How to Grow Red Peppers

Discover how to grow red peppers using these proven tips and tricks, includes information on fast-growing red pepper varieties and planting and climate tips.

| February/March 2003

Learn how to grow red peppers using these helpful tips and tricks.

Here's how to grow red peppers and enjoy the rich, sweet flavors of these ripe bell peppers

Raising ripe, red sweet peppers takes patience, period. That's why they cost up to five times as much as green peppers and why some gardeners think they can't grow them. Even when they're grown from transplants, thick-fleshed and flavorful red peppers such as 'Pimento' and 'Red Marconi' take up to 100 days to mature. But some varieties turn red much sooner — in as little as 65 days. If you use these fast-maturing varieties and a few tricks of the trade, you can easily produce sweet, meaty red peppers in almost any climate.

Bell Peppers Quick to Color

Most red peppers start out green. Some begin life yellow, purple or white. After reaching their maximum size, these peppers will develop red pigments in 10 to 28 days, if daytime temperatures are between 65 degrees and 75 degrees. In southern regions where temperatures exceed that range, peppers turn yellowish and may acquire an off-color pallor that is not attractive, a big consideration for market growers. Below the optimum temperature range, color development slows dramatically; below 55 degrees, it stops completely. If soil temperatures drop below 68 degrees, pigment production declines and eventually ceases.

Sweet peppers are considered warm-season crops (they are more sensitive to cold than tomatoes), but they actually thrive in a temperature band of 60 degrees to 85 degrees. Within this range, some varieties develop red pigments faster than others do — in as little as 14 days in the case of 'King Arthur,' a 5-inch-long, disease-resistant variety that's popular with Wisconsin growers.

If you live in a cold climate or if your growing season is short due to the rapid onset of summer heat, choose early ripening varieties like 'King Arthur.' Oregon State University researchers have found that 'Lady Bell,' 'La Bamba,' 'Merlin,' 'Ace,' 'Bell Boy' and 'Red Knight' will color rapidly (in about two weeks) in almost every climate. 'Ace' is one of the most reliable varieties, setting fruit even when it's too hot or too cold for other varieties. "It's a remarkable variety," says pepper breeder Rob Johnston, owner of Johnny's Selected Seeds. "We discovered it in the 1970s and were blown away by its earliness and productivity. In the 25 years since, there have been contenders, but nothing beats 'Ace.'" It is the first pepper to turn red in any garden, about 65 days after transplanting. 'Jingle Bells,' a miniature bell pepper and a favorite at farmer's markets, produces an abundance of tiny, 1 1/2-inch-round fruits in 65 days too.

Crystal J Ortmann
1/8/2011 12:24:03 PM

This year I grew a Jupiter sweet pepper *from Brentwood Park Estacada a pot on my large covered porch. It still had a few green peppers on it when it got cold out so I brought the pot in and it continued ripening. The last pepper is bright red right now and the foliage looks like it is dying. My question is: will it grow again in the Spring? If so, I will keep it inside, but it takes up a lot of room and is quite unsightly with the dead leaves, so if it isn't going to grow again, I would like to toss it out. Can you help me? The peppers were wonderful. Thank you for your help.

8/10/2009 10:46:46 AM

My red peppers are turning red on top but by the time they are red all over they have started rotting on bottom. What can I do to save my peppers?

Diana Castillo
2/5/2009 7:58:58 AM

Hi, My husband and I subscribe to your magazine so there could be more help on peppers there, but my question is, we bought some beautiful large red peppers at a local store and I decided to keep some of the seeds and try to raise them myself. Will this work or do I need to do something special to the seeds? Thanks for your help. Diana

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