Bell peppers, also known as paprikas or capsicum, are considered culinary vegetables (although they’re botanically a fruit) rich in vitamins A and C. Because of this, they’re common side dishes, and many folks wonder if they can grow their bell peppers in their yards.
People can grow bell peppers in their yard if the soil pH is slightly acidic (between 6.0 – 6.8) and the spring and summer temperatures don’t fall below 60°F. Bell peppers can grow indoors year-round (perennial) with proper environmental regulation in a greenhouse.
However, just because bell peppers can grow in our yards doesn’t mean we can grow them easily. If it gets too cold, they do die – and become annuals. Even so, in this article, we’ll learn how to grow bell peppers, answer some of the most frequent questions, and see how to grow them indoors.
Can I Grow Bell Peppers at Home?
Most people can grow bell peppers at home. Peppers like a specific type of soil and climate (slightly acidic soil and a warm-to-hot climate). People living in an area that can offer those favorable conditions have no reason not to grow them independently.
Best bell pepper results are achieved when the soil pH is between 6.0 and 6.8. The plants aren’t sensitive to acidity, so we can grow them even if the pH exceeds the mentioned range.
Regarding fertilizers, an NPK ratio of 1-2-2 has proven to be the best. For those who don’t know, an NPK ratio is the ratio of Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium in the fertilizer. These three elements are instrumental to all plant growth. However, each plant may have a different NPK ratio preference.
A 1-2-2 ratio means that fertilizer has 1% nitrogen, 2% potassium, and 2% phosphorus included in the mix. Derivations of the same ratio work just as well; the only difference is that they’re more powerful. An 8-16-16 ratio is just as balanced as 1-2-2.
Temperature-wise, peppers like warmth, and they’re sensitive to cold. Unfortunately, if we live in a constantly cold area, we won’t be able to grow peppers. They develop frost damage if temperatures drop below 40°F (about 4°C).
The ideal temperature for pepper growth is between 60 and 80 degrees.
Regarding spatial requirements, two rows of peppers need to be at least 24 inches apart. Peppers within a row need to be at least 18 inches apart.
So, if we have a large enough yard, a favorable climate, and suitable soil pH, there’s no reason not to grow peppers on our own!
Do I grow bell peppers in my yard?
I like to grow them, yes. They’ve done fairly well in my yard and the amended soil we have here in northern Utah. However, they are very sensitive to frost and cold damage. We start them indoors (where the temperature is controlled) before transplanting them outdoors. Even then, we tend to put them in cold frames or surround them with a wall of water (like tomato plants) if we’ve got a late cold snap.
Once fall hits, though, they’re done. It gets too cold and they die. They’re one of the few plants I’d love to have in a greenhouse – and getting a greenhouse is on my wish list!
Can I Plant Bell Peppers Directly in the Ground?
Bell peppers can be planted directly in the ground as seeds or seedlings in either containers or garden beds (large containers usually do better than smaller ones). Bell peppers can take up to 150 days to go from seed to ready-to-harvest, so consider this when deciding where to plant them.
The main difference between growing in-ground and in-container is that soil in containers and garden beds is easier to manage. Also, a container is an excellent way of growing peppers (or any other plant, for that matter) if we don’t have a large garden. Growing peppers in a moveable container would also help you get around them dying in cold weather – as long as you bring them indoors!
We’ll see how to plant bell peppers, but before we do, let’s clarify one thing. Depending on where you live, it’s best to skip planting pepper seeds outside. Start them indoors – and then transplant young seedlings outdoors into the ground or a larger pot (you can choose).
This is because some pepper seeds can’t germinate in harsh climates, but they also won’t have enough time to flower and fruit from seed before the weather gets too cool again. If we have seeds, we first must establish them inside; only then can we take them outside.
For example, here in Utah, our “safe from frost” time to plant is after Mother’s Day (the second Sunday in May). Bell peppers can take 100-150 days to grow from seed to be ready to harvest – which means it wouldn’t be ready until mid-October. And by mid-October, it’s too cold for pepper plants.
So if you have a short growing season (and it’s gotta be warm for peppers), always start them indoors and transplant them outdoors after the risk of frost has passed. That way, you can get a harvest before fall hits. And if you plant it in a pot? You can bring it indoors to extend the harvest.
How to plant bell peppers in the ground
We don’t need too much to grow bell peppers in the ground. The best time to plant bell peppers outdoors is when the garden soil temperature reaches 65°F or more. Planting before could lead to frost damage or plant death.
We can start with the following:
- Seedling (or seeds, if your area has a long-enough warm growing season)
- Basic garden tools as needed
Very simply, clean the space prepared for the peppers and make sure that the soil drains well. A young plant grown from seed indoors needs to adjust to the outside environment, and we do this by taking it out of the pot for a few hours before taking it back inside. Do this over several days to get it acclimated to the outdoors.
