growing-banana-peppers

Growing Banana Peppers

Banana peppers are mild to hot chilis native to Central and South America. These fruits are long and tapered when mature. They fade from green when young to a yellow and finally to a light red color. Most often harvested in the yellow stage, banana peppers can be pickled, stuffed, or added to recipes.

How to plant banana peppers

In USDA hardiness zones 11 and above pepper plants can be treated as perennials. In these tropical areas, plant pepper seeds directly into the ground at any time of the year. Plant them in well-draining soil that has been amended with one to three inches of compost worked in or added as a mulch.

In cooler areas, start banana peppers indoors 8-12 weeks before the last frost in the region. Plant them into a high-quality potting soil with plenty of Perlite or Vermiculite. Seeds will sprout within seven days. Here is a banana pepper planting guide:

  • Sow seed 8-12 weeks before last frost date
  • Ideal germination temperature 65-75°F (18-23°C)
  • Moderate watering. Keep soil moist not wet
  • Transplant outdoors two weeks after last frost date

How to care for seedlings

Upon sprouting, immediately place pepper seedlings underneath lighting. Simple fluorescent lights work well. If no lights are available, they can be placed in a sunny window. Keep the soil evenly moist. The goal is to keep it damp but not wet. Avoid overwatering and stick to a regular watering schedule.

Seedlings are able to be transplanted outdoors two weeks after the last frost date. To transplant, they must first be acclimated to outdoor conditions.

How to acclimate plants

Acclimating plants can take up to two weeks. Bring seedlings outdoors into some dappled sunlight for one-half hour on the first day. Gradually increase the time spent outdoors each day. Increase the seedling’s exposure to direct lighting and evening temperature drops.

Harvest and Storage

Harvest banana peppers at any time. They are the most flavorful during the yellow stage and the hottest during the red stage. To ripen them on the counter, pick peppers when they are green but showing hints of turning yellow. Keep banana peppers in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Preserve these sweet and fiery fruits in a variety of ways. Banana peppers can be pickled, canned, frozen, or dried. Peppers are one of the few foods that can be frozen without first being blanched.

Troubleshooting

Several environmental conditions can cause pepper plants to stop growing or drop fruit prematurely. Avoid exposing plants to temperatures outside the ideal range of 65-75°F (18-23°C). Cold or hot extremes can cause stunt and invite disease.

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