You can enjoy peppers even if you live in an area with frosty and icy winters. Not many gardeners know that pepper plants can live indoors and produce fruit for several years.
A pepper plant can live indoors for five years or more if you meet its light, water, and temperature requirements. Peppers are perennial plants but cannot survive freezing temperatures. If you protect the plant from freezing temperatures and cold drafts, you can grow peppers indoors all year round.
Growing and caring for pepper plants indoors isn’t challenging if you know how they’re grown outdoors. Peppers are fussy about their light, temperature, and water requirements. In this article, I’ll describe how to grow peppers indoors from seed, how to care for the outdoor pepper plants you may have brought inside during winter, and how to keep the plants alive and fruiting for years.
Do Peppers Grow Well Indoors?
Peppers grow well indoors if you create the right growing environment and protect them from the cold. The best pepper varieties that do well indoors are the ornamental and small, hot chilies. Other types suited to the indoors include Thai peppers, habaneros, chiltepins, and pequins.
Growing peppers indoors can be extremely rewarding. If you live in a region with long winters, you can prolong the growing season and harvest more fruits by growing peppers indoors.
Foodies who love their sauces, stews, and jambalayas hot would love nothing more than having an endless supply of peppers to liven up their plates.
On the other hand, ornamental chilies stick above the foliage and create a colorful conversation piece in your home.
How Do You Care for Indoor Pepper Plants?
You should care for indoor pepper plants by creating an environment that mimics their outdoor growing conditions. You must provide the plants with at least six hours of direct sunlight, temperatures consistently above 70°F (21.11°C), moisture, and regular fertilizer.
Although you can bring your outdoor pepper plants indoors and over-winter them, experts recommend that you grow peppers from seed indoors and keep the plants inside throughout their lives. Doing this prolongs the life of the plant.
Bringing outdoor plants indoors to overwinter can prolong the harvest time. However, if the plants are exposed to cold temperatures, they probably won’t survive to bear fruit the following season.
How To Grow Peppers Indoors From Seed
Try to grow peppers from seed if you haven’t already. It’s more cost-effective than buying seedlings from the garden center, and you can have as many plants as you want. You just have to be patient throughout the process.
1. Choose the Right Variety
Choose a pepper variety to suit the size of your indoor space. You can grow red bell peppers and Hungarian wax peppers if you have ample space indoors. If you’re crunched for space, choose dwarf pepper varieties. Many of these varieties are well-suited to indoor life and have a long growing season. So, you can obtain more harvests from these plants than short-season peppers.
2. Prepare the Potting Mix
Prepare a potting mix using equal parts sphagnum peat, sand, and vermiculite or perlite. If you want a peat-free product, use composted bark instead of peat moss. This is a soilless, sterile mix that doesn’t contain harmful soil-borne pathogens. It’s also well-draining, light, and airy and lets the roots spread without hindrance.
3. Sow the Seeds and Wait for Them To Germinate
To sow pepper seeds:
- Pour the potting mix into a pot with drainage holes at the bottom.
- Poke a few holes in the mix, and push your pepper seeds below the surface. Cover them with a layer of the same potting mix.
- Water the pot. Use a sprayer, as a blast of water from a hose pipe can displace the seeds. Otherwise, you can moisten the soil before sowing the seeds.
- Place the pot where it receives full sun. A south- or west-facing window would be the ideal spot. The seeds should germinate within 14-28 days.
If more than one seed germinates in a single pot, snip away the weaker seedlings with a pair of scissors to give the healthier plant more room to grow.
4. Fertilize the Seedlings
When the seedlings are a few inches tall, feed them a balanced 15-15-15 fertilizer. You can also use kelp and fish emulsion to fertilize. These organic fertilizers are available in granular or concentrated liquid forms. Remember to fertilize the plants every three weeks.
5. Water To Maintain Moisture in the Soil
Peppers are water-hungry plants. You have to keep the soil moist but not soggy wet. Water whenever the soil feels dry to the touch. It’s a good idea to water thoroughly until it flows out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the container. This ensures the water permeates the soil and is available to the roots of the plant.
