Hot Pepper

Just a little bit of these fiery fruits will kick your homemade salsa up a notch.

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

01 of 06

Hot Peppers Overview

Description 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
Common Name Hot Peppers
Plant Type Vegetable
Light Sun
Height 6 to 12 inches
Width 18 to 36 inches
Flower Color Purple, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Purple/Burgundy
Season Features Reblooming, Summer Bloom
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Propagation Seed
02 of 06

'Ancho 211' pepper

Ancho pepper
Jason Donnelly

Capsicum annuum 'Ancho 211' bears mildly hot heart-shape fruits that are good for stuffing, making chiles rellenos, or drying. 90 days

03 of 06

'Holy Mole' pepper

Holy Mole pepper
Marty Baldwin

This cultivar is a mildly hot pasilla-type pepper that was developed especially for mole sauce, but it can be used in other hot-pepper dishes as well. Green fruits mature to chocolate brown. 85 days

04 of 06

'Pretty in Purple' pepper

hot red peppers planter
Dean Schoeppner

Capsicum annuum 'Pretty in Purple' bears attractive purple fruits, stems, and leaves. It's a great ornamental plant as well as edible hot pepper. Fruits turn red at maturity. 85 days

05 of 06

'Tabasco' pepper

Tabasco Pepper Plants
Peter Krumhardt

This variety is used to make the sauce with the same name. It is best adapted to the Southeast. 120 days

06 of 06

'Thai Hot' pepper

Thai Hot pepper
Marty Baldwin

Capsicum annuum 'Thai Hot' features pencil-thin fruits that are borne above the foliage, making an attractive display as the fruits change from creamy yellow to orange and then to red at maturity. The extremely hot fruits are used in Thai cooking. 42 days

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