How to Grow Jalapeños in a Pot or Container From Seed
If you're living in a concrete jungle but still want to enjoy a harvest of summer crops, container gardening is a practical solution. With a small area, ample sunlight, and a few potting containers, anything is possible. Our specific topic of discussion in this article is growing jalapeños in containers.
These popular chili peppers originated in Mexico and are a perfect option for your container garden. Throughout this guide, you'll find crucial information on basic necessities, planting, watering, fertilizing, and harvesting your container-grown chili plant. This summer, it's time to turn that wasted patio space into a productive pepper outlet! Read on to learn all there is to know about growing a jalapeño plant in a pot.
Basic Supplies Needed to Grow Jalapeños
- Containers: If you choose to grow jalapeños from seed, you'll need a few different sizes of containers. For the most part, these can consist of recycled plastic bottles and jars, so there's no need to purchase a multitude of potting containers. However, both seedling-grown and store-bought jalapeño plants will need a final container size of at least 2 gallons. I always recommend terra cotta planters over plastic, as they help to aerate the soil more efficiently.
- Sunlight: Like most chili plants, jalapeños need ample amounts of direct sunlight to thrive. Make sure that you can provide young seedlings with 12–16 hours of direct sunlight and maturing plants with at least 8–10 hours.
- Soil and Fertilizer: Jalapeños are heavy feeders. To get off to the right start, you'll want to select a premium potting soil and an all-purpose fertilizer. The ideal potting soil will be organic, high in initial nutrition, and have good drainage qualities. The selected fertilizer should also be organic and have an NPK of 10-10-10. This will ensure that your plants receive proper nutrition after they've used up the available nutrients in the soil.
What Is NPK 10-10-10 Fertilizer?
The acronym NPK refers to the elements nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. NPK 10-10-10 fertilizers have 10% each of these three elements by weight. Fertilizers with this composition are often referred to as "all-purpose."
Step 1: Start From Seed
You could always make a trip to your local nursery and pick up a couple of young jalapeño plants, but where's the self-made satisfaction in that? This section describes how to start from scratch using seeds.
Jalapeño plants germinate and grow slowly. For this reason, it is recommended to start seedlings indoors 8–10 weeks before your average last frost.
How to Plant and Germinate the Seeds
- Depending on how many plants you wish to grow, locate and prepare the correct number of corresponding containers. When starting seeds, these containers can be as simple as 20-ounce colored soda bottles cut in half with a drainage hole drilled into the bottom.
- Fill the containers with your potting soil and water thoroughly, allowing excess water to drain away.
- Plant two or three seeds per container at a depth of 1/4 inch. Although you won't be growing all the seeds, planting extra is a good a precaution in case a few don't germinate.
- Cover the seeds with soil and place in a warm location (75–80°F) with relatively low light. Keep the soil evenly moist, and your seeds should germinate in 14–21 days.
- If you find that your soil is drying out too quickly, drape a piece of plastic wrap loosely over the top of each container. This will act as a humidity dome that stabilizes the climate by increasing moisture levels. Seeds will germinate quicker and more successfully using this method.
- A store-bought seedling tray can also work very well if you would prefer not to use soda bottles or other recycled containers.
Step 2: Care for and Transplant Your Seedlings
Great! Now that you've had a few seeds sprout, it's time to care for the seedlings. You'll be caring for the seedlings indoors until you can move them outside after all threats of frost have passed.
How to Keep Young Seedlings Healthy
- Once the seedlings have sprouted, move them to a warm and well-lit area. It is imperative that the seedlings are not exposed to temperatures lower than 65°F.
- The seedlings will also need a great deal of light (optimally 14–16 hours a day). South-facing windowsills are a great option if available, but if not, artificial grow lighting will also supply the right amount of heat and light.
- Keep the soil moist, but be careful not to overwater. Jalapeños enjoy a thoroughly moist soil but can develop root rot if the soil becomes waterlogged.
- It's good to note that indoor plants do not need to be watered as much to maintain moisture levels. By watering your seedlings one to two times weekly, you should be just fine!
When to Transplant Your Seedlings
In addition to providing warmth, water, and light, transplanting is another key factor for seedling growth and vigor. As the seedlings grow bigger, they're going to need more root space, so a schedule of transplanting should be followed. Here's how I conduct my transplanting:
- Day 14: Transplant from seedling cup to 3-inch diameter flower pot.
- Day 35: Transplant from 3-inch to 5-inch diameter flower pot.
- Day 60: Transplant from 5-inch to the final 11-inch flower pot (2-gallon).
Step 3: Care for Your Young Plants
At this point, I'm going to assume that all went well with the seedling stage or that you just went ahead and bought a young plant. Either way, it's time to grow your plants outdoors! Before moving them, however, you must harden them off (i.e., prepare them for their time outdoors). During their outdoor stay, you'll need to provide your plants with ample sunlight, water, and fertilizer.
If your plants were started indoors, you will have to harden them off before moving them to the outdoors. Hardening off refers to the process of gradually exposing a plant to outdoor conditions before moving it outdoors full-time. This is critical to plant health.
Situate your plants somewhere that gets a good amount of sunlight. Remember, maturing plants need at least 8–10 hours of direct sunlight daily.
As with the seedlings, maturing plants also prefer a soil that is kept thoroughly moist. Watering every other day should satisfy their moisture needs. Be careful not to overwater, as this will lead to root rot.
If you choose a high-quality potting soil to grow your plants in, they shouldn't need fertilizer until around a month after the date when they were planted in their outdoor containers. Fertilize them with half the recommended dose every third watering. It's much easier on the plants if you feed them a diluted solution more often rather than a concentrated dose once or twice over their lifetimes. Continue fertilizing up until two weeks before you plan to harvest your first pepper.
Step 4: Harvest Your Peppers
Finally, you've arrived at the best part! it's time to get paid off for all your hard work. From seed to usable peppers, the process has taken some 90–120 days. It's been quite a while, but it's about to be worth the wait.
Jalapeños can be eaten green or red. Of course, it will take the peppers extra time to ripen to a red color (usually closer the 120-day end of the spectrum). It's really up to you when you want to harvest your peppers. A trick to increase your plants' productivity is to pick the peppers during their green stage. This will force more blossoms, meaning more peppers for you. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Have you grown jalapeños before?
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.
© 2012 Zach