9) Growing sweet peppers

In this tip:

  • News about pruning
  • Sowing date and storage
  • A)# Sowing and germinating
  • B)# Transplanting
  • C)# Pepper plants, taking out of flower pots and putting in a compost layer
  • D)# Planting in the garden soil
  • E)# In a mortar bucket
  • E1) Support for big plants or branches with heavy peppers
  • F)# Seeds from ripe sweet peppers
  • G)# Removal of first flowers or flower buds
  • H)# Aphids
  • I)# Sweet pepper plants growing in the open air or in a greenhouse
  • J)# Ripening and storing sweet peppers.
  • K)# Small and big bell peppers
  • L)# Small snails on sweet peppers
  • M)# Overwintering pepper plants
  • N)# Growing egg plants (Aubergines)

News about pruning.

You can grow sweet pepper plants “normally”. You get a plant with a main stem and 2 to 4 branches on top. Use a strip to fasten the stem of the big plant to a stick next to the plant. Flower buds, flowers and tiny fruits appear on the plant. Support branches wit heavy fruits against breaking.

You can prune a pepper plant when it is 15 to 20 centimeters (6 to 8 inch) high. For example shown in     this video    . After early pruning, the pepper plant gets bushy and doesn’t grow that high. After a while there are buds, flowers and tiny fruits on the plant. There is no (or little) need to support the short branches with heavy fruits. See photos below:

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An allotment colleague has put sweet peppers in the garden soil around May 15th (mid spring). He has pruned the plants in his garden a few weeks after replanting. This photo shows his plants on August 18 (mid summer). Plants have big peppers hanging on. One pepper discolors to red already.

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The same pepper plants on September 24 (5 weeks later). Low plants with big fruits. Many plants are not supported (against breaking branches).


I don’t plant sweet pepper plants in the garden soil that early. So I pruned some of my sweet pepper plants when they were in my deep greenhouse, in a box filled with a layer of compost.

Other sweet pepper plants of mine have not been pruned.


Pruning my sweet pepper plants (end of May, mid to late spring):

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Get a box with sweet pepper plants out of the deep greenhouse.

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Prune the pepper plants in the box (2 plants have not been pruned).

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Water the plants and compost after pruning. Put the box with plants in the deep greenhouse again.

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Boxes with pruned (or not pruned) sweet pepper plants in my deep greenhouse.

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After a few weeks, the pruned pepper plants show new shoots in the leaf axils.


My large grown, pruned, sweet pepper plants:

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Large grown pruned sweet pepper plants on a warm spot in the school garden.


Large grown pruned sweet pepper plants in my backyard garden.


My large grown, not pruned, sweet pepper plants:

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Big grown, high, not pruned sweet pepper plant in my backyard garden.


Conclusions and recommended procedure:

  • Prune (approx) half of the number of sweet pepper plants as described above. Let the other plants grow “normally”, so not pruned. Pruning or not pruning produces plants with many or few fruits. Pruning and not pruning goes just as well. More about (yes or no) pruning in    this video   .
  • You can prune sweet pepper plants in late May (mid to late spring):
    • while growing in your garden soil (when replanted early).
    • or in boxes with compost (when not yet replanted in the garden soil).
  • Put the plants close together in the garden soil. This gives more shade and reduces sun scald (burn marks) on sweet peppers. This also reduces drying out of the soil.


Sowing time and storage

Sweet peppers are sown indoors in early March (late winter). At a normal spring, you have rigid plants of about 30 centimeters (12 inch) at the end of May (late spring).

You can sow earlier (February, late winter) to have big plants earlier.

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You can store and ripen sweet peppers in a tray on 3 or 4 layers of moist kitchen paper. On the tray is plastic foil with a small air opening. More info in chapter J)# Ripening and storing sweet peppers.


A)# Sowing and germinating 

Sow sweet peppers in a (margarine) box filled with sifted potting soil. In a small margarine box you can grow about 15 plants.

  • Fill a (250 grams) plastic margarine box with sieved potting soil.
  • Flatten the top side of the potting soil.
  • Use the bottom of an other margarine box to press on the potting soil.
  • Spray water on the potting soil.

  • Lay pepper seeds uniformly distributed on the potting soil.

  • Cover the seeds with a thin layer of sieved potting soil.

  • Put a well fitting lid loose on the box with. Or click the lid on the box.
  • There will be narrow air openings between box and lid.
  • The seeds get fresh air but the soil does not dry out fast.


  • Put the box with lid indoors on a warm place between 20 and 25 C (68 to 77 F). You can put the box above a radiator or on top of a warm object. After 7 to 14 days, first pepper plants are visible.
  • Regularly lift the lid to check the germinating;
    • When there are small water drops at the lower side of the lid, the soil is moist enough. When to dry, spray water on the soil.
    • Are no plants visible above the soil, put the lid on again.

