Tabasco pepper plants (Capsicum frutescens) thrive in sunny spots and freely draining, moist soil. Though usually grown as annual plants, they grow outdoors year-round in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11. These plants grow best in warm conditions, and temperature levels affect their successful seed sprouting and fruit set. It takes 10 to 12 weeks for tabasco pepper plants to grow large enough to transplant when they are grown from seeds.
Growing from Seeds
Tabasco pepper seeds need warm temperatures to sprout. In cool and cold USDA zones, the seeds must be sprouted indoors with artificial heat to provide plants that will flower and fruit within one growing season. Tabasco pepper seeds sprout best at temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds sprout faster between 90 and 100 F, but fewer of them sprout.
Fill 3-inch-diameter plant pots -- that have bottom drainage holes -- with potting soil formulated for seedlings. Leave a 1/2 inch gap between the surface of the potting soil and the pot rims.
Place 3 or 4 tabasco pepper seeds on the potting soil surface of each pot. Sprinkle potting soil over the seeds to cover them to a depth of 1/4 inch.
Stand the pots in clean tap water about 1 inch deep. Remove the pots from the water when the potting soil surface is wet. Allow the pots to drain.
Place the pots on a sunny windowsill or in a plant propagator set to 80 F. Seed sprouting usually occurs in 10 to 14 days.
Water the tabasco seeds' and potting soil when the potting soil's surface is dry.
Remove the weaker seedlings to leave only the largest, strongest seedling in each pot when the seedlings are about 1 1/2 inches tall. Tabasco pepper seedlings are ready for planting in an outdoor garden when they are 4 to 5 inches tall.
Hardening Off the Plants
Homegrown tabasco seedlings and store-bought transplants must be hardened off, which means acclimated to outdoor conditions, before being planted in an outdoor garden. One to two weeks before you plan to plant tabasco seedlings or transplants in your garden, place them in their pots outdoors in a sunny spot sheltered from wind during the day, and take them indoors at night. Two to three days before transplanting the tabasco peppers outdoors, leave them outside during the day and at night.
Plant tabasco pepper seedlings and transplants when the soil temperature 4 to 6 inches below the surface is 60 F at midday. For the best results, plant tabasco peppers in growing spots that receive at least six hours of sunlight every day and in soil with a pH level of 5.5 to 7.0. The soil also should be organically rich and never waterlogged.
Dig planting holes the same width and depth as the plants' root balls, and plant the seedlings and transplants at their original growing depths -- the same soil depths at which they grew in their pots. Water the plants to moisten the soil to the depth of the root balls.
Caring for the Plants
Tabasco peppers provide their best crops when they are fertilized and regularly watered. A balanced or low-nitrogen fertilizer encourages flowering and fruiting in tabasco peppers. Evenly sprinkle a ready-to-use, dry, slow-release, 9-18-9 fertilizer at a rate of 1 tablespoon per 1 square foot around the tabasco seedlings or transplants after planting them in the garden. Avoid getting the fertilizer on the plant stems. Water the fertilized soil well. Apply the fertilizer in the same way every three months where the tabasco plants grow as perennials, or until the end of the growing season where they grow as annuals.
Water the plants whenever their soil is dry to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Apply enough water to moisten the soil to the width and depth of the plants' root balls.