Ghost Pepper Plant: How to Grow One of the Hottest Peppers on Earth

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

This chile has many names including “Bhut Jolokia,” “Naga Morich,” “Red Naga Chili,” “Naga Jolokia,” “U-Morok” and “Bih Jolokia.”

There’s always going to be a new reigning champion when it comes to the hottest pepper on earth. Having said that, the ghost pepper is over 1 million Scoville units and three times hotter than the habanero!

Personally, I don’t grow super hot peppers just for the sake of the heat. They have to have the flavor too. The ghost pepper is definitely tasty and worth the effort to grow it.

So if you, too, enjoy this type of heat and want to know more, you’ll learn about starting seeds and growing ghost peppers outside.

About Ghost Pepper Plants

Hailing from Northeast India, the name “Bhut Jolokia” literally translates to “Ghost Pepper.”

The long, teardrop-shaped pods typically start off green and turn red. Ghost chillies, however, come in many different colored varieties including white.

Ghost peppers have a smoky, earthy taste with a somewhat fruity aftertaste. I’ve read that the heat lasts about 15 minutes. In my experience, it’s more like 30 minutes!

hottest pepper india chart

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that I earn a small commission when you make a purchase using my links. This is at no additional cost to you. This information is being provided to make this growing guide more helpful.

How To Grow Ghost Pepper Seeds

Starting ghost pepper seeds is a bit tricky because of how long they can take to germinate (sprout). If you have patience and are willing to experiment a bit, you’ll get some beautiful plants. ๐Ÿ™‚

And, although this article describes how to grow ghost pepper plants outside, it’s easier to start your seeds indoors.

First, before we get into the specifics, please make sure you source your seeds from a reputable vendor. If you get seeds that aren’t viable or, worse, not even ghost peppers at all, all your efforts go to waste.

I’ve always had the best results with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. If you want to grow different varieties of ghost chillies, check out Etsy for a larger selection.

Otherwise, here’s a link to vendors for pepper seeds for even more options.

Orange Naga Pepper and Seeds
Orange Naga Pepper Pod and Seeds

Germination Techniques

To germinate your seeds, you can sow seeds under a shallow layer of growing media like seed-starting soil mix. Alternately, you can sprout them much quicker in a baggie.

To clarify, I recommend using the baggie method because it speeds things up. More importantly, it also tests the seeds for viability, which tells you if they can grow under suitable conditions.

If you’re still having problems germinating your ghost pepper seeds, here are some other options for getting them to sprout.

Be sure to check out The Pepper Seed-Starting Guide. This ebook walks you step-by-step through every process of going from seeds to healthy, outdoor-ready plants.

growing jalapenos from seeds using the baggie method
Starting Pepper Seeds Using Baggie Method

Use Heat

Ghost pepper plants, like other chile varieties, need hot, humid conditions to germinate. The key here is to keep the soil warmed between 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to 32 degrees Celsius).

A plant heat mat (Amazon link) is the best way to do this. Optionally, you can also use a temperature controller, in conjunction with the heat mat, to make sure your seeds get the ideal warmth for germination.

Ghost chillies typically become seedlings in 30 days. If you sprout them in a baggie, you’ll likely get quicker results.

Using An Indoor Grow Light

After germination, your ghost pepper plants need light. Using a grow lamp makes things easier.

Make sure you know how far away your lamp should be from the tops of your plants. This information comes from the grow light manual and/or from the manufacturer website. In many cases, the height is no more than 4 inches away, however, some LED lights need to be positioned 12 inches or more.

Keep your young peppers underneath an indoor plant light (Amazon link) at least 16 hours a day. Popular grow light options include fluorescent, such as a T5, and LED.

T5 indoor grow light starting pepper seeds

Watering Recommendations

Ghost pepper seedlings are sensitive to too much hydration just like other hot chillies.

You’ll likely get advice like “water so the growing media is moist, but not drenched.”

Well, that’s difficult to gauge when you’re just starting out. (It’s tricky even for people who have done this more than a few times!)

That’s why I recommend the bottom-watering ​method for a safer way to hydrate your plants.

And, if you see mold developing on top (looks like a light, gray film), you know things are getting too wet. You can scrape off this mold with a toothpick, sprinkle cinnamon on top of the mix (it has antifungal properties) and then run a small fan in the direction of your chillies for better airflow.

ghost peppers, bhut jolokias

Potting Up

Once your ghost peppers have at least four leaves, transfer them to a larger pot. This is also a good time to start fertilizing your seedlings.

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

peach ghost pepper, peach bhut jolokia
Peach Ghost Pepper. Photo credit: PepperParadise (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

How To Grow Ghost Peppers Outside

You can prepare your peppers to go outside around the 8 week mark, when plants are about 4 inches tall and the last threat of frost has passed. The process of “hardening off” your ghost seedlings is a controlled, systematic way in which you toughen them up so they aren’t shocked when they go outside.

To sum up, this is a two-week process: indoors and outdoors. During the first week, point a small fan at your seedlings for 15 minutes the first day.

Each day, thereafter, increase the amount of time the fan runs (for instance, 30 minutes the second day, 45 minutes the third and so on.)

For the last week, place your ghost plants in a shady, outdoor spot and leave them out for 15 minutes. Increase the amount of direct sunshine and outdoor time each day just like you did with the indoor phase. On the last day, leave your seedlings outside one whole day and night.

(This jalapeno peppers post has step-by-step instructions for the hardening-off process.)

