Watering peppers is tricky because you have to get the balance just right. Plants need enough hydration to survive, but too much or too little can kill chilies — especially pepper seedlings. Here’s my best advice on watering peppers and how to bottom-water plants so that you grow the healthiest (and tastiest) peppers.
When I was new to gardening, watering peppers was one of my biggest pain points. I didn’t know the signs of overwatered pepper plants or how often to water plants in pots. Sound familiar?
Knowing when to water peppers is key. Plus, if you want your chilies spicier (who doesn’t), you can learn to keep them on the drier side so they taste hotter.
And what about bottom watering plants? If you grow pepper seedlings, this technique helps prevent a lot of watering mistakes.
Let’s get into watering peppers!
What Is Bottom Watering Plants?
When bottom watering plants, you add water below plant containers so that they wick up hydration from the bottom. This is a method you can use for both indoor seedlings and outdoor potted plants.
Bottom watering plants has a lot of benefits, from a more even watering to less chance that your plants are getting too little or too much water. It also helps plant roots grow strong because they stretch to the bottom where the moisture is.
To clarify, you don’t have to use this method for outside plants. I consider bottom watering essential for seedlings.
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Watering Pepper Seedlings
Pepper seedlings are more sensitive to watering issues showing distress signs like wilting, falling over and eventually death. A common problem in cool, wet conditions is damping-off disease — a seed-borne and soil-borne fungus.
I love bottom watering plants because it takes the guesswork out of how much water to give seedlings. Here’s how to do this.
- Cell tray (or other container that has holes in the bottom)
- Plant tray (or other solid container that holds your cell tray and water)
- Optional: Seed starting kits have the necessary trays, including a humidity dome. (helps germinate pepper seeds)
- Water Note: Use filtered water (if you can) because your tap may contain too much chlorine that can cause damage to seedlings. You can also leave tap water out for 24 hours to help remove the harmful stuff.
How To Water Pepper Seedlings
- Place your cell tray (or other containers) in the plant tray. Fill the plant tray with about 1 inch of water.
- Let the water stand for about 10 minutes, then check to see if the surface of the growing media is wet. (It will be darker on top.) If needed, let the water stand for another 10 minutes and then check again.
- Pour out the water, and then dry the tray completely so your seedlings don’t sit in excess moisture. Never let your plants sit in water longer than necessary — that means keep a close watch!
- Pick up your plant containers to get a sense of how heavy it feels when your pepper seedlings are properly watered.
How Often To Water Pepper Seedlings
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 depends on the growing media, growth phase of your seedlings and growing environment.
One sign that seedlings need 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.
Tip: It’s a good idea to keep notes on when you water so you can develop a watering schedule.
My Schedule (for reference): My pepper seedlings usually get watered every 3 to 5 days. After they move to larger containers, they get watered every 5 to 7 days. Again, your schedule can vary.
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!
Watering Peppers In Pots Outside
Outdoor container peppers are more forgiving when it comes to watering (they prefer to be on the dry side). Here’s when and how to water chili peppers and develop your watering frequency.
Best Time Of Day To Water Pepper Plants
Water pepper plants in the evening when the sun goes down or in the early morning. If you water during mid day, your pepper plants can’t absorb moisture 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 burn your plants when they’re wet.
How To Water Pepper Plants
When using a hose, simply run the water over the root zone. Stop when you see water coming out of the bottom of the pot.
Bottom Water Plants Outside:
Outdoor containers can also be watered from below. 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.
- You’d like to water a bunch of pepper plants at once.
- Place your pot in a larger container filled with water. For pepper plants in big pots or multiple plants, use a larger receptacle like an inflatable swimming pool or trough.
- Make sure the water 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.
- Watch for the top of the potting soil to get dark with moisture. Pick up the pot to get a feel for how heavy it is after your plant is fully watered.
Time Saver Tip: Does the thought of moving all your potted peppers to water seem tedious? Use an EarthBox Original to automate the bottom watering process for up to six pepper plants.
How Often To Water Pepper Plants In Pots
Your watering frequency depends on factors like current weather conditions and the size of your pots. During the growing season, you might water once a day on hot days, every three days during moderate weather, or once a week (at a minimum).
Signs Your Peppers Are Dry
One way to tell if peppers are dry is by watching for wilting leaves. Foliage wilts in a heat wave, but in cooler weather, it’s a visual sign that peppers need water.
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.)
Finally, you can check soil for dryness by sticking a finger into the top two inches.
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
Can you overwater pepper plants? Yes, peppers are sensitive to overwatering: plants can develop yellow leaves, stunted growth, and poor health in general. It’s best to let your peppers dry a bit before giving them more water.
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.
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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!
Peppers In The Ground vs Container Grown Peppers
Growing pepper plants in the ground requires less water than plants growing in containers. The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends giving your vegetable garden one inch of water per week. This water amount should be broken up into three days a week.
It’s more important to feel the garden soil for dryness rather than just following the 1-inch rule. Stick your finger in the top inch of soil, and see if you can form a ball in your hand to see if your garden needs water or not. You can also use a moisture meter to determine the water level in the ground as well as the soil pH.
Does Lack Of Water Make Peppers Hotter?
Have you ever wondered if underwatering causes spicier chili peppers? It does for some hot pepper cultivars [source]. Capsaicin production — the chemical substance that makes peppers hot — increases when plants get less water.
Before you start withholding water, let your plants mature enough until the pepper fruit comes in. After that, you can let plants get dry until the leaves start wilting.
One caveat is that you may get fewer chilies because of the water stress. But the peppers you get should be hotter and more tasty — restricting water is known to intensify flavor too!
How To Water Plants When Away (DIY)
If you’re going away for more than a few days, you can create a DIY watering system using plastic drink bottles with caps.
Here’s what I did when I left my potted plants for two weeks.
- Use a nail or sharp tool to poke a few small holes in each cap.
- Fill your bottles with water, and screw the caps back on.
- Hold your bottle upside down to make sure water drips out.
- Stick your bottles capside-down in the soil. (I use two water bottles for each 5-gallon pot, but you may want to experiment before you leave.)
For in-ground peppers, you can use a hose timer with your irrigation setup to automate your watering while you’re away.
Watering Pepper Plants FAQs
I hope this article answers your questions about watering peppers. To recap, keep peppers on the dry side, and watch for signs of overwatering or dryness to know if you need to water every day, every couple of days, or once a week.
Up next, be sure to check out my guide on fertilizer for pepper plants. You’ll learn about the best fertilizers for peppers and get a sample feeding schedule.
- 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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