  • Are pepper plants visible (above the soil), don’t put the lid on.
  • (When the lid is too long on the box, you get thin, long pepper plants).
  • Put the box with plants on a light place at about 20 C (68 F).

  • You can put a transparent (plastic) box over the margarine box before a window.
  • Don’t push the transparent box too low; there must be an air opening under it.

When the plants are about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) tall, remove the transparent box.Let the plants grow bigger before a window at about 20 C (68 F). In this way you get firm plants.

Do the plants grow at a too warm and/or too dark place, you get thin long plants. You better put them at a colder lighter place.

Let the plants in the margarine box grow until they have 4 or more leaves. The plants are big enough to transplant, as described in chapter B)#.


A1) Sowing tip 1: use a mat

Lay a piece of sink mat on the soil. Drop each seed in a mat hole. Remove the mat after sowing. In this way the seeds are on equal distances. More info about the mat in    tip 29   .


A2) Sowing tip 2: shove drop tray

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You can pick each seed using tweezers or between thumb and index finger and drop it in a mat hole. Or use such a useful “shove drop tray” (  tip 33)  ) .


A3) Sowing tip 3:  lowered big margarine box (450 grams)

In a big margarine box (450 grams), you can grow more plants; 24 in stead of 15.

  • Lower the box; cut the upper edge of the box.
  • Then the original lid or a transparent plastic box fits well over it, see below.

  • Here a lowered box is on an original lid.
  • The lid fits well on the box (see red/white arrow), and does not stuck.
  • There are narrow air slits between box and lid.

Below photos of using this lowered margarine box.

A transparent (mushroom package) box fits well over it.



When the plants are a little bigger, they push up the lid.


A4) Big lid, small lid

  • When you don’t have a fitting lid?
  • Then you can put on a “too big” or “too small” lid on.
  • Put it on “normally” or “upside down” or without little tab.
  • There must be an air opening between box and lid.


A5) Sowing dry pepper seeds

When sowing dry sweet pepper seeds, as described above, not all seeds turn into plants.

Photo above; in each box 15 dry seeds have been sown. In each box there are 8 to 14 little, well growing plants.

When you sow dry seeds in a few boxes, you will get several dozens of plants. Especially in big (margarine) boxes. You can put 2 seeds on each sowing spot.


A6) Germination test

To find out if the pepper seeds germinate well, you can do a test. Lay pepper seeds on moist toilet paper. More info in  tip 2)   , no  73.


A7) Putting lids under the box when too warm

Sweet pepper germinates well between 20 and 25 C (68 and 77 F). When the box with soil and seeds gets too warm, put 1 or 2 well fitting lids underneath the box. This lowers the temperature in the box.


A8) Not too dry? 

The sowing soil in the box is moist enough when there are water drops at the lower side of the lid (the seed on the photo was to focus the camera).


A9) Germinating pepper seeds not covered with soil (very illustrative)

Pepper seeds also germinate well when not covered with soil. Below some photos and a descriptions, very illustrative and educational. In shallow sowing holes (depth 0.5 centimeters (1/5 inch), the pepper seeds don’t dry out fast.

  • Remove the lid to check the germination.
  • No germination, put the lid on the box again.
  • After 10 to 15 days, many seeds have a small root.


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  • Cover the germinating seeds with a thin layer of sieved potting soil. Put the lid on the box. Continue germinating.


  • Or put a transparent box over the tray and let the plants grow bigger without potting soil  cover.
  • Put the whole at a warm, light spot.


A10) Two seeds per sowing hole

You can put 2 seeds in each sowing hole, so 48 seeds in 24 holes in a 450 grams margarine box.

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Not all seeds turn into sweet pepper plants.

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Lift the block of sowing soil and plants out of the box. This eases splitting of the “double” plants before transplanting.


B)# Transplanting

Replant the sweet pepper plants when they have 4 or more leaves.

Use compost or good potting soil as planting soil. In bad (cheap) potting soil the plants grow poorly. Mix 1 part of agricultural lime with 20 parts of soil to reduce the acidity of the planting soil.

Plant each pepper plant deep (up to the lower leaves) in the soil in the flower pot. The plants make deep roots then and will not fall over that easy.

Papr D

You can cut round or square or triangular plastic plates (washers) with a central hole and a slot. And put it around the stem of a yellow or orange or ….  pepper.

Put the flower pots indoors at a light, warm spot at about 20 C, (68 F). For example at a bedroom window at the sunny side of your house. At very sunny weather, put the plants away from the window (or put a piece of fly screen between window and plants); too much sun causes yellow leaves and slow growing.

