Just because you’re limited on space doesn’t mean that you can’t grow your own peppers at home! There are a number of compact pepper plants that are just as tasty as they are attractive, and new dwarf pepper varieties are always being introduced. Jump on the newest trend in small-space gardening and reap the benefits of tiny pepper plants!
Baby Belle, Bull’s Nose, Jingle Bell, Albino Bull’s Nose, and Hungarian Cheese are five of the best-tasting and easiest to grow small sweet pepper plants. Mirasol, Medusa, NuMex Twilight, and Demon Red are four more compact hot chili peppers that double as ornamentals. Grow one or try them all – you’re sure to be impressed with these versatile varieties.
Read on to learn more about how to grow micro peppers, which varieties are the favorites, and where to buy seeds so you can tuck these gems into your garden this season.
What Are Dwarf Pepper Varieties?
Although dwarf peppers are not quite as well-defined as dwarf tomatoes, the category still has a cult following. Dwarf or micro peppers (also called compact or container varieties) generally grow less than two feet tall, but still produce full-size fruit.
There is no shortage of small pepper plants, with seed companies and state universities putting out more hybrid varieties every year. Dwarf pepper plants are just as varied in heat, flavor, and shape as their larger counterparts – so there’s certainly a compact pepper plant to fit every palette and every garden.
How & Where To Grow Micro Peppers
Obviously, small pepper plants make a lot of sense if you don’t have much space. But even gardeners with ample growing space often prefer compact pepper plants to bushier plants.
Some growers even prefer growing peppers indoors to outdoors – growers in colder climates are more likely to get a better-tasting crop if the peppers are allowed to mature inside.
Micro peppers are perfect for containers and small spaces. Many gardeners have success growing dwarf peppers in windowsills or sunrooms – and the pepper plants double as ornamental houseplants.
Even though compact pepper plants hover around two feet in height, the plants will still need a large enough pot to accommodate their robust root systems. A five-gallon pot at least 14 inches across is recommended for most varieties. Keep in mind that some of the larger bell types may need staking, and a three or four-wire tomato cage is perfectly suited to the task.
Using the proper potting media is essential to pepper plant health. Use a potting medium that has coarse sand or pine bark–the added weight helps to anchor the heavy pepper plants in the ground.
Water is integral to fruit production, but micro peppers don’t like to sit in water. So, water your plants deeply and infrequently.
Give dwarf peppers about an inch of water, once or twice a week. Use a drip irrigation system to apply water directly at the base of the plants–avoid getting pepper leaves and fruits wet, as wet foliage could contribute to bacterial rot.
Peppers are heat-loving tropical annuals, and even dwarf varieties will take as much sun as they can get. Pepper plants need at least six hours of direct sunlight a day to bear fruit, but you’re likely to see better results with even more sunlight.
Just because micro peppers don’t grow as tall as their full-size counterparts doesn’t mean that they don’t need as much fertilizer! Penn State recommends the following feeding program for container-grown dwarf pepper plants:
At about 2 weeks after planting, begin watering weekly with a soluble fertilizer. Until the plants begin flowering, you can use a balanced fertilizer with a 1-1-1 ratio (ie. 20-20-20). Once flowering begins, change over to a high potassium fertilizer.¹https://extension.psu.edu/container-grown-peppers
Scale up the amount of fertilizer as your plants get bigger and require more nutrients. The more you pick, the more your plants will produce and the more food they’ll need.
9 Tiny Pepper Varieties
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but what follows are some of the more popular compact pepper varieties that are perfect for container and indoor gardening. This list contains a mix of hot and sweet peppers to fit every taste palette. But even if you don’t love the taste of hot peppers, why not grow these colorful varieties as ornamentals?
1. Baby Belle
Replace your store-bought mini sweet peppers with homegrown! Grow Baby Belle for an abundant harvest of the tapered red and yellow sweet peppers that we all know and love. A compact and bushy plant, Baby Belle only reaches about two feet tall when fully mature, about 80 days from transplant.
Harvest the fruits when they are about three or four inches long and have ripened to their mature color–either red, yellow, or orange. A sweet pepper with zero heat, Baby Belles are delectable when eaten fresh off the plant or diced and tossed in a salad. Order your Baby Belle seeds from Renee’s Garden today to add to your summer salad garden!
2. Bull’s Nose
A celebrated heirloom sweet pepper variety dating back to the 1800s, Bull’s Nose peppers are named for their deeply-lobed fruits that resemble the face of their namesake animal. These compact and productive plants produce three-inch-long, boxy fruits that ripen to a glossy red.
Bull’s Nose peppers generally don’t grow bigger than two feet tall, and the fruits are harvestable in as little as 55 days for green bells or up to 80 days for scarlet fruits. A versatile pepper prized for its distinctive sweetly spicy flavor, Bull’s Nose peppers are a delicious treat stuffed, roasted, grilled, or virtually any way you can prepare a pepper! Buy your Bull’s Nose pepper seeds by the packet or in bulk at Seed Savers Exchange.
