Growing Jalapenos: How To Get Sweet Heat
Growing jalapenos at home is a great way to add a little heat into your cooking! Our growing guide shares how to get great harvests.
Jalapenos are spicy and delicious peppers that can make any spread, burger, or sauce mouth-wateringly tasty. Growing jalapenos yourself is a great way to always have access to this zesty spice.
Eaten all over the world, jalapeno peppers are enjoyed in different ways. As a staple in Mexican cuisine, they can be roasted, baked, and even sizzled on the grill. They’re often diced and worked into applications both savory and sweet. And they’re really easy to grow in your garden.
Here’s a shocking fact about the jalapeño that will take your breath away: these were the first peppers to travel inside a NASA space shuttle! They accompanied the astronauts on NASA’s fifth space shuttle mission in 1982. The report sent back to the grower (who also was an astronaut, although not one aboard this mission) was “Tell Woody the jalapenos were outstanding!”
This all may make you wonder how this proud pepper is grown and cared for. I mean, we all want intergalactic fire, right? Well, wonder no longer; we’ll introduce you to growing jalapenos in your own garden!
Good Products At Amazon For Growing Jalapenos:
- Neem Bliss 100% Cold Pressed Neem Oil
- Monterey BT Caterpillar Killer
- Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew
- Clark&Co Live Ladybugs
- NaturesGoodGuys Beneficial Nematodes
- MycoStop Biofungicide
- Monterey Liqui-Cop Liquid Copper Fungicide
Quick Care Guide
|Common Name(s)||Jalapeño, huachinango pepper, chile gordo, chipotle pepper, cuaresmeno|
|Scientific Name||Capsicum annuum ‘Jalapeño’|
|Days to Harvest||70-85 days|
|Water||Even, consistent moisture, up to 1” per week|
|Soil||Well-drained, loamy soils with lots of organic matter|
|Fertilizer||Varies – high N initially, higher PK for fruit production|
|Pests||Aphids, thrips, armyworm, leafroller, pepper weevil, corn earworm, flea beetle, leafminer, spider mite|
|Diseases||Damping off, fusarium wilt, southern blight, phytophthora blight, bacterial spot, cucumber mosaic virus|
All About The Jalapeno
What are jalapenos? They’re delicious green peppers that have a slightly earthy and spicy taste. They are widely used to spice up foods and make pickles. The botanical name for the Capsicum annuum species that is jalapenos is “Capsicum annuum var. ‘Jalapeno’.
This particular plant has a variety of other interesting names like chile gordo, huachinango, or cuaresmeno which identify different attributes of the fruit. Dried red jalapeno peppers can be smoked to produce the smoky heat that we refer to as chipotle pepper.
Their name is derived from their origin point. There is a large, beautiful city in Mexico named Xalapa, the capital of the Mexican state of Veracruz. The name of this city is sometimes spelled “Jalapa”. And it is from this city where the jalapeno is believed to originate. Even now, Mexico is a leading producer of jalapeno peppers, and they are extensively used in Mexican cuisine. Other heavy farming regions include Texas, New Mexico, and California.
A healthy jalapeno pepper plant can grow as tall as 2-3 feet (24-36 inches) in height. Each plant can produce as many as 25-30 jalapeno pods. Once the pods mature, they appear deep green in color. However, if they’re left longer on the vine, the color changes to purple and then red.
We all know that these chili peppers provide a nice, flavorful heat, but how hot are jalapeno peppers? Overall, they have a Scoville heat rating of 2500-8000. This puts them at a nice sense of warmth, but not as hot as other related chili peppers like the habanero or ghost peppers. Some serrano peppers and cayenne peppers are spicier than jalapenos too.
The flowers of the jalapeno are white and fairly nondescript, but from them emerge the future chili peppers. Its leaves are smooth and dark green in color, with a few cultivars such as the purple jalapeno having a purplish tinge to both leaves and stems.
The mature fruit will be between 2-4 inches in length and will either be dark green or purple at first. As it ages on the jalapeño plant, they will turn dark and then gradually red in color before drying out.
