Sweet Peppers

Family: Solanaceae

Countries: Americas, Central America, Guatemala, Mexico, North America, South America

Sweet pepper plants (also known as peppers, bell peppers, Capsicums, or by their botanical name of Capsicum annuum) are tender vegetables that thrive in warm, bright and sunny areas.  When all risk of frost has passed, sweet pepper plants can be grown outside in the garden, but until then the seedlings need to be grown in a warm, protected environment – a greenhouse or conservatory is ideal.  Sweet peppers can also be started off on a bright and sunny window sill.  In early summertime, sweet peppers can be grown in containers on a sunny patio or planted in a South-facing border, allotment, or raised bed.  Alternatively, sweet peppers make super glasshouse and conservatory plants.

A wide range of sweet peppers are available with varieties that produce white, green, red, yellow, orange, purple, brown, and black sweet peppers.  Red is the most commonly seen sweet pepper; as all varieties that are sold as green peppers will eventually ripen and turn red, providing they are left on the plant for long enough.  Gardeners have a wide selection of sweet pepper varieties that they can choose from when buying seeds.  Sweet peppers can be purchased as young plants in spring or early summertime.  Look out for sweet pepper varieties that produce unusual coloured peppers that you can’t purchase in the supermarket.

Sweet pepper seeds can be sown from January until the beginning of March.  These seeds need stable temperatures of around 18-27C (65-80F) for gemination.  Grow sweet pepper seedlings in small pots of peat-free compost.  Place your containers inside a protected environment – a glasshouse, polytunnel, conservatory, or a heated propagator.  Raise your sweet pepper plants in an environment where the night time temperatures won’t ever fall below 15C (59F).  Sweet peppers can be grown on a very bright and sunny window sill but not all window sills provide the perfect environment to grow peppers and so it is often better to start window sill plants off a little later, February or March is ideal.  I find that greenhouses, polytunnels, or conservatories are the best places to raise sweet peppers.

Please water your sweet pepper seeds and seedlings with tap water.  Rainwater collected in water butts often contains pathogens that cause damping off and other fatal diseases.  I always prefer to water my seedlings and sweet pepper plants early in the morning; so the seedlings and plants are drier at night than they are in the daytime.  Pot on your plants into slightly larger containers at regular intervals, every four or five weeks or so.  As the spring sunshine intensifies, use shade blinds or shade paint on your glasshouse or conservatory windows to protect your sweet pepper plants from harsh sunlight, which can scorch and damage the plant’s leaves.

Sweet pepper plants thrive in warm, light and bright areas; these plants will be absolutely delighted to spend their entire lives growing inside a glasshouse, polytunnel, or conservatory!  Alternatively, sweet peppers plants can start their lives inside a glasshouse, polytunnel, or conservatory and then move outside when all risk of frost has passed.  In the UK, the last frost dates vary according to location, but they tend to be from the end of May until the middle of June.   Before even considering moving your plants outside to your garden or allotment, make sure your sweet pepper plants are hardened off properly first.  Every day, for a minimum of two weeks, (ideally longer) move the plants outside in the morning and then bring the plants back indoors in the evening.  This may sound like unnecessary hassle, but I promise you that it is worth it – your plants will grow more strongly and healthily and will be fully adjusted to their new environment.

After being hardened off, sweet peppers can then be planted outside.  When planting your sweet peppers outdoors, position your plants in bright and sunny, warm and sheltered areas.  Avoid exposed windy sites and steer clear of ground that’s wet or prone to water-logging.  If your ground is water-logged, plant your sweet peppers in raised beds or containers filled with peat-free compost.  Gardening on a cold, exposed site?  Consider planting sweet peppers in a protected environment; for example, alongside a sheltered wall or inside a glasshouse, polytunnel, or conservatory.  I’ve got a mini greenhouse which is great for growing peppers; take a look at my mini greenhouse by clicking here.

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