Watering pepper plants is tricky.
They need enough hydration to grow strong and produce chillies. On the other hand, did you know that too much water can actually kill them?
Even more, growing them in pots can be especially challenging given that the plant’s only source of water is from what we give them. (That’s assuming they’re not also getting rain from the outside.)
When I was new to growing, watering was one of my biggest pain points. As a newbie, you won’t know the signs of overwatered pepper plants or how often to water plants in pots.
Also, bottom watering plants may be an unfamiliar concept. (This watering method actually helps a lot, by the way.)
Whether your growing pepper seedlings indoors or growing bigger plants outside, here’s some information to help you through each process.
Bottom Watering Plants
This is a method you can use for both indoor and outdoor container peppers.
To clarify, you don’t have to use this method for outside plants. However, I consider this absolutely essential for seedlings.
So what is bottom watering plants? Basically, you provide water underneath your plants rather than pour water over the top.
There’s a lot of benefits to doing this.
For example, peppers only take in as much water they need. Their roots also grow stronger because they are forced to stretch to the bottom where the moisture is.
Watering Pepper Seedlings
Pepper seedlings can wilt, fall over and die very quickly. It’s often due to a seed-borne and soil-borne fungus called damping-off disease. This disease runs rampant in wet, cool conditions.
Hot peppers of all growth stages are at risk when they get too much water. Pepper seedlings are especially susceptible. Damping off is one of the biggest threats.
That’s why I only recommend bottom watering your seedlings. (They can still be in danger of getting too much water, but this method of watering helps.)
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase using my links, I earn a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you. The products are only being recommended to make this tutorial more helpful.
What You’ll Need
To perform this process, you’ll need a couple of items:
- Cell tray (or other container that has holes in the bottom)
- Plant tray (or other solid container that accommodates your cell tray and water)
- Optional: You can opt for a seed starting kit to get everything you’ll need. It also comes with a humidity dome, which you’ll use if your seeds haven’t germinated yet.
The containers that have holes will wick up water from the solid tray. Hence, your plants are watered from the bottom.
The Watering Process
Place your cell tray (or other containers) in the plant tray. Fill the plant tray with about 1 inch of water.
For best results, use filtered water because your tap may contain too much chlorine that can damage chile seedlings. You can also leave tap water out for 24 hours to help remove the harmful stuff.
Let the water stand for about 10 minutes and then check to see if the surface of the growing media (e.g., seed-starting mix) is wet. The media will be darker on top when it’s wet. If it’s not ready, let the water stand for another 10 minutes and then check it again.
Pour out the water, and then dry the tray completely to ensure your seedlings don’t sit in excess moisture.
(Tip: Pick up the container to get a sense of how it feels when your pepper seedlings are properly watered.)
Water your seedlings on a regular basis so they don’t dry out. I wish I could give you an exact number of days to do this each week, but it wouldn’t be an accurate answer. A lot depends on the growing media, growth phase of your seedlings and growing environment.
One indication of your seedlings needing water is when the growing media turns a lighter color. You can also pick up the tray to see if it feels less heavy, which lets you know the mix is getting dry.
Watch for signs up overwatering (more on that below). Keep note of when you water so you can develop a watering schedule.
If it helps, my peppers seedlings in cell trays and seed-starting mix get watered every 3 to 5 days. As they grow and move to larger containers, they’ll usually be watered every 5 to 7 days. Again, your schedule may differ.
If you want more information on growing pepper seedlings, be sure to check out The Pepper Seed-Starting Guide. This ebook steps you through each phase of the indoor growing process so you grow healthy chile plants that are ready for the outdoors.
Watering Pepper Plants In Pots Outside
There are a lot of ways to water your outdoor plants, but here are two methods.
Using A Hose
This one is pretty straightforward. Simply run your hose over the root zone and stop when you see water coming out of the bottom of the pot.
The key is to make sure you water at the right time. This needs to be either in the evening when the sun goes down or in the early morning.
If you water during the day, your pepper plants can’t absorb the moisture as well because the water evaporates faster in the heat.
Also, there’s a good chance that water can splash the leaves and other parts. The sun can act as a magnifying glass and actually burn your plants when they’re wet.
