University of Illinois Extension

Peppers Q+A

“Every growing season, many gardeners have questions about peppers,” explained Ron Wolford. “Here are some of the frequently asked questions.”

I am a new gardener and would like to try to grow peppers. Do you have any tips?

Peppers can vary from very sweet to extremely hot. Some of the newer bell peppers come in a kaleidoscope of colors from orange to bright red and white to purple and almost black. Peppers must have full sun for six to eight hours. Plant when both the temperature and soil are warm. Space the plants 18-24 inches apart. They will need the equivalent of one inch of moisture per week. Fertilize with a starter fertilizer at transplanting. Fertilize again with a complete fertilizer when peppers start to form. Most peppers can be harvested during any stage of development, except for green peppers which are most often picked when they are fully mature. Cut fruits from the plant when harvesting. Most hot peppers are harvested when they turn red. Be careful when touching hot peppers, skin and eyes can become irritated. Using plastic gloves when picking or handling hot peppers is recommended.

I grew sweet peppers for the first time last summer. Some of my peppers had brown almost rotten spots on them and others had whitish areas? What caused this?

The brownish areas are most likely blossom end-rot that is caused by fluctuations in soil moisture. Giving your garden an inch of moisture on a weekly basis will help to prevent the rot. Using mulches also helps. The whitish areas are probably a result of sun scald. Usually plants that have lost leaves due to an insect or disease problem may exhibit this condition. Keeping your plants healthy will alleviate this problem. Also growing a pepper with dense foliage like Pepper ‘Cayennetta’ can help to reduce sun scald.

The flowers on our pepper plants are falling off. We have a lot of flowers and no peppers. What is the problem?

Flower drop early in the growing season is normal. Plants will often produce more flowers than they need. Peppers will also drop flowers because of overwatering, over-fertilization with nitrogen, when temperatures are above 85 degrees or when temperatures are too cool. Once temperatures cool the plants will set fruit.

I am looking to grow some newer pepper varieties. Can you recommend some?

You can’t go wrong growing some of the newer varieties of peppers evaluated by All-America Selections. These include:

Pepper 'Cayennetta'

Easy to grow pepper for new gardeners. ‘Cayennetta’ yields three to four inch chili peppers. It does not need staking, making it a great container plant. It has dense foliage that protects it from sun scald. Pepper ‘Cayennetta’ is also tolerant of cool weather.

Pepper 'Orange Blaze'

This pepper matures to a bright orange color in about 70 days from transplanting. It has a sweet flavor with good disease resistance. The peppers are three to four inches long.

Pepper 'Cajun Belle'

Looks like small bell peppers. They have just a bit of hotness. ‘Cajun Belle’ goes from green to scarlet to a deep red. Good for containers and small gardens. Will yield 50 peppers per plant and will stay fresh for several weeks without refrigeration.

Pepper 'Carmen'

This is a sweet pepper with a “bull’s horn” shape. The elongated peppers will grow about six inches long. These peppers are sweet at almost any stage of growth. They are noted for their earliness to turn red at about 75 days after transplanting. They grow to 30 inches tall, so do well in large containers.

Wolford recommended that those seeking more information on growing peppers and other vegetables, check out the University of Illinois Extension’s Watch Your Garden Grow