Growing Habanero Pepper Plants

I am interested in buying some habanero plants. Can can you tell me how to care for them? And do the plants grow all year? Thank you!  Robert M.

Answer: First, let me answer the last question. Habanero peppers are a perennial plant in tropical zones, but if you’re not in the tropics, you should treat these plants like an annual (toss them when the growing season is over). 

As for growing conditions, habaneros, like bell peppers, are a member of the nightshade genus and so prefer morning sun, hot weather and a soil with a pH between 5 and 6 (slightly acidic). They will do the best when night temps are in the 60s and daytime temps are ideal between 70 and 90.

They prefer a slightly drier soil than the regular bell peppers, so not more than one inch of water per week. Be sure to mulch around the plants with straw or dried grass clippings to help keep moisture in, the weeds out, and the soil cooler. 

Once they are around a foot tall you can fertilize them with a water soluble fertilizer. The best ratio is 10-20-20, or similar.  Just make sure you don’t use something high in nitrogen or you will only have lots of green leaves. A sprinkling of epsom salts is said to help them set fruit.

They can also be a little slower to set bloom and fruit than bell peppers, so be patient. Harvest the fruit as it reaches edible size. If you wait until it changes color, it could begin to lose some of its heat.

The only pest concern is aphids, so watch for distortion or speckling of leaves, as this is a sign they are present.

Otherwise, they are as easy to grow as your average bell pepper.  Just be careful handling the mature fruit with your bare hands.  While the concentration of capsicum is in the spines on the interior, all parts of the fruit contain the oil and it can be quite painful in open wounds or if you get it in your eyes.

Happy planting, and may your peppers be hot!

Karen

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Mike Nobody
    August 8, 2011 at 11:56 am

    If habaneros like hot weather they should love Phoenix where I live.

    My habanero plant is growing like a weed. But I only have 3 peppers on it.

    I have lots of flowers but the flowers don’t turn into fruit?

    Some people have said the problem is the hot weather.

    In Phoenix when April or May comes it starts hitting 100F+ on a regular basis and doesn’t drop below 100 until October comes. And it is usually much hotter then that most of the time.

    • Reply
      jstutzman
      August 8, 2011 at 6:52 pm

      There is hot and then there is hot, you are definitely in the hot area! When temps are 100, blossoms have a hard time setting fruit. You might want to give our blossom set spray a try, your pepper plants will set many more blooms!

  • Reply
    Bonzo Maricena
    November 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    where I can buy the seed of habanero from?

  • Reply
    Travis
    June 15, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    I understand this article is older, but I hope someone will respond, yet.

    I purchased several Habanero plants and seed from my local hardware store. I planted the seeds in some organic seed starting soil until they were 2 months old and average 4″tall, and the plants directly in our garden dirt outside. Full sun for 12 or more hrs/day. I live in Montana (not exactly where habaneros are native, I’m well aware) and the average night temperature is 43 deg F. So that is a little low.

    My main concern? My stems are turning purple and the leaves a limegreen, near yellow color. Not a very healthy color. Soil testing shows our ph to be in the high 6, near 7 range. And all nutrient levels were low. I purchased organic fertilizer 2 weeks ago ( 3-4-4 vegetable blend ) and followed the directions to a “T.”

    Time has passed and I’ve not seen a change for the better. Can anyone make some serious suggestions to save my pepper garden? I’m also growing bell, sweet, Thai, and jalapeno. Only the thai have kept their full green color and seem healthy. Its the habaneros I’ve invested the most time/money into so I am most worried about them.

    Thank you GardenHarvestSupply.com for this comment section too ask our many Q’s!!

    • Reply
      Karen
      June 16, 2014 at 4:50 pm

      Travis: I am going to guess you have a combination of nutrient deficiencies, and because you’re in Montana, you might have some temperature issues, as well. I can't give you a definitive answer for the problem but hopefully knowing their ideal growing conditions will help you figure it out or a better idea of what to do next year for a perfect crop.

      Growing peppers requires the ideal temperatures be between 80 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night. With the low night temps you may encounter blossom drop. You might consider a raised bed or perhaps a cold frame situation to help warm the soil. A raised bed will also allow you to control the soil pH, which for peppers should be between 6.0 and 6.8. They prefer a sandier soil that stays moist but well-drained. You should also mulch the plants with straw or pine needles to help regulate the soil temperatures and water retention, in addition to keeping the weeds down.

      You say you planted the starts directly into the garden when they were 4 inches tall. Did you harden them off by setting the seedlings outdoors for increasingly longer periods of time for about a two-week period? The soil should have been around 60 degrees, as well, before planting them. If not, you might have shocked them. They might recover from this but not be great producers. Also you have a shorter growing period than much of the country, so making sure you have the right variety will help. Some that are recommended for Zone 4 are Long Slim, Hungarian Wax and Gypsy. We sell great pepper plants hardened off and ready to plant, so next year you might want to check the varieties we have in stock.

      Peppers are light feeders so the fertilizer you chose should be fine. You can side dress the plants with a granular version 5-10-10 while they are bloomingbut none after that.

      Over-watering and under-watering can produce yellowing leaves, so just keep them evenly moist.

      Please send us a progress report and photos later in the season!

      Happy Gardening,
      Karen

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