How Much Depth & Space Do Peppers Need To Grow? (3 Things To Know)


When it comes to planting peppers, many factors determine the success of your harvest. Considering the depth and spacing of your seeds and pepper plants is essential for a healthy, delicious crop. 

When growing peppers from seed outside, you can plant groups of 4-6 seeds about 18 inches apart in rows that are 18-24 inches apart. Seeds can also be started indoors eight weeks before you would plant them outside, with 2-3 per cell in a seed tray. When you sow the seeds, lightly cover them with dirt, so they are ¼ inch below the surface. If you’re transplanting established pepper plants, the top of the root ball should be about 2 inches below soil level. 

While peppers are picky about some of their growing conditions, this doesn’t mean that inexperienced gardeners shouldn’t give them a try. In this article, we’ll talk more about depth and spacing, and give you some tips to make your first harvest worthwhile. 

How Much Depth & Space Do Peppers Need To Grow?

If you’re growing peppers from seed, sow 4-6 seeds in areas 18 inches apart and only cover them with a quarter of an inch of soil. Pepper seeds need access to plenty of light, oxygen, and warmth to sprout.

pepper seedling
When sowing pepper seeds, plant a group of seeds together, with groups 18 inches apart. Thin them out later to leave the strongest plants.

Once your seedlings are large enough to plant outside, thin out the weaker plants so that only one remains from each cluster. 

When growing more mature pepper plants, place them so that the top of the root ball is about 2 inches under the soil level. Burying part of the stem gives your plant more stability, preventing it from toppling over in strong winds. 

How Deep Do You Plant Peppers?

The depth of your peppers depends on the current state of your plants. If you’re transplanting established pepper plants, place each one into the soil about 2 inches deep.

You should be able to find healthy, sturdy pepper plants with thick stems at your local garden center. The staff there can help you find a plant that is best suited for your needs and growing conditions.

pepper seedlings
Try to find healthy pepper plants at your local garden center (unless you are starting from seed!)

If you’re growing peppers from seed, you should place them about ¼ of an inch into the soil. To do this, you can place seeds onto the soil and sprinkle a thin, even layer of dirt on top.

You could also fill the pot or seed tray with soil, then use an unsharpened pencil (or similarly shaped object) to push the seeds down gently. 

If you’re starting with pepper seeds, be sure to factor in sun and light requirements and planting techniques. Although peppers plants are relatively simple to maintain, they can be picky about their growing conditions. 

sunlight through trees
Peppers need enough sunlight to grow, so make sure they aren’t shaded by trees or buildings near your garden.

Pepper seeds must be placed in direct light in soil maintained at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Those started in cloudy, cool conditions simply won’t thrive or produce a high-quality harvest.

For these reasons, many people prefer to start their seeds indoors about eight weeks before planting them in the ground. The temperature outdoors should consistently be at or above 65 degrees, with no danger of frost when transplanting seedlings. 

frost on grass
Peppers do not like cold, and frost will do them in, so only transplant after the last frost date in the spring.

What Happens If You Plant Pepper Sets Too Deep?

Burying pepper plants deep underground is a topic of debate among gardeners. Some say peppers should always be placed in the ground so that the soil is level with the top of the root ball.

They believe that if peppers are planted too deep, the stem could quickly rot, weakening it and potentially leading to the death of the plant. If needed, like when planting leggy seedlings, you can plant them so that the soil level is just below the seed leaves (the plant’s first set of leaves). 

pepper seedling
Planting pepper sets too deep might lead to stem rot, especially in wet weather.

Other pepper growers maintain that if you plant them so that a portion of the stem is partially underground, the buried part will develop roots. More roots increase nutrient uptake, making the plant stronger and sturdier.

Stronger stems and root systems are especially helpful if you live in an area with heavy wind. The deep planting method is similar to planting tomatoes and eggplants and has been practiced for many decades. 

So how do you decide which set of beliefs to follow when each side is adamant that theirs is the only way? The same way those experienced gardeners developed their stance: trial and error.

jalapeno pepper plant
It might come down to trial and error to find the best way to transplant your peppers.

When you’re torn between multiple growing methods, a good solution is to experiment by trying each one and seeing which works best. If you purchased your plants from a local grower, you could see what they recommend for planting peppers in your area.

Advice from someone who is experienced in growing the species you have in your climate can be extremely valuable.

How Far Apart Do You Plant Peppers?

If you’re starting pepper plants indoors in a seed tray, place 2-3 seeds in each cell to ensure that at least one will germinate. They should begin to sprout over the next week or two.

Once the seedlings have their first set of true leaves, you can thin them out so that you only have as many as you want to plant. 

seed trays
When planting pepper seeds in a tray, put 2 or 3 seeds in each cell. This will almost guarantee that at least 1 seed will grow in each cell.

