Peppers are likely one of the most popular plants to add to gardens across the country. They can be used in a wide range of recipes from sweet to spicy to savory, and their wide range of flavor profiles leads many gardeners to plant several varieties in their gardens to enjoy all that peppers have to offer. Growing pepper plants in Colorado can have its challenges though. Our harsh and arid environment can make it difficult, but if proper adjustments are made, there is no reason why anyone shouldn’t be able to have a flourishing selection of pepper plants right in their very own backyard. To help you find success in growing pepper plants, we’ve outlined some specific growing instructions below.
Growing Pepper Plants in Colorado
Planting in Colorado can be difficult due to the fact that pepper plants are not tolerant of early or late season frost. And depending on the variety, peppers can take anywhere from 60-150 days to reach maturity. The typical growing season in Colorado starts in mid-May and ends mid-October, though the temperatures on either end of the growing season are typically still not warm enough for pepper plants to thrive. This cuts the growing season short for peppers. To make sure that you allow your pepper plants enough time to reach maturity, starting them indoors or buying plant starts is highly recommended. If you choose to start your pepper plant from seed, do so eight weeks before you plan to transplant them to your garden. Generally, outdoor temperatures are conducive to pepper plants at the beginning of June, making the beginning of April the perfect time to start growing your plants from seed indoors. If you would like a guide on when to plant a large variety of garden fruits and vegetables, check out our Garden Planner!
Starting Your Pepper Plants from Seed
The first step in getting your pepper plants going is to pick up some seed starting materials. A planting tray, heat mat, humidome, grow light, and seed starting soil are key to starting strong and healthy plants. Plant your seeds a half-inch deep and keep the soil warm by using a heat mat. Do this until you begin to see the seedlings start to pop up through the soil. Keeping the soil warm is important as it helps to encourage the seeds to germinate. If the soil is too cold, the seeds will not begin to grow. Keeping the soil moist is important as well. Using a spray bottle to mist the surface of the soil is recommended, as pouring water over the seeds can disturb them and cause them not to grow. Using a humidome can also be very helpful, as it holds in moisture and helps create an environment that is more conducive to your baby pepper plants.
As soon as your pepper plants emerge from the soil, position a grow light above them and provide them with 13 hours of light daily. Keeping their environment at around 70 degrees will also be important, as they still need warm conditions to grow strong and healthy. As your pepper plants continue to grow, they will need to be transplanted to their own containers when they get large enough that their original container becomes crowded. If you save any of your grow pots from previous seasons, you can use these. You can also use any recycled plastic containers (be sure to poke drainage holes), terracotta pots, and the like.
Important note: since pepper plants produce such large fruit on such a small and dainty plant, it is important to have the best growing conditions possible so that your mature plants will be strong and sturdy enough to support the fruit as it grows and matures!
If you do not have adequate growing conditions, or don’t want to invest in the necessary seed starting supplies, buying garden starts from your local garden center is a great option. The advantage of this is that you get to skip the whole process of starting your plants from seed and are guaranteed a strong and healthy plant to start the season off right. The disadvantage of it is that greenhouses often grow a limited number of varieties, so if you are looking for some specific or a less common variety, you may have trouble finding it. If you are just looking for some of the most common pepper varieties, then you should have no trouble at all.
When to Move Your Pepper Plants Outside
As we mentioned above, outdoor conditions are usually warm enough at the beginning of June to be able to move your pepper plants outside. Pepper plants prefer temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees, so you can move your peppers outside when daytime temperatures sit consistently within this range.
When you transplant your peppers into your garden, make sure to plant them in an area with ideal growing conditions. Even if you are starting with strong and healthy plants, they will still need the best conditions possible in order to produce and support the delicious fruit. Plant your pepper plants in rows with one foot of space in between each plant. Each row should be around three feet apart to allow for room for the plants to grow as well as room for you to harvest without damaging other plants.
Make sure to move your pepper plants to an area of your garden that receives full sunlight for 8-10 hours per day. With pepper plants, the more sun the better!
Generally, your pepper plants will need to be watered thoroughly once per day. During the heat of the summer, your pepper plants may need a second watering. Putting black plastic down at the base of the plants can help hold moisture in the soil, while also keeping weeds in check. Once the fruit begins to develop, the plastic will also keep your peppers off the ground, reducing the likelihood of rot and infestation.
Make sure your soil is well prepared and ready for your plants before moving your peppers to your garden. Amending your soil with compost and fertilizers before planting your peppers will be very important for making sure that your peppers are getting the nutrients they need.
Harvesting Your Peppers
You will know your peppers are ready to harvest when they reach the expected size. If you are growing varieties that are a certain color, it is also a great indication that they are ready to harvest when they have almost completely turned the expected color. If your pepper plants are growing a handful of different fruits, each one may not reach the size of peppers normally found in grocery stores. If you would like your fruit to reach its maximum size, you must remove all but one or two of the fruits so that the pepper plant will divert all of its energy and resources into growing full-sized peppers. One thing to make note of is that the flavor and potency of your peppers is not affected by the maturity of the fruit, so they can be harvested for eating at any point during their growth.
Pepper Varieties that Grow Well in Colorado
Big Jim Peppers
California Wonder Peppers
Giant Marconi Peppers
Hot Cherry Peppers
Purple Beauty Peppers
Red Beauty Peppers
Scotch Bonnet Peppers
Sweet Banana Peppers
Sweet Cherry Pepper
Thai Hot Peppers
Have Questions on How to Grow Peppers in Colorado?
If you have questions, we are here to help! Gardening is not always as straightforward as we would like it to be, and sometimes it is really nice just to be able to talk to someone who knows and can provide helpful and useful information. So, please never hesitate to call, or come in and visit us in person! Our gardening professionals are ready to help you through every step of your gardening experience.
Ells, J. E., "Peppers and Eggplant." Colorado State University Extension. November 2020. Web. Date accessed: 4 November 2021. Retrieved from: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/peppers-and-eggplant-7-616/