Are you new to the pepper world? Shishito peppers are one of the best pepper plants you can start with. Not only do they have very simple growing requirements, but they have a mild flavor profile that blends well with dozens of recipes. They also have an earlier harvest, so you’ll have mountains of peppers to enjoy throughout the spring and summer months, into the fall.
Even though these flavorful peppers are classified as hot peppers, they aren’t very spicy. Roughly 1 in every 10 will be a bit spicier than the other, but they’re not hot enough to disrupt most dishes. If you’re wondering how to grow these peppers, we’ll outline all you need to know below.
These smaller peppers are more smoky than hot, and this makes them a great addition to dozens of dishes or eaten raw.
Defining Shishito Peppers
Shishito peppers are a mildly spicy, East Asian variety of pepper, and they are also called capsicum annuum. In Korea, you’ll hear them called kkwari-gochu because the wrinkly skin on the pepper resembles ground cherries. Shishito peppers are an heirloom variety, and this means that the seeds have been available for 50 years or more. They have been a very common fixture in farmers markets and in restaurant appetizers for years.
You can purchase shishito pepper seeds and plants from your local nursery, or you can also look online or in your local farmer’s markets. As we touched on, these peppers aren’t hot. On the heat index unit, they are:
|Pepper||Scoville Units (Heat)|
|Shishto Peppers||100 to 1,000|
|Banana Peppers||1 to 500|
|Padron Peppers||500 to 1,000|
|Jalapeno Peppers||2,500 go 8,000|
|Serrano Peppers||10,000 to 23,000|
|Cayenne Peppers||30,000 to 50,000|
|Habanero Peppers||100,000 to 350,000|
Shishito Peppers – Quick Overview
|Annual or Perennial||All peppers are technically perennials|
|Botanical Name||Capsicum annuum|
|Days to Emerge||10 to 25|
|Days to Maturity||60 to 75|
|Harvesting||Green when they’re two to four inches long or left to mature to red|
|Plant Dimensions||24 to 36-inches tall|
|Row Spacing||24 to 36-inches tall|
|Soil Temperature||They germinate much quicker in soil temperatures ranging from 70°F to 90°F. At colder temperatures, they may fail to sprout. The longer the seeds take to sprout, the more prone they are to fungal infections or rot. Seedling heat mats are recommended to help maintain warm soil temperatures. Once they germinate, peppers can grow at 60°F air temperature at night and 70°F air temperature during the day.|
|When to Start||8 to 10 weeks before you transplant them, start them inside. Transplant your seedlings outside two to four weeks after the average frost date when the daytime temperatures sit around 70°F and nighttime temperatures are around 55°F. In mild climates, you can sow them as a fall/winter crop.|
How Long Shishito Peppers Take to Grow
When you’re growing shishito peppers, there are three important stages they go through, including germination and sprouting, post-transplant growth, and ripening. Generally speaking, shishito peppers should be given 8 to 10 weeks to grow indoors to germinate and sprout. Near the end of the 10 weeks, they also need to get hardened off to the outdoors before you transplant them.
After you transplant your shishito peppers, they will grow fruit for 60 to 65 days or eight to nine weeks. After this time passes, the crisp green peppers are ready to go. If you want red shishito peppers, you can allow them to ripen for a further three weeks. They will start to slowly change color and you can harvest them at any stage, depending on how sweet or crisp you want them to be.
Since this plant produces so quickly, it’s easy to get multiple harvests out of a single plant for a decent amount of peppers.
How To Grow Shishito Peppers
If you live in a northern climate, the days your peppers take to mature aren’t an issue when you’re growing shishito peppers as they start producing fruit roughly 60 days after you transplant them. The issue is giving them enough heat. Like any pepper plant, shishito peppers require a constant supply of heat throughout the entire growth period to produce a successful yield.
Once you get your transplants in the ground, it won’t be a long wait until the peppers are ready to harvest. They’re easy to grow and care for, and all you’ll have to do is pay attention, give them enough water and sunshine, and don’t overdo it.
Fertilizer is a great way to improve your yields. A good type of fertilizer for your shishito peppers is a slow-release, organic mix because it can feed your pepper plant throughout the growing season while eliminating the need to get on a fertilization schedule. You can also use a diluted liquid fertilizer every three or four weeks.
