If you’ve ever considered growing your own peppers, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you like your peppers sweet and juicy or hot, we’ve rounded up a list of 15 peppers perfect for any garden and palette.
Jalapenos, habaneros, poblanos, Anaheim, Thai peppers, and Hungarian Hot Wax peppers are among the easiest hot peppers to grow, while California Wonder, Jupiter, Canary Bell, and Purple Beauty seem to be the favorite bell pepper varieties. Sweet Banana, Sweet Pimento, Pepperoncini, Shishito, and Padron are hands-down the best-tasting sweet peppers.
The Fastest-growing Hot Pepper Varieties
Even if you don’t love spicy foods, these hot peppers are worth growing. These beautiful fruits are as varied in color as they are in heat, and each has a distinctive flavor. There’s bound to be a variety that resonates with your taste palate, and if not, why not grow the bush as an ornamental?
Pepper heat is commonly measured in the Scoville Heat Units (SHU) according to the Scoville Organoleptic Test. New Mexico State University professors describe how the Scoville Organoleptic scale works in detail:
“In the test, human subjects taste a series of prepared chile samples to determine the heat level. The samples are diluted in the laboratory until heat can no longer be detected by the tasters. A single unit of dilution is called a Scoville Heat Unit.”¹https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h/H237/
For reference, bell peppers have a SHU of zero, with jalapenos ranging from 2,500 to 8,000. Habaneros are much hotter, ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 SHUs (All heat ratings in the below lists are taken from PepperScale.com).²
Perhaps the most well-known hot pepper, this kitchen staple is among the easiest hot peppers to grow. Green jalapenos commonly seen at grocery stores and markets are the immature fruits, but this is when they pack the most heat – as jalapenos ripen to yellow, orange, and red they lose some of their spice.
Quick to mature, jalapenos are typically ready to harvest 75 days from transplanting. These versatile peppers complement any dish in a multitude of ways, whether sauteed, grilled, stuffed, roasted, or even eaten raw in salsas and salads.
On the Scoville scale, jalapenos range from 2,500 to 8,000 SHUs, ranking as a low-medium hot pepper.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds carries a wide selection of jalapeno peppers, but Craig’s Grande Jalapeno Pepper is one of the more popular heirloom varieties.
Another hot pepper that most folks are familiar with, habaneros are easily recognizable for their small bell-shaped fruits. Habaneros can range in color from orange to red when ripe but are known to be a little tricky to grow.
Habanero peppers need heat to germinate and grow, often taking three months to mature. Habaneros are deliciously sweet, albeit very spicy, when eaten fresh, but their heat decreases somewhat when cooked.
Habanero peppers are commonly used in salsas and sauces and range from 100,000 to 300,000 SHUs. Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a few different habanero varieties available for purchase, including the early-season extra-productive Helios that matures in 67 days.
Another Mexican pepper popular in a variety of dishes, from stuffed peppers to mole and everything in between. Poblano peppers start out dark green and ripen to nearly black as they age, and their mild heat falls between 1,000 and 1,500 SHUs – perfect for those that don’t like it too hot.
Poblanos are also known for being productive, bushy plants whose thick, heavy fruit may need some staking.
Johnny’s also carries several varieties of poblano peppers, including Bastan, an organic variety that can be harvested green in 65 days.
A slightly spicy and sweet chile that hails from California, Anaheim peppers are usually cooked and consumed when immature, but the young green fruits will ripen to red when left on the plant.
A versatile pepper used in stuffed peppers, stir-fries, and salsa, Anaheim peppers have a slightly tangy and sweet flavor. 500 to 2,500 SHUs. Baker Creek sells Anaheim Hot Pepper seeds by the packet.
5. Thai Peppers
If you love Thai food, you should definitely try growing Thai peppers. Don’t let the diminutive plants and minuscule red peppers fool you – Thai peppers pack a punch. While Thai peppers are the perfect container variety and make an adorable ornamental, only sample the tiny, inch-long peppers if you’re prepared for some intense heat.
Much hotter than jalapenos and poblanos combined, Thai peppers range from 50,000 to 100,000 SHUs. Ascent is just one prolific Thai pepper variety available through Territorial Seed Company.
