If healthy plants loaded with ripe peppers are your goal, you're in luck! Today I'm sharing my Guide for Growing Peppers. If you've ever wondered what it takes to grow state-fair quality peppers, this guide is for you! Keep reading to learn the very basics, from choosing the best potting soil for peppers, to learning about more advanced topics like pH, fertilizers and much more!
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Do you eat peppers all year and love the taste of fresh peppers? Did you know they are a super easy vegetable to grow in your home garden? It doesn't matter if you are talking about hot peppers or sweet peppers, if you have a raised bed garden or a 12 in deep pot that are filled with nutrient rich, well-draining potting soil, you can grow any kind of pepper you want!
To make this guide easier to use, this article is split up into the following sections: how to choose the best potting soil for peppers, the best garden soil for growing peppers in containers, best watering practices, how to get optimal germination, tips for pH and fertilizers, and much more! Feel free to skip ahead to the section you need most! Look for the bolded headings or use the jump-to button below.
- What type of soil is best for pepper plants?
- Here are my top choices for store-bought potting mix
- My favorite DIY Potting soil recipe
- Can I use garden soil for growing peppers in containers?
- How often should I water pepper plants, and does the soil type affect watering frequency?
- Tips for good germination & growth
- What is the best way to water a pepper plant?
- What pH level is suitable for pepper plants?
- Should I use fertilizers in addition to potting soil for peppers?
- Can I reuse potting soil from the previous season for peppers?
- What are the advantages of using organic potting soil for peppers?
- Is it necessary to add perlite or vermiculite to potting soil for peppers?
- How deep should the container be for growing peppers, and does it affect soil choice?
- Did you know?
- Can I grow peppers hydroponically instead of using soil?
- More gardening posts to read!
- Recipes related to garden fresh peppers:
What type of soil is best for pepper plants?
Peppers are a very easy to grow garden vegetable. They require a soil with good drainage that has three key nutrients; nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Peppers thrive off nitrogen. They are what we consider a nitrogen loving plant. The nitrogen will help your pepper plant preform photosynthesis, which results in the big, leafy pepper plants that can produce lots of buds. If you are a beginner gardener, the easiest way to make sure you have the best soil is to go to your local garden center and look for a soil made specifically for potted plants.
Don't be overwhelmed by the garden center soil options. There might be 5 or more potting soil varieties. You want to specifically look for a bag of soil that is meant for fruits and vegetables or is well draining. A good potting soil mix will be composed of the perfect mix of vermiculite, perlite, and organic matter. Just make sure you do not grab a bag of top soil or garden soil.
Here are my top choices for store-bought potting mix
- ProMix Organic Vegetable Mix: Click on the link to see which one I'm talking about, but I couldn't find the size I usually buy. I like to get the compressed bag that is 2.0 cubic feet. You will likely be able to find it at your local Walmart, Home Depot or Lowes at a reasonable price. Buying it online is going to be MUCH more expensive.
- Fox Farm soil: Again, I'm linking to amazon, but I encourage you to find potting soil locally. It's heavy and costs an arm and a leg to ship, so places like Amazon are very high priced. I love Fox Farm soil, from the Happy Frog Potting Soil , Ocean Forest Potting Soil and Coco Loco.
- I tend to avoid Miracle Grow soil. I used to use it religiously, but after 2020 the quality really declined.
- A good seed starting mix that you should be able to find at your local Tractor Supply or Walmart is Epsoma Seed Starting Mix. Seed starting mix is great for the first few weeks of germination and then once the plant is a few inches tall, it's a good idea to transplant it into a nutrient rich soil like the ones mentioned above. Seedlings have enough energy to grow without any nutrients in their first several weeks of growth!
- A nitrogen rich amendment that I love to add to my soil throughout the season are worm castings. I do not currently have a worm farm, so I buy Worm Castings at the store.
My favorite DIY Potting soil recipe
You will need
- Garden Soil: Provides a solid base, rich in nutrients.
- Perlite: Keeps things airy and prevents soil compaction.
- Coconut Coir: Locks in moisture without drowning your plants.
- Compost: Adds a nutrient boost for happy plants.
- Lime: Balances the pH, making the soil plant-friendly.
How to mix it
- Grab a bucket.
- Mix 2 parts garden soil.
- Add 1 part perlite to add aeration.
- Toss in 1 part coconut coir to help regulate moisture.
- Sprinkle a handful of compost (like worm castings) for a nutrient boost.
- Shake in a dash of lime to balance pH.
- Stir it up! Plant your peppers. Add organic nutrients throughout the season as needed.
Can I use garden soil for growing peppers in containers?
- I would not recommend using garden soil for you container plants. Garden soil is not as breathable, and can easily become compacted in the pot. If the soil becomes compacted, it can result in various root issues such as water logged roots or root bound plants. Leave it to say that using garden soil commonly results in issues with the root ball.
- If you have already bought a bag of garden soil, my advice would be to mix it into the ground of your garden.
The picture below shows a small pepperoncini plant growing in a small pot in the greenhouse after the growing season outdoors has turned too cold for growing peppers. I strongly prefer growing peppers outside, but I do start the seedlings in the greenhouse and then save a few in pots or grow bags for winter. For more information on my greenhouse, read here.
How often should I water pepper plants, and does the soil type affect watering frequency?
Pepper plants can easily be overwatered. You need to be careful with the amount of water that is fed to your pepper plants. Overwatering signs include wilting (weird, right?), yellowing leaves, and root rot. The soil may feel like a swamp, and your plant is basically drowning. Let the soil dry out between waterings, and your peppers will thank you with a spicy harvest!
Tips for good germination & growth
- During the germination period, it is very important that the soil remains moist and warm. Many peppers will not germinate if your soil temperature is not warm.
