This article is about jalapeno plant care and it touches on all aspects of growing and caring for a jalapeno chili. The jalapeno pepper is one of the easiest and fastest-growing peppers that you can have in your home.
It is also one of the mildly hot peppers with approximately 2,000 to 8,000 SHU Scoville Heat Units hence popular in salsa, salads, and Mexican food.
The jalapeno plant stages are seedling stage (0 to 3 weeks), adolescent stage (3 to 4 weeks), growth stage (4 to 8 weeks), maturation stage (2 to 4 months), flowering/blooming stage, and fruiting stage. This pepper grows to a height of about 2 to 2.5 feet and 1 to 1.5 feet wide.
Other names for a jalapeno pepper include; Huachinango, Chipotle chilies (smoked Jalapeno peppers), Chile Gordo, and Cuaresmeno.
Growing Jalapeno indoors
Growing jalapenos in pots is easy and should you choose to start your jalapeno pepper plant from seeds, it’s good to start the process in the late winter.
First, purchase a packet of jalapeno pepper seeds from a Home Depot or your local nursery and germinate the seeds. But before you place the seeds in the soil, make sure that you meet the ideal growing environment and time.
Plant 2 to 3 seeds of jalapeno at a depth of about ½ cm in seed trays filled with a pre-moistured seed starter soil and cover lightly with soil. You should do this indoors and at about eight to 10 weeks before your last frost date. This gives the plants enough time to grow and mature before the end of the growing season. It also helps at maximizing yields.
Depending on the age and condition of the seeds, and the soil condition, it will take approximately 2 to 3 weeks for your jalapeno seeds to germinate. Once they have sprouted, place the seedling trays in a sunny spot and use grow lights whenever necessary to give your jalapeno seedlings at least 12 to 16 hours of light a day.
Transplant your seedlings to slightly larger pots 2 to 3 weeks after sprouting. Leave them to grow for a few more weeks then transfer them to final pots.
Tips on Jalapeno Plant Care Indoors
1. Use a suitable potting mix for growing jalapeno
Jalapeno peppers do best in well-drained, neutral-ph, sandy-loamy soil enriched with organic matter. Moreover, the soil/potting mix must be warm, rich in plant nutrients and, free of herbicides and contaminants.
Therefore, should you go for a ready-made potting mix, check that it’s a good draining balanced organic potting mix with perlite for improved drainage. Alternatively, prepare a homemade potting mix for your jalapenos.
To do this, you need to purchase some fine-grade fir bark (usually marketed as fine orchid bark) at your local garden center and mix it with regular potting soil. The bark lessens soil compaction and promotes air circulation while the soil retains moisture.
In addition to this, add other elements like vermiculite or perlite to aid in soil aeration and drainage, crushed eggshells or limestone to neutralize the acidity from the bark, and provide your jalapeno plants with calcium and, compost material to add important nutrients such as potassium and nitrogen into the soil.
Pro Tip: Make sure the bark is of fine grade such that the seedlings emerge easily and there is free airflow.
2. Expose your jalapeno pepper plants to enough light
Jalapenos are tropical native plants and therefore are well suited to hot weather/ places that receive full sun. Although jalapeno peppers can tolerate partial shade conditions, it is paramount to provide your jalapeno seedlings with at least 12 hours of direct sunlight a day.
On the other side, the maturing jalapeno plants require at least 8-10 hours of sunlight a day.
However, too much direct sunlight on jalapeno might lead to air temperatures above 90 degrees Celcius and this isn’t good for your jalapenos. The leaves may provide a nice fruit cover but, the possibility of a sunscald jalapeno pepper plant is high.
Once scorched, the fruits get woody and eventually split and crack leading to dry and sunken areas. The split areas allow the passage of fungi and bacteria into the peppers. So, cover your jalapenos with a shade cloth, or grow your jalapenos together with tall tomato plants or pole beans to protect them from the sun. if you experience too hot summers.
Alternatively, use organic mulch around the plants. This prevents the ground from overheating hence protects your jalapenos from heat damage.
You can also fertilize your jalapenos heavily in the spring such that the plant produces fruits before the hot summer kicks in.
3. Water your jalapenos
How often you water your potted jalapeno plants is determined by the weather conditions and the pot size. Jalapeno plants need lots of water hence you should keep the potting mix/soil moist at all times.
That’s why we recommend that you water your jalapenos whenever the top of the soil/ potting mix feels dry and daily during the long hot days in summer. But, water your jalapenos every two to three days when the weather cools down.
Jalapenos hate mushy spaces so, be careful not to overwater them as this might lead to problems such as droopy-yellow leaves and stunted growth. Too much water also lowers the soil/potting mix temperature and this makes it difficult for jalapenos to grow and produce fruits. It can also lead to fungal infections and root rot.
Even though we’ve advised on keeping the soil/ potting mix moist, it doesn’t hurt to expose your jalapenos to a few dry spells and allowing them to slightly wilt before watering. This might help the jalapeno plant produce hotter peppers with higher heat levels and more flavor.
4. Apply fertilizer
With a high-quality potting mix/soil your jalapenos don’t need fertilizer up to about two weeks after planting after which they need feeding or their growth will start to slow down.
Start feeding your jalapenos with a timed slow-release fertilizer during watering as you follow directions on the leaflet and as per the size of the pot. Do this until the plants start to flower. As soon as your jalapenos begin to flower, change the fertilizer to a high potassium blend (most tomato fertilizers have this characteristic)
If you grow your jalapenos organically and once the plants start to flower, use a combination of bone and kelp meal, fish emulsion and, green sand (best plant food for chilies) to get similar effects to those of high potassium fertilizer. Increase the feedings as the plants become bigger and keep feeding up to about 2 weeks to harvesting.
5. Prune your jalapenos
Pruning is one of the most important maintenance practices in jalapeno plant care. First identify your cutting points like dead or diseased plant parts, a cut just above the leaf node on a stem, or a cut close to the stem.
Then use a sterilized knife or pruning shear to carefully make the cuts without causing damage to your plants. Sterilization helps prevent the spread of pests and diseases to healthy plant parts.
Correct trimming of jalapenos helps to improve plant health, increase yield and improve branching. After you are through, collect the trimmings in a trash can and dispose of them to avoid the spread of pests and diseases.
Caution: When pruning your jalapeno plants use rubber gloves as the capsaicin in peppers can get on your hands and cause irritation or harm your eyes upon touch.
6. