Growing jalapenos in pots will result in happy plants if you give them all they need. Start with a rich potting soil and five-gallon containers, then put the pots in a spot where they’ll get full sun and water them regularly. Add fertilizer to your jalapeno plants every two weeks, and wait for your plants to produce the spicy peppers. By following this rough guide, your peppers should do wonderfully in containers. In fact, if you shield them from colder or freezing temperatures, your plants can grow in their pots for up to a decade.
Jalapenos make a fantastic potted plant as they have a compact growth habit and can easily survive all year-round indoors during the winter months if you live in a cooler climate.
Growing Jalapenos in Pots – General Information
Growing jalapenos in pots is an easy way to spice up your container garden. They’re a very beginner-friendly plant to try, even for someone who is brand new to gardening. We’ll outline everything you need to know about how to plant and transplant jalapenos in pots, the best containers to use, drying seeds, overwintering them, and much more.
To start, you have to know that jalapenos are a spicy variety of chili peppers. They’re considered to be hot peppers, and they have a heat rating from 2,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale. For scale, bell peppers have a score of 0 and the Carolina Reaper pepper has a score of 2.5 million on the heat index scale. Jalapenos and other types of peppers fall into the nightshade plant family, right alongside potatoes and tomatoes. It’s technically a perennial that is frost-sensitive, but most people grow it as an annual.
Members of the nightshade family are very popular for container gardening, and jalapenos are no different. While you may picture a traditional jalapeno as an elongated pod in dark green coloring, you can actually find them in several sizes and shapes. They are usually green first, but they can turn red, orange, or yellow as they ripen. They also have a slightly different flavor than other varieties of chili peppers, but they share the heat.
Arguably one of the best things about growing jalapenos in pots is you get a very versatile and preservatible vegetable. They store very well for a longer period if you put them in the refrigerator after you harvest them. Since they usually measure roughly two or three inches long and an inch wide at harvest time, they’re perfect for pickling whole. Read on to find out how to grow them and store them below.
Understanding the Scoville Scale
We touched on the Scoville Scale in the previous section, but you may not know what that is. Or maybe you already do, but a refresher is nice. The Scoville Scale is a measurement of how much dilution you’ll have to do to a particular liquid per milliliter to get a sensation with no spice. Capsaicin is what causes certain peppers to be spicy, including jalapenos.
The higher this number is, the hotter it is one the Scoville Scale, because it would take more liquid to dilute out the spice. The capsaicin content in the peppers ranges from zero Scoville units in green bell peppers to over 2 million Scoville units for Caroline Reapers. Scoville ratings for common types of peppers include:
- Anaheims – 500 to 1,000
- Poblanos – 500 to 1,000
- Chipotles – (dried and smoked jalapenos): 1,000 to 2,000
- Jalapenos – 2,500 to 5,000
- Serranos – 2,500 to 8,000
- Cayenne Peppers – 30,000 – 50,000
- Habaneros – 100,000 to 350,000
- Ghost Peppers – 855,000 to 1,463,700
- Carolina Reapers – 2,200,000 to 2,500,000
Best Jalapeno Varieties for Growing in Pots
Before you grow jalapenos in pots, you have to figure out what the best varieties are. Due to their more compact growth habit, jalapeno plants can thrive when you place them in containers. But, just like any edible plant you can grow, some adapt better to growing in pots than others. This is very helpful to note if you have a limited space or a smaller pot, like on a patio or balcony. Two of the best cultivars for growing jalapenos in pots include:
- Early Jalapeno – You’ll get smaller three-inch peppers that mature quickly in roughly 63 days
- Jalafuego – Larger four-inch pods that have higher heat levels then other cultivars, and it matures in 70 days
Always double-check the seed packet before you start the seeds, and ensure you can meet the water and light requirements of the specific cultivar you want to try to grow. Once you have the plant in the container, find a spot that gets six to eight hours of light per day.
Even though most jalapenos do well in pots, some cultivars do better than others, and these are great ones to start with.
Growing Jalapenos in Pots – Step by Step
All kinds of peppers are popular container garden crops. If you’ve already mastered growing bell peppers, why not branch out and try growing jalapenos in pots next?