I put my flower pots with small  pepper plants before an oblique attic window towards north west. The smallest plants at the back, the biggest ones at the front on the photo above. At very sunny weather there is a piece of fly screen before the window.


Remark 1 (insert):

kool in potjes inzet stripje 8a

Very useful, put each plant in a round flower pot and insert (top diameter of the flower pot is  about 7 centimeters (2    3/4  inch)). More info in tip 30.

Taking the plant out of the pot is very easy then;

paprika potje inzet 6

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Remark 2 (toppling):


Replant such a wiggling plant deeper in the soil and don’t add much water. More info on the internet;     here  and  here   .


C)# Pepper plants, taking out of flower pots and putting in a compost layer

papr A

Flower pots with sweet pepper plants. Peppers are 15 to 20 centimeters (6 to 8 inch) high. Big enough to replant in a tray with a layer of compost.

When needed, remove weed plants from the soil in the pot.


C1) Removing sweet pepper plants from flower pots

  • From flower pots with insert:

paprika potje inzet 6

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  • Take the insert with plant out of the flower pot.

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  • Take the plant with root ball from the insert.

This procedure is very convenient.


  • From flower pots without insert:

  • Put on gardening gloves,
  • Take the flower pot with plant,
  • Turn the whole upside down, with plant stem between 2 fingers,
  • Hit the bottom of the flower pot (with a garden trowel),
  • Take the pot from the root ball,
  • Turn the plant with root ball to the “normal” position.
  • The pepper plant can be replanted now.


C2) Replanting in a tray (in a layer of compost)

Replant the sweet pepper plants in a tray filled with a layer of compost. Mix agricultural lime though the compost to make the compost less acidic. Mix in a bucket and then fill the tray. Or add lime to the compost in the tray and mix.

Pepper plants grow much better (faster) in compost than in potting soil. Compost contains more nutrition.

Layer thickness of compost is 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inch). Distance between plants is about 15 centimeters (6 inch). Right after replanting, spray water on the compost layer.


C2a) In a shopping crate or a tray with bottom holes

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In a shopping crate there is place for about 10 plants in a layer of compost.

Or put plants in compost in a tray or small basket with holes in the bottom.


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I have the trays with pepper plants in a deep greenhouse by day. At cold weather or at night the trays are in a barn. Water the plants regularly. Excess water flows through slits or holes out of the trays.

Don’t have the sweet pepper plants in full sun; plants get yellow leaves.

Tomaten G

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Papr F

There is a white sheet slanting over the greenhouse to keep out the sun (but with enough light on the plants).


Papr G hangend laken

(when not in use, rain or drying, remove the front elastic cords and fasten them to 2 laths next to the rear elastic cords).


C2b) In a window box liner under a tunnel greenhouse

You can put sweet pepper plants in a window box liner with compost. Put the box liner under a tunnel greenhouse.

Put pepper plants in a box liner with 10 centimeters (4 inch) spacing.

Dig the liner box in the garden soil. Shove garden earth against the sides; the box is tight in the soil.

(You can put 1 box liner with tomato plants and 1 box liner with sweet pepper plants in the soil).

Put a tunnel greenhouse (see tip 13) over the “buried” window liner box. Put flat perspex plates at both ends of the tunnel to prevent draft over the plants. The plants can grow until about 20 centimeters (8 inch) high.

At warm sunny weather, you can put a piece of sheet over (against) the tunnel greenhouse. Add water when needed. Put the window box liners indoors (in a barn) at night or at cold weather.


After a few weeks, the pepper plants touch the tunnel. Deepen the hole for the liner box about 10 centimeters (4 inch). Put the liner box in the deepened hole. Shove some garden soil against the sides of the liner box.

Put a tunnel greenhouse over the liner box with pepper plants again. Put an end plate against 1 end of the tunnel. (with 2 end plates it’s too hot in there).

( On the photo above; the box liner with tomato plants has been removed; only the liner box with pepper plants are in the garden soil now).

End of May (late spring): tunnel removed. The liner box with big plants is deep in the garden soil.

End of May (late spring); big pepper plants in the liner.


D)# Planting in the garden soil

Put sweet pepper plants in the garden soil at early June (late spring). Below 20 C (68 F), pepper plants don’t grow fast.


Below photos and descriptions of unpruned pepper plants.

Loosen the garden soil, dig a hole, fill with compost and agricultural lime and mix.

Plant the pepper plant, put a stick next to it, fix using a strip and water the soil.

Twelve sweet pepper plants in the garden soil. The soil around the plants is deeper than the surrounding soil. Useful when watering the plants.

You better put a watering pot in the soil around each plant. More useful for watering. A watering pot is a bottomless, lowered plastic flower pot.


