If you love hot sauce and salsa, you probably have the Habanero pepper plant on your grow list. Using these 3 tried-and-true container options, you can grow thriving plants even if you don’t have much outdoor space. Let’s dive into some quick background info — including types of Habanero varieties — then get into the specifics of growing these spicy chilies in pots.
Habanero Pepper Information
The Habanero pepper is one of the hottest peppers in the Capsicum chinense family. Its fruity, spicy flavor and floral aftertaste make it one of the most tasty and versatile of the hottest chili peppers.
Thought to have originated in Cuba, the Habaneros are very important to Yucatán peninsular cuisine. Each year at least 1,500 tons of peppers are harvested there.
As for color, the unripe fruit is green, and mature Habanero peppers can be shades like red, orange, peach, white, or brown. (More on that below.) Generally, a mature Habanero is about 1 to 2 inches long.
Other countries that produce Habanero peppers include Costa Rica and Belize, as well as US states like California, Texas, and Idaho.
Habanero Pepper Varieties
You have a lot of options when it comes to Habaneros. Things like heat level, color, and pod size vary as you’ll see below.
10 Habanero Varieties:
up to 577,000 SHU
|brown||2” long x 1.5” wide|
|Yucatán White Habanero|
up to 500,000 SHU
|creamy, off-white,||1” long x 0.5” wide|
up to 325,000 SHU
|orange||1-2 in long and 1.5 in wide|
up to 475,000 SHU
|red||~1.5” long x 1” wide|
up to 325,000 SHU
|mustard yellow||~3” long x 1.5” wide|
up to 500,000 SHU
|red||~2” long x 1” wide|
|Big Sun Habanero|
up to 325,000 SHU
|bright yellow||~3” long x 2” wide|
up to 325,000 SHU
|peach||~2” long x 1” wide|
|Peruvian White Habanero|
up to 350,000 SHU
|off-white||~2” long x ~3/4” wide|
up to 450,000 SHU
|brown||~3” long x 2” wide|
» Read More: Where to Buy Pepper Seeds Online
Habanero Scoville Units
Orange Habaneros rate between 100,000 to 325,000 Scoville heat units (SHU), which is similar to the Scotch Bonnet pepper. (That’s considered very hot.) Other Habanero varieties can be over 500,000 SHU.
For comparison, the standard Habanero chile pepper is around 100 times hotter than the Jalapeno Scoville.
The Red Savina Habanero pepper — a cultivar of the Habanero — once held the world’s hottest pepper title by the Guinness Book of World Records. The Ghost pepper came afterwards, and now the Carolina Reaper is the current record holder.
Although Habaneros are no longer in the top 10 hottest peppers, they still have lots of heat and are not to be underestimated!
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Growing Habanero In Pots Using 3 Options
Habaneros are definitely worth your time because they have a compact growth habit and produce lots of chillies per plant!
Below, are three popular container options that I personally use during my growing season.
Growing Peppers In 5 Gallon Buckets
The 5-gallon bucket is a classic choice amongst gardeners. You can typically find these pails at hardware stores and garden centers.
The benefit to using a bucket is that it’s a simple, inexpensive option that perfectly suits an Habanero plant.
The downside is that you’ll need to drill holes in the bottom and around the sides. This gives your Habanero better airflow, and it allows the pot to drain excess water.
Circumference (5-Gallon): ~ 32 inches
Tips: Choose a lighter color bucket so it doesn’t get as hot. (I live in a hot-weather climate, so this may be less of an issue for you.) Also, a bucket with a handle comes in handy if you need to move your plants.
Popular On Amazon:
Growing Peppers In Grow Bags
A grow bag is a fabric pot that comes in many different sizes. So, what size grow bag for peppers? I use at least a 7-gallon bag because I like giving my peppers more room to grow.
The benefit of the grow bag is that it’s breathable and allows for “air pruning” of plant roots. This air pruning prevents roots from becoming “root bound,” and it promotes growth that encourages better uptake of water and nutrients.
The only con I found is that grow bags need more water than other container systems because of the porous material.
Dimensions (7-Gallon): ~ 10.5″ H x 14″ W
Tips: Plant one pepper plant per grow bag for optimal growth. In my experience, a 7 to 10-gallon size works best.
Popular On Amazon:
Growing Peppers In EarthBox
An EarthBox is an outdoor container gardening system that has built-in watering. My experience: it’s the best solution for small-space gardeners because you can fit many plants in a single container — I grow six pepper plants in the EarthBox Original each season.
