Pepper plants are super fun to grow here in Texas. They make for really attractive plants (especially when there are little peppers in different colors), and they don’t take up very much space in the garden when compared to most other fruiting plants. They’re also super productive plants.
With a little tending, you can end up with your own spicy (or sweet!) bushel of peppers in just a couple months.
THE BEST PEPPERS TO GROW IN TEXAS
Overall, peppers grow really well in Texas during our warmer months. Typically, hot peppers (including jalapeño peppers, shishito peppers, and serrano peppers) and sweet peppers (like banana or sweet italian peppers) can better handle our hot climate and are great for beginner gardeners. We’ll focus on jalapeños since they’re a Texas favorite.
Bell peppers rank a little higher on the difficulty scale. For one, they produce poorly when temps are over 85 degrees. They also take a a long time to form and ripen since they’re so much larger. You can, of course, give bell peppers a try in your first pepper season, but you’re more likely to find success with different varieties.
Here are some of our favorite pepper types:
- Jalafuego Jalapeño Peppers – At 4″ long, these are jalapeños grandes! These jalapeño pepper plants are extra productive and extra spicy.
- NuMex Lemon Spice Jalapeño Peppers – Take your typical jalapeño but make it yellow and give it a citrusy twist, and you get these guys!
- Serrano Chili Peppers – Serrano peppers are hot but very flavorful—the ideal pepper for adding some heat to a dish. These plants are super producers.
Semi – Hot Peppers
- Shishito Peppers – My absolute favorite pepper to grow! These peppers have slightly wrinkled flesh and a citrusy and slightly smoky flavor. They’re great for snacking on fresh, though every now and then, you can get a pretty hot little shishito.
- Biquinho Peppers – These little Brazilian peppers are the cutest and the most delicious. They’re tangy and sweet with just a hint of heat. They’re picked when they’re red or yellow and shaped like little ornaments. Brazilians love to pickle them and serve them with literally everything. This variety is great for containers.
Non-Spicy and Sweet Peppers
- Sweet Banana Peppers – This is another great type for pickling. You’ll get lots of long, bright yellow peppers that are packed with flavor. This type grows a little faster than the others and is good for container growing.
- Sweet Bell Peppers – Bell peppers start off green and then change to yellow, orange, and red as they ripen. When mature, each fruit will be about 4″ long.
- Heirloom Italian Sweet Peppers – These peppers are a lot easier to grow and far more prolific for sweet peppers than bell peppers. They are great for salads, snacking, and roasting.
WHEN TO GROW PEPPERS IN CENTRAL TEXAS
Peppers love warm weather and thrive here during our spring and fall seasons. They cannot handle any frost. That means you don’t want to put pepper seeds or seedlings in your garden until all danger of frost has passed, which is typically around late March here in the greater Austin area. (That’s giving our last frost date in mid-March a buffer to be on the safe side.)
If you’d like, you can get a head start by growing peppers indoors under a grow light starting around early to mid-February. That way, you can transplant them outside at just the right time in their life cycle. Since peppers germinate best in a warmer soil temperature, use a heat mat under your seed starting trays until seedlings emerge. (Check out our seed starting guide for more tips.)
During our hot summers, peppers will stop flowering and setting fruit. Like I mentioned, hot peppers tend to fare the best in hot weather. Your plants will set more fruit once it cools down a bit in the fall.
You have a second opportunity to grow peppers in the fall. Sow seeds or move transplants out in late August.
At the end of the growing season (basically when we’re expecting our first frost of winter), it’s time to harvest any remaining peppers on your plants and remove the plants from the garden.
When to Plant Jalapeños in Texas
Since we have a long warm-to-hot season, you can wait to plant jalapeño seeds directly in the garden in April or again in August for a fall crop. The ideal temperate will be above 55 at night and 70 during the day for best results. You can always grab some healthy looking young jalapeño plants from a local nursery if you want to get a jump on harvest time!
