Grow Ghost Pepper Plants

bhut jolokia, ghost chili

Between 2006 to 2010, the ghost pepper was given the world’s hottest pepper title by Guinness World Records.

This distinct chile is also known as “Bhut Jolokia” and “Naga Morich,” which all refer to the pepper that is over 1 million Scoville units hot and three times hotter than the habanero.

If you’ve ever enjoyed the delicious pain of the ghost chili, you have the option to grow it indoors or in your garden. The bhut jolokia, being one of the hottest peppers on the planet, is really hard to find in grocery stores.

So why not grow your own so you can really add some heat to food?!?

First, select a well draining seed-starting soil mix to sow the naga seeds under a shallow layer of dirt. The key here is to keep the soil warmed between 75 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.



Use a heating mat to consistently keep this rating. Ghost chilies typically become seedlings in 30 days.

Next, water your soil so that it is constantly damp, but not drenched. These peppers are sensitive to too much hydration just like other hot peppers, so use a moisture meter to check the level, or use a bottom-watering technique for a safer way to water your peppers.

Keep your young peppers underneath an indoor growing light at least 10 hours a day and make sure the lamp is no more than 4 inches away from the top of the plants.

Once your ghost peppers have at least four leaves, transfer them to a larger pot. Watch the growth of your chillie seedlings and continue to move them to bigger containers when needed.

Bhut jolokia are generally transferred two or three times before they go outside.

Fully ripe ghost chillies usually develop in 160 days. You can expect orange to red peppers that are 1 inch to 2 inches wide and 2 inches to 3 inches high.

The pepper plants themselves grow up to 4 feet high and do well when they are at least 36 inches apart from each other in the ground.

When you touch these dented, cone-shaped peppers, wear gloves to protect yourself from the burn. And when you’re ready to eat them, keep that milk nearby to soothe the heat in your throat.

Most of all, get ready to brag to your friends that you grow one of the world’s hottest peppers!

  • Leticia

    I have a pot filled with little jalokia seedlings. They’re inside now, but getting yellow. Do they need more light? Less water?

    • Hi Leticia,

      Sounds like your seedlings might have a magnesium deficiency. An easy way to give them a boost is to sprinkle epsom salts in a circle around the base of each stem. If your plants have more than four pairs of true leaves you can also mix up 1 teaspoon epsom salts to a gallon of water. Pour some of the mixture in a spray bottle and spray the leaves and stems to give it a foliar feeding. I usually do the foliar feeding every couple of weeks and in the evenings. If you spray your plants, be sure to do this when the light is not on them because the water droplets act like a magnifying glass for the light and this can burn the leaves.

      Hope this helps.

  • michael

    I have 4 plants. All of them about 3 ft tall. They produce about 30 to 40 chilis only about 1/2in to 1 in long then shrivel up. I tasted them and they are very mild, almost no heat at all. What can I do to produce full size chilies?

  • I was wondering how many ghost chillis would one plant produce? And I was wondering if any one wills send me some scorpion peppers and I will send some of my ghost peppers and if any one wants to see me eat my ghost chillis go to utube and tipe in Kevin eating ghost chilli. I always do my vids with shirt off I have a. Chinese tat on chest

    • I was wondering how many ghost chillis would one plant produce? And I was wondering if any one wills send me some scorpion peppers and I will send some of my ghost peppers and if any one wants to see me eat my ghost chillis go to utube and tipe in Kevin eating ghost chilli. I always do my vids with shirt off I have a. Chinese tat on chest

      Hi Kevin, the number depends on how you grow them. Ghost chillies are larger plants that can grow up to 5′ wide and tall, so if you put them in the ground and take care of them well, you can expect to see about 300 peppers. In containers, you might see anywhere from 20 to 80 chillies and again, it depends on how well you care for them. Hope this helps!

  • Stephanie

    My husband and I received a Jolokia plant that I believe is dieing. I am not sure how to save it. The plant is about a foot tall and about an inch of the base is dry and light brown while the rest is green. The leaves are all shrivled up but there is one pepper that is red and seems to be growing, right now it looks like a little cherry. We keep a growing light on it and have it in a large pot that drains on the bottom. Is there anything else we can do for it? We water it every 3 days or so. Does it sound like it will survive?

  • Emily W

    Thanks for the rundown! I just ordered some Bhut Jolokia and Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper seeds and I can’t wait to start them. They’ll need to be inside until summer here in Indiana but I’m hoping to get a good start on them before they’re transferred outside for the summer.