After about ten days, the plant is hardened and ready to be transplanted. Experts usually recommend this method, though you could also stick the pepper seedling in a cold frame and leave it outdoors from the get-go.
Transplantation is easy; all we have to do is dig a hole larger than the plant, carefully take the plant out of the pot (with the roots, make sure not to cut them off), pack it nicely with soil, and water it. That’s it! You may want to add fertilizer during planting to lessen any transplant shock.
Make sure that the peppers are at least 18 inches apart. If the pepper variety we’re planting is particularly tall, we need to stick a stake next to it for support. I like to use tomato cages because I’ve always got plenty of those.
How to grow bell peppers indoors
The biggest advantage of growing bell peppers indoors is that we can start them earlier if we can keep the area warm enough. Indoor growing is also great if we only want a few plants – we can buy a few small containers. So, what’s the biggest obstacle to growing plants indoors? It’s sunlight!
An indoor garden should get as much sunlight as possible, but the walls may cast too many shadows even if a room is dedicated to indoor gardening. The windows won’t be enough. Vegetables need at least 6 hours of sunlight daily, and peppers won’t bear fruit without sunlight.
The solution can be expensive – we need to buy UV lamps or use UV growing bulbs in existing lamps. We can find these at gardening stores as they’re crucial indoor gardening equipment. These lights are very good at mimicking sunlight – they give the plants warmth and light.
That’s not to say sunlight is the only issue for indoor plant growing. Animals, children, and power outages can also damage plants.
Spoiler: if you have cats (or other animals) who like to eat or destroy plants, keeping pepper plants indoors won’t work. Ask me how I know (it’s from experience).
Aside from that, growing peppers indoors is just as easy as growing them outdoors. On a positive note – if we grow them right, we can have year-round peppers. You may not grow as many peppers indoors as in a garden, but you can grow them for the whole year this way.
Can I Grow Bell Peppers from Seeds? How Long Does It Take?
Bell peppers can grow from seeds, and it can take up to 150 days from germination to harvest. Growing seedlings indoors before the ground is ready and transplanting can help gardeners get bell peppers even if their growing season is on the shorter end. Seedlings can also be purchased from nurseries.
Going to a garden store and buying a young, already-established pepper plant can be a great option – especially if you didn’t plan your garden ahead of time. It is easy, and we do not have to go through the hassle of developing seeds into young plants.
The only difference between growing bell peppers from seeds and transplanting a young plant is that seeds can’t be planted outside if the temperatures aren’t constantly high.
However, seeds are cheaper than young plants, and if we have the time on our hands and enjoy gardening, we might as well try growing it from seeds.
To grow a bell pepper from seeds, fill a planting tray with fertile soil and plant the seeds about a quarter of an inch into the soil. Or, if your outdoor soil is warm enough, plant the seeds there. After that, all that’s left to do is water the soil regularly and provide it with sunlight.
Keeping the temperature right is easy indoors, as seeds need a constant temperature of at least 70°F to germinate successfully. It can take up to three weeks for a bell pepper to sprout and become a young plant, but the exact time frame depends on the variety.
After this, the bell pepper plant is ready to be hardened, but we should keep it indoors until we decide to plant it.
How Long Does It Take for a Bell Pepper Plant to Produce Fruit?
This depends on the variety we plant, but it can take a pepper plant up to 150 days to produce mature fruit from germination or up to 90 days from being a seedling. The fruit will appear on the vine earlier but will not be completely ripe until the color is established.
Bell peppers can be green, red, yellow, purple, orange, brown, and white. Unripe purples are most often green. We’ll know that the fruit is ripe because of the date (how many days have passed since planting) and the color.
Does a Bell Pepper Come Back Every Year?
Peppers are perennial plants, but most people treat them as annuals. This means that bell peppers can come back annually if we ensure their survival through the winter. But most people just let them die and plant new plants in the spring, as winter care can be a hassle.
As we’re about to learn, overwintering a pepper can be too much hassle for what it’s worth.
To protect peppers from dying in the winter, take them inside. This is especially easy if we have containers, and it’s just another advantage of planting in containers and pots instead of planting in the ground.
I don’t like using the word impossible, so let’s say that it’s extremely unlikely peppers will make it through the winter if we don’t take them inside. No matter what we do, the temperatures will drop too much for us to help them. I’ve never had a pepper plant survive the winters here in Utah if that gives you any idea of what to expect. That’s even with an attempt to leave a plant surrounded with a wall of water – and burying it in compost and mulch. My pepper plants all still died.
