The infamous bhut jolokia (a.k.a. the ghost pepper) is well-known for its super-hot slow burn. It’s a perfect chili for extreme hot sauces or simply spicing up a soup or chili. But know: a little ghost will go far. Growing ghost peppers in your garden will provide you with plenty of home grown heat for the entire season and more. Our ghost pepper planting guide walks you through important fast facts and must know steps to bring this popular extreme chili pepper to life in your back yard.
Ghost pepper planting fast facts
Scoville heat units: The ghost pepper measures between 855,000 and 1,041,427 Scoville heat units.
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Light requirements: Ghost peppers need full sun, which means as much sunlight as possible.
Soil requirements: They do best in loamy, well-drained soil with a pH of between 6.0 and 6.8.
Space requirements: When transplanting, place each ghost pepper seedling between 24 and 36 inches away from other plants.
Water requirements: Soil should be kept moist but not muddy.
Maturation: Most plants provide fully developed, ripe ghost peppers in about four months; however, it can take as long as six months in some cases.
Plant Size: Ghost pepper plants that are 36 inches away from other plants typically grow to about four feet tall.
Chili size: When fully ripe, peppers are usually between 2.5 and 3.5 inches long and 1 to 1.2 inches wide.
Container-friendly: Ghost peppers can be grown in containers; the minimum container size is about three gallons with five gallons being ideal.
Where and when to grow ghost peppers
For germination, you will need soil temperatures of at least 80 degrees. Transplanted ghost peppers need temperatures of no less than 73 degrees for optimal health. The hotter and more humid the better for recreating the ghost pepper’s native northeastern Indian environment. In India, the warm season can last for longer than five months; in addition, the plants are subjected to intense humidity during this part of the year. Raised beds are ideal for ghost pepper planting as they help to maintain a higher soil temperature.
Feeding and watering ghost peppers
Water plants thoroughly twice per week during periods with little rainfall. You will want to ensure that you keep the soil moist, especially after the first blossoms show up. Lack of moisture can inhibit fruit production. A good general rule for watering ghost peppers is to water only when the top two inches of soil dries out. Note that some water stress is necessary for optimal heat. Try to avoid splashing the leaves when watering.
Fertilizing ghost peppers
Provide your ghost pepper plants with a fertilizer that is high in potassium. Potassium is important for the production of fruit. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers as these can cause plants to develop lots of foliage and little or no fruit. For best results, use the technique of adding fertilizer about four inches from the side of the plant’s stem.
Harvesting ghost peppers
Common ghost peppers will be bright red when ripe. Use clippers or a knife to remove peppers from the plant in order to prevent damage. And importantly: due to the plant’s high capsaicin content, wear gloves when harvesting and avoid touching your hands or face. Otherwise, you may experience a severe case of chili burn.
Ghost pepper plant care
Avoid dramatic temperature changes. Ghost peppers are very sensitive to changes in temperature, especially sudden drops. Dips below 70 degrees can easily kill your plant while excessively high temperatures (above 90 degrees) can cause blossoms to fall which means that plants may not produce fruit.
Magnesium deficiency is a common problem with ghost pepper plants. Plants that are deficient in magnesium may produce a large number of blossoms but few actual peppers. Remedy magnesium deficiency by spraying with Epsom salts. Dissolve a tablespoon of Epsom salts in water and