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!
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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 (Amazon link) 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. 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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yep! Be sure to winterize them to help your plants survive the colder months.
It’s hard to give a definitive answer, but many pepper plants can live a few years or more with proper care.
Yes. You can lightly sauté or steam them. They are similar to spinach in consistency and flavor.
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.
Fully ripe ghost chillies usually develop in 160 days.
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!
CONTINUE READING THE GROWING PEPPERS SERIES:
- Growing Peppers from the Beginning
- Growing Specific Pepper Varieties
- Plant Lights
- Potting Soil for Peppers
- Fertilizer for Pepper Plants
- Bottom Watering Peppers
- Plant Pests and Diseases
- Overwintering Pepper Plants
- Hydroponics Growing