- As the pepper plants begin to grow, you will not need to mist them or water them as often.
- You will want to make sure that the top inch of the soil surface is dry before you give them more water.
- Keep in mind that peppers like a moist soil and full sun.
The picture below shows a glimpse at my seed starting greenhouse chaos (ha!), and I start my peppers indoors 8 weeks before the last frost date. I first plant them in a 72 cell flat, then transplant into 2.5, 3 or even 5" pots as they begin to grow. To read more tips about seed starting, click here.
What is the best way to water a pepper plant?
Another consideration to take when watering your pepper plants is what time of day to water them. You will either want to water the, very early in the morning before the sun is hot or in the evening. I recommend watering in the evenings.
This will give the leaves time to dry over night and not burn in the sun if they get water on them. Even though you only want to water the soil around the base of the plant, it can be a challenge to not get any water on the leaves of the plant. At least I think it can be! Instead of a using a hose with a shower head, I prefer to use a watering can with small nozzle for targeted watering.
What pH level is suitable for pepper plants?
- The ideal growing conditions for pepper plants is 6.0-7.0 soil pH and in warm water.
- The only accurate way to test the soil pH is through a soil test. If this is your first time using a pre-made soil for any plant, you will not need to test the soil.
- One the other hand, if you used the pot of soil last year and no want to use it again this year, I would recommend either adding new organic material or organic fertilizer to your pot of soil.
- If you are still unsure if your soil has the nutrients needed for plants to grow, then you can test your soil.
Should I use fertilizers in addition to potting soil for peppers?
When you first plant your pepper seeds or transplant your pepper seedlings, you should not have to use any fertilizer, as long as you have nutrient rich soil. All potted soil should have the proper nutrients mixed in before planting any seeds or plants into it, as it will need time to absorb the nutrients.
As the plant grows and reaches it's full size, you will have to begin fertilizing the soil. Depending on the type of fertilizer you are using, usually you will fertilize once a week or once every other week. Remember, when fertilizing your pepper plants, you will want to be careful to not over fertilize them. If you notice that the leaves of your plants start browning and drying on the edges, you should stop applying any fertilizer until they heal or show signs of needing more.
If you start to notice that the bottom of your peppers have a black rotten spot in them, called pepper blossom end rot, you will need to supply calcium to your soil. Blossom-end rot is the number one sign that your soil is lacking calcium and this can be corrected if corrected early.
A nitrogen deficiency will appear by the yellow discoloration of the pepper leaves. They will first start to yellow and then they with most likely die. The leaves yellow from the stem to the tip of the leaf. To compensate for a nitrogen deficiency, you can add a cheap nitrogen rich fertilizer.
For ideas of how to do this, check out Cheap Ways to Add Nitrogen to the Soil. Keep in mind that it is possible to add too much nitrogen to your potted pepper plants.
A successful harvest of any of the pepper varieties will require both nutrient sufficient soil and well draining soil.
Can I reuse potting soil from the previous season for peppers?
- Reusing regular potting soil from last years pots is definitely possible and I recommend it. You will have to replenish the nutrients of the soil, which can easily be done by adding organic compost or homemade compost to your previously used potting soil. This is also a great way to increase the number of pots you have available for planting without spending a lot of money.
- There is a chance that you will have to remove some of the soil from your current pots so that they are not too full when you add the new compost, when you do this your can use this soil along with your compost to fill new pots.
What are the advantages of using organic potting soil for peppers?
Good quality organic potting soil is the preferred option when potting pepper plants, whether they are young plants, transplant seedlings, or established plants.
Organic potting soil is well know for its abundance of nutrients and natural micro organisms. Both of which naturally help the plant fight off fungal disease and other bacterial diseases that can kill the plants. I can't think of a better way to create the perfect growing soil conditions for your pepper plants!
Is it necessary to add perlite or vermiculite to potting soil for peppers?
- Most potting soil will come with either perlite, vermiculite or a mix of both. You can most certainly add more to your pot of soil to enhance the well-drained soil. Peppers require soil that drains well. If the soil holds too much water and can not drain it will result in root death of the plant.
- Remember that this advice is for potted pepper plants. If you are choosing transplant your potted pepper plants to your in-ground gardens, you will want to make sure your soil is more of a sandy loam soil. Loamy soil is a natural mix of clay, sand, and silt that results in the perfect combinations for a well draining soil for vegetable plants.
How deep should the container be for growing peppers, and does it affect soil choice?
If you are just starting pepper seeds, you can use small seed starting peat pots that are filled with potting soil. Once your pepper seedlings grow their first set of true leaves it will be time to up pot them into a bigger pot. You only want to transplant you pepper plants once, so that they can establish a good root system.
The larger containers or grow bags that you place your pepper plants in will need to be at least 12 inches deep. This gives the roots plenty of room to expand into the soil and form a wide spread root system, creating sturdy plants.
Did you know?
Bell peppers all start out green before turning into the vibrant hues we love. It's all about ripening stages. Green means they're not fully mature yet. As they hang out on the plant, soaking up sunlight, the magic happens – chlorophyll breaks down, and voilà, you get red, yellow, or whatever color dance they decide to do.
Can I grow peppers hydroponically instead of using soil?
I personally have never grown pepper plants hydroponically on our homestead, but it is possible. I took a horticulture class in school, and we had a lab that was a greenhouse with a tilapia tank hydroponic system. The tank watered the plants and the growth was spectacular! When you grow pepper plants hydroponically, you are growing them in a nutrient dense water solution. I encourage you to research it further if this is your goal!
More gardening posts to read!
If this growing guide was helpful, I recommend reading my Guide to Growing Tomatoes, Garlic Growing Guide, and How to Plant Potatoes. I think you will find all of these posts very helpful, especially if you are a beginner gardener!