Colorful hot peppers come with varying intensity of heat, and varieties suitable for home growing include jalapeno, cayenne, red chili, Anaheim, hot banana, habanero and Thai chili. This warm season vegetable cannot tolerate cold soil and dislikes evening temperatures of 50 degrees F. Gardeners should begin pepper seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last anticipated frost date in their area and move pepper plants to the garden bed or a container when temperatures rise.
Fill the chambers of your seed-starting tray with seed starting mix.
Drop one to two hot pepper seeds per chamber on the top of the seed starting tray. Cover over the seeds with seed starting media so they are just barely buried.
Water the seeds so the soil becomes saturated. Cover the seed tray to keep moisture in. Pepper seeds take six to 12 days to germinate.
Move the seed tray to a south-facing window or place in front of a plant light once the seeds have germinated. Seedlings need as much light as possible to avoid becoming leggy. Remove the cover from the seed tray.
Water the seeds as often as needed so the soil is continually moist but not soggy. Rotate the tray in the window so all seedlings receive equal light. Continue to do so until the outdoor temperatures have warmed to 55 degrees F both day and night.
Transplant the seedlings into individual 4-inch pots once they have two to three sets of leaves. Fill 4-inch pots with potting mix. Grasp one hot pepper seedling at its base and gently tug up. If the seedling won't come, stick a fork in the bottom of the seed chamber and push up; this will help dislodge the seedling.
Acclimate the pepper plants to life outdoors. First move them outside on sunny days for a few hours. Then increase the length of time they're left outside until they are outside all day. At this point, prepare the ground for planting.
Dig a hole that's twice as wide as the pepper plant's root ball and as deep as the root ball. Leave 18 to 24 inches between each pepper plant hole and at least 14 inches between rows of pepper plants.
Remove the hot pepper seedling from its pot. Place the plant in the hole at the same depth as it was planted in the container, then cover over the roots with soil. Water the newly planted pepper thoroughly so the ground becomes saturated.
Water newly planted peppers daily or every other day for the first two weeks. Then offer the pepper plant 1 inch of water per week, reducing the amount of water if it rains.
Mulch the base of the plants to keep the soil warm and reduce the amount of weeds.
Harvest hot peppers 70 to 85 days after planting or when the peppers are ready. Some varieties turn color when they ripen, while others (like the jalapeno) do not. Consult your seed packet to determine how long your hot peppers will take to ripen.