Yes, you can grow peppers indoors, and if you ask me, you should.
Peppers are lovely plants to grow and are excellent vegetables for all-level gardeners.
Read on for 11 great tips I wish I had listened to when I first started growing peppers indoors.
A good rule of thumb is that the hotter the pepper, the more you need to pay attention to details like temperatures, fertilizers, and lighting. Cayenne peppers are an ideal first pepper to grow if you want some, but not too much, heat.
Please refer to our how-to-grow guides for detailed information on how to start peppers from seed.
We have published articles for habanero, ghost peppers (Bhut Jolokia and Chocolate Bhut Jolokia), Spanish Padron peppers, cayenne peppers and Jamaican bell peppers. Each article has an accompanying video where you can also find information on how to pot up or transplant pepper seedlings.
Tips to help you grow peppers indoors like an expert
1. Start early; peppers need time to grow and develop
Peppers need time to grow and develop, and starting your pepper plants early is vital.
In zone 7, mature plants are often harvested in August from seeds planted indoors as early as February.
Weather plays a huge factor. And peppers may be harvested as late as September if we have a mild summer.
2. Be patient; peppers can be slow to germinate
Hot pepper varieties like Bhut Jolokia ghost peppers can take several weeks to germinate and sprout.
And you do not want to be the gardener who gives up after 2 weeks when everything is proceeding according to plan.
I have had hot pepper seeds from Bhut Jolokia ghost peppers needing almost 5 weeks to germinate.
Be patient and trust that seeds will germinate when you have done everything right.
3. Test your pepper seeds before you plant
Pre-germinating seeds on paper towels or at least pre-soaking the seeds before planting will help remove uncertainty while increasing your germination rate.
With pre-germination, you will, of course, only plant viable seeds. But for varieties that need a long time to germinate, you need to stay on top of things as seeds want to grow in a moist but not soaking wet environment. And if you let the paper towel dry out, all could be lost.
Pre-soaking is, on the other hand, a lot easier and will help you remove dead seeds.
- Place seeds in a glass filled with room-temperature water.
- If seeds float after 12 hours, they are most likely dead or empty.
And again, it is a lot easier to be patient when you know you have checked for viable seeds before planting.
4. Pepper plants want plenty of light
Pepper plants want 14-16 hours of light and 8 hours of full sun daily. And when you grow peppers indoors, you need to use full-spectrum grow lights to give your plants enough light to produce healthy harvests.
But, of course, when possible, use the outdoors to give your plants the light they need to grow and develop when conditions allow it.
And keep in mind that pepper plants do not need 8 hours of consecutive sun. You should protect the plant from direct sunlight during the hottest time of the day.
When the temperature reaches 15 degrees Celsius (60 F), it is safe to start the hardening-off process, where you gradually expose your pepper plants to the outdoor environment.
5. Do not crowd your pepper plants
We grow pepper plants in DIY grow bags that we make ourselves from breathable garden fabric.
But whether you use grow bags, pots, or containers, you should avoid crowding your pepper plants.
Pepper plants growing directly in the ground should be about 45 cm (18 inches) apart. Keep this in mind before you overcrowd pepper plants, giving them nowhere to grow and develop.
Proper spacing ensures good airflow around the plants and sufficient room for the pepper plants to grow a healthy root system.
6. Water pepper plants from below or use drip
Drip or bottom-watering pepper plants will ensure proper soil moisture while avoiding getting the leaves wet.
Wet leaves invite bacterial and fungal diseases and unnecessarily expose the plant to sunburn.
7. Do not forget to use (the right) fertilizer
Fertilize your pepper plants weekly from the first or at least the second pot-up or transplant them into a larger pot.
Use a balanced or nitrogen-heavy fertilizer when the plant is growing and developing leaves. But as the plant matures, you want the fertilizer to help the plant produce pepper fruits to harvest.
At this fruit stage, you want a fertilizer with high phosphorus (the second number in NPK), like 2-4-2.
8. Prune your pepper plants
Prune your pepper plants to avoid a plant that develops one long central stalk that holds all the fruit. This type of top-heavy plant is hard to maintain and support.
Instead, stimulate bushier growth by tipping your pepper plant when it is about 20 cm (8 inches) tall. Pinch the top, and you should be left with a plant with at least 6-8 leaves when pruned.
9. Stake and support your indoor pepper plants
When you grow peppers indoors, the plants need to be adequately supported.
You do not want plants falling over as you are more than likely to damage them.
10. Harvest peppers continuously
If you want to harvest many peppers, you should harvest them continuously as it triggers more growth.
You can always dry or freeze peppers if you harvest more than you can use.
11. Spray plants with Neem oil solution every 2-4 weeks
Spray early in the morning or late evening but never when plants are directly exposed to sunlight.
Bonus tip! Overwinter your pepper plants – they are perennials
Pepper plants are perennials, and overwintering plants will give you a headstart for the forthcoming growing season.
If you live in a warm and frost-free climate, you can safely cut back and keep your pepper plants in their pots or beds.
In mild climates with shorter periods of frost, place pots indoors, as the plant is not very frost-hardy.
If you (as we do) live in a colder climate with frost and snow, pepper plants need to overwinter in pots indoors.
Cut off all leaves and continue to cut back about ⅔ of the plant. Do, however, leave some branching on the main stem.
Remove most of the soil and consider potting down and placing the plant in a smaller pot.
Keep soil moist and place the pot in a spot with at least a little light from, for example, a window. And remember never to fertilize the pepper plant during this time of rest.