Be sure to wait until after the last frost date before you plant your peppers in the spring.

Like most vegetables, hot peppers need full sun in order to produce a good harvest. Plant them away from patios, walkways, or any areas accessible to small children is important, to prevent plant oils or fruits from irritating skin or causing any other problems.

If you are planting peppers in the garden and you have sandy soil, be sure to add plenty of organic matter to the planting site. If you are planting peppers in containers, use a well-drained potting media.

Fertilize your peppers at the time of planting, and then fertilize two to three times during the growing season or use a controlled release fertilizer for season-long feeding. Hot peppers ae relatively drought-tolerant, but you should water them regularly to keep them productive.

Your peppers will be ready to harvest once they’re firm and crisp.
For more information on hot peppers, contact your county Extension office.

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