Always water at the base of the plant and just above the soil. Don’t water from above; otherwise, the leaves might remain wet and invite fungus and mold.
6. Provide Warmth and Light
Peppers are warm-weather plants. They grow best when the daytime temperature is between 80°F (26.67°C) and 90°F (32.22°C) and the nighttime temperature is around 70°F (21.11°C). Not many homes are so warm during winter. You can place an artificial light source about three inches (7.6 cm) above the plant. This usually raises the ambient temperature slightly. You can use an ordinary cool or warm white fluorescent light.
Remember to raise the lights as the plant grows taller. Also, don’t forget to turn off the light for 8-10 hours daily to let the plant rest.
You can also place the pot on a heat mat to give the plants the warmth they need.
Pepper plants also need plenty of light to thrive. They need at least six hours of direct sunlight, preferably from a south-facing window. They also need eight hours of indirect light from an east- or west-facing window.
If you grow your plants entirely under artificial lights, you must keep the lights on for 16 hours every day.
As your plant grows, you may have to move it to a larger pot more than once to give the roots room to grow.
If growing a small variety, use a 10- to 12-inch (25 to 30 cm) pot. A 16- to 18-inch (41 to 45 cm) pot is ideal for larger pepper varieties.
Transplanting Outdoor Peppers Indoors
You can prolong the growing and harvesting season by bringing your outdoor plants indoors before the first frost hits your area. Ideally, you should bring the plants indoors before temperatures become too low. Warm-weather plants can be hard to revive if they’re damaged by the cold.
If your outdoor plants are in containers, bring the pots inside and put them in a warm place where they can receive plenty of sunlight but won’t be exposed to cold drafts. Water and fertilize it the way I’ve explained in the previous section.
It takes a little more effort to move the plants you planted. DO NOT yank the plants off the ground. Instead, dig them up in the following manner:
- Find a sharp garden shovel and ensure that it’s clean.
- Keep a plastic container at hand to pot the plant. Don’t use a terracotta planter during this stage of the transplanting process.
- Choose some time in the evening to transplant. Transplanting your pepper plants in the evening gives them time to recover from the shock during the cool hours of the night.
- Start digging around the plant.
- Dig a few inches away from the main stem of the plant. This ensures you capture a lot of soil and as much of the root system as you can.
- Lift the plant off the ground.
- Pot the plant in a plastic container.
- Add some compost, but don’t add any garden soil.
- Water the plant.
- Check the plant for pests and bugs. You must ensure that the plants you bring inside do not transmit pests to your indoor plant population. Check the pepper plants thoroughly, including the underside of the leaves. Pluck off any bug you may find, and rinse the plant thoroughly.
- Quarantine a pest-infested plant. If your pepper plant has a severe pest infestation, quarantine it. Treat it with an organic plant insecticide, and ensure it’s bug-free before placing it along with other plants.
- Place the pot in a shady place for a few days to let the plant rest and heal from the shock of transplanting.
- Move the plant to a partially sunny location, such as a covered porch or the edge of the garage, after a few days.
- Move the plant to a sunny location indoors after it has acclimated.
- Continue to care for the plant as I’ve explained in the previous section.
Indoor pepper plants tend to produce smaller fruits. However, compared to their outdoor-bred cousins, they don’t lack punch and heat. Harvest the fruits when they turn bright green, orange, red, or yellow, depending on the variety you have grown.
Growing peppers indoors and keeping the plants alive for several years can be a rewarding experience and a handy skill that’ll save you money.
Keep the following tips in mind when growing peppers indoors:
- Gardening experts suggest that growing peppers from seeds produces more robust plants that survive several years indoors than transplanting outdoor plants indoors.
- Choose pepper varieties suited to growing indoors.
- Ensure you don’t damage the roots if transplanting plants indoors.
- Provide the right amount of light, warmth, and water.
- Look out for pests and bugs.