Perfect for flakes, powders, and hot sauces…
The cayenne pepper is certainly the jack of all trades of the chili world. It’s solid medium heat and relatively neutral flavor provides many culinary uses, especially in powdered and flake form. Its neutral flavor, too, brings the spice to hot sauces while allowing other flavors to dominate the experience. Growing cayenne pepper, whether in container or garden, can keep you loaded with delicious heat all season long. Find what you need to start with our cayenne pepper planting guide.
Cayenne pepper planting fast facts
Scoville heat units (SHU):
The cayenne pepper has a Scoville rating of between 30,000 and 50,000 SHU.
Buy cayenne pepper seeds online:
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Cayenne peppers need full sunlight.
Cayenne peppers require well-drained soil that is mildly acidic.
Transplanted seedlings need to be at least 18 inches apart.
Soil should be kept moist but not saturated.
The peppers turn bright red when they are fully ripe.
Cayenne pepper plants will grow to be between 1 and 3 feet tall.
The peppers are typically between 4 and 6 inches long.
The plants can be grown in containers; ideally, these containers should be 2-gallon size or larger.
Where and when to grow cayenne peppers
The native environment of the cayenne pepper has a tropical or subtropical climate. These peppers need this hot climate to thrive, which means that you will have to do your best to recreate it. The seeds will need high temperatures to germinate; sow seeds in an environment where temperatures are between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Transplant seedlings only after soil temperatures have reached at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit and choose a location that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day. These plants do not react well to cold weather so only transplant seedlings when there is no danger of frost damage.
Feeding and watering your cayenne pepper
When watering, you will want to keep the soil from drying out but also keep it from becoming too wet. Opt for mulch or plastic sheeting to help the soil retain moisture as well as to keep weeds from springing up.
If you are growing your cayenne peppers in a container, consider a bottom-watering technique as this can help you to ensure that your plants get enough water without being over-watered. Bottom watering involves placing the container with your pepper plant inside a larger container. You then add water to the larger container.
Harvesting cayenne peppers
You can tell when your peppers are ripe by their size and color. Cayenne peppers can be eaten whether green or red, as long as they have reached the size of a mature pepper; however, a bright red color means that they are fully ripe.
Remove mature peppers from the plant using a knife, garden clippers or scissors. If you are sensitive to capsaicin oils, you may want to consider wearing disposable latex gloves as you handle the peppers.
What to watch out for when growing cayenne pepper plants
Pests such as aphids and beet armyworms will sometimes attack cayenne pepper plants. You can tell that you have an aphid problem when you see the insects on the undersides of leaves. An aphid infestation can cause leaves to become yellow or develop necrotic spots. They also secrete a substance that leads to mold on the plants. Aphids can be removed from plants simply by spraying them off with water.
The armyworm can leave holes in leaves and in some cases can also damage fruit. You can eliminate this pest by spraying with pesticide or by manually picking it from the plant.
Diseases like bacterial spot or southern blight can also affect cayenne peppers. Both of these are more likely to affect plants that are kept in very moist soil. You can prevent them by not overwatering.