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To someone who loves pepper plants but has limited space for gardening, growing bell peppers in pots is the way to go. Bell pepper, Capsicum annuum, is a botanical fruit that has numerous culinary uses from pizza and salad toppings to side dressings, sandwich fillings, and more.
Unlike hot peppers, bell peppers don’t contain capsaicin – the chemical compound responsible for the burning sensation caused by most peppers. This is the reason why bell peppers are easier to consume.
In fact, the more bell peppers ripen, the sweeter they become. Hence, it’s otherwise called sweet peppers.
Growing bell peppers in pots is an easy task. Let’s take a look at these five simple steps.
5 Easy Steps to Grow Bell Peppers
Although growing bell peppers is quite simple, there are a few important things to consider, especially if you’re new in the field.
Buy Seeds from your trusted nursery
The first important thing to consider when growing bell peppers (or any other plants grown from seed) is the quality of the material materials. Sure there are plenty of pepper seeds you can source out anywhere, but it’s tough to know if these seeds are of high quality and disease-free.
When looking for pepper seeds, buy from reputable nurseries and garden stores. Look at the packet and see if it’s certified disease-free seeds. Check the date of expiration and the germination rate.
We want our bell pepper seeds to be viable so we can produce the best-quality seedlings.
You can also choose from numerous bell pepper varieties whether open-pollinated, hybrid, or heirloom. So, make sure to check you’ve got the right variety your wish to plant. While you can save the seeds from store-bought pepper, we aren’t 100% of its quality.
Nevertheless, you can always try, especially if it’s just for a small garden.
Choose Your Pots or Container
The next step is to choose which pots to use. There are various styles and design you can utilize for a container garden. But regardless of how you want your garden to look, make sure the containers have drainage holes.
Consider also how much space you have.
You can use decorative pots, clay pots, recyclable materials, or even a sturdy plastic bag for growing bell peppers. Initially, you can grow the bell pepper seeds in a seedling tray, but as they grow, you’ll have to transfer them into larger pots.
Soil Mixed with Organic Matter
Getting the right potting mix is critical in growing bell peppers in pots. There are two types of mixes to prepare. One is the seed starting mix for sowing the seeds. The other is the potting mix for transplanting the seedlings.
For starting seeds, you can use a soilless mix that’s porous, light, and airy. The purpose of this medium is to provide hydration to the seeds to facilitate germination and anchorage for the roots when the seeds start to grow.
For potting, well-draining soil is a must. You can use the typical garden soil for growing bell peppers in pots but make sure to amend it with perlite, compost, peat moss, or coco coir to improve drainage and porosity. If you’re unsure, you can just purchase ready-to-use potting soil from garden centers.
Either way, remember to always ensure that the mix is sterile.
Start sowing the seeds not more than two months before the last frost date. This is either in late winter or early Spring. Prepare the seed tray and fill it in with the starting mix.
Put two seeds in the hole, cover lightly with soil then moisten the soil.
The seeds need a warm environment to germinate so it’s best to start them indoors to protect them from cold weather. You can also use a heat mat to speed up germination.
Keeping the seeds moist is crucial for germination. Use a spray bottle to mist water to the starting mix every day. However, don’t let the mix turn into a puddle because it will cause the seeds to rot.
Don’t use strong water sprays either to prevent displacing the seeds. Remember that pepper seeds are light and small.
You don’t need to fertilize to induce germination of the pepper seeds. Once they sprout, they draw their energy from the cotyledons to continue to grow. However, this energy will be depleted in time.
The seedlings develop true leaves, making them capable of producing food through photosynthesis.
You may start adding low-strength liquid fertilizer to the starting mix two weeks after the first set of two leaves develops. Once the seedlings are ready for repotting, you may add organic matter to the potting mix to make it fertile.
Bell Pepper Plant Care Guide
Now, after you plant peppers in pots, the next thing to do is provide the best growing conditions. Ultimately, we want our bell peppers to be producing fruits.
Best Position to Plant Bell Peppers
Finding the best location is one factor for the success of growing bell peppers. Choose a place that’s sunny and warm. It should be safe from extreme cold or hot temperatures.
It’s also ideal that you place your potted bell peppers in areas that have good air circulation to prevent the occurrence of diseases.
Generally, bell peppers love full sun. Exposure to direct sunlight for at least six hours is ideal. Hence, an outdoor location is still the best for pepper plants to fulfill the sun’s requirements. If tended indoors, make sure to place your sweet peppers near a sunny window sill.
The use of grow light as a supplementary source of light is very helpful.
When to water
A growing bell pepper will require more frequent watering. More so, when they start producing flower buds, and eventually, fruits. Bell peppers in containers will require at least an inch of water per week to keep the soil moist.
If water is lacking, there’s a high risk of developing blossom end rot.
Watering early in the morning is better because it allows excess moisture to evaporate, reducing the risk of developing diseases. Rather than wetting the foliage, pour the water directly into the soil.
Remember to also drain excess water from the pot to prevent root rot.
When to Fertilize
Your pepper plants will need fertilizer in order to thrive and be productive. To encourage vegetative growth (foliage growth and root development), your bell peppers need more nitrogen. During the flowering and fruiting stage, you’ll need to add more phosphorus and potassium.
Apply the fertilizer once a week. However, ensure that you dilute the fertilizer to a quarter or half the strength to prevent overfertilization.
Pruning and Maintaining
Pruning pepper plants have various benefits. It encourages good branching, promotes the development of an extensive root system, and helps improve air circulation.
If your bell peppers produce flower buds for the first two to three weeks after planting, pinching them off is beneficial. This way you’re redirecting the plant’s energy toward growing more extensive roots. Such pruning technique helps a pepper plant establish better.
Pruning side shoots and other excess growth is also helpful in improving air circulation in the plant. Doing so will prevent the occurrence of diseases, specifically those caused by fungal pathogens.
Depending on which variety, your bell peppers in containers may grow tall and top-heavy. Your plant may also produce big sweet bell peppers fruits, making it droop. In that sense, you’ll need to provide support through staking. Use a sturdy stick to tie the main stem of your bell pepper.
To help conserve moisture, provide a 2 to 3 inches layer of organic mulch around the base of your growing peppers. It will help keep the soil moist for longer periods and maintain the soil temperature. Mulching also helps suppress the growing weeds, making your maintenance work easier.
When to Harvest Bell Peppers
Picking fresh bell peppers from your container garden is usually the best part. Once your bell pepper produces red and rounded fruits, it’s now ready for harvest. That is if you intend to consume it right away.
Most folks, however, prefer to harvest when the bell peppers aren’t ripe yet.
You may harvest the green bell peppers when they’re mature enough. The size should be close to that of a tennis ball, the fruit is firm when touched, and the skin has a shiny color.
Bell Peppers Diseases and Pests
Sweet bell peppers are susceptible to blossom end rot, a disorder that occurs when the plant doesn’t receive as much calcium as it needs during fruit development. The most common reason is the lack of water. Hence, you have to make sure that you keep your growing peppers well-watered.
Spider mites, aphids, and thrips are the common pests you have to face when you grow bell peppers. Using horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps is usually enough to handle them.