The benefit of an EarthBox is it takes the guesswork out of growing. Kits include the watering system, fertilizer, and potting soil (optional) so you can just add your plants and go.
One drawback is that pepper plants don’t grow to their full potential because they share a smaller space with other chilies. This isn’t a big issue with Habanero plants because they bush out and produce tons of peppers (as you’ll see from my pics in this post).
EarthBox Dimensions (Original): 29″ long by 13.5″ wide
Tips: Pepper plants with big growth habits (like the Carolina Reaper) can overshadow smaller chile plants. Also, put duct tape over the holes in the bottom — if you add the optional casters — so that spiders don’t start nesting there.
EarthBox on Amazon:
Transplanting Habanero Plants
Before growing Habanero peppers outside in pots, make sure your plants are ready for the outdoors.
- Wait until the last threat of frost has passed.
- If you started pepper seedlings indoors, harden them off first so they aren’t shocked by going outside. (Here’s how to harden off pepper plants step-by-step.)
- If you purchase transplants, slowly introduce them to full sun to ensure they don’t wilt (see pic). Leave your plants in the sun for a certain period of time the first day, then increase the amount of time each day. Do this for about a week before putting them in their final spot.
When it comes to transplanting pepper plants and pot size, use at least a 5-gallon container (one chile per pot). You can use larger pots for your Habanero plants if you prefer.
You’ll see that a potted Habanero plant fits well into a small space! (And if you’re looking for more ways to compliment a porch or balcony, here are some summer apartment porch ideas to get you started.)
Caring For Habanero Pepper Plants
Good Habanero care means getting the soil, fertilizer, sun, and water needs right. Below are my best growing tips for producing healthy Habanero plants in containers.
Use a quality potting soil so that your mix has good airflow and moisture retention. Don’t use garden soil or a mix that isn’t labeled for containers because that’s too dense for a pot.
Fill your container with the mix and leave a couple of inches empty at the top. Water as you go to keep the soil moist and not drenched – you should be able to make a ball that holds the shape. (If using an EarthBox, follow the instructions that come with your grow kit.)
Make a hole in the center of the container so that it’s deep enough to accommodate your plant up to it’s lowest set of leaves. Add your Habanero plant, and then lightly water the root zone to help it settle in.
Recommended Potting Soil:
Adding Supplements To Soil
Optional: Use an organic compost to help feed the soil during the growing season. You can drop a handful in the planting hole, or add a couple inches to the top layer to act as a mulch for your Habanero plant. (Mulch helps keep in the moisture.)
How Much Sun Do Habanero Plants Need?
For the best growth, give your Habanero plants at least 8 hours of direct sun a day. (You may be able to do 6 hours, but 8 hours is better.)
Sometimes direct sun can cause sunscald, which looks like beige lesions on the leaves. (I usually see this on newer plants that haven’t been outside too long.)
In that case, move your plants to a shadier spot (if possible), or use a light cover (such as a bed sheet) on those really hot days.
How Much Water Do Habanero Plants Need?
If you’re wondering how often to water Habanero plants, the answer is only when your plants dry out. Too much hydration can cause the peppers to taste bitter or even die out.
In general, watch for wilting leaves as a visual cue. Habanero plant watering should also happen if the top two inches of soil are dry or the pot feels lighter when you pick it up.
Lastly, early morning or in the evening is the best time of day to water pepper plants. We’ll cover the specifics of watering in different kinds of containers below.
Watering Peppers In Buckets & Grow Bags
Start by picking one day a week to water your containers. Water the top layer of soil until you see the water running out of the bottom of the pot to give it a deep watering.
(Important: Don’t spray water over parts of your plant, such as leaves and stems, when the sun is out. Water acts like a magnifying glass in the sunshine and the plant can burn.)
After watering, you might want to pick up your container to see what the weight feels like. Some people do this as a way to tell when their containers are dry again.
Watering Peppers In EarthBox
The EarthBox has an automatic watering feature that hydrates your plants from the bottom (known as “bottom watering plants“). Simply add water to the fill tube (pictured) until water comes out of the bottom of the container.
Feeding Your Habanero Peppers
Like all plants, potted Habanero peppers need three main macronutrients — Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) — to grow well. Chilies also benefit from secondary nutrients, such as calcium, to help avoid problems like blossom end rot (BER).
More on NPK:
An NPK ratio of 5-10-10 (a typical recommendation for pepper plants) means it has 5% Nitrogen, 10% Phosphorus, and 10% Potassium.
