Botanically there is no difference between peppers and peppers or chilli, as the English term for the mainly South American wild and cultivated forms is. And yet there are countless shapes, colours and above all degrees of sharpness! Common to all is their belonging to the genus Capsicum and family of the nightshade family (Solanaceae). Whether vegetable peppers or chilli peppers: Most of the varieties available from us are varieties of Spanish pepper (Capsicum annuum).
Appearance and growth
Depending on the variety, paprika fruits first turn green and then turn yellow, orange or red. Mature peppers are more aromatic and have a higher nutritional value than green fruits. Their vitamin C content is unmatched by any other vegetable. Together with melons and closely related aubergines, paprika is one of the vegetables most in need of warmth. In the field, a warm, sheltered location and a sunny summer also bring a useful harvest – but only if both factors come together. The greenhouse, on the other hand, offers ideal conditions. Peppers are most comfortable in a temperature range of 25 to 28 degrees Celsius; in addition, the greenhouse should be regularly ventilated. The demands are largely the same as those of tomatoes – only it can be a little warmer.
Location and soil
If young plants are grown themselves, this should be done in nutrient-poor growing soil so that the small plants form a strong root system. If, after pricking, it appears that the young plants still have weak roots, leave them in nutrient-poor soil to further stimulate root growth. If a strong root system has formed, the paprika plants can also tolerate more rich soil such as potting soil and fertilizer. The location for seedlings should be given plenty of light so that the plants do not rot. In the open, the peppers also like it sunny and warm. But make sure that the plants get enough water.
Whether yellow or violet, whether small tongue burners or large mild-sweet fruits: In cultivation, all varieties of pepper are the same. Together with aubergines, peppers are among the vegetables most in need of warmth, which is why outdoor cultivation is only worthwhile in very warm regions and with a favourable microclimate, for example in front of a warm south wall. Cultivation in greenhouses or foil tunnels is possible everywhere in the United States and yields are considerably higher. If you do not want to buy ready-grown young pepper plants, cultivation begins with sowing in March. The seeds are spread evenly in a plant tray filled with growing soil and thinly covered with soil. The seeds should be placed about twice as deep as they are large. However, there are varieties that only germinate in light, but these are rather exceptions. Now press the earth carefully with a small board. After the bowl has been thoroughly watered, cover it with a transparent hood and place it in a bright and warm place: The ideal germination temperature is 25 degrees Celsius. About four weeks after sowing, the young peppers are pricked into small pots and further cultivated brightly and warmly in as high a humidity as possible. Tip: If you sow the seeds in so-called multi pot plates or Quickpot plates (one seed per pot), it is easier to prick them into larger pots because each pepper plant already has a small root ball.
Paprika, with its colourful fruits, is one of the most beautiful vegetables. We will show you how to sow peppers correctly.
Planting (only with previous crop)
From the end of April, place your peppers in an unheated greenhouse or, after the Ice Saints (11 to 15 May), in as sunny a bed as possible in the garden with loose soil rich in humus. You should supply the soil with compost and horn flour beforehand. The planting distance is 40 to 50 centimetres in the row and at least 60 centimetres between the rows. When planting in the open, it is advisable to cover the ground with black mulch foil and plant the peppers in small slits. The film keeps the moisture in the soil and ensures that it heats up well. A third possibility is planting on the terrace or balcony in flower pots as large as possible. Use commercial vegetable soil as substrate and place the pots best under a roof overhang so that the peppers are protected from rain.
Peppers grow much slower than tomatoes and remain much smaller. Nevertheless, you should provide the seedlings with a bamboo stick as a support during planting and fasten with loose string or similar to it. In this way you ensure that the plants do not buckle even in windy conditions. Feed your peppers every 14 days with a small amount of liquid fertilizer in the irrigation water or top up with an organic vegetable fertilizer two to three times between mid-June and the end of August. Nettle manure is also very suitable as an additional fertilizer. The water requirement of peppers is very high, so you should water them daily in the greenhouse and on the terrace in summer. In greenhouse cultivation, you can also mulch the soil with lawn cuttings to reduce evaporation. A small, but effective intervention is the eruption of the so-called royal flower with the large-fruited pepper varieties. It forms in the fork between the main shoot and the first side shoot. This stimulates leaf and shoot growth and achieves a higher fruit yield.
The most common cause when peppers produce many flowers but hardly any fruit is inadequate fertilisation. The plants are so-called wind pollinators. At high humidity (over 80 to 85 percent) the pollen sticks together and no longer detaches from the filaments. Then the recommended shaking is of no use, but you have to help with the brush and transfer the pollen by hand. If the air humidity falls below 60 percent and the temperatures rise above 25 degrees Celsius at the same time, the fruit sets are also rejected. In this case, moisten the soil thoroughly in the morning.
In the greenhouse you can already harvest the first green peppers from mid-July. The first fully dyed fruits are ready for harvest at the end of the month when exposed to good light. In outdoor or pot culture, the harvest usually begins three to four weeks later. Depending on the weather in the greenhouse, the harvest time does not end until the end of October or the beginning of November, because the fruit hardly grows at temperatures below 17 degrees Celsius. Tip: It is best to cut the ripe peppers with a sharp knife or scissors so as not to damage the shoots and other fruit.