How to Plant Jalapeno Seeds
When you grow your jalapeno plant from seeds, you’ll sow them indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date of the season. We recommend using a high-quality potting mix or a seed-starting medium. Seedlings don’t need many nutrients for the first few weeks because they pull them from the seed itself. So, you won’t need to worry about fertilizer until later, but potting mix can work well as a seed starter. You can consider using:
- Burpee Coconut Coir Mix – These smaller bricks will really fluff up to a big bucket full of this popular plant fiber.
- Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Mix – It’s hard to argue with proven results when you use virtually any Miracle-Gro mix to start your plants or keep them healthy.
Jalapeno seeds will sprout quickly in roughly a week. You’ll see seedlings popping through the soil and getting ready to go when your other seedlings have barely even peeked through the soil. However, one important note about jalapeno seedlings, they require a huge amount of light and heat to do well. This means that you’ll have to give them more light and heat than a sunny window usually generates. A heat mat is a great way to make up for what they lack in the window, and they’re easy to clean and use.
For lighting, rigging up a grow light is the best way to go. As soon as your seedlings appear, give them between 12 and 16 hours of light every day. There are portable grow lights available that are dimmable and work via a USB connection with adjustable clips and a timer. A timer ensures that you’ll be able to get the exact amount of light per day, and there is no chance of you forgetting them.
When to Transplant Jalapenos
No matter if you grew your jalapeno seedlings or you bought some of them at your local nursery or farmers market, make sure to keep them indoors and protected until the nighttime temperatures outside stay between 55 and 60-degrees F and 70-degrees F during the day.
Best Containers for Growing Jalapenos
When it comes to picking out the right container for growing your jalapenos in pots, keep in mind that they need a minimum of five gallons of soil. So, you’ll need to get a larger pot with drainage holes in the bottom. Generally speaking, a 12-inch pot or larger will work as long as it’s 14-inches deep or deeper. A lot of gardening blogs suggest that you use 10-inch pots for these plants, but they’re usually not large enough as they only hold three gallons of soil. Also, make sure you have great drainage as jalapenos prefer to be in drier soil.
You can also use food-grade five-gallon buckets or five-gallon fabric grow bags. The grow bags come in an impressive range of sizes, and you can grow everything in them from kale and lettuce to bigger vining pumpkins. The five-gallon size works well for jalapenos. They’re easy to move, reusable, and they offer great moisture regulation.
Planting Jalapenos Using Store-Bought Peppers
You can try growing jalapenos in pots using store-bought peppers, but this won’t be a very reliable method. Green jalapenos are technically immature peppers, so the seeds usually aren’t viable.
While this is a fun experiment that can work, you’ll have a much better chance of growing peppers in pots using viable, good seeds you buy from a seed company or nursery. If you want to try growing jalapenos using some plants you grew at home, allow your pepper pods to ripen until they turn red, put gloves on, and remove the seeds.
It may be possible to grow new plants from store-bought peppers, but most of the seeds won’t be viable as it’s actually the immature jalapeno that has the viable seeds.
How to Check Fresh Jalapeno Viability
If you’re going to use your seeds right away, you want to perform a viability test to make sure you’re getting the best chance of growing healthy plants. One of the easiest ways to do this is to test the seeds using a sandwich bag and a paper towel. Spread out the seeds on a damp towel and seal it inside of the bag. Keep it in a warm spot, like in a sunny window or on a counter or on a heating mat with a thin buffer between the bag and the mat.
After roughly five to seven days, check your seeds. If they sprout, you can start growing jalapenos in plants and see how they do. You will sow the seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost date and follow the instructions we outlined for growing them.
How to Dry Jalapeno Seeds
If you don’t plan on using them straight away, you’ll need to dry the seeds out completely. This process is known as curing, and it can keep the seeds healthy by preventing fungal and bacterial growth.
Dehydrating your jalapeno seeds is easy. All you have to do is put them in a paper bag and leave them in a dark, dry place sealed in the bag for three to four weeks. You can also store your dried seeds by putting them in a jar and sealing them with a paper towel or coffee filter over the top. Or, you can lay them on a paper towel in a dry area with good ventilation. Store them in a glass jar until you’re ready to use them.
Overwintering Jalapeno Pepper Plants
Pepper plants are actually perennials, and many people are surprised to learn this. They are frost tender, so many people choose to grow them as annuals. However, if you live in a climate that has cold winters, you can transition your plants indoors and keep them alive until spring to get a great head start on the growing season and have jalapenos early. And, if you have a powerful enough grow light indoors, you’ll be growing jalapenos in pots all year-round. To overwinter your plants, you’ll:
Step One – Prune
Prune most of your branches off of the plant. It may be a pain to take on this project, but peppers are one of the only vegetables that really benefit from a hard pruning to promote more growth. This also means cutting off any peppers.