The 5-10-10 ratio is a good pepper fertilizer NPK, but look at the plant growth stage. Why? You can use a product that better supports your plant during this time: for example, fertilizer higher in potassium is best for helping plants fruit and flower.
Container plants use 1/2 strength fertilizer because they’re not in the ground (unless your particular fertilizer says different).
How often should you fertilize Habanero peppers?
Your fertilization schedule depends on the products you’re using. For instance, I fertilize Habanero plants on a bi-weekly schedule, and then supplement with secondary nutrients every other week.
More on pepper fertilizers:
Here’s all my notes on fertilizer for pepper plants, including what products I use, when I use them, what they do for plants, and more. You’ll develop your own preferences as you go, but this helps you get started!
How Long Do Habaneros Take To Grow?
Habanero pepper seeds sprout between 5 to 12 days (depending on pepper variety). In my experience, it generally takes 5 to 6 months to go from seed to a fruit-bearing Habanero plant.
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 can enjoy harvesting your own chilies!
You can eat Habaneros in the green stage for a more vegetable-like spice or when orange for a flowery-citrus heat. As for when to pick Habanero peppers, you’ll likely be harvesting anywhere from 75 to 110 days after transplanting outside.
How Long Do Habanero Plants Live?
The Habanero is a perennial plant that can live for years. The key is to “winterize” or “overwinter” your pepper plant to give it the proper conditions for surviving the colder months.
Overwintering involves pruning chilies and carefully transferring them back indoors. Here’s my guide to overwintering pepper plants that steps you through the complete process.
Problems Growing Habanero Peppers
Pests and the wrong growing conditions can mess with the progress of your Habanero plants. Here are two of the most common problems (with solutions).
Hot Pepper Plant Pests
Aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and more feed on pepper plants. These links help you prevent problems and deal with them when they happen.
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!
Habanero Plant Growing Slow
If your Habanero pepper plants seem to come to a halt during the growing season, there are some common reasons why.
Pepper plant problems:
- Too much water (inappropriate watering)
- Too cold or too hot outside (mine do best in 65F – 85F temps)
- Not enough nutrition (see this post for help)
- pH level of your soil may be inadequate (Peppers like 6.0 to 6.8. Vegetable potting soils are generally adjusted to be neutral and meet this rating.)
- Peppers are root bound (In other words, the container is too small, which causes the roots to circle around and eventually choke itself off.)
Habanero Plant FAQs
I hope this helps you grow the Habanero pepper plant — and all kinds of spicy chillies — in any space! These recommendations come from my years of successfully growing hot peppers in containers, which is why I’m happy to share them with you!
- One plant per bucket or grow bag
- ~ 0.77 cubic feet for 5-Gallon bucket
- ~ 0.87 cubic feet for 7-Gallon grow bag
- Fish and seaweed (or fertilizer for vegetables)
- Fill your container with potting soil leaving the top 2 inches empty. Lightly water as you go so that if you make a ball with the mix, it holds its shape.
- Add fertilizer by following the instructions on the bottle for feeding container plants.
- Make a hole in the center of the container so that it's deep enough to accommodate your habanero plant up to its lowest set of leaves. (Optional: Drop a handful of compost in this hole.)
- Add your habanero plant to the hole and bury it up to its lowest set of leaves. Level the soil around your plant. (Optional: Add a couple inches of compost to the top layer of soil to act as a mulch.)
- Water the root zone lightly to help your plant settle in it's new home.
- Position your pot in an area that gets at least 8 hours of direct sun a day.
- Continue watering your pepper plant when it gets dry. Start by picking one day a week, and then water the top layer of soil until the water runs out of the bottom of the container.
- Continue to feed your habanero plant by following the instructions on your fertilizer bottle.
- PLANTS: If you want to purchase habanero seedlings, the Etsy global online marketplace is a good option for finding all kinds of habanero varieties.
- SUN: If your plant gets sunscald (looks like pale lesions on the leaves), move it to a shadier location. Or, use a light cover (like a bedsheet) to protect it on those really hot days.
- WATER: Pepper leaves wilt when the plant is dry. Another way to tell is by using the "weight test." Do this by picking up your container after a fresh watering to get a feel for its weight.
- FERTILIZER: Here's a chile fertilization post you can reference for continued pepper plant care.
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Smart Pots 5-Gallon Smart Pot Soft-Sided Container, Black with Cut handles
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