My family and I love hot peppers but not hot peppers, you know what I mean? We want just a little bit of heat and a ton of flavor. And shishito peppers fit the bill. 

Most shishito peppers have just a little burn to them. They say that every 1 in 10 shishitos can be hot, but I actually ended up with an entire bag of shishitos with some kick to them from the grocery store one time. (There are a lot of growing factors that can change a pepper’s heat.) The ones from my garden, though, are usually mild and delicious. 

Shishitos are growing in popularity, but you might not be able to find them in the produce aisle consistently. The best way to get your hands on these mild peppers is to grow them in your garden. The good news is they’re super easy to grow and produce loads of peppers!

This is overall just a great pepper to grow in your garden. 

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WHAT IS A SHISHITO PEPPER?

Shishito peppers are a Japanese heirloom that range from about 50 to 200 on the Scoville scale (even the hottest shishitos are milder than jalapeño peppers, which are more like 2,500–8,000 on the scale). They’re often picked when they’re about 2-4″ long and a beautiful light green in color. They’re slender and have a slightly wrinkled appearance, like they’ve just rolled out of bed.

In the kitchen, shishitos cook up really well thanks to their thin skin. They also make for a quick and easy snack if you just eat a couple raw. You’ll notice a slightly sweet/citrusy/smoky flavor.

I recommend growing shishitos if you gravitate toward more sweet peppers like bell peppers. In the garden, shishitos will give you more peppers overall and in a much shorter time. They’re just an easier plant to grow. That’s why they make a great addition to the garden.

shishito peppers

WHEN TO PLANT SHISHITO PEPPERS

Like other peppers, shishitos grow best in your vegetable garden during the warm season, when temps are above 65°F but below 85°F. Peppers love warm soil, and they don’t like cold weather at all.

Many of you will grow peppers during the summer months. For those of us in a warm climate like Central Texas, we get to grow peppers in the spring after our last frost date and then again in the late summer/early fall.

You’ll need to harvest all your peppers and remove them from the garden space before frost arrives. I recommend potting them up and bringing them inside. Peppers are pretty resilient plants, and they can actually last several years.

By Seed

If you want to grow your own shishito peppers from seed, it’s best to start them by seed indoors 6-8 weeks before your last spring frost. You could also wait till a week or two after your last frost to direct seed them outside, but this is only for those of you with a warm growing season that lasts 120 days or more.

By Transplants

You can always buy a shishito plant starts from your local nursery if you find them. Wait until a week or two after your last frost to transfer them to your garden. Be prepared to cover your shishito plants if you planted early and nighttime temperatures are expected to drop into the 30s.

If you’re planting in the late summer, make sure you have at least 80-90 days for your peppers to mature before you expect your first frost in the fall or winter.

WHERE TO PLANT SHISHITO PEPPERS

You can grow shishito peppers in a raised bed or container garden at least 12″ tall. These plants like well-drained soil and full sun. They can grow up to about 2′ tall and 18″ wide, so they’ll need at least a square foot in the garden to themselves.

Your shishito pepper plant might need a little support once it’s grown tall and trying to hold onto lots of little peppers. I like to grow my peppers in my raised beds near an obelisk trellis. Otherwise, you’ll want to have some stakes and twine handy.

Peppers need fertile soil to produce fruit, so add a 2-3″-thick layer of compost to the planting area before planting seeds or transplants.

How Many Hours of Sunlight Do Shishito Peppers Need?

Shishito pepper plants can grow with 6 hours of sunlight but will be much more productive with closer to 8-10 hours. So make sure the spot you choose gets at least 8 hours of direct sunlight each day if you want a bountiful harvest of peppers.

HOW TO GROW A SHISHITO PEPPER PLANT IN A CONTAINER

Pick a large pot, container, or grow bag at least 12″ deep that has good drainage. If your pot doesn’t have drainage holes at the bottom, you’ll need to add some with a drill so that the roots of your plant don’t have to sit in water (not good). Fill the container with a mix of organic potting soil and compost.

Set your container in a sunny spot. Make sure to check on the soil moisture frequently since containers will dry out faster than raised beds, especially ones made of terra cotta. (Find more container gardening tips.)

HOW TO PLANT SHISHITO PEPPERS BY SEED INDOORS

Starting shishito peppers by seed indoors is a great way to get a head start on your growing season. You’ll need your shishito pepper seeds, plus some organic seed starting mix, seed starting trays, and a grow light. Since peppers germinate best in warm soil, I also recommend using a heat mat under your trays. (You can find our full list of recommended seed starting supplies here.)

Soak your shishito seeds in water for 2-8 hours for best results. Then, mix your seed starting mix with water and fill your seed starting trays. Plant each seed in its own cell about 1/4″ deep. Once your seeds have sprouted, make sure to keep the grow light right overhead.

You can transplant your seedlings to the garden once they have 2-3 sets of true leaves. Make sure to harden your peppers off first to get them used to outdoor conditions. (Check out our indoor seed starting guide for more information.)

pepper seedlings in grow cups

HOW TO PLANT SHISHITO PEPPERS BY TRANSPLANT

You can transplant shishito peppers to the garden once you’re at least 1 week past your last frost date. 