Peppers produce best in fertile, well-drained soil with a pH range of 6 to 6.8. While most peppers don’t prefer to have too much organic fertilizer mixed in, a homemade compost base for your plant will give them a loose, nutrient-rich, well-draining soil.
Staking and Support
Your pepper plants can get decently heavy as they produce fruit, and offering them a support system is a great way to ensure your plants stay healthy and productive. Shishito peppers do very well when you put them in tomato cages or use bamboo stakes.
Shishito peppers require being in a space that offers bright, full sun for six to eight hours a day. If you plan on growing your pepper inside, you want to put them in a south-facing window. It may also be a good idea to supplement with grow lights to keep your plants healthy.
You shouldn’t plant your shishito peppers outside until the daytime temperatures reach and stay around 70°F and the nighttime temperatures don’t drop below 55°F. The ideal soil temperatures hover between 70°F and 80°F to encourage strong growth.
Ideally, you’ll give your peppers between ⅓ and ¾ gallons of water a week. Make a point to not overwater them as they won’t grow well in wet soil. Typically, you can water your plants once every four to five days and they’ll be fine. In very dry or hot summer months, you can water your shishito peppers every other day as long as the soil dries out between watering sessions.
Starting Shishito Pepper Seeds
You can start your shishito peppers inside roughly eight weeks before the last frost date in your area. They require warmer soil to germinate properly, so buying a heat mat is a good investment. The seeds can take a fairly long time to germinate, and it can be up to 21 days before you see anything.
Peppers also require very bright light exposure when you grow them inside. Light that filters in through the windows won’t be enough, so consider adding a grow lamp or a grow light bulb that you can put into a regular fixture. Put the light on a timer and make sure your peppers get between 12 and 16 hours of artificial light a day. Soaking the seeds before you plant them can be helpful too, but it’s not strictly necessary. Keep the seeds and soil evenly moist at all times.
Once your shishito pepper seedlings emerge, they won’t require as much water as before. Allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions because too much moisture can cause fungal growth and seedling death. They still need plenty of light though. A lack of light will lead to leggy plants that are more likely to die and wither. Those plants that survive, will only produce sparse fruit and be spindly.
You can decrease the temperatures slightly at this point, but they still grow best when they’re at 64°F to 75°F during the day and 60°F to 65°F at night. Make sure you move your seedlings into a bigger pot if they show signs that they’re outgrowing the current one and starting to get root bound. Once your shishito pepper plants have several sets of leaves, you can top them or remove the growing tip on your plant to encourage bushier growth. In turn, this can increase your yield and give you sturdier plants. All you have to do is cut off the top of the main growing stem of the plant just above the growth node.
Harden Off and Transplant Shishito Starts Outdoors
Transplant your shishito peppers outside into your garden when the frost danger passes and your nighttime temperatures hover around 55°F. Harden off your plants for a few weeks before you transplant them by setting them outside during the day and bringing them back indoors at night. Prepare the soil by adding organic compost to feed your hungry plants, and they’ll also benefit from lime or a calcium source in the soil.
Plant your peppers 12 to 24 inches apart in full sun. You can also put plastic down around your plants to help trap heat in the soil, but make sure your peppers get the correct water amount. Keep the soil evenly moist to encourage good growth.
These are great beginner-friendly plants to start with for novice gardeners because they don’t require a huge amount of maintenance to get a high yield.
How To Grow Shishito Peppers In Pots
Shishito peppers are a nice supplement to any container garden because they are multipurpose. You can grow them in containers or pots just as easily as they can go in a raised bed or in the ground. Well-drained soil, full sun, and a pot that has good drainage are the three main elements to keep in mind in this type of garden. Pick a container that is at least 12 inches across for your peppers to grow.
It’ll take roughly 21 days for your plants to grow. To successfully cultivate shishito peppers in continents, you’ll:
- Pick the Container – Pick a container that is at least a gallon deep and 12 inches across.
- Pick a Soil – Your container garden soil should be one that drains well and has a pH rating of 6.0 to 6.8.
- Determine a Location – Choose an area that gets a minimum of eight hours of sunlight each day with full, direct sun.
- Water – Ensure that your plants get between 14 and 34 gallons of water each week.
Harvesting a Shishito Pepper Plant
If you’re growing this pepper plant for the first time, you’ll be surprised at how early they are ready to harvest. Once the seedlings are planted, you can harvest them in roughly two months. Traditionally, you harvest these peppers while they’re immature and green as this is when they’re more crisp and good cooked.