WHERE TO GROW PEPPERS
Your biggest priority in choosing a spot is making sure your plants have full sun. These plants can grow with 6 hours of sunlight but will be much more productive with closer to 8 to 10 hours.
Pepper plants can be grown in a raised bed or larger pot. I like to grow my pepper plants in my raised bed, which is filled with well-drained soil rich in organic matter. The height of the raised beds ensures the plants have plenty of soil to anchor themselves so they won’t fall over when they’re holding lots of peppers. It also helps with drainage.
If you plan to grow peppers in a pot or container, look for something at least 12 inches deep so the roots have plenty of space. Make sure this container has at least one good drainage hole to release excess water, and fill it with a mix of organic potting soil and compost.
HOW TO GROW PEPPERS FROM SEED
Let’s talk about how to direct sow pepper seeds in your garden. If you’re starting seeds indoors, make sure to check out our indoor seed starting guide for more information.
Reminder: Wait about 2 weeks after your last frost date before planting jalapeño seeds.
Before planting, add a 2- to 3-inch layer of fresh compost to the growing space. This gives your baby plants a nice little nutritional boost.
Use a dibber or chopstick to make planting holes that are about 1/4″ deep. Check your seed packet to see how wide your pepper plants are expected to grow. Jalapeño pepper plants can grow 12″ to 24″ inches wide, so you’ll want to make sure to give them at least a good square foot of space in the garden.
Water your planting area to tell the seeds it’s time to wake up and get growing.
If you’re planting pepper starts that you grew indoors or bought at a nursery, dig a hole that’s twice as wide and a little deeper than the plant’s rootball. You’ll bury the plants slightly deeper than their necks (where roots meet main stem) to help them grow a stronger root system post-moving.
PEPPER PLANT CARE
Pepper plants are typically pretty low-maintenance, especially compared to other fruiting plants you might grow in the home garden. That being said, grow them under their ideal conditions and follow these tending tips if you want to end up with a peck of peppers, pickled or otherwise.
Give Pepper Plants Support
Pepper plants can grow anywhere from 18″ to 36″ tall—often a little too high for their own good. It’s so sad to see plants break a branch or even lose some baby fruits because they were knocked over by heavy wind.
The best way to avoid the above situation is to give your plants a little support to keep them from falling over. You can grow peppers around an obelisk or panel trellis and occasionally attach some stems to the structure for support. You can also use garden stakes and twine to hold plants upright.
I recommend installing trellises or wooden stakes before planting or while plants are still young to avoid disturbing their roots later. Plan ahead!
Provide Some Shade for Pepper Plants on Hot Days
Even hot pepper plants benefit from some afternoon shade during our blazing Texas summers. When temps spike over 95 degrees, I like to cover my garden with some shade cloth to protect my peppers from the worst of the heat.
How Much Water Does a Pepper Plant Need?
For the first 6 to 8 weeks after sowing pepper seeds or transplanting peppers to your garden, you’ll want to water every other day or so (unless, of course, we’re getting lots of April showers).
Once your plants are established, they’ll need about 1 inch of water a week to set fruit. You can provide this water once a week to encourage the roots to go deep and help anchor the plant. A drip irrigation system is an efficient way to keep pepper plants watered. (If you don’t have one set up yet, Garden in Minutes has a great grid system that’s super easy to install.)
Note that the soil in a container tends to dry out faster and needs to be watered more often. Water when the soil feels dry down to your first knuckle.
Fertilize Pepper Plants Once They Flower
As soon as you see your plants form their first flowers, it’s time to feed them a phosphorus-rich fertilizer. My go-to for fruiting plants is MicroLife Maximum Blooms. You can repeat application every 2 to 4 weeks.
You can also pile a little compost around the base of each plant to help support it.
How Long Do Jalapeños Take to Grow in Texas?
Jalapeños take about 3 to 4 months to produce fruit, depending on the variety of the jalapeño plants you’re growing. Time to harvest can also vary based on how much sun your plants have received and your desired ripeness stage.
