Growing Jalapeño Peppers: How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Jalapeños | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Jalapeño Peppers


The more corking (tiny brown lines) on the jalapeño, the hotter it is!

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Botanical Name
Capsicum annuum
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Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Jalapeño Peppers

The Editors
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Hot peppers, including jalapeños, are tropical natives and are a crop well suited to hot weather. Learn how to plant, grow, and harvest jalapeño peppers in your garden!

About Jalapeño Peppers

The jalapeño is the most popular chili pepper in North America. This pepper produces deep-green 3-inch fruit that mature to a bright red.

On the Scoville heat scale, the jalapeño is rated 2,500 to 5,000 units—a “medium-hot” pepper.


Plant jalapeños in your sunniest location or grow these compact plants in containers placed in full sun. They like a lot of sun and heat!

Soil should be well-draining and rich in organic matter. A couple weeks before transplanting jalapeños into the garden, mix aged compost into your garden soil. Read more about preparing soil for planting.

Avoid planting jalapeño peppers in places where you’ve recently grown other members of the nightshade family—such as tomatoes, potatoes, or eggplants—as this can expose peppers to shared diseases.

When to Plant Jalapeño Peppers

  • Start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before your last spring frost date.
  • Don’t plant your jalapeños outside until all danger of frost has passed and both soil temperatures and nighttime temperatures are at least 60°F (15°C). 

How to Plant Jalapeño Peppers

  • Sow seeds ¼ inch deep in seed trays or individual containers filled with seed-starting mix. We like to sow at least two seeds per pot to increase the chance of having at least one viable seedling.
  • Ideally, the soil temperature should be at least 70°F (21°C) for best seed germination, so keep the seed tray or pots in a warm area or use a heat pad.
  • Begin to harden off jalapeño seedlings about 10 days before transplanting outdoors.
  • Once soil and nighttime temperatures reach at least 60°F (15°C), transplant seedlings outdoors, spacing them 14 to 24 inches apart.
  • In cold regions, you can use black plastic mulch to warm the soil prior to planting.
  • Water deeply at the time of planting.

A large group of green jalapeno peppers

  • Don’t overwater. Let the top inch or two of soil dry out before watering again. 
  • Jalapeños grow best when daytime temperatures are 65-85°F (18-29°C) and nighttime temps are 60-70°F (15-21°C).
  • When the plants start to blossom, fertilize by spreading compost, well-rotted manure, or fish fertilizer around the base of the plant.
  • Tall varieties—and those that bear a lot of peppers—will need some support. Bamboo sticks or small tomato cages work well.
  • Weed carefully around young plants to avoid disturbing roots.
  • In warmer regions, use shredded leaves, straw, or grass clippings to keep the soil moist and cool during blistering hot weather.

Overwintering Plants

  • Bring container grown jalapeño plants indoors at the end of the season. Place the container in a sunny spot and, with luck, you’ll get more peppers on the plant.
  • Mature red peppers tend to be the hottest, so resist the urge to pick them before they are ripe. However, the skin of the pepper may grow leathery over time, so harvest when peppers are green if you prefer that classic jalapeño snap.
  • Use a sharp knife or pruning shares to cut peppers, leaving a short stem attached to the pepper. Do not pull them off the plant, as this can damage the plant.

How to Store Jalapeño Peppers

  • Fresh peppers with a short stem will store longer.
  • Store unwashed jalapeños in a loosely closed plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Drying peppers is another way to store them. Dry the jalapeño peppers and keep them in a dark cool place. Usually, this is done by either air- or oven-drying:

Air-Drying Peppers

  • Wash and dry the peppers. Place on a tray or wire rack in a well ventilated room or put outdoors on dry sunny days. 
  • You can also string the jalapeño peppers on a heavy thread and hang to dry. Space the peppers a few inches apart and hang in direct sunlight.
  • It will take a couple of weeks for the peppers to dry with this method.

Oven-Drying Peppers

  • Wash and dry the jalapeños. Cut in half and place on a baking sheet. Bake at low heat (100° to 130°F), turning the peppers occasionally. It may take several hours before the jalapeños are dry.
Wit and Wisdom
  • Many people swear by placing match heads in the planting hole to add sulfur.
  • The jalapeño pepper is named for the town of Jalapa in Mexico.
  • Chipotles are mature jalapeños which have been smoked and much of their moisture removed. 
  • Jalapeños seeds are called “picante” and are used as a spice.

