Growing Jalapeno Peppers

Jalapeno peppers are three inch long chilis from Central America. Often harvested as deep green chilis jalapenos will ripen to a bright red if left on the plant. Jalapeno plants are very productive and will produce dozens of fruits. These are popular for fresh eating, making jams, pickles, or adding to recipes for a bit of heat.


How to Plant Jalapenos

Peppers are from the tropics and will not tolerate frost. In USDA zones 10 and below they must be started indoors before the weather warms. This gives gardeners a head start and ensures that the plants will produce a worthwhile crop.

Start jalapenos 8-12 weeks before the last frost date in your region. They will need 72 frost-free days to reach maturity. The earlier they mature the more fruit will be produced. Here is a quick jalapeno planting guide:

  • Sow seed 8-12 weeks before last frost date
  • Ideal germination temperature: 65-75°F (18-24°C)
  • Use high quality potting soil
  • Transplant outside two weeks after frost
  • Acclimate before transplanting

Water, Nutrients and Light

Consistently keep the soil damp but do not allow it to get wet. Peppers and young seedlings are susceptible to rot if overwatered. The best way is to stick to a watering schedule for both seedlings and plants. Always adjust for natural precipitation, and check the soil for moisture before watering.

Seedlings sprouted indoors need as much light as you can give them. Hang fluorescent bulbs four inches above the tops of growing seedlings, and adjust them as they grow. A windowsill that receives direct light will also work but plants may try to stretch toward the light if they don’t receive enough.

Young seedlings don’t need nutrients for the first eight to twelve weeks of life. Work three to six inches of compost into your outdoor planting bed. It will feed the plant after transplant and continue to release nutrients over time. A liquid organic fertilizer can be applied when the plants start setting fruit.

How to Acclimate Seedlings

Do not transplant directly from indoors without acclimating seedlings. They need time to adjust to direct sunlight, wind, rain, and temperature fluctuations. Acclimate seedings by bringing them outside for increasing amount of time each day. Begin for one-half hour and gradually increase their exposure to light and cooling evening temperatures.

This process can take up to two weeks. Plants are ready for transplant when they show no signs of stress after being outdoors for 24 hours.

How to Harvest

Ripe jalapenos are deep green or red in color and are easily plucked from the plant. Cracking of skin around the stem indicates that the pepper is ready to pick. Pick them green for fresh eating, but leave them to turn red for drying.