Unless we live in an exceptionally warm area (and if we do, we don’t need to worry about overwintering peppers), it will get too cold to protect them outdoors.
How to overwinter bell pepper plants (no winter harvest)
Start by taking the plant indoors. Once inside, add sand on top of the soil, remove all fruit (both ripe and unripe), and hose the plants down to eliminate any pests. Make sure that the temperatures don’t drop below 55° in the room the peppers are held in (a garage or the basement are perfect).
Let’s clarify one thing, though – peppers need sunlight and temperatures above 60° to produce fruit. If we follow the steps above, they’ll survive the winter, but we won’t get any fruit during that time.
To get winter bell pepper fruits, we need a greenhouse, and that’s a whole other can of worms – and it is much more complex than anything discussed in this article. When I finally get my greenhouse, I’m sure I’ll write a whole article on getting year-round peppers. But it’s not that time yet.
This is why people just let the peppers die and plant new ones in the spring – you usually gain nothing from merely overwintering them. Here is more about whether or not peppers are perennials or annuals.
Can You Grow Bell Peppers from Store-bought Peppers?
When buying edible peppers in a store, we can plant their seeds. However, they aren’t as likely to germinate or produce as well as heritage seeds are. If we want to guarantee a successful plant, we shouldn’t use seeds from peppers at the store. Rather, buy a seed packet or a seedling from a nursery.
While they have seeds, the seeds bought in stores for growing peppers have been curated for growing. Also, growing fruits from non-curated seeds often end up with bad results – the plant usually grows poorly, and the fruits are often not as good as they could have been compared to seeds intended to be grown into plants.
But buying a seedling? Go for it. Most peppers are grown not from seeds but from established, store-bought pepper plants (usually seedlings).
How Can I Get Bell Peppers to Grow Bigger?
The size of bell pepper fruit depends almost entirely on genetics, although taking proper care of the pepper plant helps the fruit reach their full potential size. There are massive varieties, as well as small varieties. Failure to take proper care of a plant means the fruit will not reach max size.
So, to ensure that bell peppers grow as big as they can get, make sure to water them regularly, keep them in the right temperature ranges, and ensure that they have grow lights if raising them indoors. Most importantly, make sure they’re fertilized enough but never overfertilized.
This will maximize not only the size of the peppers but also the yield. Please remember that fruit size is determined by genetics, and if you want big peppers, you’re going to want to select a big-pepper variety.
Best Bell Pepper Fertilizer Options
The best fertilizer for bell peppers is a fertilizer with a 1-2-2 NPK ratio. The most common varieties of such fertilizers are 5-10-10, 8-16-16, and 10-20-20 fertilizers. These all fit that NPK ratio peppers prefer.
The basic difference between fertilizers (although beware, this topic is immense, and encyclopedias are written about fertilizers) is the form – generally, some are liquid while others are granular.
- Granular fertilizers are slow-releasing, and the chance of overfertilizing is much lower with these fertilizers. However, they’re not as good for hungry plants that need a lot of fertilizer.
- Liquid fertilizers are quick acting, and while they deliver plant food instantly, we can overfertilize if we’re not careful. They’re great for hungry plants that need a lot of fertilizer quickly.
Peppers tend to have a preference for light liquid fertilizers, as long as it’s compatible with your soil type. Make sure to apply them according to the instruction on the packaging.
Note: if you aren’t sure of your soil’s composition or type, get it analyzed by a soil test lab. Most local universities have an agricultural unit that can analyze your soil (usually for a small fee).
Key Takeaways and Next Steps
Anyone can easily grow bell peppers if they know what they are doing. These plants are relatively low-maintenance, and the only important thing is not to let them freeze. If the temperatures in the area stay above 60°F during spring and summer, we’ll grow peppers easily.
If not, we can always grow peppers indoors, for which we’ll need UV lights. Peppers can take up to 90-150 days to produce fruit, and while they technically can survive the winter, they won’t bear fruit unless the conditions are spring and summer-like.
Ready to store your peppers? They freeze-dry amazingly! Read our guide on How to Freeze Dry Bell Peppers: 5 Simple Steps! next.
Learning from your own experience is essential, but learning from others is also intelligent. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- Behe, Bridget. “Container Gardening with Vegetables and Herbs.” Michigan State University, www.canr.msu.edu/uploads/files/containerGarden-VeggiesHerbs.pdf. Accessed 7 Nov. 2022.
- “How to Grow Peppers.” Michigan State University Extension, 2010, www.canr.msu.edu/uploads/files/peppers.pdf.
- “How to Grow Bell Peppers: 7 Tips for Growing Bell Peppers.” MasterClass, 7 June 2021, www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-grow-bell-peppers.