Ready to grow the most popular extra-hot chili?
Combining big heat and a delicious fruity flavor, the habanero pepper has built up quite the spicy reputation in the kitchen. And for those with a green thumb, growing habaneros is the perfect way to keep a continuous flow of these extra-hot chilies coming for weeks and weeks. So ready to get planting? Our habanero planting guide provides you the details you need to begin and succeed.
Habanero planting fast facts
Habanero Scoville heat units: Habanero peppers measure between 100,000 and 350,000 on the Scoville scale, with some varieties topping out at 450,000.
Light requirements: These plants need at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
Soil requirements: The soil should be well drained before habanero planting and have a pH of between 6.2 and 7.0; it is best to mulch soil as this keeps plants warm and reduces water consumption.
Space requirements: Habanero plants should be placed at least 18 inches apart.
Water requirements: Plants should be watered deeply but waterings do not have to be frequent and the frequency should be decreased slightly once peppers show up.
Maturation: Habanero plants will usually be ready for harvesting within two to three months of planting. Peppers can be picked green or allowed to stay on the tree until they ripen to orange or bright red.
Plant size: Fully matured habanero plants can grow as high as seven feet but usually stay in the four to five foot range.
Chili size: Most habaneros measure between an inch and 2.5 inches long.
Container-friendly: Habanero plants are very container-friendly; it is possible to grow them in two-gallon containers but five-gallon or larger is ideal.
Where and when to grow habaneros
Experts recommend starting habanero seedlings outdoors at least six weeks after the last frost. These peppers do best in temperatures higher than 65 degrees with the ideal temperatures being closer to 80 degrees; however, they can be successfully cultivated in most climates. Note that habanero plants may not be as productive in areas with cooler summers. In these areas, it may be best to plant the seedlings in a location where they will have sunlight reflected onto them by a wall or fence.
Feeding and watering habanero plants
Avoid watering your habanero plants more than twice a week. Provide them with one inch of water over that time. Once peppers start to form, reduce watering. Less water during this stage can help to make the peppers hotter.
Fertilize habaneros once every two weeks with fish emulsion or spread an inch of aged compost around the base of plants. This is especially important once the plants have peppers.
When to pick habanero peppers
The color of the pepper at maturity will vary depending on the habanero variety, though the common habanero will be orange at maturity. Red Savina and Caribbean red habaneros will both be a deep red. Chocolate habaneros will take on a dark brown hue, while Peruvian white habaneros turn a pale white. There are many other varieties, so before starting your planting, learn what your chilies will look like when mature so you’re prepared to harvest at the right time. Make sure to pick all peppers before first frost. Use shears or a sharp knife to remove peppers from the plant since simply pulling them off can damage the branches.
Caring for your habanero plant: Potential issues
As with other peppers, daytime highs above 90 degrees may cause issues. Habaneros may drop flowers when temperatures enter this range.
While habaneros are less likely to suffer from pest infestations than other plants, it is still important to look out for slugs and aphids. In most cases, manually removing the pests will be sufficient but spraying with insecticide soap or neem oil may also be helpful. Spray your pepper plants every two weeks if you notice leaf-curling or other signs of an infestation.
Avoid over-watering as this can promote fungal diseases and wash soil nutrients away. In some cases, over-watering habaneros may make them bitter.