You can also wait for the peppers to fully mature and turn red, and this will take roughly three more weeks. If you harvest a lot of them while they’re still green, the plant will produce more shishito peppers. They get from two to five inches long and have a pretty green hue when they’re ready to harvest. Gently snip the peppers from the plant with a pair of shears to prevent damaging the plant.
How to Increase Yield
You want to weed your plants. Many weeds are very good at beating out pepper plants for nutrients and water, and this can lower your yield. Proactively removing weeds as soon as you see them will make a big difference. Pay attention to your plant’s health and lok for common diseases or pest problems like blossom end rot and aphids.
Storing Shishito Peppers
Keep your shishito peppers in a plastic or paper bag in the warmest spot in your refrigerator. If you bought or picked them fresh, they can last for two weeks in the crisper drawer. If you have some leftover fresh ones, you can freeze them whole.
Shishito Pepper Uses
If you’re not familiar with this type of pepper, they offer a very smokey, crispy, and mild to hot flavor profile, and this makes them great in a huge range of dishes. They’re also very easy to cook and prepare, and you can use them by:
- Blistered Shishito Peppers – Wash your shishito peppers and put them in a hot cast iron skillet with some olive oil and cook them until they blister.
- Roasted Shishito Peppers – Roast these peppers in the oven until they get soft, like a roasted bell pepper. You want to keep an eye on them, but it takes roughly 20 minutes at 400°F.
- Stir-Fried – You can easily add these peppers into your favorite stir fry recipe to add a smoky taste with a hint of spice.
- Pickled Peppers – If you like preserving and pickling, these peppers are great for this, and you can do so raw or roast them first.
- Raw – You can eat shishito peppers raw. They’re sweet, crunchy, and slightly spicy.
Best Companion Plants for Shishito Peppers
There are several plants that make a great companion plant for your shishito peppers, and they include:
Take note that you don’t want to plant apricots or fennel anywhere near your pepper garden as they compete for nutrients.
Common Shishto Pepper Problems and Solutions
Blossom end rot and aphids are the two biggest issues that plague shishito pepper plants. Knowing what they are and how they work will help ensure that you can effectively save your plants if you run into problems with it.
Blossom end rot is a disorder caused by calcium deficiency and stress in plants. So, the most effective way to reduce stress on your pepper plants is to get them on a consistent watering schedule. You can also much the soil using straw or shredded leaves to help lock moisture in.
Aphids are a very common type of pest too. They’re pear-shaped, small insects that can come in gray, brown, or green hues. They will suck the sap from your plants and damage the yield and growth.
Adding plants to your garden or yard that attract helpful bugs like ladybugs is the best way to prevent aphids from taking over, and most of these insects are harmless to the plants themselves. If you can’t attract the insects that eat aphids, you can spray them off the foliage using your hose.
Frequently Asked Questions About Shishito Peppers
Even though shishito peppers are very popular, they’re still not extremely common. Knowing a few popular questions regarding them will help ensure that you get happy, healthy plants.
1. Are Shishito peppers easy to grow?
Yes! When you compare them to most peppers, you’ll find that this cultivar is very easy to grow and they also mature much quicker than other plants. So, you can plant them later in the season if you like and still get a full harvest. They work well in grow bags, pots, and raised beds.
2. How big do shoshito peppers usually get?
Generally speaking, shishito peppers start at two inches long and go up to five. They’re very slender with thin skin.
3. When is the best time to harvest shishito peppers?
Typically, you’ll start to harvest your pepper late in July. Once you do, your plants will keep producing more peppers until the first frost hits. You typically harvest these peppers when they’re immature and green instead of fully mature and red.
4. How many peppers does a plant produce on average?
These are very productive plants, and they’ll give you a high yield per plant. The more you pick them when they’re green, the more peppers the plant will produce.
5. What plants are good companion plants for shishito peppers?
If you’re trying to attract predators that will eat pests and help protect your plants from aphids, try planting basil, garlic, chives, alyssum, and petunias. Other good options to plant around your peppers include onions, eggplants, carrots, yarrow, rosemary, and parsley.
Shishito peppers are a great summer plant to have in your yard or garden. If you’re looking for a fun and new vegetable to add to your space, consider this one. We’ve outlined all you need to know about growing it, and you can get an impressive yield in a small space.
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.