How to Care for Bell Pepper Plants

Overview

Bell peppers, also called sweet peppers, can be one of the easiest vegetable plants to care for. They have few insect pests and diseases and will thrive as long as they receive enough water and sunlight. Bell peppers are compact plants suitable for containers as well as garden cultivation. But they don't have to be green, there are now varieties that have red, yellow, orange, white, purple and chocolate colored ripe peppers. All bell peppers, regardless of ripe color, start out green. Bell peppers will not continue to ripen after being picked, so allow a pepper to change colors and ripen fully before removing.

Step 1

Plant bell pepper plants in spring when daytime temperatures are above 65 degrees F and nighttime temperatures don't drop below 55 degrees F.

Step 2

Choose a spot in full sun. Peppers need 8 to 12 hours of direct sunlight to flower and set fruit. Southern gardeners may want to provide afternoon shade to prevent peppers from sunburn.

Step 3

Mix compost into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil in the area you will be planting bell peppers. You are looking for soil that has the consistency of dry brownie mix.

Step 4

Using the hand trowel, dig holes just large enough to accommodate the bell pepper's roots. It is easiest to dig and plant as you go. Space peppers 18 to 24 inches apart in the row, and space rows at least 18 inches apart.

Step 5

Spread 1 to 2 inches of organic mulch around the base of your bell pepper plants to discourage weeds and retain moisture. If you live in an area with a short growing season and low summertime temperatures, use black plastic as mulch, as this keeps the soil warm and will extend your growing season.

Step 6

Provide 1 to 2 inches of water per bell pepper plant per week. Always water around the base of the plant rather than overhead to prevent the spread of disease.

Step 7

Fertilize your bell pepper plants with 1 to 2 inches of compost or a commercial 10-10-10 fertilizer as soon as you see peppers forming. Fertilize again when peppers start to ripen or when they are 2 to 3 inches long. Work the compost into the soil around the base of the plant (you will need to pull back the mulch and replace when you are finished). Apply the commercial fertilizer according to package directions.

Step 8

Harvest peppers as soon as they are ripe by cutting the peppers from the plant using a sharp knife or scissors. Using a knife or scissor prevents damage to the plant.

Tips and Warnings

  • Setting bell peppers out too early, when daytime temps are below 60 degrees F, will result in stunted growth and flower drop. Bell peppers are a warm-season crop and will die if touched by frost or left in cold, soggy soil.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Hand trowel
  • Ruler or measuring tape
  • Mulch
  • 10-10-10 commercial fertilizer
  • Sharp knife or scissors

References

  • University of Illinois extension; growing bell peppers
  • The Garden Primer; Barbara Damrosch; 1988
  • Step by Step Organic Vegetable Gardening; Shepherd Ogden; 1992
Keywords: bell peppers, care, green