The Jalapeño Planting Guide: A To Zing

Jalapeños, with their perfect balance of heat and flavor, are a favorite among many gardeners. Not only do they spice up a variety of dishes, but they also add a dash of color and zing to your garden. This article aims to guide you through the process of planting, growing, and caring for your jalapeño plants.

jalapeno pepper plant
Jalapeños growing in the garden – using caging for plant support

Jalapeño planting fast facts

Heat Rating2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units
SpeciesCapsicum Annuum
FlavorBright, grassy bitter, slightly sweet (when red)
Plant Size24 to 48 inches tall
Fruit Size2 to 3.5 inches long
Light RequirementsFull Sun
Soil RequirementsWell-draining, pH 6.0 to 7.0
Space Requirements14 to 16 inches apart
Water RequirementsModerate, consistent moisture
Maturation70 to 80 days
Container FriendlinessHigh, min. 3 gallon container and drainage

Where and when to grow jalapeños

Jalapeno peppers thrive best in regions with a warm and sunny climate. They require a long growing season with temperatures consistently between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes regions like the Southern United States, particularly Texas and New Mexico, ideal for growing jalapenos. Mexico, being the native region of jalapenos, also provides an optimal climate with its hot, dry weather.

However, with careful care and the right conditions, jalapenos can be grown in a variety of regions, including most of the United States. They can also be successfully cultivated in greenhouses or indoors, which can extend their growing potential to less traditionally suitable climates.

The best time to plant jalapeños depends on your local climate. Generally, it’s best to start seeds indoors 8 to 12 weeks before the last expected spring frost. In warmer climates, jalapeños can be planted directly outside after the threat of frost has passed. For most regions, this means planting in late winter or early spring to ensure a summer harvest.

The plants need a long growing season of 70-80 days to produce mature peppers. If you live in a region with a shorter growing season, starting seeds indoors or buying young plants from a nursery can help ensure a successful harvest.

Soil requirements

Jalapeño peppers thrive best in well-drained, deep, fertile soils with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. The soil should be rich in organic matter to retain moisture and nutrients, as jalapeños are heavy feeders and require consistent watering. Sandy loam or loamy soils are ideal as they allow for good drainage and prevent water logging, which can lead to root diseases. It’s beneficial to prepare the soil by incorporating compost or well-rotted manure before planting, to increase its fertility and improve the soil structure.

–> Learn More: What Is The Best Soil pH for Peppers?

Soil temperature is also vital for jalapeño peppers. They prefer warm conditions, and the soil temperature should be at least 65°F (18°C) for optimal growth. Cold and overly wet soils can lead to slow growth and lower yield. Mulching can help maintain soil temperature and moisture levels, and it also helps to suppress weeds. Regular soil testing can help determine if any nutrient amendments are needed, as jalapeños require a good balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for healthy growth.

How to plant jalapeños step-by-step

  1. Purchase jalapeño seeds or seedlings:
    Start by buying jalapeno seeds from a reputable nursery or online. If you’re a beginner, it might be easier to start with seedlings (young jalapeno plants) instead of seeds. Make sure to choose a variety that suits your climate and soil type. If you are starting with seeds, remember to check the expiry date and ensure they are not too old as this can affect germination.
  2. Prepare the soil:
    Remember, jalapeños prefer well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. You can add compost or organic matter to improve soil structure and fertility. The soil should be loosened to a depth of about 12 inches to allow the roots to grow easily. If you’re planting in a pot, make sure it has drainage holes to prevent water logging.
  3. Plant the seeds or seedlings:
    If you’re planting seeds, sow them about 1/4 inch deep in the soil. Space them about 2-3 inches apart if you’re planting in a bed or use individual pots if you’re starting them indoors. If you’re planting seedlings, dig a hole deep enough to cover the root ball, place the seedling in, and gently cover the roots with soil. Seedlings should be spaced about 14-16 inches apart.
  4. Water the soil gently to avoid displacing the seed:
    Continue to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. See our section on watering for more detail.
  5. Thin out seedlings for optimal growth:
    Once the seedlings appear and have at least two sets of true leaves, thin them out so that they are 14 to 16 inches apart. This will provide each plant enough room to grow to its full potential.
  6. Staking or caging may be needed:
    As the plants grow, provide support with stakes or cages to keep the fruit off the ground.