How hard you want to prune your plant is a personal preference. You could easily prune it right down to a stump while leaving a few inches sticking out of the soil, but it’s generally better to leave a few branches to give you more growth and a better “scaffolding” for lack of a better word.
Take the jalapeno plant out of the container and clean out the roots before transplanting it in a new pot. It’s not a necessary step to take at this point as you can simply bring your plant inside right after you prune it. However, the biggest benefit of doing this is to clean off any soil-borne pests that can get into your home. The roots will grow back in the next few months, so you can cut away any damaged portions without harming the plant.
Step Two – Water
When you take your jalapeno plant inside, water it once very thoroughly. You also want to keep it out of strong light for a few weeks. This plant is going under a lot of stress once you bring it inside, even if you choose not to transplant it. You can keep it under a grow light or in the window, but cut the light back at this stage. You can also give it a very light application of liquid fertilizer.
Keep an eye on your jalapeno and water it when the top one or two inches of soil dries out. Since there will be few or no leaves on your plant at this stage, it takes up much less water. So, you want to cut back your watering at this point.
Step Three – Resume Normal Care Routines
When you notice new green growth cropping up on your plant on the branches and stems, get it under a grow light and resume your normal care instructions over the winter months. By this point, your jalapeno will have recovered from the shock of moving it inside and pruning it, and it’ll start rapidly putting out new shoots and leaves over the next few weeks. For this stage of growing jalapenos in pots, you want to keep it under the grow light until your new branches start to get leggy. If the grow light is powerful enough, you could see the first buds after a month or so and you’ll have jalapenos ready to pick in the next month or so.
Step Four – Move Back Outside in the Spring
In the spring, take your jalapeno back outside when the nighttime temperatures stay above 50-degrees F. Place it in the shade for a few days, or you can take it outside on a cloudy day so it can adapt to the sunlight using a process called hardening off. If you want, you can prune it back to encourage new growth.
You can easily overwinter your jalapeno plants, and they’ll even produce over the winter if you get the growing conditions correct.
How To Dehydrate or Dry Jalapeno Peppers
The ideal method to preserve your jalapenos after you get done growing jalapenos in pots is to dehydrate them, and using a food dehydrator is arguably the easiest way to go about it. It works very well, and it has plenty of space. They all work the same too, so you can dehydrate your jalapenos by:
1. Sort and Pick Your Peppers
If you have a lot of jalapenos to dry at once, you want to pick out the highest-quality ones you have. Look for any with mold, holes, or rot and dump them into the compost pile.
2. Wash and Dry Your Jalapenos
Clean your jalapeno peppers using cool water. Be sure to dry the peppers very thoroughly before you slice them. You don’t want the dehydrator to waste time drying out all of the water droplets.
3. Slice Your Peppers
Remove the stems and slice your jalapenos to your desired shape. We prefer slicing them to ¼ inch saucers. This makes them great to add to food or to snack on. Thin slices will also dry much quicker than thicker ones. If you’re drying whole jalapenos, put a few slits into the skin to allow air to get inside the peppers.
- HappyDIYHome Tip: Remove the seeds from your jalapenos if you plant on grinding the dehydrated peppers into a powder.
4. Arrange the Jalapenos on Your Dehydrator Trays
Next, arrange your jalapeno slices however you like on the dehydrator trays. Allow some room between the peppers and never overlap them. If the slices tough one another, they can stick together as they dry.
5. Set the Temperature to 125°F (52°C)
The ideal temperature to dehydrate your jalapenos is 125°F. This is just enough heat to speed up the drying process without cooking the pepper slices or whole peppers.
6. Dehydrate forRoughly 6 to 10 Hours
Depending on how thick you sliced your jalapenos, dehydrating times will vary. You can also stop dehydrating them at different stages, depending on your preferences. We like to stop when the jalapenos reach a leathery texture that isn’t brittle. However, if you want to grind them down to powder, you should dehydrate them until they’re still and brittle.
