Understanding how to grow Jalapenos is confusing when you’re new to gardening. If you follow these steps, you’ll know what to do during different Jalapeno plant stages, from starting seeds indoors to growing peppers in pots outside. Use this updated guide to start growing Jalapenos like a pro so you can skip the mistakes and enjoy lots of chilies!
Jalapenos are always part of my pepper garden. My reasons for growing these chilies are probably why Jalapeno peppers are so popular: they’re easier to grow, have an enjoyable flavor, and the medium heat of these chili peppers work for so many recipes.
Fortunately, Jalapenos grow really well in containers. You can generally get up to 40 peppers per Jalapeno plant.
So let’s get into the specifics of growing Jalapenos, which also happen to be the official state pepper of Texas. 🌶
JALAPENO GROW REFERENCE (POTTED PLANTS)
|Common Pepper Names:||Jalapeño, Chile Gordo (“fat chile”), Huachinango (big red Jalapeno), Cuaresmeño, Chipotle (smoked Jalapeno)|
|Capsicum Species:||Capsicum annuum|
|Scoville Heat Units (SHU)||2,500 to 8,000|
|When To Plant Jalapeno Seeds||8 to 10 weeks before last expected 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 Mix||Soil pH range 6.0 – 6.8|
|Sun||Full sun (at least 8 hours direct sunlight)|
|Water||Water when top 2 inches of soil are dry|
|Fertilizer||Use 1/2 strength fertilizer for potted plants|
|Common Problems||Aphids, Fungus Gnats, Hornworms, Damping Off, Blossom End Rot (BER), Flower Drop, Sunscald|
About Jalapeno Peppers
Jalapenos are part of the nightshade family and Capsicum annuum varieties, which include chile Pasilla, chile Puya, and Poblano peppers. The Jalapeno name comes from Jalapa (Xalapa) — the city in Mexico where this pepper was first cultivated.
Considered a medium hot pepper, the Jalapeno Scoville – the measurement of a chili peppers spiciness – lies anywhere between 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). For comparison, a Bell pepper is sweet, a Serrano pepper is somewhat spicier, Cayenne peppers can be up to 12 times hotter, and the Carolina Reaper can have up to 880 times more heat than a Jalapeno.
» Read More: What Makes Peppers Hot?
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Jalapeno Growing Supplies
Here are the tools you’ll need to start Jalapeño pepper seeds indoors and continue growing your plants outside.
- Jalapeño seeds
- Seed-starting mix (growing media for starting seeds)
- Seed starting kit
- Plant labels
- Plant heat mat
- Grow light
- Grow bags (for outdoor potted peppers)
- Potting soil calculator (how much soil you’ll need for outdoor pots)
- Potting mix
Picking Jalapeno Varieties
Growing peppers means you get to pick the Jalapeno variety you want. For example, you can choose to pick Jalapeno types based on heat and color.
- TAM Jalapeno (seeds): Mild (1,000 to 3,500 SHU). Goes from a deep green color to a dark red.
- Purple Jalapeno (seeds): Regular, medium hot (2,500 to 8,000 SHU). Goes from dark green to an intense purple (practically black), to a deep red.
- NuMex Orange Spice Jalapeno (seeds): Hot (up to 80,000 SHU). Goes from green to yellow to bright orange to dark red.
» Related: Where to Buy Pepper Seeds Online
Try a few different varieties to see what you like best!
Jalapeno Plant Stages
Growing Jalapeños from seed requires an indoor and outdoor process. Your plants need special care during each plant stage, from seedlings to going outdoors to growing into flowering and fruiting Jalapeño plants.
- When To Plant Jalapenos
- How To Plant Jalapeno Seeds
- Caring For Jalapeno Seedlings
- Transplanting Jalapeno Seedlings
- Hardening Pepper Plants
- When To Plant Jalapenos Outside
- Growing Jalapenos In Pots
- Jalapeno Plant Care
- Harvesting Jalapeno Peppers
- Problems Growing Jalapeno Peppers
When To Plant Jalapenos
Jalapenos can be started from seeds indoors about eight to ten weeks before the last expected date of frost. If you have a cooler climate and shorter season, try a variety like the Early Jalapeno (seeds).
