There are dozens of varieties of hot peppers, with at least that many uses, ranging from the very hot habenero to the popular and sweet, only slightly hot cherry red pepper. Peppers are a favorite with home gardeners not only for their flavorful taste, but for their ornamental value as well. These small, attractive plants are often grown in pots and thrive will basic culture as long as they are protected from cold weather.
Pepper plants in general can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 11, as long as the nighttime temperature does not fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Never plant hot pepper plants outdoors until the air and soil have warmed up and there is no danger of any late frosts. Pepper plants in general may drop buds or flowers in temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Gardening Association, so be sure to give them plenty of water during hot spells, or move them to a shaded location if they are in containers. A thick layer (3 to 4 inches) of organic mulch applied in early summer can also help keep the plant roots cool and retain water.
Hot pepper plants require full sun in order to bloom and fruit successfully. Place your pepper plant where it will receive at least six hours of sunlight per day, and preferably eight to 12 hours. If you live in one of the hotter subtropical or tropical growing zones (USDA zones 9 through 11), place your pepper plant in a location where it will be exposed to morning sunlight and dappled or filtered afternoon shade.
Soil and Water
Water your pepper plant just enough so that the soil is barely moist, but never soggy. Once-weekly deep waterings should suffice (let the water run slowly into the soil with a drip hose for several hours). Keeping the moisture level consistent will produce the most peppers. Never let the soil dry out completely, and do not let it freeze. Warm, moist soil is the perfect environment for these plants. Avoid overly wetting the soil, however, as standing water can lead to root rot.
Pepper plants are relatively free of diseases, but they can suffer from tobacco mosaic disease if handled by home gardeners who use tobacco. If you use tobacco, wash your hands before handling the pepper plants. Blossom end rot is a serious disease that affects not only pepper plants, but tomatoes and eggplant as well. The bottom of the pepper will appear wet or soggy, and eventually turn tan and rotten. Although it mimics a fungal disease, this problem stems from a lack of calcium in the pepper plant, according to information published by Ohio State University.
Hot pepper plants can also suffer from insect pests such as aphids or leaf miners. An application of insecticidal oil can rid your plant of these bugs.
Hot peppers are green in color when young, but will intensify in flavor as they mature. Some will turn red or orange, while others will turn a darker green, depending on the type of hot pepper. They can be harvested at any time during the summer. "Green" chili peppers are red peppers that are harvested before they mature. Simply pluck the pepper from the plant to harvest. If you cut off the pepper, you will damage the plant more than if you pull it off, according to information published by the University of Illinois.