7. Store Jalapenos in a Dry, Sealed Container
Use freezer bags or mason jars to keep your peppers dry, and add a desiccant packet. You can keep them for up to a year if you store them correctly. Following these steps will give you the perfect consistency for your jalapenos. Remember to double-check the jalapenos every few hours during the dehydration process to make sure they don’t get too brittle.
How to Use Jalapenos – 10 Ideas
Once you finish growing jalapenos in pots, you can easily have a huge harvest. So, what do you do with them to use them all up if you don’t want to dry them? The following 10 ideas can help you use them up.
Idea 1 – Add Them to Homemade Sauces
Whenever you’re not sure what to do with your jalapenos, try adding them to sauces. They taste fantastic added to different recipes for fish, pasta, chicken, and much more. Depending on how much heat you can tolerate, you can incorporate a lot of jalapenos in a single sauce.
- HappyDIYHomeTip: You can freeze your sauces to use later, and this will add months to their lifespan.
Idea 2 – Add to Soups
When you need to use a lot of jalapenos at tiem time, toss them in stews or soups. As a delicious and very versatile chile pepper, they work in a huge range of recipes.
Idea 3 – Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
Stuff half of a jalapeno pepper with parmesan cheese, cream cheese, chives, cayenne, and wrap it with bacon before broiling it. These make a very good appetizer, and you can remove the seeds to dial back the heat.
Idea 4 – Chili Paste
Chili pastes are a very fun way to add variety to your recipes and sauces. They are easy to make, and you can easily use them as toppings for your lunch or spreads on toast. All you need to make a very basic chili paste is garlic, peppers, herbs, oil, and seasonings. Process them together using a food processor until they get to a paste-like consistency.
Idea Five – Dehydrate Them
One way to extend the shelf life after you spend time growing jalapenos in pots is to dehydrate them as we outlined above. Use your oven or dehydrator to dry them and enjoy them for months. Once you dry them, you can store them in a mason jar or crush them into a powder to use in rubs or seasonings. If you don’t crush them, you can rehydrate them later and use them in salsa, soups, or stews.
- HappyDIYHomeTip – Once you rehydrate your jalapenos, they won’t be good as a standalone food. However, they work well when used as a complementary ingredient.
Dehydrating your jalapenos is one way to make them last up to a year, as long as you store them in airtight containers.
Idea Six – Freeze Them
Can you freeze your fresh jalapeno peppers? When you have a huge number of fresh peppers on hand, it’s understandable you want ways to preserve them so they don’t go bad. The good news is that yes, you can freeze them. Freezing them works well to preserve as many as you want to freeze, and the process is very easy. To freeze them, you’ll:
- Spread your fresh sliced or whole peppers on a cookie sheet
- Flash freeze them for an hour
- Put the frozen jalapenos into an airtight and freezer-safe container and remove as much air as you can
- Keep them frozen until you need them, up to a year
To Thaw: Remove as many jalapenos as you’d like to use and put them on a paper towel to absorb the excess moisture. Once the peppers thaw and reach room temperature, use them like you would fresh.
Idea Seven – Hot Sauces
The biggest downside to using jalapenos in your homemade salsa is that you can’t use that many at one time due to the heat. However, hot sauces call for many more at a time, and this gives you the chance to use more of your extra jalapenos. Another benefit of making your own hot sauces is that the vinegar in them will extend the shelf life much more than salsas.
Idea Eight – Pickle Them
There are several ways to preserve fresh food, including canning, freezing, or pickling. You can make several cans of pickled jalapenos to use up your excess and have them ready to go when you need them throughout the year. It’s also a very easy and quick process to pickle them.
Idea Nine – Roasted Jalapenos
Have you ever had roasted chile peppers from farmer’s markets or roadside stands? You can make them yourself since jalapenos are easy to roast. They taste very good added to stews, soups, tacos, and pizzas. All you have to do is place them over an open flame and rotate them as the skin blisters. If you find them too hot, you can scoop out the innards.
Idea Ten – Salsa
Finally, one of the most common reasons people try growing jalapenos in pots is to make homemade salsa. It’s a great way to use extra jalapenos, cucumbers, and tomatoes. You can easily make a year’s worth of salsa in a day or two. You can make different heat levels to use less or more jalapenos too. They also make a great gift.
Growing jalapenos in pots is a relatively straightforward and easy process as long as you follow a few general guidelines. You now know how, as well as how to dehydrate and use them so you can enjoy your harvest all year-round.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.