Growing jalapenos can be done by starting them from seed or by purchasing plants from a nursery.
And, I think you’ll agree with me that having your own homegrown supply of jalapeno peppers sounds pretty great. (You did find your way to this post after all. 😉 )
Now, store-bought jalapeno transplants are quicker and easier to grow in pots.
Starting seeds gives you the distinct advantage of selecting the exact jalapeno variety you want. So if you’re wondering what are the best jalapeno peppers to grow, think about the flavor, heat level and even color that you prefer. And, good news, they can all be grown in containers. 🙂
Before we get into the details of how to grow jalapenos in pots, here’s some background information on the jalapeno plant itself.
- About Jalapeno Peppers
- When To Plant Jalapenos
- Jalapeno Plant Stages
- Potting Up Jalapeno Plants
- When To Plant Jalapenos Outside
- Growing Jalapenos In Pots
- Jalapeno Plant Care
- More Jalapeno Tips
- Problems Growing Jalapeno Peppers
About Jalapeno Peppers
Jalapenos are part of the Capsicum annuum species of peppers. Their seeds are named after their place of origin in Mexico. Of all the hot pepper varieties, jalapenos are definitely one of the most popular.
The hotness of these peppers is considered to be in the medium range. And, the jalapeno Scoville — the measurement of a chili pepper’s heat — lies anywhere between 2,500 to 8,000 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!)
You can use jalapenos in salsas, sauces, as toppings, pickle them, grill them or even stuff them if you grow a larger variety like the Mucho Nacho Jalapeno. They are a truly versatile pepper.
When To Plant Jalapenos
Jalapenos can be started from seeds indoors about 3 months before your last expected date of frost. A temperature range of 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for growing jalapenos from seed. You can use a seedling heat mat (plant heat mat) to provide this warm environment.
Jalapeno Plant Stages
When growing jalapenos from seed, there’s an indoor and outdoor process.
» Related: Where to Buy Pepper Seeds Online
The sections below explain how to grow jalapenos indoors, how to prepare them for the outdoors and then how to care for your jalapeno plants in pots.
Quick Growing Reference (Potted Plants)
|Pepper Name / Species||Jalapeño / Capsicum annuum|
|Common Uses||Salsa, Sauces, Toppings, Guacamole, Chili Oils|
|Scoville Heat Units (SHU)||2,500 to 8,000|
|When To Plant Jalapeno Seeds||3 months before last expected date of frost|
|Days To Harvest||70 to 85 days (outdoor plants)|
|Mature Plant Size||Up to 3 ft high and 2 ft wide|
|Outdoor Pot Size||12″ Diameter or more (5+ gal)|
|Potting Soil||pH range 6.0 – 6.8|
|Light||Full sun (at least 8 hours direct sunlight)|
|Water||Provide moisture when top 2 inches of soil are dry|
|Fertilizer||Use 1/2 strength fertilizer and add compost to soil|
Growing Jalapenos Indoors
I recommend starting jalapenos inside because you can keep them safe from outdoor elements. Likewise, you can also make sure they have enough time to grow from seed.
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Growing Jalapenos From Seeds
Jalapeno seeds are sown indoors about three months before the last expected frost. Here’s an article that helps you determine your gardening zone and last frost date.
Seeds can be planted in germination trays or small containers with holes in the bottom.
You can also use the baggie method to start seeds. This technique tests a seed’s viability so you know whether it can grow or not. (In my experience, it also speeds up sprouting times too.)
Moisten a sterile seed-starting mix and fill the containers about 3/4 full. Drop one to three seeds in each container, then cover them with a light layer of mix.
If you sprouted seeds in a baggie, carefully cut the piece of towel with the pepper seedling. Then, plant the seedling under a light layer of mix. (The towel will decompose.)
Place your containers on top of a plant heat mat. I highly recommend using the mat because peppers are tropical plants that need warmth to start growing.
Keep the mix moistened by watering from the bottom. Watch for germination. (Jalapenos generally take about 2 weeks to sprout.)
Lastly, you can start fertilizing after their first set of true leaves appear. (These are the leaves that come after the embryonic cotyledons.)