Growing jalapeños in containers

Yes, you can definitely grow jalapeños in containers. In fact, container gardening is an excellent option for those who don’t have a lot of space, like city dwellers, or for those who want to easily control the growing conditions of their plants. Jalapeños, like most peppers, are warm-season crops that thrive in well-drained soil and ample sunlight. They are suitable for container gardening because they have a relatively compact growth habit.

The minimum size container needed for growing jalapeños should be about 3 gallons, but 5 gallons is ideal. This provides enough space for the roots to grow and support the plant. The container should also have adequate drainage holes to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot.

Feeding jalapeño plants

Feeding and watering jalapeño plants is vital to their growth and the production of spicy, healthy peppers. Jalapeño peppers are heavy feeders, and they need a balanced fertilizer to grow well. A good choice would be a 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 slow-release fertilizer. These numbers correlate to the nitrogen, phosporus, and potassium (NPK) in the fertilizer.

  1. Nitrogen (N) promotes healthy leaf growth by stimulating the production of chlorophyll, which is the main engine for photosynthesis.
  2. Phosphorus (P) is essential for energy transfer and storage in the plant. It also encourages the growth of roots and helps the plant bloom and set fruit.
  3. Potassium (K) strengthens the plant, aids in water absorption, and helps in the production of fruits.

We typically recommend 5-10-10 to promote more fruit on the plant than growth of the plant itself. In addition to these, you might also want to supplement with calcium and magnesium, as peppers have a high demand for these micronutrients as well. You can add these using a dolomitic lime supplement.

–> Learn More: Fertilizing Pepper Plants — The What, When And How

Remember, it’s always best to test your soil before adding any fertilizer to know its current nutrient levels and pH value. Over-fertilizing can be harmful to plants, and each type of soil may require different treatment.

Watering jalapeños

Watering jalapeño plants requires careful attention as both overwatering and underwatering can harm the plants. They prefer evenly moist soil, so it’s crucial to water them when the top inch of soil becomes dry. Deep watering is recommended to ensure the moisture reaches the root level. However, overwatering can lead to root rot and other diseases, so it’s important to allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions.

If you’re growing jalapeños in containers, they may need more frequent watering due to quicker soil drying. Remember, while jalapeño plants love sun and heat, they may need extra water during particularly hot and dry periods.

–> Learn More: Watering Pepper Plants – The Dos And Don’ts

Lighting needs of jalapeños

Overall, while jalapeños are sun-loving plants, they also need a balance of conditions to grow effectively.

Jalapeño plants, like most pepper varieties, require a significant amount of sunlight for optimal growth. Ideally, they should receive at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. The sunlight plays a crucial role in the photosynthesis process, which allows the plant to convert light into the energy it needs to produce fruit.

However, it’s important to note that while jalapeños need plenty of sunlight, they also need to be protected from extreme heat. If the temperature rises above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the plant may become stressed and its growth can be stunted (though this can create hotter peppers.) In such cases, providing some shade or moving the plants indoors during the hottest part of the day can be beneficial.

More jalapeño growing tips

  • Rotate crops: Avoid planting jalapeños in the same spot where other nightshade family plants (like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants) were grown in the previous year. This helps prevent soil-borne diseases.
  • Mulching: Mulch around the base of the plants to conserve water, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.
  • Companion planting: Plant jalapeños near other plants that deter pests, like marigolds, basil, or onions. See more options here.
  • Consistent watering: Inconsistent watering can lead to blossom end rot. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
  • Harvest regularly: Regular harvesting encourages the plant to produce more peppers.

When to pick jalapeños

Jalapeños can be picked as soon as they are a deep green, around 70 to 80 days after transplanting. If you prefer them milder, harvest them early. For hotter peppers, leave them on the plant longer until they turn red. They also gain in sweetness as they age on the vine to red.

Common issues you may experience

  • Blossom end rot: This is caused by calcium deficiency and inconsistent watering. Keep the soil consistently moist and consider using a calcium-rich fertilizer.
  • Aphids: These small pests can be controlled with insecticidal soap or by introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs into your garden.
  • Fungal diseases: These can be prevented by ensuring good air circulation, proper spacing, and not overwatering.
  • Leaf curl: This is often caused by overwatering, under watering, or excessive heat. Monitor your watering habits and provide shade during extreme heat.
  • Pepper scorch: This appears as white, yellow, or brown spots on leaves and can be caused by over-fertilization or excessive sunlight. Avoid over-fertilizing and provide shade during the hottest part of the day.

For more information on common pepper problems and diseases, read our post here.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on November 19, 2023 to include new content.
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