Once your plants are at least six weeks old and are about 4-5 inches tall, you can plant them outside as long as outdoor conditions are favorable. Transplants should be planted in the ground 18 inches apart.

University of Minnesota’s Extension recommends transplanting pepper seedlings outdoors on a calm day in the late afternoon. Avoiding harsh sun and wind will set your fragile seedlings up for success on their first day in the garden. 

jalapeno pepper plant
Transplant pepper seedlings outdoors on a calm day in late afternoon to avoid wind and harsh sunlight (hardening off helps to keep plants healthy too).

If you decide to sow your pepper seeds directly outside, place 4-6 seeds 18 inches apart in the soil. Once they grow a set of leaves, choose the strongest seedling in each cluster so that you end up with each plant 18 inches apart. 

How Far Between Rows Of Peppers?

There should be 18-24 inches between each row of peppers in the garden. This gives your plants enough space to grow, and allows enough space for you to maintain and harvest your peppers. 

Some peppers have relatively shallow root systems, so they need more frequent watering. Depending on your soil type and climate, you may have to water your pepper plants up to twice per week.

watering can
Leave enough space between rows of pepper plants so that you can easily walk between and water them.

You’ll thank yourself for leaving adequate space between rows when watering, weeding, and checking for pests regularly. 

What Happens If You Plant Peppers Too Close Together?

Sometimes it’s helpful to grow plants close together in the garden. For example, certain plants benefit from using their neighbors for support or cross-pollination.

habanero pepper plant
It might be beneficial to plant peppers close enough to get the benefits of cross pollination.

Peppers need a respectable distance between plants to avoid several pitfalls. Here’s what can happen if peppers are planted too close together:

  • When plants are crowded in a tight spot, they will inevitably compete for nutrients. The pepper plants that lack sufficient nutrition may show signs of stunted growth or nutrient deficiency. 
  • Clustering large numbers of plants together can allow diseases to spread more quickly if you’re not vigilant about treatment and prevention. Like most fruits and vegetables, proper air circulation from adequate spacing makes pepper plants less vulnerable to insects, fungi, and bacteria.
  • If you plant different varieties of peppers close together, they might cross-pollinate. While this won’t affect the crop this season, you could unintentionally grow some crossed peppers next year if you plant the seeds you save this year. 
  • When pepper plants don’t get the light and warm temperatures they need to thrive, the harvested fruit could taste mediocre. With multiple plants in a small space, some may shade the others, depriving them of light and warmth.
pepper blossom end rot
Pepper plants can succumb to diseases and disorders (like blossom end rot) when planted too close together and forced to compete for water or nutrients.

How Deep Should A Raised Bed Be For Peppers?

If you’re planning on growing your plants in a raised bed, the depth depends on the type of pepper you grow. Most pepper plants tend to be very tall and benefit from growing in soil that is 18-24 inches deep.

Smaller peppers with more shallow root systems don’t need much space and would be content in a 12-inch-deep garden bed. 

pallet raised bed
A raised bed should probably have soil that is at least 18 to 24 inches deep to accommodate pepper plants.

Many gardeners like to plant their pepper plants in containers and beds that are deeper than necessary. More soil means that the roots will stay moist for longer. Smaller beds tend to dry out more quickly, requiring more frequent watering.

It’s important not to over water pepper plants, though, which can happen if the soil they’re in stays wet for too long. You can avoid this by ensuring that you’re using well-draining potting soil for your plants to help them dry out more quickly.  

What Size Grow Bag For Peppers?

Fabric grow bags are a great way to grow vegetables when you’re short on garden space or would like your container to be portable. Bags sold at garden centers are typically made with breathable material that drains well.

Some gardeners opt for a cheaper, quicker method and plant seeds or mature plants in a bag of soil. If you choose this route, make sure you’re using a potting mix, which tends to be more well-draining than garden soil or topsoil. You will also need to poke several holes in the bag for drainage.

Grow Bag
A 5 gallon grow bag will do for one pepper plant, but you will probably want larger bags for multiple plants (to prevent over crowding and competition between plants).

You can place a single plant in a 5-gallon grow bag when growing peppers. If you want to grow more than one plant, you can either use multiple bags or a larger bag. 

Conclusion

In short, many variables affect how you grow plants, and peppers are no exception. But with a long list of varieties and different planting methods, you won’t be bored with growing peppers anytime soon. 

You can find a list of the best pepper plants to grow here.

If you are interested in small pepper plants, check out this list.

To find gardening books, courses, and more, check out The Shop at Greenupside!

About the author:
Kathryn is a plant enthusiast and freelance content writer who specializes in home and garden topics. Based in New York, you can get in touch with Kathryn at https://kathrynflegal.journoportfolio.com/.

Kathryn F.

Jon M

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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