You get to decide when to harvest peppers once they’re fully mature (about 3″ inches long or so). You can take green jalapeños as soon as they’ve gone from light to dark green, before they’ve had time to develop lots of heat. The longer you leave them on the plant, the higher the amount of capsaicin inside.
Once peppers begin to turn red, they’ll be at their hottest. Red jalapeños have a bit more flavor, plus more vitamins and antioxidants, than less-ripe peppers.
Each jalapeño plant can produce about 25 to 35 peppers!
WHEN TO HARVEST PEPPERS
As you’ve probably already gathered, peppers are technically fruits. That means you’re coming closer to harvest time once you see pretty white flowers forming on your plant. (The peppers will form from these flowers.)
Depending on the variety you’re growing, your first peppers will be ready for harvest within about 60 to 90 days after transplanting.
Check the back of your seed packet to see the recommended size and color each pepper should be at harvest. Shishitos, for example, are typically harvested when they’re about 2″ to 4″ long, before they turn red, for best flavor. The best time to harvest banana peppers is when they’re 3″ to 5″ long and still yellow, before they mature to an orange-red shade.
Green bell peppers are actually immature fruits but fully edible and super delicious. Ripe peppers turn color and develop a sweeter flavor as they continue to mature.
Overall, I recommend harvesting peppers at the first sign of ripeness. Doing so tells the plant to put all its energy to producing new peppers. It’s fun to leave peppers and watch them change color, but the tradeoff is that those fruits are draining resources from the plant.
HOW TO HARVEST PEPPERS
To harvest, use a clean pair of pruners or scissors to clip the stem right above the pepper. Leave about 1″ of stem attached. Avoid pulling fruit from the plants; you might accidentally damage the branch.
Harvest frequently to encourage your plant to keep producing for you. You can expect your plants to continue to produce for at least 30 to 45 more days, assuming our weather stays ideal.
When it’s time to harvest jalapeno peppers or other peppers high on the Scoville scale, it’s a good idea to wear gardening gloves. Make sure to wash your hands after touching pepper seeds or any part of the inside of the fruits. Definitely don’t pluck a split-open hot pepper from your plant and then touch your eyeball! (Been there and very unfortunately done that!)
HOW TO HARVEST PEPPER SEEDS
It’s easy to save your own pepper seeds from a variety you’ve enjoyed growing.
Leave a few fruits on the plant until they shrivel up. Cut lengthwise down the fruit, scrape out the seeds, and spread them out on a plate or towel to dry for a couple weeks. You’ll know they’re ready to be stored once you can pinch them with your fingernails and not leave a mark. Store them in a paper bag or envelope until next growing season. Now you have seeds for next year!
HOW TO SAVE AND ENJOY PEPPERS FROM THE GARDEN
Fresh peppers are incredible raw, deep fried, and chopped up and tossed in salsas. My favorite is to blister them in a cast iron skillet on the stove top. You just can’t beat blistered shishito peppers with a garlic aioli sauce.
Peppers can be pickled to increase their crunchiness and flavor or dried for long-term storage. Fresh peppers can be stored unwashed in a loosely covered container in the fridge for up to a week.
I love to use my food dehydrator or Harvest Freeze dryer to dry peppers.
Homegrown peppers are so delicious and fun to add to your garden harvest rotation. Who knows—maybe you’ll be down to experiment with more flavors and heat levels now that you’re in control of when to pick your peppers. If your peck of peppers is too hot, you can always pickle them!
Ways we can work together
If you don’t know where to start or feel like you don’t have a green thumb, grow your garden with us through 1:1 Coaching.
If you’re ready to have a beautiful garden and just need the design done for you, book a consultation and we’ll design a custom raised bed garden that’s tailored for your space.
If you just want to walk out your back door and see a beautiful garden, without putting in all the work to make it happen, LGS offers design + installation services.