Jalapeño Pepper Pests and Diseases

Pest/Disease Type Symptoms Control/Prevention
Anthracnose Fungus Yellow/brown/purple/black spots on leaves; sunken, dark spots on stems and fruit; spots may develop a salmon-pink, gelatinous mass; eventually, plants rot Destroy infected plants; choose resistant varieties; provide good drainage; avoid overhead watering; apply compost for nutrition; use mulch; practice crop rotation.
Aphids  Insect Misshapen/yellow leaves; distorted flowers/fruit; sticky “honeydew” (excrement produced by aphids); sooty, black mold that forms on honeydew; large presence of ants on plants Grow companion plants to either attract aphids away (nasturtiums) or repel them outright (basil, rosemary, strong-scented plants); knock aphids off plants with water spray, apply insecticidal soap; put banana or orange peel around plants; wipe leaves with a 1-2% solution of liquid dish soap and water every 2-3 days for 2 weeks; add native plants to attract aphid predators.
Bacterial leaf spot Bacteria Varies; water- soaked rust/black leaf spots between veins later dry/fall out, leaving holes; leaves yellow/ distort/wilt/die; stem cankers Destroy infected parts/ severely infected plants (do not compost); remove plant debris regularly; disinfect tools; prevent plant stress/injury; good air circulation; avoid overhead watering
Blossom-end rot Disorder Caused by lack of sufficient calcium uptake.
Symptoms: dark, water-soaked spots on blossom end of fruit (the side opposite the stem) may enlarge and become sunken, leathery, rotted
Remove affected fruit; plant at proper soil temperature; water deeply and evenly; use mulch; maintain proper soil pH (6.5) and nutrient levels; avoid excessive nitrogen; provide good drainage; avoid damaging roots.
Colorado potato beetles Insect Yellow-orange eggs laid in clusters on leaf undersides; larvae and adults chew holes in foliage Remove eggs/larvae/beetles by hand; use straw mulch; weed around plants; use row covers; destroy plant matter at end of season; practice crop rotation
Cucumber mosaic virus Virus Symptoms vary, but may include: stunting; mottled green/yellow/white pattern or ringed spots on leaves/fruit; distorted leaf growth; warts on fruit Often spread by aphids. Destroy infected plants; choose resistant varieties and certified virus-free seed; use row covers; disinfect gardening tools after each use; keep garden weed-free; use mulch.
Flea beetles Insect Numerous tiny holes in leaves (as if they had been hit by a tiny shotgun) Use row covers to physically block flea beetles; mulch heavily; add native plants to attract beneficial insect predators.
Leaf miners Insect Meandering blisters in leaves caused by tunneling larvae Remove infested leaves; weed; use row covers; till soil early in season; rotate plantings
Root-knot nematodes Insect Roots become “knotted” or galled; plants stunted/yellow/wilted Destroy affected plant matter (especially roots); choose resistant varieties; expose soil to sun (solarize); add aged manure/compost; disinfect gardening tools between uses; till soil in autumn; practice crop rotation
Spider mites Insect Fine webs;
yellow-specked under- side of leaves, later brown-edged or bronze or yellow leaves; leaf drop
Rinse plants with water, mist daily; apply insecticidal soap
Tomato hornworms Insect Chewed leaves (initially toward top of plant); rapid defoliation; black/green excrement; gouged fruit Check undersides of leaves for hornworms, remove by hand and dispose of hornworms. (If you encounter hornworms that have white, ricelike cocoons on their backs, relocate them instead; the cocoons belong to beneficial parasitic wasps.) Till soil in autumn and spring; companion plant with dill/basil/marigolds to attract (and trap) or repel hornworms; spray plants with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).

Flower Drop

  • Under extremely hot sun, jalapeño peppers may drop their flowers. 
  • Too much sun may also cause sunscald on the pepper fruits themselves. The fruit won’t fully develop or may get tannish spots. (This is essentially a sunburn!) 
  • Protect the plants with a sun shade or move the peppers into a cooler spot if they are in containers. 
Cooking Notes
  • Be cautious when handling jalapeño peppers; wear gloves and don’t touch your eyes!
  • The oil that gives hot peppers their kick is called capsaicin. It is most concentrated in the white membranes and seeds inside the fruit.