If you’d like these steps (and a lot more) in a digital ebook, be sure to check out The Pepper Seed-Starting Guide. This complete guide walks you through all the processes of turning your pepper seeds into healthy, outdoor-ready plants.
Jalapeno Pepper Light Requirements
The plants should be exposed to light for up to 16 hours a day. It’s really hard to meet this requirement with a windowsill (especially in the winter). You can always give it a shot if you still want to try it.
I recommend hanging artificial lights for plants above your seedlings, making sure to position them at the right height.
To clarify, the exact distance between your light and the tops of your seedlings depends on the type of grow light you’re using. (Check the manufacturer’s website for help.)
A common distance for a T5 light, as an example, is between 4 to 6 inches above the plants.
Grow Light Tips
- 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 Plants
Transfer your jalapeno seedlings to larger pots after they have at least four leaves and are around 2 inches tall. This helps to make sure they have enough room to keep growing.
Your jalapeno pepper plants will probably need to move to larger containers a couple of times during their indoor growth process.
When To Plant Jalapenos Outside
Your plants need to be hardened off before they go outside. (This is one of the most sensitive jalapeno plant stages!) The hardening-off process safely stresses your plants out so they get tougher and can handle the new outdoor environment.
Hardening Off Pepper Plants
Start this process when plants are around 8 weeks old, at least 4 inches high and when it has a few sets of true leaves. This is crucial to your jalapeno plants outdoor survival so please don’t skip it!
Part One: The Indoor Process
- Point a small fan in the direction of your plants. Allow it to run for 15 minutes the first day. (Make sure the fan isn’t whipping the seedlings around wildly.)
- Run the fan again on the second day, but this time leave it on for 30 minutes.
- Continue running the fan each day, all the while increasing the amount of time. For example, the first day is 15 minutes, the second day is 30 minutes and the third day is 45 minutes.
- Perform this indoor process for about a week.
Part Two: The Outdoor Process
- Place your seedlings in a shady spot outdoors. Again, do this for about 15 minutes the first day. Bring them back inside.
- Repeat step one on the second day, but this time leave them outside for 30 minutes.
- Continue bringing your plants outdoors each day, all the while increasing the amount of direct sunshine and time. You can use the same indoors schedule (e.g., 15 minutes the first day, 30 minutes the second and so on.)
- Perform this outdoor process for about a week. On the last day, leave your seedlings out for a whole day and night.
Note: Don’t do the outdoor process if the weather is bad (e.g., high winds or rain). If your seedlings show any signs of stress, more them to a more sheltered spot, or bring them back inside.
Growing Jalapenos In Pots
After hardening off your plants and the last potential frost has passed, you can move your jalapeno plants outside. It also helps when temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius).
How To Grow Jalapenos In A Bucket
A popular option for growing jalapenos in pots is to use a bucket. These pails are inexpensive and generally found in garden centers and hardware stores.
Here are some key things to note:
- The bucket should be a 5-Gallon size
- You will need to drill a few holes on the bottom and around the lower circumference of the container. (This allows water to drain and promotes better airflow for roots.)
- Add only one jalapeno pepper plant per bucket
- Wait until nighttime temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius).
- Harden off your jalapeno plants at least two weeks before you plan to put them outside.
- Fill your pot with a high-quality potting mix (Amazon link) and leave a couple inches empty on top. (Only use a mix labeled for containers because other products won’t provide the airflow and moisture retention your potted plants need.)
- Water the mix as you fill the container so that it’s damp and not drenched. (You should be able to make a soil ball and it keeps its shape.)
- Make a hole in the center of the bucket that’s deep enough to support the jalapeno plant up to the lowest leaves. Insert the jalapeno, level the soil and lightly water the root zone.
- Apply a fertilizer by following the instructions on the bottle for feeding potted plants. I get great results with fish and seaweed fertilizer (Amazon link).
- Position your pot in a spot where it will get at least 8 hours of direct sun a day.