How To Plant Jalapeno Seeds
Growing Jalapeno peppers indoors not only keeps them safe from outdoor elements but also provides them with enough time to germinate from seeds. (Like other spicy peppers.)
- Moisten a sterile seed-starting mix, and fill the containers of your germination tray about 3/4 full. If you plant in containers besides the tray, be sure that these pots have drainage holes in the bottom.
- Drop one to three seeds in the center of each container, then cover them with a light layer of mix. Approximately 1/4″ from the surface is how deep to plant Jalapeno seeds.
- Add plant labels with the pepper name and planting date.
- Put your germination tray inside the plant tray (the one without the holes), and then put the lid on. Open the vents on the lid for airflow.
- Position your tray on the seedling heat mat (plant heat mat). A soil temperature range of 80 to 90°F (27 to 32°C) is ideal for germinating Jalapeno seeds.
- Watch for germination — Jalapenos take up to two weeks to sprout.
Paper Towel Method
Germinating pepper seeds can also be done in a wet paper towel and sealable plastic bag. This method tests Jalapeno seed viability, and growing Jalapenos indoors can be faster.
First time growing peppers from seed?
Learn to grow peppers with my step-by-step, illustrated ebook. It’ll help you skip a lot of beginner mistakes so that you’re more likely to be harvesting chilies during your first season!
Caring For Jalapeno Seedlings
After your Jalapeno seeds germinate, here’s how to take care of your pepper seedlings.
- Lid and Heat Mat: Remove the lid and take your plants off of the heat mat.
- Bottom Water Plants: Water your seedlings when the top of the mix gets dry. This may be every one or two days.
- Light: Use a grow light for seedlings to keep them going indoors. Plants can be exposed to the light for up to 16 hours a day. (A plant timer can automatically turn lights on and off, according to a schedule.)
- Fertilizer: Start fertilizing after the first set of true leaves appear (the leaves that come after the first seed leaves). A good fertilizer for pepper plants is fish emulsion because it doesn’t burn seedlings.
Grow Light Tips
- If your seedlings begin to lean, move the grow light closer to the tops of the plants. (Refer to the light instructions for height recommendations.)
- If your plants starting wilting, your light might be too close.
» Read More: What to Do after Seeds Sprout
Transplanting Jalapeno Seedlings
Transplanting seedlings — also known as “potting up” or “repotting” — is when you move your Jalapeno plants to larger containers so that they have enough room to continue growing.
So, the biggest question is: When to transplant Jalapeno seedlings?
Start transplanting pepper plants after seedlings have at least four leaves and are around 2 inches tall.
Potting up seedlings for Jalapeno pepper plants generally happens at least a couple of times while indoors.
Hardening Pepper Plants
Hardening pepper plants (hardening off) is when you prepare plants for the outdoors, where they’ll encounter sun, temperature fluctuations, and other outdoor conditions they haven’t experienced yet. The hardening process is crucial for each Jalapeno plant — growing outdoors without it can damage your plants.
Start this process when plants are around eight weeks old, at least 4 inches high, and when it has a few sets of true leaves. Follow this two-part indoor and outdoor hardening schedule for the best results.
Indoor Hardening Plants Schedule
- 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.
Hardening Pepper Plants Outdoors:
- 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.
Don’t harden pepper plants outdoors in high winds, rain, or other harsh conditions. If your seedlings show signs of stress, move them to partial shade or a more sheltered spot, or bring them back inside.
When To Plant Jalapenos Outside
After hardening off your plants and the last potential frost has passed, you can transplant your Jalapeno plants outside. Night temperatures should also be consistently above 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius).
Growing Jalapenos In Pots
As I mentioned before, Jalapenos grow well in pots. (That’s how I grow my Jalapeno plants.) The key is to pick at least a 5-gallon container with holes at the bottom for drainage.
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.
Keep this in mind when planting Jalapenos:
- The bucket should be a 5-Gallon size.
- You’ll need to drill a few holes on the bottom and around the lower. circumference of the container for better airflow and water drainage.
- Add one Jalapeno pepper plant per bucket.
- Get a high-quality potting mix for container plants. (Here’s a soil calculator for pots that tells you how much soil you’ll need.)
- Water the mix as you fill the container to keep soil moist but not drenched. (You should be able to make a soil ball and it keeps its shape.) Leave a couple inches empty on top.
- Make a hole in the center of the bucket that’s deep enough to support the potted 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.