The root system of jalapeno plants is relatively extensive, requiring at least 8” of potting soil depth and up to 12” for larger plants. These roots remain fairly fine, like those of a tomato.
Planting Jalapeño Peppers
Planting and growing jalapenos from jalapeno seeds is quite easy. Here’s a quick breakdown on when, where, and how to plant these hot peppers.
When To Plant Jalapeño Peppers
When it comes to planting a jalapeño pepper from seed, most people start jalapeno pepper seeds indoors. The ideal time is usually 6 weeks before frost end. In most of the US, this happens between January and March. A seedling heating mat can spur germination if you start them indoors.
Pepper plants can be transplanted outside once the frost has passed, which is usually after April. Keep in mind that hot peppers are native to sunny and hot climates of Mexico. They’ll need frost-free conditions and warm sunlight. The ideal soil temperature for jalapeno pepper varies between 65 and 80 degrees F.
Where To Plant Jalapeño Peppers
Trying to figure out where to plant out your peppers? Look for locations in your yard that get full sun conditions. Peppers are sun-lovers and will need lots of it for the best growth. Once you’ve identified those parts of the yard, look for one which provides some shelter from high winds. This will keep your plants from getting wind-damaged or knocked down.
Container growing is an option for your jalapenos. They will need a container that has a reasonable amount of room for best development. Try to use a pot that’s large enough to grow a tomato plant in, as your pepper will have a similar root spread and depth. Plant seeds within and wait!
A little afternoon shade is okay for your jalapeno plant, particularly during the hottest part of the day. When the sun starts hitting those intense periods of heat that come in mid-summer, that afternoon shade can protect your peppers from sunscald.
Some people like to provide extra support for heavy-bearing peppers. Plan in advance to add a stake when you first plant jalapeño seeds so that your plant has support from the start.
How To Plant Jalapeños
If starting jalapeno pepper seeds in advance indoors, sow the jalapeño seeds between ½ and ¼ inch deep. Cover with a light layer of loose, moist soil. Keep the soil moist and a cover over the plants to provide humidity until the seedlings are about 2” tall, and then gradually introduce more and more air until they’ve adapted to lower humidity.
Before planting your seedlings outside, gradually adapt them to your climate by putting them out for progressively longer periods of time each day. Space your jalapeño plants at least 12-14” apart when you transplant them. This gives them enough room to spread their roots out.
Caring for Jalapeño Peppers
Growing jalapeno plants in your vegetable garden? If so, here are some important tips on jalapeno plant care that you should know.
Sun and Temperature
Jalapenos love full sun and need at least 8 hours of sunlight every day. They can tolerate partial shade conditions, but really do need as much full sunlight as you can get them. If you have to grow peppers in any partial shade, try to select a location that gets shade during the hottest portion of the day. Direct sunlight is best, though.
Since they’re native to hot and sunny climates, the ideal temperature is around 70-85 degrees F. The plants are not frost-resistant at all and can show signs of cold damage once the temperatures dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water & Humidity
The best time to water these pepper plants is in the morning. This allows the foliage to dry out during the day. Avoid allowing water to pool up around your plant’s base, as this can create problems for your plant. Be sure the soil easily drains excess moisture away!
Provide about 1” of water per week in hot weather. Most of the time, keeping the soil evenly moist is fine. You can use a soaker hose or water at the base of your jalapeño plants.
The ideal level of humidity for pepper plants ranges between 50%-70%. A greenhouse or humidifier can help maintain humidity levels. If you’re in a less-humid environment, don’t worry as your plants can tolerate lower humidity as well. Just make sure they have enough water to drink.
Your soil should be well-drained, loamy, and extremely rich in organic matter. The jalapeno plant loves rich and fertile soils!
Aim for a soil pH level between 6.0-6.8 if possible. While they’ll tolerate slightly acidic or slightly alkaline conditions, neutral conditions are ideal. If you’re uncertain, use a pH test kit to determine your average soil pH.
Fertilizing Jalapeño Peppers
To get your plants a good start, make sure they have plenty of nitrogen right after planting. This will spur the plant’s initial growth. Working a slow-release fertilizer in prior to planting jalapeno pepper seeds is fine.