Prepare the growing area by adding a 2-3″-thick layer of compost. This will give your baby shishitos a nice nutritional boost. 

Dig holes that are a bit deeper than the seedling pot your pepper is currently in. You actually want to bury peppers a little above their neck (where the roots meet the stem); this encourages them to develop a stronger root system. Space your plants at least 12″ apart. 

Water your peppers in well. 

hands planting pepper transplant in the soil

HOW TO CARE FOR SHISHITO PEPPER PLANTS

Shishito pepper plants are pretty low-maintenance. Follow these tips to ensure you get as many ripe peppers as possible from your plants.

Watering Shishito Peppers

Peppers enjoy consistent watering. For the first 6-8 weeks after sowing pepper seeds or transplanting peppers to your garden, you’ll want to water every other day or so. Once your plants are established, they’ll need about 1″ of water a week to set fruit. Watering deeply once a week (instead of a little bit each day) will encourage the roots of your pepper plants to dig deep, which will better anchor the plants.

The best way to deliver consistent water to your plants is with a drip irrigation system (this one is super easy to set up) or another deep watering option is a GrowOya.

Remember that containers dry out quickly. Water when the soil feels dry down to your first knuckle. You might need to water your container garden daily or every other day when it’s dry and warm outside.

Fertilizing Shishito Peppers

Start off with an all purpose organic fertilizer like MicroLife. Switch to MicroLife Maximum Blooms as soon as you see your first little pepper flowers starting to form. This is my go-to fertilizer for fruiting plants–it gives them everything they need to form flowers and then fruit.

You can also side dress your pepper plants with compost whenever you think they need more nutrients. I like to push some compost around the base of each plant to help support it.

Supporting/Trellising Shishito Peppers

Give your pepper plants some support to avoid the plant breaking a branch or falling over when  the branches get heavy with peppers. Grow your peppers next to an obelisk or panel trellis or inside a tomato cage. Another option is to hold your plants up with wooden stakes and twine. I recommend installing trellises or stakes before planting or while plants are still young to avoid disturbing their roots later.

COMMON PROBLEMS WHEN GROWING SHISHITO PEPPERS

Here’s what to do if you encounter one of these pepper-growing issues:

Blossom End Rot

If your little peppers are turning brown and shriveling up on one end instead of maturing, they’re likely suffering blossom end rot. This happens when the plants don’t have enough calcium and feel stressed out, perhaps from not enough or inconsistent watering. Give your plants some MicroLife and review your watering system. Pull the rotten-looking peppers from the plant. The problem will often resolve quickly, and you can still get a good harvest.

Aphids

You’ll likely notice curling leaves or the bugs themselves if aphids are an issue. Aphids are those teeny tiny soft-bodied bugs that often come in large numbers on the underside of the leaves and along the stems of your plants. Aphids will eat just about anything, peppers included.

Before using any kind of pesticide, spray your affected plants with a strong stream of water from a garden hose for several days in a row. This scatters aphids about, and the displaced little bugs are surprising terrible at regrouping. If that doesn’t help, then you can make a homemade spray from Castile soap or dish soap and water. Spray the top and underside of your leaves. Reapply every couple of days until your aphid problem is resolved.

To prevent aphids in the future, plant some marigolds near your peppers to attract ladybugs (predators of aphids). (Read more on how to handle aphids organically.)

Not Fruiting

Your plant might struggle to form fruit if your temperatures are going over 95°F in the summer. Give your plants a little afternoon shade or cover them with shade cloth. Keep them well watered. They should bounce back and begin fruiting once the temps drop.

shishito peppers hanging on the plant

WHEN TO HARVEST SHISHITO PEPPERS

Peppers are typically ready to harvest 8-10 weeks after transplanting them to the garden or 12-18 weeks after planting from seed. I love shishitos best flavor-wise when they’re harvested green, though you can certainly let them ripen all the way to red if you’d like. Harvest peppers while they’re green if you want to maximize your pepper yield. Basically, the more you harvest, the more your plant will grow for you. 

HOW TO HARVEST SHISHITO PEPPERS

To harvest your shishitos, 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 because that can inadvertently damage the branch.

You can expect your plants to continue to produce for at least 30 to 45 more days, assuming your weather stays nice and warm.

Bring your peppers inside and store them unwashed in the fridge inside a loosely covered container. 

hand holding recently harvested shishito peppers

FUN WAYS TO EAT SHISHITO PEPPERS

My favorite way to eat shishito peppers is to blister them on the stove top with a bit of olive oil and sea salt. Serve them with some garlic aioli sauce—perfection! You can also eat them raw, grill them, chop them up and toss them onto your tacos, cook them in a big pot of chili, or use them to make salsa.

For long-term storage, pickle them or dry them in a food dehydrator or Harvest Freeze dryer.

blistered shishito peppers in a cast iron pan

Shishito peppers are so delicious and fun to add to your garden harvest rotation. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments!