Every year, we grow jalapeno peppers in pots. One year, it was the lemon spice jalapeno variety. Another, it was a traditional green jalapeno. This year, we have 3 varieties of jalapeno peppers growing, including the bizarre Farmer’s Jalapeno. In this article, we will share everything we have learned about growing jalapenos in pots to help you achieve the best possible harvest.
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This post is tailored specifically to growing jalapenos in containers rather than in the ground. For a more broad article on growing peppers, check out our post about growing habanero peppers here.
This will also assume you are starting your jalapeno peppers from seed in the late winter. If you are buying plant starts, you can skip ahead to choosing a soil.
In This Article:
- Jalapeno seeds
- Choosing soil
- Fertilizing & Watering
- Choosing a container
- Jalapeno plant problems
- Saving seeds
- Jalapeno pepper uses
Buy Jalapeño Seeds
It all starts with a seed. Or, ideally, a packet of many seeds. Jalapenos are among the most commonly grown pepper variety, so you’ll have no trouble finding seeds.
You can easily pick up a seed packet at your local nursery or Home Depot.
However, if you are looking for some of the more interesting varieties of jalapenos, you’ll likely have to buy online.
We have bought seeds from several online retailers, but we recommend RareSeeds for a great variety of jalapenos. They have standard jalapenos, along with pumpkin spice jalapenos, lemon spice, and orange spice.
It seems that rareseeds has a new jalapeno variety every year. They even have a jalapeno that has no heat to it (but what’s the point…). Prices are usually around $3 per pack.
Planting Jalapeno Seeds (Germination)
Planting seeds is easy. However, there are some important things to know before slapping some seeds in a pot of soil. Namely, the ideal timing and the environment of the germination.
When To Plant Jalapenos
For most Northern Hemisphere growers, you will want to plant jalapeno seeds around 2-2.5 months before the last chance of frost. This will give the plants enough time to grow to maturity and maximize yields before the end of the growing season.
Use this free tool to enter your postal code and determine when to plant.
We live in the Northeast US and we plant most of our pepper seeds in early March. Some jalapeno varieties mature more quickly so you may be able to get away with planting a few weeks later.
How To Plant Jalapeno Seeds
Jalapeno peppers usually germinate without issue. Other varieties may require special methods for better germination, but usually not jalapenos.
Fill some seed trays with pre-moistened seed starter soil and plant 2-3 seeds in each cell. The depth should be approximately 0.5 cm with just a light covering of soil. Water thoroughly after planted.
To give your seeds the best chance of germination, use the following tips:
- Keep the soil moist and humid. These seed trays come with a humidity dome to keep the soil from drying out too fast. Fan out the tray and spray with water about once per day.
- Keep the soil very warm. The ideal temperature for pepper seed germination is about 80°F. If you have a cold house, you can use a seed heating mat (we love ours).
How Long For Jalapenos To Germinate?
Jalapenos will typically sprout within 4-7 days. This will vary based on the age of the seeds, and the conditions under which they are germinated.
Once your seeds sprout, they will want lots and lots of light. A sunny window won’t be enough to grow the best plants.
Get a grow light and give the seedlings 12-16 hours of light per day starting immediately after sprouting.
Choosing Soil For Jalapenos
Buying soil for your peppers can be stressful. There are lots of options on the market, all of which claim to be the best soil for potted plants.
For Jalapenos, the ideal soil is a loamy, sandy mixture with lots of organic matter. This basically means that to achieve the perfect soil for your jalapenos, you’ll need to use some compost.
However, considering you are growing jalapenos in pots, you may not have the space for a compost bin. In this case, you can simply use a nutrient-rich potting mix.
We use Miracle-Gro potting soil mix for most of our potted plants. Make sure you buy your soil from a reputable source like Home Depot or Lowes to avoid poor conditions. The last thing you want is soil full of insect eggs or mold spores.
Fertilizing And Watering Jalapeños
Once your jalapenos sprout, they will need a consistent schedule of both water and fertilizer to be happy. Young jalapeno plants don’t need too much nutrients, so you’ll want to be careful not to over-feed. Also, when growing jalapenos in pots, you won’t need as much fertilizer as you would in the ground.
We recommend using 1/2 strength fertilizer for the first 3-4 weeks, or until you transplant your jalapenos out of seedling cells.
Which Fertilizer Should I Use for Jalapenos?
This is another difficult decision for pepper growers. What is the ideal fertilizer for growing jalapenos? We have experimented with many different fertilizers, and we recommend 2 brands.
Fox Farm Trio – Get it on Amazon
What we love about this trio is the simplicity. Each bottle of fertilizer is designed for a different stage of plant growth. You’ll use ‘Grow Big’ while your jalapenos are young and developing lots of leaves. Then, you will switch to ‘Big Bloom’ for healthy flower production. Finally, you’ll move to ‘Tiger Bloom’ through to harvest.
If you want a one-stop-shop for jalapeno fertilizer, this is it!
Miracle-Gro Organics – Get it on Amazon
This water-soluble organic fertilizer is excellent for early stage growth. The high nitrogen levels will lead to well-developed leafy growth on your jalapeno plants. However, this may not be a great option for later in the season when your plants begin producing flowers. At that point in time, switch to something with lower nitrogen, or simply cut back on feeding.
There are lots of other options out there, but we like to use water-soluble fertilizers. We feel more confident that all of the nutrients are being brought down to the jalapeno’s root system.
Read more about pepper plant fertilizer in our article here.
Watering Jalapeno Plants
This is perhaps one of the most common problems people have when growing jalapenos in pots: overwatering. Don’t over-care for your pepper plants!
Here are some basic rules to follow when watering your peppers:
- Allow the plants to dry out between waterings. The first inch or so of soil should be dry before applying more water. Peppers prefer dry conditions over moist. Use a water meter if you want to be exact.
- Water in the early morning or evening. Avoid watering mid-day if possible to prevent leaf burn from the sun.
- Water at the base of the plant, not all over the leaves. By watering the leaves, you may cause the sun to burn your plants. This is caused by water beads refracting the sunlight, concentrating it on a single point. This causes high heat, burning the leaves.
- Don’t just water ‘every X number of days.’ When it is hot and sunny, your jalapenos will use much more water than on cloudy, damp days. Pay attention to the plant and only water when you are sure they need it!
Learn (a lot) more about watering pepper plants in our article here.
Once your seedlings have sprouted and grown for 2-3 weeks, it is time to size-up their containers. You can move the plants directly to their final pot, but we prefer to transplant into only slightly larger pots first.
In Dave DeWitt’s ‘The Field Guide To Peppers,’ we learned that transplanting to appropriately sized pots leads to faster growth than moving directly into a huge pot. We’re not sure about the science behind this, but we have always had very fast-growing peppers using this method.
From your seedling trays, move the jalapeno plants to 3-4″ pots with fresh, pre-moistened soil. This will be their home for the next several weeks until they are ready to be moved into a final container.
Pruning Jalapeno Peppers
Once your jalapeno plants have been alive for about 6-8 weeks, it is time to consider pruning. Pruning is the process of snipping away a portion of the plant to allow new growth to develop.
The purpose of pruning is, in theory, to keep the plant lower and sturdier. It is also said to help the plants produce more flowers and higher yields. This step is optional, but we recommend trying it if your plants are growing fast and healthy.
Watch our quick youtube video to learn exactly how (and when) to prune your jalapenos.
How To Prune Peppers (Video):
Picking A Container For Jalapenos
While your jalapeño peppers are growing, you can take the time to search for the perfect container. This will largely depend in your personal preference, but there are some factors to consider.
Namely, how much space can you devote to your jalapeno plants?
The ideal container size for peppers will be different for each pepper variety. However, the rule of thumb is that the larger the pepper, the larger the pot should be.
What Is The Ideal Container Size For Jalapenos?
Considering that jalapenos are medium-sized peppers, the ideal pot size is right down the middle. This means that jalapenos should be planted in 4-5 gallon pots for an ideal harvest. Any smaller and you may be sacrificing some of the plant’s productivity.
Peppers can be planted in much larger pots (10+ gallons), and should be if you plan to overwinter them. However, if you are planning to grow your jalapeños and discard them at the end of the season, 4-5 gallons is perfect.
Jalapeno Pepper Plant Problems
Once your plants have been transplanted to their final pots, some general care is in order. Here are some things to watch for while your jalapeno plants grow and mature.