Two to three weeks after germination, provide another small dose of a balanced fertilizer. When you start to see flowers forming, it’s time to start planning on a flowering and fruiting option, so switch to a 5-10-10 or a 3-5-5 fertilizer. This will stimulate flowering and fruiting rather than foliage growth.
Fertilize on a regular schedule through the summer to keep production up, then taper off as you approach the fall.
Take a good look at each pepper plant as it’s growing. If it has suckers or stems that seem too thin, but has much healthier and thicker ones, you can pinch off the suckers to promote more vigor in the rest of the plant. This also allows for better pepper production.
In the autumn as the weather starts getting colder, pepper production will die down. Remove the plant at the end of the season so that you can prepare the bed for a future crop.
Is it ever appropriate to “top” your peppers, a term used to describe trimming off the tops to promote outward growth? Kevin covers that in-depth in our pepper pruning video, shown below!
The easiest way of growing jalapeños is from jalapeno pepper seeds, as described above in the planting section.
However, it’s possible to start growing jalapeños from cuttings as well. Select a healthy offshoot branch and take a 6”-8” cutting from the tip. Dip the cut end into water, then rooting hormone, and place in a pot of pre-moistened potting mix. Strip all but a few leaves from the tip of the cutting, and place it under a plastic cover to keep the humidity up. Care for your cutting as you would other types.
If you plan on saving jalapeno pepper seeds for future use, avoid growing multiple kinds of peppers. These can and do cross-pollinate throughout the season. The hybrid pepper seeds produced may not resemble their parent plant, and in some cases may be entirely sterile. Stick with one variety of peppers if you’re going to save seed.
Harvesting and Storing Jalapeño Peppers
Trying to figure out when to pick jalapeños? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you when to harvest jalapenos too!
Peppers have varying stages that they can be picked at. The earliest peppers will be a nice, even medium to green in color. They should feel firm to the touch. These are your traditional jalapeno type, ready to use whether raw or cooked. Purple jalapenos will of course be a rich purple in color instead of green.
Next, we have the next stage of ripeness. As the pepper matures on the plants, it will gradually begin to turn yellow, then red. Once completely red in color, this is the “huachinango” stage. It should still feel firm to the touch, but not quite as firm as the green form.
At any point, you may encounter the remaining peppers, known as a “chile gordo”, also called fat jalapenos. These are great for stuffing with cheese as poppers!
To harvest jalapeño peppers, snip through the stem about half an inch above the pepper end using clean pruning shears. Don’t pull the peppers from your plants, as this can cause damage.
Fresh peppers can be taken straight from the garden to your table. But what if you want to store them and get to them later?
Place your peppers into a paper bag and tuck them into the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Stored this way, they will last for a few days to a week after harvest from the garden.
If you have red jalapenos that you won’t be using immediately, consider drying them for long-term storage. Thread a sewing needle and sew directly through the end of the stem right where it attaches to the top of the pepper. Hang these up to thoroughly dry in a cool, dark place with lots of airflow. Once completely dry, you can store them whole, smoke them to turn them into chipotles, or grind them to make a chili powder.
You can also freeze whole or chopped jalapenos for later use. Since freezing breaks the cell walls inside the pepper, this is usually best for peppers you plan to use in cooking. The texture will be slightly softer once they defrost.
If you wish a milder flavor, remove the pepper seeds before use. These pepper seeds carry a lot of heat!
Some people use a pressure canner with a tested recipe to can their jalapeno harvest. Look for tested and safe recipes for a reliable and safe method.
Growing jalapeno peppers is pretty straightforward as a general rule. But there’s still a few issues you might encounter.
Occasionally, the green leaves of your plant may roll downward. This is usually a reaction by plants to temperature or weather conditions. If you keep them evenly watered and remain watchful, you should see them perk back up once conditions improve.
If the foliage is lush and green but it’s just not producing for you, your plant may need a phosphorous boost.