E)# In a mortar bucket

Below photos and descriptions of unpruned pepper plants.

You can grow sweet peppers in a mortar bucket (drill holes in the bottom), filled with 15 to 20 centimeters (6 to 8 inch) compost. More info in tip 2,  no 17.


E1) Support for big plants or branches with heavy peppers

Pepper plants can grow slanting. Branches with heavy peppers can break off. In   tip 2  there are tips to support plants and  the branches, nos 10,  17,  55.


F)# Seeds from ripe sweet peppers

In summer you can take seeds out of ripe sweet peppers and spread them on a piece of kitchen paper in a margarine box (write info on the paper). After 2 weeks of drying, put a lid on teh box (or another margarine box in the box). Sow these seeds next year.


G)# Removal (breaking off) of first flowers or flower buds

Below photos and descriptions of unpruned pepper plants.

End of May (mid spring); sweet pepper plants have flower buds, flowers and/or tiny peppers.

At each plant remove the first 5 to 10 “things” (flower buds, flowers,tiny peppers) that appear on the plant. This way the plant can grow larger first.

When the pepper plant is large, keep the buds, flowers and little fruits on the plant (don’t remove them). From that there are 3 (to 5) little peppers on the plant remove all next buds and flowers.

Let these 3 (to 5) peppers grow into big ones and harvest them later.


Plants with sweet peppers:

This happens when you don’t remove the first “things”; you end up with a small pepper plant with only 1 big fruit hanging on.


H)# Aphids

Pepper plants can be attacked by aphids due to cold air flow (draft) in the greenhouse or tunnel. Take care of only one air opening. Put a white sheet over the greenhouse against too high temperatures.

You could treat the leaves (using a small sponge soaked) with a methylated spirits/soap mixture. Or you can do nothing (not remove the aphids).

After a few weeks in the open air, the aphids have disappeared.


I)# Sweet pepper plants growing in the open air or in a greenhouse

You can put sweet pepper plants under a roof with side plastic. More info at tip   25) Plastic foil at the roof over peppers or tomatoes

Or in the open air when you live in a suitable climate.

During cold weather or cold nights, peppers can get dark spots (black, purple spots) or peppers can get dark completely.

My experience is that these “black” sweet peppers can be stored for a long time. But it takes long before these peppers turn into red or yellow or orange.


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During a long, dry, sunny summer peppers can get sun scald (burn marks).

You better put the plants close together in the garden soil. Then there is more shadow on the plants and less attack by this “plant disease”.

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Photos of other sweet peppers with sun scald. You can lay peppers (with “burn mark” up or aside) on moist kitchen paper to let ripen.


J)# Ripening and storing sweet peppers

Lay green (and ripe) sweet peppers in a tray on moist kitchen paper. Put plastic foil (with a narrow air opening) on the tray.Fix the foil with cloth pegs.

More info in tip  15) Storage tips..    .


K)# Small and big bell peppers (and lobes)

Most bell peppers have 4 lobes, occasionally 3 or 5. More info on the internet, for example  here   .  In each “slot” between 2 lobes, there is a seed diaphragm inside the pepper. Useful to know when preparing peppers for a meal.

You can grow small or big sweet peppers.

A super big sweet pepper grown in my garden

After 11 days of ripening on moist kitchen paper (and removal of a small piece of stem).

Below photos of preparing this pepper in the kitchen.

Sweet pepper material for cooking (or cutting and freezing).

Cut seed diaphragms, stem and green edges.

Moist sweet pepper seeds, to be dried, stored and used next year.


L)# Small snails on sweet peppers

This sweet peppers has been attacked by snails.

Such  a bell pepper will start rotting inside. You better prepare the peppers for a meal or to freeze.


M)# Overwintering pepper plants

You can prune pepper plants, take them out of the soil, put in a pot, overwinter and put in the garden soil after the winter. Never tried myself. This   Youtube video   shows how to do this.


N)# Growing egg plants (Aubergines)

You can grow egg plants on a similar way as sweet peppers.

Sow egg plant seeds in potting soil in a box. Let the plants grow big until they have 4 or more leaves.

Put each small plant deep in a flower pot with a mixture of compost, potting soil and agricultural lime. Let the plants grow bigger indoors before a window. Take the large plants (15 to 20 centimeters, 6 to 8 inch) out of the pots and put them in a box in a layer of compost.


Put each big plant in the garden soil at the beginning of June (late spring).

Let 1 to 3 fruits grow at each plant. Remove the remaining flowers and small fruits. Many (unfertilized) flowers fall off the plant. Also remove suckers in the leaf axils. This photo show plants with fruits at mid September (end of summer).


2 thoughts on “9) Growing sweet peppers”

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