Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Jalapeño Peppers
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.
When to Plant Jalapeño Peppers
- Start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before your last spring frost date.
- The soil temperature must be at least 70°F (21°C) for seed germination, so keep the seed tray or pots in a warm area for the best and fastest results.
- Don’t plant your jalapeños outside until all danger of frost has passed and the nighttime temperatures are above 60°F (15°C).
- In cold regions, you can use black plastic mulch to warm the soil prior to planting.
Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site
- Plant jalapeños in your sunniest location or grow these compact plants in containers placed in full sun.
- Soil should be well-draining and rich in organic matter.
- 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.
- A week before transplanting jalapeños into the garden, add aged compost into your garden soil. Read more about preparing soil for planting.
How to Plant Jalapeño Peppers
- Begin to harden off jalapeño seedlings about 10 days before transplanting outdoors.
- Once nighttime temperatures reach at least 60°F (15°C), transplant seedlings outdoors, spacing them 14 to 24 inches apart.
- Water deeply at the time of planting.
How to Grow Jalapeño 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.
- 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.
- 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 similar to sunburn on humans.
- Protect the plants with a sun shade or move the peppers into a cooler spot if they are in containers.
Blossom-end rot (dark, sunken spots at the end of your peppers)
- The most common cause is calcium deficiency due to uneven watering or too much nitrogen in the soil.
- For a quick fix, treat plants with a calcium spray on foliage.
- To prevent BER, keep soil consistently moist; using mulch helps.
- Humid weather can cause fungal diseases like leafspot.
- Jalapeño peppers resist most garden insect pests.
- ‘Señorita’ grows to nearly 2 feet high. This pepper is very hot.
- ‘Sierra Fuego’ produces a large amount of peppers per plant. The peppers are 3.5 inches long and are mildly hot.
- ‘Mucho Nacho’ is a fast maturing, large plant. It reaches full maturity in a little over 2 months. The peppers are large, but not very hot.
How to Harvest Jalapeño Peppers
- Mature red peppers are the hottest, so resist the urge to pick them before they are ripe.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.