- Position your pot in a spot where it will get at least 8 hours of direct sun a day.
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Jalapeno Plant Care
Here’s how to care for Jalapeno plants in pots during the growing season.
Best Soil For Jalapenos
When growing Jalapenos in containers, use a potting mix that supports container gardening. The best soil for peppers in pots has a neutral pH of 6.0 to 6.8, encourages good airflow and drainage, and is rich in organic matter.
Watering Your Plants
Wait until the sun starts going down (or go out early in the morning) before watering peppers. Sunlight can act as a magnifying glass if the plant is wet, which burns the leaves.
You can use a hose to water the top layer of the mix over the root zone until you see it coming out of the bottom of the bucket. The next Jalapeno watering happens when the top two inches of soil feel dry, or you see the leaves starting to wilt.
So, how often do you water Jalapeno plants in pots? Start by picking one day a week to water, then adjust the frequency as necessary. It changes as the weather fluctuates — err on the side of plants being dry.
Jalapenos growing in pots don’t need as much fertilizer as in-ground plants. Refer to the fertilizer instructions for the container plant dosage, or just use 1/2 strength to be on the safe side.
As for fertilizers, you want to choose something that works for each plant stage. Younger Jalapenos need a fertilizer with higher nitrogen to support leafy growth, but flowering and fruiting plants need lower nitrogen and higher phosphorous and potassium.
Recommended Jalapeno Fertilizer
FoxFarm’s liquid nutrient trio covers all stages of pepper growth — I personally use it on my own plants and get great results!
Besides fertilizer, you can add a couple inches of rich organic matter, such as mulch or compost, to build nutrient rich soil. These materials also feed your Jalapeno plants and help retain soil moisture.
Jalapeno Sun Requirements
Do Jalapenos need full sun? Yes! Put your potted pepper plants in an area that gets eight hours of direct sun, or no less than six hours if that’s what you’re working with.
If you live in an area with really hot summers (like I do), you can give Jalapeno plants some afternoon shade to prevent sunscald.
Pruning Jalapeno Plants
Pruning helps Jalapeno plants grow better and stay healthy. You can prune early on, during the season, and just before the colder weather hits.
You can start pruning Jalapenos when they have at least five or six sets of true leaves. (This is when they’re around eight weeks old.) This optional step — also known as “topping” — turns a tall, spindly plant into a short, stocky one that doesn’t need staking and can grow more peppers — basically, you’re helping it bulk up! 😀
To do this, use clean scissors to cut just above the fourth or fifth set of leaves (video). You’ll start seeing new leaf shoots and growing progress within three weeks.
During Growing Season
As your Jalapeno plants grow outside, use clean garden shears to cut away dead leaves and low-growing branches that touch the soil. Pruning the lower portion of your plant (about six to eight inches) encourages better airflow, keeps foliage away from pests like slugs, and helps prevent soil-borne disease.
Before Cold Weather
During the last month of your growing season, prune to help the remaining peppers grow faster so you can get another harvest. To do this, cut away the stems that don’t have peppers so that the energy goes into the remaining fruit.
Harvesting Jalapeno Peppers
You can pick Jalapenos in the green or red stage, depending on how you like them. Red Jalapenos tend to have a more developed and hotter flavor, while the green pepper can be milder and grassy tasting.
Besides picking green or red, some Jalapeno varieties develop light stretch marks known as “corking.” I really enjoy this stage because these peppers have a more intense Jalapeno flavor and heat.
To harvest Jalapeno peppers, hold the branch with one hand and use the other to pull the pepper upwards so that it comes off easily without damaging the plant. You can also use clean shears to cut them off.
You can put fresh, unwashed Jalapenos in a sealable bag and keep them in your refrigerator’s vegetable bin for a couple of weeks.
Otherwise, you can freeze your Jalapenos for up to eight months. First, wash and dry your peppers, then store them in a freezer bag.
More Tips For Growing Jalapenos In A Pot
Here’s some extra info for growing your pepper plants.
- You can add copper tape around your pots if you need to keep slugs and snails away.
- Drip irrigation can automatically water your pepper plants in containers. This watering tool also delivers moisture directly to the soil rather than splashing it onto your plants, which can cause disease.