    I was wondering how they would survive the winter (will they revive themselves in summer?) or if it would be prudent (and possible) to put them back in planters over the winters. I know some plants don’t appreciate that kind of transplanting.

    • Hi Emily, to survive the winter, peppers need to be indoors before the first frost hits. They usually struggle if they’re continuously exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. What I recommend is digging them up (if applicable) and putting them in pots (I usually use 2-gallon or 5-gallon depending on size). Prune the plant to get rid of the leaves and any immature chillies (they’ll grow back), and then spray the plants with water to dislodge any bugs. Watch your plants for a couple of days to make sure there aren’t any insects. Bring them indoors, such as a garage or basement, and put them next to a sunny window where they can get the light. If you don’t have a window, use fluorescent shop lights or grow lights, such as a T5, and hang it a few inches above your plants. Wait until the last threat of frost and then put your plants back outside. During this time, I usually water my peppers once a month to support them during hibernation.

      Hope this helps and good luck!

  • tjac

    hey i was wondering if the ghost chilli can cope in humid tropical weather,also once the seedling has come up mature enough to be transplanted, can they go strate into the garden or pot outside?,or does it need to be kept inside for a certain period of time? cheers.

  • BoonDocks831

    I just planted 6 Ghost Pepper seeds. i really hope they do well. I have been growing Bonsai for many years, but i haev been growing some hot peppers too. I really hope these grow.!!!

  • bblack

    I have 3 plants that have a lot of blooms but haven’t produce any fruit. What do I need to do to produce fruit.

    • Sounds like your plants may need help with pollination. This sometimes happens with my chile plants when the bees are on a break. Use your finger to rub the center of each flower, and in a few days you should see pod growth. Hope this helps!

  • J. L. C.

    Problem: I have two plants that are growing great but the blooms keep droping. They are in containers, the soil is an organic mixed with peat moss and a measured amount of Osmocote fetilizer, added to the soil when transplanted. They stay indoors at night, in a draft free area (I’m SW MO, zone 6) until night temps stay at least 70 degrees, hopefully next week. Any suggestions for a solution?

    • Hi J.L.C.,

      Blooms often drop if the temperatures go over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If this is your situation, I recommend buying a shade cloth or moving your plants to shady spot to keep them cooler until the temps go back down. Also, overwatering can also cause the drop. Hold back a little on the watering and see if this helps.

  • Keith

    Near Houston, Texas. Hot, humid climate. I have 6 ghost pepper plants which were started Jan 1 from seed. First harvest July 15 from approx 3 ft tall beautiful plants. 1-1/2 gallons of pepper and the plants are putting on another flush of blooms. Stuck a toothpick in one and touched to my tongue. Hottest thing I have ever tasted. Drank a pint of half and half to kill the heat. Trying to recall why I thought I wanted to grow these things.

    • Ha ha, thanks for writing Keith. Yep, I’m growing a bunch of super hots too and I know the feeling! Sounds like you’re having a great harvest.

    • Michael VanDyke

      I make a dry pepper powder called “Dragon’s Breath”,its 7 different kinds of hot peppers,ground up (like black pepper),Mix together and put it on most anything… Use it sparingly though,it has a kick!!!

  • Jay

    Hi, after successfully growing jalepenos and habaneros, I decided to grow ghosts! My plants are approximately 8″ tall and have a few 1″ peppers. My question is, how big and what color do they need to be before I pick them. Then, what’s the best method to enjoy them? ( dry them, puree them, etc.). Thank you!

    • Hi Jay, ghost peppers tend to be 2 1/2 to 3 inches long and red when they are ready to eat. Young plants can produce ghost chiles that are much smaller and red when the plant is first starting out.

      As far as the best method, that’s up to your preference. I usually sauté my fresh ghosts with some olive oil and add them to meat dishes, but you can also dry and powder them or puree them as you mention. Experiment and see how you like them best.

      • garden mama

        Jay, with the plant being so young, 8″, I would suggest cutting the peppers off. This will help the plant grow to maturity and produce a larger crop of peppers later on.

  • I live in the Pacific Northwest, not the idea climate for growing hot peppers. I have tried this summer. I have them in 15gal containers and they are doing great but need about a month more sun for the small peppers they have to mature. If the weather turns bad here and starts raining soon, which it will do, does anyone know if I can bring the peppers into my garage and continue to grow them under grow lights?

    • Hi David, yes, you can move your pepper plants into a garage and use grow lights as long as the temperature in your garage is between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Your grow lights should be a couple inches above the plants for optimum growth.

