In general peppers are an easy plant to grow. Most gardeners have good luck with this plant, from the sweet, bell peppers, to the hot, hot Trinidad Scorpion pepper. While no garden is without its own set of challenges, peppers are not normally a problem plant. While they are susceptible to the same pests and diseases of the Nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants), they generally do not have a large problem. You can always plant disease resistant varieties, which will help to reduce the possibility of some challenges.  There are benefits to growing peppers, they double as an ornamental plant. If you are looking for some extra color in an annual bed, pop some peppers in there amongst the flowers

Pepper Pointers

When it comes to planting peppers, you have many options. Do you want sweet? Do you want mild? Do you want super spicy? How long do you want your harvest season to be? Once you’ve made these important decisions, you are ready to choose the variety you want to plant. Put in an assortment of peppers, including mild peppers for salads and stir fry, or slightly spicy peppers for salsas, or super spicy varieties for a kick of bold flavor. Once you know what you are planting, it is time to plant. Peppers prefer a sandy loam soil that drains well with lots of organic matter in it. (Try Needham’s Nursery planting soil.)  Most sweet peppers mature in 60-90 days, hot peppers take longer with most waiting up to 150 days to mature.    

Peppers are thirsty, but finicky plants. They need a moderate supply of water from sprouts all the way through the growing season. But be careful, they will NOT tolerate saturated soil that causes waterlogged roots.  Mulching will help hold the moisture in the soil, especially during the hot and dry summer months. In regards to fertilizer, you do not want to over fertilize. Many time the plants foliage will flourish, but this is at the expense of the fruit. A 5-10-10 fertilizer worked into the bed prior to planting should be plenty.

There are so many things that you can do with peppers after harvest. Your mild peppers can be sliced up for salads, used in stir fry, or just enjoyed raw. With spicier varieties, try your hand at salsa making. You can also freeze them. Wash them, dry them, cut off the stem (leave the seeds in) and freeze. You can thaw them and have fresh peppers anytime. You can make your own crushed peppers. Take your dry peppers and roast them at 250° for about 5 minutes. Let them cool, you can use a blender to crush. The uses of peppers are endless in the kitchen.


Capsaicin, is he oily compound that produces heat in a hot pepper. It is mainly located in the veins, ribs, and seeds. Sensitivity to capsaicin varies from person to person. Be careful until you know how you react. The Scoville scale is a measurement of the “heat” in peppers. It rates peppers by Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Bell peppers rank 0 SHU, while the Trinidad Scorpion ranks 1,463,700 SHU. Wow!

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It is a volatile oil. Some concentrations of capsaicin can burn your skin. The pain associated with a capsaicin burn can last up to four days. Take extra precautions when working with spicy peppers. You may want to wear latex, disposable gloves. Be sure to wash your hands after handling peppers, and avoid contact with other skin, especially around the eyes and mouth.


Need to cool off your mouth after a hot pepper? Drink milk or eat yogurt to counteract the burn. Water will not mix with the oil, but bread, pasta, potatoes, or even bananas may help the burn subside!  If your hands are burning, it means that the capsaicin has penetrated the skin. Dip hands in a 5–to–1 water/bleach mix. The solution will turn the capsaicin into a salt that you can rinse away.  Of course, wash hands well and apply a moisturizer.


Cross contamination is something you must be careful about. You will want to launder any clothing or towels that came in contact with peppers. The oil will stay on fabric until washed well. Make sure to wash any tools used in the pepper garden, or pepper preparation, especially if preparing other foods.  

What Flavor?

100 to 2,500 SHU
The Pablano Pepper is a mild pepper that ranks between 1,000 and 2,000 SHU.

2,500 to 30,000 SHU
The Jalepeno Pepper is a medium pepper that ranks between 2,500 and 5,000 SHU.

30,000 to 100,000 SHU
Both Cayenne and Tabaso Peppers are hot peppers with both ranking between 30,000 and 50,000 SHU.

Extra Hot-
100,000 to 300,000+ SHU
Habenero Peppers are extra hot peppers ranking between 100,000 and 300,000 SHU.

The Hottest!

Trinidad Scorpion

Ghost Pepper

Red Savina Habenero
250,000 - 577,000

Chocolate Habenero
200,000 - 385,000

Scotch Bonnet
150,000 - 325,000