Hot Pepper

Hot Peppers
Plant Type
Sunlight Amount
picked red peppers from fields
Credit: Randall Schieber
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picked red peppers from fields

Hot Peppers

Hot pepper plants belong to a diverse group of edible annuals that offers a variety of colors, shapes, and flavors. Their flowers can be white, yellow, or purple with a star- or bell-shape. After the blooms, edible peppers form in eye-catching shades of red, yellow, purple, orange, and brown in an entertaining array of shapes and sizes. The  oval- or lance-shape foliage tends to be green but can, in some rare plants, be purple or have streaks or splashes of white.

genus name
  • Capsicum annuum
light
  • Sun
plant type
  • Vegetable
height
  • 6 to 12 inches
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • 3 to 8 feet
width
  • 18-36 inches wide
flower color
foliage color
season features
special features
propagation

Growing Hot Peppers

Grown in vegetable gardens for generations, hot peppers are now becoming popular as ornamentals, too. Ranging in size from dwarf to full-size shrubs, peppers are suitable for patio pots, hanging baskets, and ornamental beds and borders. While the flowers tend to be understated, the pepper fruits themselves are colorful and often have playful shapes and textures. Some varieties also have darkly colored or variegated leaves.

Hot Peppers Care Must-Knows

Hot peppers grow best in summer heat. Although these plants are perennial in Mexico and parts of South and Central America where they originate, hot peppers are usually grown as summer annuals in the United States. They are sensitive to low temperatures, so if you live in an area with cold spring weather, start hot pepper seeds indoors about eight weeks before the last expected frost in your area and transfer outdoors when soil temperatures reach 65 degrees F.

Potted hot peppers can be overwintered inside if cut back and kept in a well-lit area. When working with hot peppers, always remember to wear gloves because the oil that gives the fruit its heat transfers easily to your hands.

New Innovations

Capsaicin gives hot peppers their fieriness. A scoring system called Scoville Heat Units (SHU) gives you a sense of how hot a pepper is when consumed. The lower the score, the less painful you'll find the heat. Scores above 500,000 are extremely hot. The bhut jolokia (ghost pepper), a hybrid from India, was the first pepper to score over a million SHU.

Breeders have since developed the Naga Viper at 1,349.000 SHU, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion at 2,009,231 SHU, and the Carolina Reaper coming in at 2,200,000 SHU. Pure capsaicin receives a score of 16 million SHU.

More Varieties of Hot Peppers

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