How to Plant and Grow Bell Peppers

With plenty of sun, warmth, and water, this annual plant will reward you with its colorful fruit.

A cinch to grow in home gardens in most regions of the U.S., bell peppers are much more than the classic green bell these days. Survey the supermarket and you'll see a rainbow for the picking. It is a little more challenging to grow purple, red, and some orange peppers at home as they require an exceptionally long growing season. Green fruits are actually immature peppers. If you leave them on the plant, they eventually will develop one of the other colors, most commonly red, and become sweeter.

Bell Pepper Overview

Genus Name Capsicum annuum
Common Name Bell Pepper
Plant Type Vegetable
Light Sun
Height 6 to 12 inches
Width 18 to 24 inches
Zones 10, 11, 9
Propagation Seed

Bell Pepper Care Must-Knows

Peppers are a warm-season crop. In many areas, they are one of the last vegetables to be planted in the garden in spring. Wait until nighttime temperatures are regularly in the 50 to 55°F range before planting transplants in the garden. Plant transplants 2 to 2½ feet apart in full sun in rich, well-drained soil. Peppers demand at least 8 hours of direct sunlight a day to produce fruit. Improve the soil prior to planting, if necessary, by incorporating a 2-inch-thick layer of compost into the planting bed.

Water pepper plants as needed to maintain even soil moisture. Peppers will tolerate dry conditions but produce more fruit in moderately moist soil. Spread a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch over the soil surface to help maintain moisture. Stake or cage plants shortly after planting to support their heavy fruit set.

Starting With Seed

If growing peppers from seed, it is important to start early. Start seeds indoors about 8 weeks before night temperatures are reliably in the 50 to 55°F range. Sow seeds ¼ inch deep and 1 inch apart in a container of seed-starting potting mix. Keep the mix moist but not soggy, and very warm. Set the plant container on a heating mat for extra warmth. When seedlings reach 2 inches tall, transplant them into individual pots. Feed seedlings with half-strength, food-safe fertilizer every two weeks until the weather is warm enough to gradually acclimate them to outdoor conditions.

Growing Peppers in Containers

Peppers are easy to grow in containers. Select a container that is at least 18 inches in diameter and fill it with high-quality potting soil. Place the pot in full sun. Plant a pepper transplant and water it well. Hand water frequently or use a drip irrigation system for containers to maintain even soil moisture.

Harvesting Peppers

Fruit is ready to harvest in late summer. Pepper fruits start out green and ripen to rich red, orange, yellow, or purple depending on the variety. Peppers are edible at any stage, but glossy, fully colored fruits deliver the best flavor.

Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut off fruits when they are full size or later when they are fully colored. Not all immature fruits are green. Some varieties develop creamy yellow, lilac, or purple fruits in their immature stages. Mature fruits are sweeter than immature ones, but allowing fruits to mature sends a signal to the plant to stop producing new fruits, so overall yields will be less the more fruits you allow to mature.

Varieties of Bell Pepper

'Ace Hybrid' Pepper

'Ace Hybrid' pepper

An early-maturing variety that grows well in cool climates. It turns red at maturity.

'Admiral' Pepper

'Admiral' pepper

Bears blocky fruits that turn from green to yellow at maturity. It matures in 80 days from planting.

'California Wonder' Pepper

'California Wonder' pepper

A thick-walled sweet pepper good for stuffing. The leafy plant protects fruits from sunburn. The original variety turns red at maturity, but a yellow form is also available. It matures in 75 days.

'Carmen' Pepper

'Carmen' pepper

A sweet bull-horn type pepper that turns from green to red when ripe, about 75 days after transplanting. Plants perform well in container gardens.

'Golden Bell Hybrid' Pepper

'Golden Bell Hybrid' pepper

Bears 4-inch-diameter fruits that turn deep gold at maturity. It matures in 75 days.

'Gypsy' Pepper

'Gypsy' pepper

An early-maturing sweet pepper that produces well in both cool and hot regions. The elongated fruits begin creamy yellow and turn red at full maturity. It matures in 65 days.

'Sweet Banana' Pepper

'Sweet Banana' pepper

Gets its name from its mild, sweet flesh and elongated yellow immature form. At maturity it turns red. It matures in 68 days.

Garden Plans for Bell Pepper

An Eye-Catching Kitchen Garden Plan

garden plan with pathway

Enjoy a full summer of homegrown vegetables with this ornamental potager garden.

Download this garden plan, inspired by the White House Kitchen Garden!

Fall-Harvest Vegetable Garden

fall-harvest vegetable garden plan illustration
Illustration by Gary Palmer

Fresh lettuce, spinach, and peas aren't limited to spring vegetable garden ideas. Replant as temperatures cool in late summer for a second round of these favorites.

Get this plan now.

Summer Vegetable Garden Plan

garden plan open space

Enjoy summer's finest flavors with this fun and easy garden plan. This arrangement offers tons of color and texture as well as variety in flavors.

Click here to download this garden plan!

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