3. Jingle Bell
A dwarf pepper variety that typically doesn’t grow more than a foot and a half tall, Jingle Bell produces an abundant harvest of miniature bell peppers that ripen from green to bright red. The one-inch fruits have no heat, so you can enjoy the colorfully sweet bell peppers raw in salads or sauteed in stir-fries.
Begin harvesting green fruits in 55 days, or leave the peppers on the plant a few more days to obtain a rich, red color. Purchase your Jingle Bell pepper seeds from Pepper Joe’s and don’t miss out on the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in July with a garden full of Jingle Bell peppers.
4. Albino Bull Nose
An heirloom variety whose form closely resembles its cousin, Bull’s Nose, Albino is a productive dwarf pepper plant, producing sweet fruits that ripen from cream to red-orange. A stocky plant that doesn’t extend more than two feet tall, Albino Bull Nose is a variety very much at home in the container garden.
Fruits are harvestable at any stage, with the sweetest fruits maturing to three to four inches in 65 days. Albino is an early-season variety that will produce from early summer until the first fall frost. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds sells quality Albino Bull Nose pepper seeds at a reasonable price!
5. Hungarian Cheese
The last sweet pepper on this list, Hungarian Cheese is a productive early-season variety that produces red, yellow and orange miniature bells in as little as 65 days. As beautiful as they are tasty, Hungarian Cheese peppers are named for their resemblance to the heirloom pumpkin variety.
Hungarian Cheese peppers are well-suited for container gardening, and will even grow indoors if given adequate lighting. Purchase your Hungarian Pepper Seeds from West Coast Seeds and enjoy the sweet minuscule bell peppers all season long!
A spicy Mexican heirloom dwarf pepper that gets its name from the way that the fruits face up towards the sun. About as hot as a jalapeno pepper, Mirasol peppers fall between 2,500 and 5,000 SHUs on the Scoville Scale. Mirasol pepper plants seldom grow more than two feet tall, producing two to three-inch fruits in as little as 70 days. The thin, pointy peppers mature to bright, deep scarlet.
Mirasol peppers, while retaining some heat, have a fruity, berry-like taste. Mirasol is a popular variety for drying and grinding into a powder to spice traditional Mexican dishes like mole. Sandia Seed Company sells a few different varieties of Mirasol peppers, all non-GMO.
While many gardeners grow Medusa as an ornamental variety, the mildly spicy fruits are quite tasty, with even the hottest peppers only ranking at 1,000 SHUs on the Scoville Scale. With a heat comparable to poblano peppers, Medusa peppers have much more bark than bite.
Like Mirasol peppers, Medusa chiles grow and ripen above the foliage, creating a cascade of colorful tresses ranging in color from yellow to orange to red. Medusa peppers grow less than two feet tall, making this variety just perfect for containers and windowsills. PanAmerican Seed, a premier supplier of ornamental vegetables and flower seeds, has Medusa currently in stock.
8. NuMex Twilight
Another variety more popular as an ornamental than an edible pepper, NuMex Twilight is not for the faint of heart. This hybrid pepper is the result of a pepper breeding program at New Mexico State University.
As attractive as the multi-colored chiles are, they pack an impressive amount of heat. Ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 SHUs on the Scoville Scale, NuMex Twilight is sure to put you in mind of cayenne peppers if you dare to take a bite.
NuMex Twilight bulb-like peppers begin as purple fruits that ripen to yellow, then orange, then red. Not all fruits mature at the same time, so each plant will sport a rainbow of fruits at various stages of development, which is exactly why this variety is prized as a decorative vegetable. NuMex Twilight pepper seeds are available for purchase at Sandia Seed Company.
9. Demon Red
This dwarf Thai pepper variety produces abundant clusters of conical chiles that ripen from green to fiery red. Similar in heat to a habanero, Demon Red peppers range in heat from 100,000 to 200,000. Harvest the chiles at any stage for culinary use, but the peppers reach peak flavor when they ripen to red and reach between two and seven centimeters in length.
Grow Demon Red peppers as an edible, an ornamental, or both! This compact variety thrives in container gardens and hanging baskets and is sure to add spice to the kitchen and patio. Purchase your Demon Pepper seeds today from Ball Seed.
Just because you’re limited on space doesn’t mean that you can’t grow your own peppers at home. Even if you don’t love the taste of hot peppers, there are plenty of compact sweet and bell peppers that thrive in container gardens. You don’t even have to grow hot peppers to eat – why not grow the gorgeous plants as ornamentals?
I hope you found this article helpful. If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.
¹ Bogash, Steve, and Tom Butzler. “Container Grown Peppers – Articles Articles.” Penn State Extension, 29 August 2011, https://extension.psu.edu/container-grown-peppers. Accessed 27 April 2022.
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.