6. Hungarian Hot Wax
Not to be confused with the much milder banana pepper, these long yellow peppers range in heat from 1,000 to 15,000 Scoville heat units. Peppers are normally harvested when they reach eight inches long and develop a waxy sheen, but if left on the plant the fruits will ripen to red.
Hungarian hot peppers are a must-grow for the hot pepper connoisseur, and Hungarian Yellow Hot Wax seeds are available at Eden Brothers.
Favorite Bell Pepper Varieties
You might be used to flavorless green bell peppers from the grocery store, but there is a world of heirloom and hybrid bell peppers that come with diverse colors and tastes. Try growing a few of these varieties and you’ll never go back to store-bought bell peppers!
1. California Wonder
A classic bell pepper that rises to every imaginable culinary occasion, California Wonder is as much a workhorse in the garden as in the kitchen. This open-pollinated variety has intermediate disease resistance, making it the perfect cultivar for beginning growers.
Meaty, thick-walled peppers ripen from green to dark red in between 70 and 90 days. Ferry-Morse Seed Company carries California Wonder pepper seeds, along with several other bell pepper varieties.
Another juicy bell pepper, Jupiter matures a little sooner than California Wonder, at 65 to 70 days. Large fruits reach five inches across and ripen from glossy green to red. This open-pollinated heirloom variety is known for being a vigorous grower that will easily reach three feet tall.
A productive plant that will fruit until frost. Harris Seeds sells Jupiter seeds by the packet or in bulk for the ambitious gardener.
3. Canary Bell
Be sure to tuck Canary Bell into the garden to round out your stoplight bell pepper collection. This bell pepper variety ripens from pale green to a golden hue in as little as 70 days.
A compact variety, Golden Bell doesn’t typically grow more than two feet tall, making this variety perfect for containers. Canary Bell is available for purchase through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
4. Purple Beauty
This uncommon gem produces gorgeous bell peppers with a rich purple hue when ripe. The thick-skinned fruits reach about three inches across and have green flesh.
These productive plants mature quickly, in about 70 days. Seeds ‘N Such carries Purple Beauty Bell Pepper seeds.
The Most Flavorful Sweet Peppers
Sweet peppers are a diverse grouping of peppers, ranging in shape, color, and taste. Some sweet peppers have no heat whatsoever, while others have the perfect blend of sweet and spicy flavor.
These versatile fruits can be enjoyed roasted, grilled, fried in oil, or even eaten raw. Give these five varieties a try and you’ll have a new obsession with sweet peppers!
1. Sweet Banana
Though not technically a bell pepper, Sweet Banana peppers deserve to hold space in every garden. The fruits start out a pale yellow, later maturing to a deep red.
Harvest Sweet Banana peppers when the fruits reach six inches long and try pickling them to preserve their sweet flavor. This mild pepper ranks low on the Scoville scale, falling between zero and 500 SHUs. Sweet Banana is available for purchase through Ferry-Morse.
2. Sweet Pimento
If you’ve ever had stuffed green olives or pimento cheese, you’ve already familiar with Sweet Pimento peppers. These small plants are very easy to grow and are perfect for a container garden.
The tiny heart-shaped fruits are actually very mild, with a Scoville rating of about 500 units. The fruits ripen to scarlet red and get sweeter with age, and range in heat from 100 to 500 SHUs. Pepper Joe’s carries Pimento Pepper seeds, along with many more specialty pepper varieties.
A fun Italian variety for pickling, pepperoncini is delicious on everything from pizza to subs to salads. You might have only ever had pepperoncini as pickled peppers, but are even more flavorful when fresh – the perfect blend of sweet and spicy.
Pepperoncini peppers are harvestable when they reach five to six inches long and turn a light green color. On the milder side of the Scoville scale, pepperoncini range from 100 to 500 SHUs. Baker Creek’s Italian Pepperoncini Pepper is a favorite for the home garden!
If you’ve never had frying peppers before, you need to. Shishitos are delicious Japanese frying pepper that has a sweet and smoky taste when fried with oil.
