Sweet peppers are easy to grow yourself. While large bell peppers are most commonly grown, you can venture into new pepper-growing territory by choosing from a range of varieties.
All sweet peppers come from the species Capsicum annum, which is the same species as most commonly grown chillies. Ultimately, chillies and peppers are grown in the same way, so if you can grow chillies, you should have no problem growing pepper.
How to grow peppers
Grow peppers in moist but well-drained soil in a warm, sunny spot, ideally under cover such as in a greenhouse. Peppers need a long season to grow, so it’s best to sow seed as early as January in moist, peat-free multi-purpose compost, and keep in a heated propagator under a growing light, to prevent seedlings going leggy (sow seed in March if you don’t have a heated propagator). Pot on into individual pots when the first true leaves appear. Keep potting on if growing in pots or plant out into the greenhouse when night temperatures exceed 10ºC – ensure the soil or compost is free-draining. Feed weekly with a high potash fertiliser once plants have started flowering, and harvest peppers as and when they ripen.
More on growing peppers:
Find detailed advice on sowing, growing and harvesting peppers, below.
How to sow pepper seed
Sow pepper seed indoors as early as January if you have a heated propagator, or from March if you don’t. Transplant seedlings into individual 7.5cm pots, when the first true leaves appear. Eventually, plant into the ground or individually in 30cm pots of peat-free, multi-purpose compost. If growing your peppers outside, wait until all risk of frost has passed before moving them to their final growing positions.
How to care for peppers
Once planted out, peppers require very little attention. Pinch out the growing tips when plants are about 20cm tall to encourage bushy growth. Tall varieties may need staking.
Water your pepper plants little and often. As soon as the first flowers appear, feed weekly with a high-potash liquid fertiliser such as tomato feed.
In hot weather, mist pepper plants to increase humidity and deter red spider mites.
Peppers are ready to pick from late summer. Pick them when they’re green or leave them to ripen (most varieties ripen to red or yellow), to develop a sweeter flavour. Keep feeding plants with a high potash fertiliser to promote fresh flower growth (and therefore more peppers).
Preparing and cooking peppers
To prepare a sweet pepper, remove the seeds and stalk. Slice to eat raw in salads, or add to ratatouille and stir-fries.
How to store peppers
Sweet peppers are best eaten fresh. They will store for a few days in the fridge. If you have a glut of peppers, you can use them in chutneys or soups and sauces, which can then be frozen.
Growing peppers: problem solving
Protect young plants from slugs and snails. Watch out for blossom-end rot and grey mould. These are caused by erratic watering so make sure you water consistently. Red spider mite can be prevented by regular misting, while a soapy spray should despatch whitefly.
Pepper varieties to try
- ‘Carnival Mix’ – large quantities of good-sized, succulent red, orange, yellow, green and purple-black fruits
- ‘Gypsy’ – produces lots of sweet, well-flavoured fruits that turn orange to red on maturity. Will fruit outdoors
- ‘Mohawk’ – a strong grower that produces plenty of small, sweet green fruits that ripen to orange
- ‘Sweet Banana’ – a banana-shaped variety with yellow fruit that matures to green. Gentle spicy flavour. Best grow in a greenhouse.