Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.
Delicious to Eat, Beautiful to Grow
Before a bell pepper plant actually bears its delicious fruit, the plant displays beautiful and dainty little white flowers.
The plant is very low-maintenance, and while it supplies a plentiful crop of fruit, it also looks great while doing it. Bell peppers are among the most attractive vegetables you can grow. The bell pepper plant becomes a thick bush that might require staking in order to hold up the heavy peppers it produces. This article will address how to properly plant and fertilize bell pepper plants.
Bell pepper plants are annuals. When you are looking for seedlings to buy, look for young plants that are short and stocky. You don't want to buy plants that are already flowering, and you will want to stay away from bell pepper plants that are too leggy. If a plant is too large for the pot it is in, pass it by. Your vegetable garden will thank you.
You will need to dig a hole that is two to three times the size of the bell pepper seedling's rootball. Mix in some compost with the soil you have dug, then fill the hole with the dirt and compost, leaving only enough room for the rootball. It should sit at the same height it did when you bought it.
- Now, remove the seedling from the original container. If it is rootbound or tangled, carefully separate the roots. Then cut off the roots, leaving about 75% of the original roots. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of Epsom salts around the base of the hole, helping the plant to create a stronger stem. Place the seedling in the hole and pat the soil down firmly.
- When it becomes necessary, stake the bell pepper plant in your vegetable garden so that the mature fruit is supported, and keep your pepper plants watered well.
- When you are ready to harvest your bell peppers, cut the fruit off at about mid-stem using a sterile, sharp knife. NEVER pull bell peppers off the plant. Pulling on them will break the branch and damage the plant. After taking pains to take care of your plant, don't risk the possibility that it will stop bearing fruit.
- Most bell peppers start out green, then ripen to their mature colors, which could be red, green, yellow, or even purple. And although the plants are attractive enough to grow in a container garden, they will thrive in the ground, which will allow the roots to spread out.
Be on the Lookout for Diseases
These are just a few of the diseases that you will need to be aware of when growing bell peppers.
- Damping-off: A fungal disease that occurs on the seeding table just when the young plants are starting to grow.
- Pythium crown and root rot: Symptoms are brown, sometimes shriveled tissue at the base of the plant extending upward almost an inch. The internal tissue will also be brown. With Phytophthora blight, the tissue is almost black, and will often extend even further up the stem. The outer part of the ends of roots will rot off, leaving the white core, which is characteristic for this disease. You can expect the tops of the plants to become brown and die as a result.
- Cercospora leaf spot: If circular spots appear with a light gray center and a reddish-brown margin, you might have this type of leaf spot. The spots will later become tan with a dark ring, and a yellowish halo will appear around the ring, which results in a frog-eye appearance.
- Bacterial leaf spot: Even a mild case of bacterial spot causes prominent necrotic spots on the leaves of peppers. If you have a severe case, it can cause leaves to drop prematurely and stems and pods to have spots.
- Alternaria solani leaf spot: This is not a severe problem, although it occasionally can cause a minor leaf spot on pepper foliage.
- You should fertilize the plants with a low-nitrogen fertilizer (very lightly). Too much nitrogen will cause the plant to stop producing fruit.
- Keep your bell pepper plants in the sunshine, but keep them out of the wind and in well-drained soil.
- During the growing season, sprinkle compost beside each of your bell pepper plants in your garden.
- If you are starting your bell pepper plants from seeds, start them indoors a couple of months before the last frost. When the seedlings are 3-4 inches tall with two sets of leaves, they are ready to be repotted in 3-inch pots.
- Plant your bell pepper seedlings after all danger of frost has passed.
- Allow about a foot in between the bell pepper plants in your vegetable garden, so they have enough room to grow.
- Mulch your bell pepper plants with straw or pine bark.
- You can expect about 1 pound or more of bell peppers per plant.
Note: If you are having a problem with aphids on your peppers, you can put some ladybugs in your garden. That should do the trick, and the ladybugs don't do any damage to your plants.
- Watch out for pepper weevils on your bell pepper plants. They are tiny, little winged insects that feed on the leaves, buds, and fruit, and will cause the peppers to become discolored and misshapen. If any of your plants are affected, remove the fruit and destroy it, so other plants don't get infected.
- If you are also growing hot peppers, DON'T grow them near your bell peppers, because they will mix!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Mike and Dorothy McKenney
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on May 17, 2011:
Thanks you annmackiemiller!
annmackiemiller from Bingley Yorkshire England on May 17, 2011:
I love peppers - great hub voted up and stuff