      See this article for more information on winterizing, or overwintering, your pepper plants:

    • Hi. I am in Portland Oregon.In late October i bought my Trinidad scorpion and ghost peppers indoors -i grew them in 5 gallon containers-and put them in front of a sunny window. They are both healthy with the ghost pepper having 4 baby peppers growing again and about 25 new starts!! The scorpion doesn’t have a hint of a new pepper but is still looking healthy. Now cant wait for temps to stay above 40F so i can stick them outside!

  • I have three plants that are about 3 feet tall and are growing fruit but aren’t changing in color. The peppers will grow an 1-2 and will stay green for about a week or so and fall off the plant before becoming ripe. What can I do to help them mature and get really hot?

    • Hi,

      It’s possible that there might be too many chillies competing for the nutrients of the plant. I would cut off some peppers and then see if the remaining fruit grows larger and matures.

      Hope this helps!

  • Paul

    I have a ghost pepper plant and some of its fruit is about to ripen.
    I have many more smaller peppers and A LOT more flowers and buds
    . If I pick the larger ones, will the others start growing faster?

    • Hi Paul,

      Yes, picking those larger chiles definitely speeds up the process. When you remove some of the fruit, it allows the plant to give its energy to the developing peppers and buds.

  • Johnny

    I bought one of the silly “grow your own ghost chili” cans that you can get on amazon for around $10… He lives in our apartment and is about 7 feet tall now… He’s taking over a room… But his peppers haven’t been very hot. What would cause his fruit to be mild instead of hot?

    • Hi Johnny,

      Oftentimes, watering too much can make a pepper milder. I usually let my leaves get dry and wrinkly before I give them anything so that they’re a bit stressed and give the chiles more heat.

      Hope this helps!

  • Scott

    I am growing Ghost peppers in the house and they are doing very well about 30 inches high. The plants are flowering but after the flowers are 2 weeks old they fall off. Each plant has 30 to 40 flowers. Just wondering if this normal?

    • Hi Scott,

      Yes, this pretty normal. When my peppers first start to flower, they always lose the first buds. Your plant is just waiting for the right conditions before producing fruit. Sometimes, that can take a little time.

    • garden mama

      Hi Scott, the conditions are perfect for flowering but if they are not pollinated because they are inside, the flowers will go through a cycle of opening and shortly afterwards dieing. Try putting them outside and let nature do its thing.

      Good luck

  • I started growing Ghost peppers and out of the 30 seedlings, I got 12. They are growing nicely and fast. Because I live in Hawaii, it appears the climate is perfect. Can’t wait to see the peppers. Good luck everyone

  • Niek Bartelse

    I’ve git a couple of ghosts myself biggest plant is about 35inches high.
    I was just wondering, how much time does it take for the pepper to turn nicely red?
    I’ve got a few fully grown peppers for almoast 3weeks and the still are bright green.

    Greetings Niek

  • Leilani

    I am pretty new to this and have a couple questions. Hopefully someone here can help me out.

    1. Once a plant/tree is in the fruiting stage, do I have to pollinate the new budding flowers?
    2. How long can I leave the ripe peppers on the tree/should I harvest immediately?

    Sincerest thanks for any advice you can offer.

    • Hi Leilani,

      For #1, you don’t really need to pollinate the budding flowers because bees and other pollinators will take care of that for you. The only thing I do with new flowers is apply a foliar feeding to help them bloom better:

      For #2, I usually harvest right away when peppers are ripe so the plants can produce as many chillies as possible, but it’s really a preference.

      Hope this helps!

  • WendyG

    We have planted the ghost peppers in an outdoor garden. It is September and the garden will soon be put to rest for the winter. Can the plants be dug up, potted and brought indoors for the winter? Also, how can I harvest some seeds for next summers crop? This is our first year growing this type of pepper. We do really well with cherry peppers and jalapeños. Thanks for your help

    • Jennifer Crawford Mashburn

      Hi there. You can absolutely bring these babies indoors for the winter. To harvest simply cut open a couple peppers and use a spoon to rake the seeds out. store in a small ziplock bag until planting season. 🙂

  • Jack

    I have some 50days old jalapeno plant with 3-4pair leaves.
    They have started set flowers.
    Is this not too early?
    Should i cut them off or let them to do their job?

  • Michael VanDyke

    I have four Ghost pepper plants,they aren’t doing the best for growth yet..Just started getting into the high 80’s here (will bump up and down all summer on temps)…Hope they grow enough to fruit…..

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