Jalapeno peppers originate from Mexico and are very easy to grow from seeds. They have so many culinary uses they are the one must-grow pepper for many home gardeners. By growing jalapenos from seed, you can select the variety that will give you just the right amount of heat for your taste buds. These pepper plants will mature in about 90 days and yield 25-30 peppers each They will increase the flavor and nutrition of any recipe they’re used in.
Use these tips for successfully growing these flavorful chili peppers from seeds in your home garden.
Jalapenos (Capsicum annuum) are in the family of chili peppers and come in a wide range of sizes, colors, and heat levels.
- The most popular jalapeno pepper is green and about the size of the index finger. It provides a light kick of heat and is used to top pizzas, in sandwiches and salads, and to make pepper poppers. If left to ripen it turns red and increases in heat.
- Purple jalapeno is mildly hot, measuring around 5,000 on the Scoville scale, and reaches a mature size of 5-inches long and 1-inch in diameter. Purple jalapenos start out green and ripen to a vibrant purple.
- Orange jalapeno is mild and sweet, measuring around 3,000 on the Scoville scale. Peppers measure 3-inches long and 1/2-inch in diameter when mature. The longer the orange jalapeno is left on the plant, the sweeter it becomes.
- Black jalapenos are sweet with a mild heat that registers 2,000 on the Scoville scale. Plants produce abundantly and the jalapenos are dark black.
Sowing the Seeds for Success
Jalapenos plants like heat and, as with other varieties of pepper, they should be started indoors. Sow the seeds in late winter to early spring. Some varieties produce crops earlier than others so the timing will differ depending on the type of jalapeno.
I get excellent results growing jalapenos from seed by starting the seeds with a soil block. These can be made with a soil blocking tool or purchased as pre-made blocks. The seeds are sown directly into the block; then, when the seedling is ready, the entire soil block is transplanted so that the plant roots are not disturbed.
Soil Blocking Tool
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Put the seed blocks in a standard planting tray. Put 2 jalapeno seeds in the center of each soil block and lightly cover with whatever soil mix that was used to create the blocks (or sterile potting soil). If both seeds germinate the weaker one should be pinched out.
Water the seed blocks well and place a dome over the seed tray or cover with plastic wrap, to hold in moisture. When growing jalapenos a soil temperature of 75-80℉ is needed for the seeds to germinate. Place the planting tray on a heating mat or pad that has been set to provide the needed amount of heat to promote seed germination.
The seeds take 2 to 3 weeks to germinate. Remove the dome or plastic wrap after the seeds have germinated and keep soil moist at all times. From this point on the plants need plenty of light. At this stage the seedlings will ideally require 14 – 16 hours a day. Place the plants in a sunny south facing location where they will be protected from the elements. The temperature should not drop below 65℉. Alternatively, if this is not available, grow lights can be used to provide the necessary light and heat.
Looking After the Seedlings
When they have two sets of true leaves, the seedlings are ready to be transplanted. The seedling, in the seed block, should be transferred to a 6-inch flower pot, containing a free draining organic potting soil. Keep the plants indoors, in an area where they will still receive 8 – 10 hours of sunlight a day. The soil should be kept moist but not too wet.
Once the plants are 4 – 6 inches tall they should be prepared to be moved outside; either into the ground or in containers. If you are using containers, the plants should be transplanted into a 3 gallon (11-inch) plant pot. Mature plants will reach 3-feet in height, so this new home will provide the necessary growing room needed.
The jalapeno plants will need to be hardened off before transferring them permanently outdoors. Move the containers outside each day for a period of 2 weeks. Place them in a sunny, sheltered location for 1-hour on the first day and gradually increase the outdoor time each day.
A cold frame is ideal to speed up the process of growing jalapenos from seed and can be used to keep seedlings warm and/or for hardening them off. The seedlings can be moved into the cold frame as long as a temperature of a least 65℉ can be maintained.
Caring for Your Plants
After the seedlings have spent 2 days and nights outdoors and all danger of frost has passed it’s time to plant the jalapenos in the outdoor garden soil. Before planting out the ground should have been dug over and improved by mixing in plenty of compost.
They should be planted in a location that receives at least 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Jalapenos love the warmth; they are generally considered annuals but in warmer climates they will become perennials and produce a crop for a second year.
Space the plants about 20-inches apart. Apply a 2-inch layer of compost on top of the soil to help retain soil moisture, prevent weed growth, and increase soil nutrients.
Whether planted in-ground or in a container, keep the soil moist but not soggy. Feed the plants with your favorite organic plant food every 2-weeks during the growing season.
Getting Ready for Harvest
By now your hard work has hopefully paid off and you have a large number of developing peppers. Depending on taste, they can be picked whilst still green or when they ripen and turn red. They are commonly picked when they are still green. A pepper that is ready to pick will be dark green and glossy and firm to the touch. It may show some hints of starting to turn red. Picking them whilst green, forces further flowering and hence more fruit.
The colored varieties of peppers take time to mature, around 4 months and are ready to harvest when they are firm and have changed colors.
Wear gloves when harvesting jalapenos and don’t rub your eyes. Even mild varieties can cause skin irritation and burn eyes. Cut the peppers off with snips so the plant won’t be damaged.
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Jalapenos are rich in vitamins C and A, potassium, fiber, and capsaicin. According to WebMd “studies show that eating them regularly can speed up metabolism, help burn fat, and curb your appetite”, making them well worth a spot in the garden and on the dinner table.
Growing jalapenos from seed is easy and rewarding. Even if you don’t like to eat the peppers, the plant makes an attractive houseplant that produces colorful spring blooms and brightly colored peppers in summer.