(Side note… If you only have a little bit of space to grow, consider an EarthBox Original. The EarthBox is a container gardening kit that can hold up to six Jalapeno plants. It’s only 29 inches long by 13.5 inches wide.)
Jalapeno Plant Care
Here’s what you need to do to support your jalapenos during the growing season.
Watering Your Plants
Wait until the sun starts going down (or go out early in the morning) before watering. The main concern is that that the sunlight can act as a magnifying glass if the plant is wet, which burns the leaves.
Water the top layer of the mix until you see it coming out of the bottom of the bucket. I suggest picking one day a week to water, and watch to see how your plant does with this schedule. Adjust the frequency as necessary.
Follow the instructions on your chosen fertilizer to develop a regular feeding schedule. Here’s a page where I describe my complete fertilizing regimen in case that helps too.
Likewise, you can add a couple inches of organic matter, such as mulch or compost, to the top layer of soil. This also feeds your jalapeno plants and helps retain moisture.
More Jalapeno Tips
Here are some last bits of info that you may want to know as you grow out your pepper plants.
- Jalapenos (for me) seem to grow best when the temperature is somewhere between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 29 degrees Celsius). If it gets much hotter, my pepper plants drop flowers and stop growing until the heat wave passes.
- It usually takes about 3 months for jalapenos plants to start producing chillies after they go outside. This may differ from early varieties. (I usually grow Mucho Nacho and Purple jalapenos as a reference.)
- 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. You might get about 30 to 40 jalapeno peppers per plant.
- Deciding when to pick jalapenos is a matter of personal preference. You can harvest them in the green or red stage. Further, some jalapeno pepper varieties “cork,” which looks like light cracks on the skin, which is a sign of maturity.
- Jalapeno plants can live a few years or more when you overwinter them during the colder months.
Problems Growing Jalapeno Peppers
Certain things tend to show up when your plants are outdoors. Here are some resources to help with this.
- Follow some best practices to prevent pests and disease
- DIY organic pesticide spray
- Potential reasons pepper plants are growing slow
In case you haven’t seen it, The Chile Plant Hospital is a guide that helps you diagnose & treat common pepper plant problems. This way, you can fix them immediately before things get out of hand.
Growing jalapenos is a lot of fun. I sincerely hope this tutorial is helpful and that you enjoy the growing experience too. 🙂
- Sow jalapeno seeds indoors about 3 months before the last expected date of frost. You can plant seeds in germination trays or use the baggie method to start them.
- Moisten the seed-starting mix and fill the tray inserts about 3/4 full. Drop 1 to 3 seeds in each insert, then cover with a light layer of mix.
- Optional: If you started seeds in a baggie, carefully cut the piece of towel with the seedling. Then, plant the seedling under a light layer of mix. (The towel will decompose.)
- Place your containers on top of a plant heat mat and put the lid on. (Peppers are tropical plants that need this warmth to germinate.)
- Keep the mix moistened by watering from the bottom. Meanwhile, watch for germination. (Jalapenos generally take about 2 weeks to sprout.)
- Remove the lid after your jalapenos germinate. Then, place your seedlings under a plant grow light to continue growing indoors.
- Jalapeno Seeds: If you want to know where you can buy all kinds of pepper seeds online, be sure to check out the pepper seed vendor list page.
- Lid: Slide open the vents on the lid for proper airflow. Without it, mold can develop.
- Plant Grow Light: Leave this light on for 16 hours a day. Optionally, you can use a programmable timer to automatically turn the light on and off. (And, if you'd like more help with grow lights, please see this post.)
- Growing Jalapeno Seedlings to Maturity: Be sure to refer back to the Growing Jalapenos 101 post for information on fertilizing, potting up your seedlings, hardening off your jalapeno plants and more.
Check out these related products by Grow Hot Peppers.
- Jalapeno Pepper Varieties: Which one Will You Grow?
- 113 Types of Pepper Plants That Will Make You Want to Grow Today
- Jalapeno Seeds: Can You Grow Jalapenos from Store Bought Peppers?
- The Best Types of Chili Peppers to Grow
- Where Do the Hottest Peppers in the World Come From?
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!