Bottom Watering Outdoor Plants
Larger outdoor containers can also be watered from the bottom, if you choose.
Here are a couple reasons why you might choose this method:
- You don’t have the patience to water with a hose.
- You don’t have an automatic watering system, and you’d like to water a bunch of pepper plants at once.
If your outdoor pot isn’t that big, you can simply place it in a larger container filled with water.
For pepper plants in bigger pots or for multiple plants, you can use a larger receptacle to water them. An inflatable swimming pool or trough are some examples.
In either scenario, position the pots in the watering container. Then fill it with water so that the it reaches halfway up the pots.
Leave the water for about 30 minutes to an hour to allow the pepper roots to soak up all the moisture.
Lastly, lift the pot to get a feel for how heavy it is after your pepper plants are watered.
How Often To Water Pepper Plants In Pots
Pepper plants are sensitive to overwatering as this can stunt growth and encourage disease. Allow your pepper plants to dry a bit before giving them more water.
Your watering frequency depends on things like current weather conditions and how big your pots are.
One way you can tell if they’re dry is by watching the leaves to see if they start wilting. In a heat wave they’ll wilt no matter what; but in moderate weather, this is a good visual cue.
Another thing you can do is pick up your pots so you get a feeling for their weight when they’re drying out. (That’s why I suggest lifting them after they’re freshly watered.)
Likewise, you can stick a finger in the soil to see if the top 2 inches are dry.
I usually pick one day a week to start watering my pepper plants. The watering frequency changes with the weather.
Signs Of Overwatering Pepper Plants
If you’re a new container gardener, it’s really hard to spot the signs of overwatering because they mimic other problems.
If you want more help diagnosing and treating common pepper plant problems, be sure to check out The Chile Plant Hospital. This guide covers issues you’ll likely see throughout the growing season.
Here are some common signs.
In the case of indoor pepper seedlings, you’ll know plants are getting too much water if a light, gray film starts developing on top of the growing media.
When this happens, scrape off the mold with a toothpick and run a small fan in the direction of your plants to better circulate the air. You can also sprinkle a little cinnamon on top of your growing media (it has antifungal properties).
For outdoor container peppers, watch for yellowing leaves that are falling off the plants. Leaves can also wilt and turn brown. Also, your plants may start experiencing stunted growth.
In this case, space out the time between watering. Optionally, add materials, such as pumice or perlite, to improve soil drainage.
I hope this article helps answer your questions about watering pepper plants. Happy growing!
- Container large enough to hold potted plants (e.g., plant saucer, inflatable swimming pool, trough)
- Hose (outdoors)
Bottom Watering Seedlings
- Place your cell tray in the plant tray. Fill the plant tray with about 1 inch of water.
- Let the water stand for about 10 minutes. Check to see if the growing media surface is wet. (It will be darker on top.) If it's not ready, let the water sit for another 10 minutes and then check again.
- Pour out the water. Dry out the tray to ensure your seedlings don't sit in excess moisture.
- Water your seedlings on a regular basis so they don't dry out. (This may be every few days.) Common signs are when the growing media turns a lighter color, and when the tray feels lighter when you pick it up.
Bottom Watering Outdoor Potted Plants
- Place your potted plant in a container large enough to accommodate it with the water. As an example, use a plant saucer for single or smaller pots. Larger and/or multiple plants can go inside inflatable swimming pools or troughs.
- Fill the container with water so that it reaches halfway up the pot.
- Leave the water for about 30 minutes to an hour. This gives your plant time to soak up all the moisture.
- Lift your pot to get a feel for how heavy it is after your pepper plants are watered.
- Allow your outdoor plants to dry a bit before giving them more water. Stick a finger in the soil to see if the top 2 inches feel dry. You can also perform the weight test (see Notes) to determine if they are ready to be watered again.
- Water: For indoor seedlings, use filtered water because tap water may contain too much chlorine that can harm plants. You can also leave tap water out for 24 hours to help remove the harmful stuff.
- Weight Test: After watering your seedlings or container plants, pick up the containers to get a feel for the weight. This gives you a way of knowing when your plants need water again.
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