Small plants that are starting to flower while they’re still small can become stunted if allowed to form fruit. Pinch off early blossoms to encourage your pepper plants to grow to a larger size.
There are a number of pests that attack your jalapeno pepper plants. Let’s go over that list. Many can be taken care of with yellow sticky traps. However, note that yellow sticky traps will catch beneficial insects as well.
Many moth larvae will call the shrubby pepper foliage home as well… or at least dinner. Some of those include the beet armyworm, the omnivorous leafroller, pepper weevils, and the corn earworm (also called tomato fruitworm). For most larvae or caterpillars, using bacillus thurigiensis (BT) as either a spray or powder will keep them at bay.
Various forms of flea beetle are known to chew a “shothole” pattern of holes in leaves. Use organic pesticides such as spinosad or pyrethrin to deter these.
Leafminers chew distinctive zig-zag patterns into your leaves, and can cause severe damage to the foliage over time. Remove any leaves that show signs of leaf miner infestation and destroy them. Neem oil can deter them, and spinosad can kill larvae that haven’t gotten into the leaf yet.
Finally, spider mites are an ever-present problem for most gardeners. Use a dual strategy against these by applying neem to leaves and flowers, but also releasing beneficial insects into the garden. You may also want to apply beneficial nematodes to your soil to deal with mite larvae.
Many different diseases can wreak havoc on your jalapeno plants as well.
Early on when you’re starting seeds, and when pepper seeds are just germinating, you may encounter damping off. This is usually caused by pythium or rhizoctonia fungi in the soil. Ensure you start pepper seeds in new, sterile seed-starting mix.
Fusarium wilt is related to damping off in that it’s another fungal form. While it can also cause a damping off-like effect to jalapeño seedlings and young plants, what it’s most likely to cause is serious wilts usually through root or stem rot.
Various microbial inoculants are proving effective against pythium, rhizoctonia, and fusarium fungi. A product such as MycoStop can help to slow down the spread of these soilborne fungal pathogens.
Two forms of blight, southern blight and phytophthora blight, are also fairly common. Both are also soil-transmitted, and both are caused by watering. Phytophthora blight is caused by water splashing up onto plants, where southern blight is overly-soggy soil. Ensure you water at the soil level with a soaker hose. Do not overwater.
Some forms of bacterial spot occur in jalapeno, and they can become fatal. At the first sign, spray weekly with a copper-based fungicide to keep it from spreading. Remove seriously damaged foliage so the spores cannot spread. If an entire plant is infected, remove and destroy it.
Finally, the cucumber mosaic virus is spread by pests such as thrips and aphids. There is no cure for this virus. It causes mottled coloring on leaves, and plant growth may be stunted. While fruit from infected plants is still edible, it may not be as good as the fruit from healthy ones. It’s best to remove severely-infected plants entirely to try to preserve others from viral transmission through pests. Use pest management strategies to keep sucking insects away!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long does it take to grow jalapenos?
A: Most transplants will bear fruit within 75-85 days, but some early varieties can produce faster.
Q: How many jalapenos do you get from one plant?
A: A healthy growing jalapeño pepper plant can produce up to 25-35 jalapeños in a growing season.
Q: Can you grow jalapenos from store-bought peppers?
A: Growing a jalapeno plant from store-bought pepper seeds is possible, but not guaranteed. Many of the ones sold in supermarkets are hybrids and their pepper seeds do not necessarily breed true. It’s worth a shot, but don’t expect huge harvests from any jalapeño you grow this way!
Q: Do jalapenos like sun or shade?
A: These spicy babies love full sun! Give them plenty.
Q: Do jalapenos need to be watered every day?
A: Unless it’s very hot, no. Generally they need about an inch of water per week.
Q: What can you not plant near jalapenos?
A: Keep them away from your brassicas. Both are heavy feeders and will compete for nutrients.
Q: Do jalapenos get hotter the longer they sit?
A: Yes. Heat stress directly relates to the spiciness of the pepper, and age generally means the pepper has gone through some heat stress.
Q: Do jalapenos need big pots?
A: Give your jalapenos a medium-sized 5 gallon pot.