One of the most common issues with pepper plants are curling leaves. Your plants appear to be growing strong when suddenly you notice distorted leaves. What went wrong?!
There are many possible causes, from too much light, to too much water, to perhaps a calcium deficiency.
But before you go self-diagnosing the problem, read our article specifically about pepper plant leaves curling here.
Another common sighting for jalapeno plants are yellowing leaves. If you start to see your leaves turning yellow, don’t panic. It could simply be natural leaf death.
However, if the problem persists and spreads, read our article on why pepper plant leaves turn yellow here. This will help you diagnose and fix the problem quickly.
Ever heard of aphids? Well, they like jalapeno plants as much as you do. However, they won’t eat the peppers, just the sap in your leaves. They multiply rapidly and can be difficult to spot. Once the problem begins, it can be tough to control. Catching them early is key. Read our post about aphid control here.
You can also set up sticky paper to attract and trap negative insect pests. The risk here is that you will trap the good guys as well.
If this isn’t enough and you have a bad infestation, you could try hosing off your plant with a spray nozzle to physically remove the bugs. Just be careful not to damage the foliage in the process.
If all else fails, introducing (or attracting) beneficial insects like ladybugs can work wonders for your pepper plants. The ladybugs will feed on aphids and other small insects, keeping the population low. These can, however, be tricky to source. Try calling local nurseries and hardware stores.
Bacteria & Fungus
If you notice brown or black spots on your leaves, your plant could have a bacterial infection. However, this is not the only cause of brown spots. Don’t just jump to conclusions and throw your plant away.
If you suspect bacteria, compare your leave’s spots to other, confirmed cases of the issue. Unfortunately, most bacterial infections in plants can spread easily to other plants and require total removal of the plant.
The best way to avoid bacterial issues is to keep the bottom leaves away from the soil. Soil harbors thousands of bacteria and spores, ready to splash onto your plant during a heavy rainfall. Use a mulch or straw below your plants to help avoid this. You can also snip away low-hanging leaves on a dry day.
When you have finally reached the end of the growing season, and your jalapenos begin to ripen, you can start reaping the rewards.
Harvesting jalapenos is easy. Simply pull the pepper in an upwards motion. The pepper should snap off readily when ripe.
One thing to consider is whether you want green or red jalapenos. If you want some red jalapenos, leave them on the plant until they begin to change color. They will turn from green to black and finally to a deep red.
Red jalapenos will often be more spicy than green jalapenos. The more time the peppers have to ripen, the more capsaicin can develop.
Tip: Want extra spicy peppers? Try water-stressing the plants. Allowing the plants to become overly-dry between waterings while the peppers are ripening causes the pods to produce more capsaicin.
Learn more about harvesting jalapenos in our article here.
Saving Jalapeno Pepper Seeds
If you plan to grow again next year, there’s no better way than to save your own seeds. This process is easy and highly satisfying. Each pepper produces dozens of seeds, so even just 1 or 2 peppers may be plenty for your needs.
The basic principles for saving jalapeno seeds are:
- Use fully ripened peppers. Unripe peppers may contain underdeveloped seeds.
- Dry out the seeds thoroughly. Lay the seeds out on a paper towel or a plate in a place with plenty of airflow. Moisture is an enemy of storing your seeds.
- Store the seeds in a cool, dry container. We recommend using a food-safe desiccant packet to keep moisture and oxygen out.
Learn more about saving your own pepper seeds in our article here.
What To Do With All Your Jalapenos
After all is said and done, you hopefully have a bunch of fresh jalapenos. But what now?!
You have lots of options for using your jalapenos. We recommend using them for a variety of purposes. We usually use some right away, give some away to family, and then preserve whatever is left.
Here are a few options:
- Pickle jalapenos – our favorite preservation method!
- Freeze jalapenos
- Dehydrate jalapenos
- Roast jalapenos
You can also make some jalapeno poppers, or chop them up and use them in a stir fry. Jalapenos also make a great addition to salsa or guacamole.
I hope this article helped you with growing jalapenos in pots this year. We love container gardening for a simple way to grow our own peppers. Let us know how your jalapenos are progressing! If you have questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments below.