Yard and Garden: How to Grow Hot and Sweet Peppers

April 18, 2018, 3:34 pm | Richard Jauron, Willy Klein

Assorted colors, sizes and varieties of peppers.AMES, Iowa— Whether hot or sweet, peppers are easily grown in the Iowa home garden. Green peppers or bell peppers are sweet to the taste and usually dark green, though depending on the cultivar, the fruit will turn red, yellow, orange or some other color at maturity. Hot peppers are increasingly popular and used in cooking all over the world. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists offer tips on planting and selecting pepper varieties. 

When can I plant peppers in the garden?  

Peppers are a warm-season crop. Plant peppers in the garden after the danger of frost is past. In central Iowa, peppers can be planted in mid-May. Gardeners in southern Iowa can plant one week earlier, while those in northern counties should wait an extra week. The last practical date for planting peppers is approximately June 20.  

What is a suitable planting site for peppers?  

Pepper plants perform best in well-drained soils in full sun. The planting site should receive at least six hours of direct sun each day.  

What is the proper spacing when planting peppers in the garden?  

Space plants 18 inches apart within the row. Rows should be spaced 24 to 30 inches apart.  

What types of peppers are available to home gardeners?  

Peppers can be divided into a number of different groups/types based on pungency, flavor, culinary use, fruit shape and color. Commonly grown types include Anaheim (long, thin, tapered fruit; sweet to mild), ancho (long, blocky fruit; mild), bell (blocky, 3- or 4-lobed fruit; sweet), cayenne (thin, tapered fruit; very hot), cherry (small, round fruit; mild to hot), cubanelle (long, tapered fruit; sweet), habanero (small, tapered fruit; very hot), jalapeno (small, oblong fruit; hot), pimento (large, heart-shaped fruit; sweet), serrano (small, tapered fruit; hot), and Hungarian wax (oblong fruit; mild to hot). There are also ornamental peppers which are grown for their attractive fruit and foliage.  

What are some good bell pepper varieties for the home garden?  

Suggested bell pepper cultivars for home gardens in Iowa include ‘Alliance,’ ‘Aristotle,’ ‘Big Bertha,’ ‘California Wonder,’ ‘Early Sunsation,’ ‘Karisma,’ ‘King Arthur,’ ‘New Ace,’ ‘Red Knight’and‘Vanguard.’ With one exception, all of the aforementioned cultivars produce fruit that turn from green to red at maturity. The fruit of ‘Early Sunsation’ turn from green to yellow at maturity.  


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