All types of peppers are basically perennial, but wintering is only possible in a heated greenhouse or conservatory. Further cultivation is particularly worthwhile for slow-growing ornamental peppers such as piri-piri or bell chillies.
Over the millennia of paprika’s long history, countless varieties have developed from the original form and even today new varieties are regularly bred, including extraordinary varieties such as the refined Bellania paprika with its black fruits, the small refined red snack paprika or the snack paprika Delipap suitable for hanging hanging hanging baskets, which also has a high ornamental value. The variety here is almost endless and it is not easy to decide which variety to plant on your balcony, kitchen window, conservatory or greenhouse.
Chilis (Capsicum frutescens) originate from South America and have an eventful history of cultivation over 6,000 years behind them. In Europe they became known only after the discovery of the American continent by the Spaniards and the first firmly established trade routes. The plant, which was easy to cultivate, caused the very lucrative trade with pepper to break in Europe and made spiciness in dishes affordable for the broad masses. The fruits of the plant are berry fruits that grow to be about one and a half to three centimetres long. The shape is pointed conical, but depending on the variety it can also be as compact as the classic pepper. The fruits are green during the ripening phase and usually bright red when fully ripe (variety-specific). This makes it easy to recognize the right level of maturity. The fruits stand upright on the shrub and are not discarded by the plant. As with the other Capsicum plants, there are numerous yellow to light brown coloured and flattened seeds in the fruits. What makes the plant and its fruits so exciting for us is the capsaicin. The substance is responsible for the sharpness of the chillies and can occur in varying concentrations depending on the variety and location. It is particularly concentrated in the partitions of the fruit. The spiciness of the fruits and the sauces made from them is measured in Scoville. Known varieties of chilli are for example: ‘Jalapeno’, ‘Beni Highland’, ‘Ecuadorian Brown’ or ‘Habanero Amarillo’.
Pepperoni (spicy paprika)
The pepperoni is probably the most varied of the Capsicum plants in terms of taste. It comes from the classic paprika, but is pointed in the shape of its fruits. It probably originated in Asia and found its way to Europe through the conquest of the Turks in the 16th century. Depending on the variety, it has the same colour spectrum as the paprika. The actual distinguishing feature can be found in the taste: here the pepperoni offers a wide spectrum from very mild, mild, mildly spicy to pungent. For this reason it is also dried on a large scale and processed into paprika powder and all its variants.
Known pepperoni varieties are for example: ‘Thai Yellow’, ‘Georgia White Pepper’ or the elephant’s trunk (C. annuum).
Picture gallery: Colourful variety of peppers
Ornamental peppers are mostly Capsicum frutescens, a shrub-like and low-growing species with pretty, vertical, pip-shaped fruits. These are also edible, but if these varieties are sold as ornamental plants (see labelling), treatment with plant protection products not authorised for vegetables intended for human consumption is permitted. If you grow your own ornamental peppers from seeds, this danger does not exist and you can decide according to your taste whether you want to use the pretty peppers in the kitchen or not.
The sharpness of the pods is indicated in the unit Scoville and varies from variety to variety. It can even vary quite strongly between the fruits of the same plant. Guaranteed fire-free (0 Scoville) is vegetable pepper, because all varieties lack the spicier Capsaicin. The Hungarian Cherry Pepper, which is also used for the production of sweet paprika powder, is already at 2 on the heat scale. The sharpest chillies are the red ‘Bhut Jolokia’ from India and the hybrid ‘Carolina Reaper’ cultivated in South Carolina. Both should be enjoyed only with caution, as Scoville values beyond the two million were already measured here. For comparison: Tabasco sauce is between 2,500 and 5,000 and pepper spray for self-defense is between 180,000 and 300,000 Scoville.
The pure flesh of the paprika and chilli peppers contains less capsaicin than the so-called placenta, the white inner tissue of the fruit to which the seeds also adhere. For hot peppers, the placenta and seeds should therefore be carefully removed during preparation. However, the sun-ripened pods are still healthy: their considerable content of vitamin C, beta-carotene and other valuable plant substances alone puts many native vegetable species in the shade. And also the sharpness has a good thing, because high Capsaicin contents work disinfecting. Therefore, in many tropical and subtropical countries, food is traditionally seasoned much more spicy than in the temperate zone.
Peppers are sown in the same way as tomatoes. Unlike peppers, peppers are usually variety-true and can easily be propagated by themselves.
Diseases and pests
If young plants are kept too cool, aphids occasionally appear. In summer, aphid infestation is favoured by too narrow a stand, too strong fertilisation and lack of light. Rinsing the leaves with water is usually sufficient as a countermeasure. When the white fly first appears, yellow boards should be hung nearby. Excessive humidity can cause grey mould. Timely ventilation prevents this fungal disease. Occasionally similar diseases as with the closely related tomatoes occur.
In an interview with our store editor Dieke van Dieken, plant doctor René Wadas reveals his tips against aphids.Credits: Production: Folkert Siemens; Camera and Editing: Fabian Primsch
Peppers in the our store-Shop
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.