These small peppers are meant to be harvested when they reach between three and five inches long and ripen to bright green. Shishitos range in heat from 50 to 200 SHUs, and are available for purchase through Baker Creek.
A Spanish frying pepper is meant to be prepared and consumed like Shishito peppers. Padron peppers are a little spicier than other frying peppers, however – one in five is likely to be extremely hot, ranking between 500 and 2,500 SHUs.
Johnny’s carries an organically-certified Padron pepper seed that makes for perfect tapas!
Tips For Growing The Best Peppers
Don’t be intimidated by these 15 pepper varieties – peppers are easy to grow and so rewarding to harvest. Just be patient and give peppers adequate warmth, sunlight, and time for an abundant and flavorful harvest this season.
Germinating Pepper Seeds
Neither sweet nor bell peppers are difficult to grow – but most peppers do require ample heat to germinate, grow, and bear fruit. Start your peppers early, between eight and ten weeks before your area’s last spring frost for strong seedlings that will be healthy enough to survive transplanting.
Peppers are one vegetable that really benefit from the use of a heat mat. If you don’t have a heat mat, just be sure to keep your seed tray in a room area of your home, like above the refrigerator.
To start pepper seeds indoors, fill a seed tray with moist soil and sow two pepper seeds in each cell. Place the seed tray on a heat mat and cover with a lid, if you have one.
The lid and the heat mat will work together to keep moisture and heat in the soil, which will encourage more pepper seeds to sprout, and sooner.
Have patience – peppers are slow to germinate – some of the hottest pepper varieties might take up to a month to sprout, so don’t despair if your seeds seem late!
Transplanting Pepper Seedlings
Wait to transplant pepper starts until the soil has warmed up to about 60℉ – which could be several weeks after the last spring frost, depending on where you live.
Choose a planting site for your pepper starts that receives at least six hours of direct sun each day (eight to ten hours is ideal). Make sure that your peppers won’t be in a low spot that holds rain – peppers don’t like to sit in water.
When moving indoor seedlings outside, be sure to take time to harden the plants off to outdoor conditions. Hardening off pepper starts is a critical step to lessen the risk of transplant shock, which will stunt the growth of young pepper plants and ultimately reduce your pepper harvest.
Growing Peppers In Containers
Pepper plants are excellent candidates for container gardening. Growing peppers in containers makes the plants easier to manage, but peppers appreciate pots because they drain well and the soil is usually warmer than it would be in the ground.
Containers are also movable, so pepper plants can be moved throughout the day to follow the sun if needed.
When planting pepper plants in their final homes, make sure to use a pot that’s at least a foot deep and equally as wide. Five-gallon containers or buckets are perfect for pepper plants.
When your pepper plants start showing their first round of flowers, pinch the flowers off to promote more flowering and eventual fruiting. It seems counterintuitive, but pinching actually encourages peppers to produce more fruit, and for a longer window so you can have a more abundant harvest!
As with most vegetables, the more you pick peppers the more that the plants will produce. If a pepper plant is able to go to seed, it will slow down production as it nears the end of its life cycle.
Harvest pepper plants frequently and you’ll have fruit until frost! If you can’t use all that bounty on your own, donate some of your bounty to a food bank or share with friends and coworkers. Don’t let these treasures go to waste, whether on the plants or in the fridge!
Don’t be intimidated by growing peppers, whether sweet, hot, or bell. Peppers aren’t all that difficult to grow, but growing peppers from seed does take patience and time.
While there are easily thousands of varieties of peppers in the world, these 15 varieties are the easiest to grow and certainly among the best-tasting.
I hope you found this article helpful. If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.
¹ Bosland, Paul and Walker, Stephanie, “Measuring Chile Pepper Heat,” College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, New Mexico State University, Feb 2010, https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h/H237/.
² “The Hot Pepper List: Know Your Spice,” PepperScale.com, https://www.pepperscale.com/hot-pepper-list/
About the author:
When not writing content or growing flowers in her native Virginia, you can find Sarah hiking a long-distance trail deep in the woods. Follow along with Sarah’s adventures at http://sarahcolliecreative.com.