Selecting A Pot

Before getting a pot ready, make sure that the last potential frost has passed in your area. Also, temperatures should be consistently higher than 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius).

Peppers need room to grow so select a larger pot that’s at least 12 inches in diameter (5-gallons or more). You’ll also need something that has holes in the bottom for drainage.

Grow bags are an excellent choice for better airflow. These pots are made out of fabric, which encourages “air pruning” of roots. The benefits are pepper roots won’t become “root bound,” and they can better absorb water and nutrients.

You do have the option to use 5-gallon buckets too. Just be sure to drill holes on the bottom and around the lower circumference of the container.

Watering Your Plants

Keep your potting soil moist so that your peppers have what they need to grow and fruit.

Start with a weekly watering. (You may need to adjust this to biweekly if it’s especially dry in your location.) Water the top of the mix until the water runs out of the bottom of the pot.

Here are some watering tips:

  • The top 2 inches should be dry before watering again.
  • Water in the evenings when the sun goes down or in the early morning. (You don’t want any water splashing on your plants and inadvertently causing them to get sunscald.)
  • It helps to pick up your pot after it’s been watered to get a feel for it’s weight. This weight test gives you another way of telling when the soil is dry.

Ghost Pepper Fertilizer

You have a lot of options when it comes to feeding your ghost chillies. Some growers use an organic, slow-release fertilizer throughout the season.

I’ve always had the best results with fish and seaweed fertilizer (Amazon link). It’s a liquid feed that you give your plants every couple of weeks. It’s super stinky, but very effective!

Here’s a post that describes everything I do to feed my chillies.

pictures of ghost pepper plants

Mature Ghost Pepper Plants

Here’s what you might expect when your plants start to mature throughout the season.

Ghost Pepper Plant Size

These pepper plants can grow up to 4 feet high. In containers, they may only go up to 2 feet.

You can generally expect orange to red peppers that are 1 to 2 inches wide and 2 to 3 inches high. If you’re growing a different ghost pepper variety, these measurements and colors will vary.

Watching for Pests and Disease

You don’t want to go to all the trouble of growing ghost peppers only to see them get damaged by bugs or disease.

Apply mulch, use beneficial insects and​ spray your plants with a blast of water in the evenings to knock of any bugs or eggs. Here are some more practices for managing pests and disease.

You can also make your own organic pesticide out of neem oil to fight those pests without chemicals.

If you’re concerned about pests and disease, be sure to check out The Chile Plant Hospital. This guide helps you diagnose common pepper plant problems, and gives you the solutions for each one so you can fix your plants immediately.

Harvesting Ghost Peppers

It feels amazing when you get to start picking chillies! As a general guide, ghost peppers are ready when they turn their mature color.

Before you harvest, make sure you’re wearing gloves to protect yourself from the burn. Yep, they’re spicy to the touch.

I generally harvest the peppers that I’m ready to eat. If you plan to do the same, you can leave them out on the counter for a few days. Alternately, they can go in the refrigerator, but they tend to get mushy after awhile.

Lastly, if you’re picking a bunch of ghost peppers at one time and you don’t intend on processing them right away, you can freeze them. Simply place them in a sealable baggie or container and grab them when you’re ready.

ghost peppers, bhut jolokia
Ghost Peppers

Frequently Asked Questions

Are ghost pepper plants perennials?

Yep! Be sure to winterize them to help your plants survive the colder months.

How long do ghost pepper plants live?

It’s hard to give a definitive answer, but many pepper plants can live a few years or more with proper care.

Are ghost pepper plant leaves edible?

Yes. You can lightly sauté or steam them. They are similar to spinach in consistency and flavor.

Why isn’t my ghost pepper plant producing fruit?

Issues like watering, fertilizing and weather are common reasons why your plant isn’t producing. Here’s a post that talks about stunted pepper plants that can help.

How long do ghost peppers take to ripen?

Fully ripe ghost chillies usually develop in 160 days.

More Posts On The World’s Hottest Peppers:


​And for those of you who want a step-by-step, detailed growing guide that explains how to go from pepper seeds to outdoor-ready plants… Make sure to check out the updated and expanded Pepper Seed Starting Guide. I personally use this resource to grow my chillies each season, and I’m always here to answer questions!


Ghost Pepper Plant: How to Grow One of the Hottest Peppers on Earth

42 thoughts on “Ghost Pepper Plant: How to Grow One of the Hottest Peppers on Earth”

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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  2. 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?

    Reply
  3. 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

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  4. 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?

    Reply
  5. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  6. 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.

    Reply
  7. 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.!!!

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  8. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  9. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
    • 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!!!

      Reply
  10. 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!

    Reply
    • 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 sautรฉ 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.

      Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
  11. 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?

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  12. 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?

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  13. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  14. 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?

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  15. 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?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  16. 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

    Reply
  17. 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

    Reply
  18. 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.

    Reply
  19. 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 jalapeรฑos. Thanks for your help

    Reply
    • 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  20. Hey!
    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?

    Reply
  21. 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…..

    Reply
  22. I have 20 + ghost pepper plants. They are all more than three years old. They are in big pots. I overwinter them in my unheated garage, here in Virginia beach. Somehow they keep putting out every spring.

    Reply
  23. Hi,
    Actually, I want to know how we can store Ghost pepper? I mean at what temperature and how many day we can store it?

    Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

growhotpeppers

Grow Hot Peppers
Load More... Follow on Instagram