Growing jalapenos can be done by starting them from seed or by purchasing plants from a nursery.
Of all the hot pepper varieties, jalapeno peppers are definitely the most popular!
The seeds are named after their place of origin in Mexico, and they can create a delicious, spicy flavor in many cuisines.
Hotness of these peppers lies anywhere between 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville units (SHU).
(For comparison, the heat index of common sweet green peppers is zero, while the current hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper, measures over two million SHU!)
Planting Jalapeno Pepper Seeds
Plant jalapeno seeds indoors in pots or in a propagator about six weeks before the last expected frost. For many locations, this will be anywhere between January and March.
Use a sterile seed-starting mix to fill the containers about 3/4 full. Drop one to three seeds in and cover them with a light layer of soil.
Be sure to allow plenty of air ventilation to prevent fungal rot.
For jalapenos, it generally takes about 2 weeks to germinate chili pepper seeds.
Jalapeno Pepper Light Requirements
The seedlings should be exposed to light for up to 16 hours a day. This means you should place them in an area that receives indirect sunlight from a window.
If you don't have a sunny spot, hang grow lights about 2 to 4 inches above the plants. If your seedlings begin to lean, try moving the light closer to the tops of the plants to see if they straighten up.
If your plants starting wilting, your light might be too close. (Keep a close eye so you can make adjustments as needed!)
Potting Up Jalapeno Seedlings
Replant your seedlings in larger pots after they have at least four leaves or are at least 2 inches tall. This helps to make sure they have enough room to keep growing.
Your jalapeno plants will probably need to move to larger containers about three times during their indoor growth process.
Hardening Off Jalapeno Plants
Prepare your Jalapenos for the rigors of the outdoors before they actually go outside. You can harden them off -- or toughen them up -- safely by letting a small fan blow on them for a few hours a day.
You can also very gently grasp the stems and move them back and forth and side to side to encourage these parts to thicken up.
Growing Jalapenos Outdoors
After about two more weeks and after the last potential frost, you can move the jalapeno plants outside.
Place pepper plants in 2 to 5 gallon containers, or plant them directly in the ground about 16 to 18 inches apart.
Make sure your plants are in a spot where they'll get at least 6 hours of sun a day.
Outdoor Jalapeno Plants
Outdoor plants should get at least 6 full hours of sunlight each day (8 is even better). Jalapeno peppers that grow in temperatures between 80F to 90F degrees yield maximum fruit.
A standard 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer can be used to feed plants. Make sure you follow the directions on the fertilizer container so you don't accidentally use too much and burn the plant.
Further, organic matter, such as manure, is ideal for giving peppers the boost they need to thrive and for preventing weeds.
Jalapeno plants do well with an inch of water each week, but don't let the soil become too waterlogged because this is detrimental to the health of the plant.
Watering peppers is tricky due to peppers being subject to damping off. Try using a moisture meter or utilize the bottom-watering technique to make this task easier.
Depending on the variety, the size of the peppers varies from 2 to 3.5 inches and the color of the fruit is typically red or green during ripening.
Handling Jalapeno Peppers
These peppers may irritate the skin because of their capsaicin content.
While cooking, consider wearing latex gloves, or else keep the dish soap nearby. (And, if you want to find some delicious ways to use your jalapenos in the kitchen, check out this post.)
If you do feel the spicy bite of capsaicin, wash your hands with dish soap, or hold a towel dipped in milk over the affected area.
Most of all, enjoy your peppers and pat yourself on the back for a job well done!
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!