How to plant pepper

There are more than twenty species of peppers in the genus Capsicum , but only five species are normally grown. Its spicy flavored fruits are highly appreciated in the cuisine of various regions of the world, but not all cultivars produce the substances that generate the burning sensation or produce them in sufficient quantity to make the fruit spicy. The cultivars of these species whose fruits are not spicy, are known as sweet peppers, which despite their name, do not necessarily have a sweet taste, they just do not have a spicy flavor. Chilies are sweet peppers from a group of cultivars of one of these pepper species. Pepper is also widely used for medicinal purposes and there are many pepper cultivars that are grown as ornamental plants.

Capsaicin and some other related substances called capsaicinoids are responsible for the burning of these peppers. These substances, which are only present in the fruits and are not present inside the seeds, activate nerve sensors sensitive to heat and abrasion, hence the sensation of burning, without causing any real burn in the body. In moderate amounts, their intake can lead to a feeling of well-being, thanks to the endorphins produced by the central nervous system in response to the stimulus generated by the presence of these substances. But pepper can also easily produce very unpleasant sensations, both when eaten and when handled. Drinking milk or washing the place with milk is an effective way to relieve exaggerated burning. Ingested in quantity,

The concentration of capsaicin and other capsaicinoids in the fruit is one of the factors that determines its burning sensation. Another factor is which of these substances are present in the fruit. Each of these substances has a slightly different burning sensation and effect (there are 14 known capsaicinoid alkaloids, including capsaicin, which is the most common). So pepper cultivars can be more or less spicy, and even different peppers that are on the same burning scale can produce different sensations, depending on which of these alkaloids are present and what their respective concentrations are.

A hot pepper rating is given by the Scoville scale. First, it was a subjective scale, where a certain amount of extract from some pepper was diluted with increasing amounts of water and sugar until some people could no longer detect the burning of the solution. The amount of water needed until the solution was no longer described as spicy by the tasters gave the amount of scoville units of the tested pepper cultivar. For example, if the extract needed to be diluted in 10,000 parts of water, the pepper in question was said to have a «heat degree» or a sting of 10,000 scoville heat units.

An important observation to be made about any hot pepper scale is that the values ​​presented for each cultivar are average values ​​obtained from some samples. Environmental and cultivation factors influence the amount of capsaicinoids present in the fruits, so that the real degree of burning of a new pepper sample can be both higher and lower than the value found in the tables for that particular cultivar.

Most cultivated species of pepper

Capsicum annuum – This is the most cultivated pepper species in the world. Its flowers are white (a few cultivars have purple flowers) and there is only one flower per node. Peppers are a group of cultivars of this species that do not produce capsaicinoids in fruits. There are a large number of cultivars of this species, and some of the most famous groups are, in addition to peppers or peppers, cayenne pepper, jalapeno or jalapeño, banana pepper, thai pepper, ancho, chiltepin , guajillo, cascabel, shishito or Japanese pepper, peperoncino or peperoncini, Peter pepper, serrano and mulatto.

Capsicum baccatum – A characteristic that easily distinguishes this species from the others is that its flowers are white, but the petals have yellowish or greenish spots. It includes, among others, pepper-finger, pepper-coumari, pepper-cambuci or pepper-hat-of-bishop, pepper-pitanga and Lemon drop.

Capsicum chinense – despite its scientific name, it is also native to the American continent (originally from the Amazon Basin). The fruits usually have a characteristic aroma, there are two or more white flowers per node, and the anthers of the flowers are purple. The most spicy peppers of this species are known. It includes murupi pepper, sweet pepper, goat pepper, pout pepper and Habanero, Bhut Jolokia, Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Scorpion, Scotch bonnet and Fatalii peppers.

Capsicum frutescens – The fruits of this species typically grow upright (but there are pepper trees of other species that also have fruits that are not hanging, growing upright). There are two or more flowers per node and the flowers are greenish-white or greenish-yellow, with purple or bluish anthers. Includes chili and tabasco.

Capsicum pubescens – is the most different species, the leaves are pubescent (have hair) and their seeds are dark. Its flowers are purple. It is considered a more difficult pepper to grow. Includes Rocoto and Manzano peppers.

Some other species of pepper are sometimes grown as well, but this cultivation is generally restricted to a few places on the American continent where these plants are native.


The temperature range from 16 ° C to 35 ° C is suitable for most species and cultivars. Most of these pepper trees are tropical or subtropical plants and grow best in hot weather, but the pepper trees of the species Capsicum pubescens and some cultivars of other species that are adapted to regions with a milder climate, grow better at temperatures below 26 ° C. None of these plants can withstand frosts and long periods of low temperatures.


The pepper plant grows best in high light conditions, with direct sunlight. In very hot places it can be beneficial to provide partial shade in the hottest hours of the day.


Ideally, the soil should be light, well drained, fertile and rich in organic matter. As for soil pH, pepper plants generally tolerate a pH between 4.5 and 8, but the ideal is a pH between 5.5 and 7.


The pepper plant must be irrigated frequently to keep the soil moist, but it should never remain soaked.


Pepper seeds can be sown directly in the final location, but the most common is to sow in seedlings, cups or plastic or paper bags. The seeds should be approximately 0.5 cm deep in the soil. The seeds can also be placed on blotting paper or other absorbent paper, always kept moist and in a warm place, until germination, when they are then carefully transferred to the soil and covered with a light layer of loose soil. In the soil, the seeds usually germinate in 1 or 2 weeks with temperatures around 28 ° C to 30 ° C, but the seeds can be dormant and can take a long time to germinate, especially if the temperature is mild (below 20 ° C) Ç). The transplant to the final location is done when the seedlings reach 8 to 10 cm in height.

The recommended spacing varies with the size of the pepper and with the growing conditions. Generally, adequate spacing is between 20 cm and 60 cm between plants, with cultivation lines spaced from 60 cm to 120 cm.

Peppers can be easily grown in pots, but they must be sized appropriately for the size of the pepper plant to be grown.


Remove weeds that are competing for resources and nutrients.

Some cultivars need staking to keep the plants from tipping. In this case, tie the plants to wooden poles, but without restricting the growth of the stems.

When harvesting or handling the fruits of cultivars that are spicy, it is very important to wear gloves. If spicy peppers are handled without gloves, do not touch your eyes, nose, mouth or other parts of the body without first thoroughly cleaning your hands. Water is not efficient to remove capsaicin from the skin, as this substance is not soluble in water. However, it is soluble in alcohol and oil.


Pepper harvesting usually starts 80 to 150 days after sowing, depending on the cultivar and cultivation conditions. The fruits can be picked green or ripe.

The pepper tree is a plant that is usually grown as an annual, but it is a short-lived perennial and in suitable conditions it can produce well for a few years.

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