- It usually takes about three months for Jalapeno plants to start producing chillies after they go outside. This may differ for early varieties. (I usually grow Mucho Nacho and Purple Jalapenos as a reference.)
- Jalapenos are generally 2 to 4 inches long when ready, and the fruit color (standard types) is dark green unless you let peppers fully ripen to red. Jalapeno plants can produce about 30 to 40 peppers per plant.
Problems Growing Jalapeño Peppers
Pests, disease, disorders, and weather are some of the issues that can affect plants during the season. Keep a close watch on your peppers, and follow some of the best gardening practices to make sure your Jalapenos stay healthy.
Common Jalapeno Problems
|Fungus Gnat Larvae||Pest||Stunted seedlings; tiny black flies||Use DIY neem oil spray for plants|
|Aphid||Pest||Distorted leaves; sticky areas attract ants; black soot||Spray plants in evening to knock off bugs; apply insecticide soap|
|Hornworm||Pest||Foliage is being eaten||Remove by hand; use Bacillus thuringiensis (BT)|
|Damping Off||Disease||Discolored seed leaves; thin stems & wilting in seedlings||Prevention – keep trays & pots clean between plantings; use seed-starting mix with good airflow & drainage; don’t overwater plants|
|Blossom-end Rot (BER)||Disorder||Dark sunken lesions on fruit||Remove affected peppers; maintain soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8; apply calcium like Cal-Mag|
|Flower Drop||Weather||Blossoms fall off; peppers may have sunscald in temps over 90°F (32°C)||Move peppers to a cooler spot, or use a shade cloth|
|Sunscald||Weather||Tan / white / yellow spots on leaves & peppers facing the sun||Provide shade during afternoon sun|
Best Gardening Practices
There’s a lot you can do to stop problems before they start (or at least keep them manageable).
- Give your plants a blast of water in the evenings — be sure to get the undersides of the leaves. This helps knock off any pests that might be there.
- Remove dead or infected plant matter right away so that pest and diseases don’t have a chance to develop.
- Carefully water your Jalapenos so that the soil isn’t overly soggy and the water doesn’t splash up into the plants. This prevents so many issues like phytophthora blight, yellowing leaves, and flower drop.
- Add companion plants for peppers that repel pests, attracts pollinators, and brings in beneficial insects that can eat the pests.
Need help keeping your pepper plants healthy?
Learn to treat pests, vitamin deficiencies and other common pepper plant problems with this illustrated ebook. It’ll help you take action before things get out of hand!
- 10 Effective (and Organic) Ways to Prevent Pests & Disease
- How to Get Rid of Gnats in Plants
- Stunted Pepper Plants? The Most Common Reasons, According to Chile Growers
How To Use Jalapeno Peppers
When deciding what to do with Jalapenos, there are no limits! Some suggestions: you can eat them raw, use Jalapenos in salsas, hot sauce, cocktails, candy them, pickle them, grill them, make chipotle peppers, stuff them to make Jalapeno poppers, or use them as toppings for sopes and other dishes.
- Gummy Jalapeno Recipe
- Jalapeno Tequila Cocktail Recipe (replace the Habanero with Jalapeno peppers)
- Jalapeno Sauce Recipe
- Stuffed Jalapeno Recipe
- 20 Creative Jalapeno Recipes
Growing Jalapenos FAQs
I hope you enjoy growing Jalapenos! Remember, start pepper seeds at least eight weeks before your last expected frost, and use a 5-gallon container or larger when growing chilies in pots.
- Sow jalapeno seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last expected date of frost. You can plant seeds in germination trays or use the bag 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.
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Pepper - Jalapeno
Espoma SS16 16-Quart Organic Seed Starter Premium Potting Mix
Seed Starter Kit 72 Cell Extra Strength, 2 Pack - 1020 Tray, Humidity Dome, Plug Tray Starting Trays for Seedling Germination
VIVOSUN Durable Waterproof Seedling Heat Mat Warm Hydroponic Heating Pad 10" x 20.75" MET Standard
Hydrofarm Agrobrite FLT24 T5 Fluorescent, 2 Foot, 4 Tube Grow Light System, 2-Feet, Black
BN-LINK 7 Day Heavy Duty Digital Programmable Timer, FD60 U6, 115V, 60Hz, Dual Outlet, Indoor, for Lamp Light Fan Security UL Listed
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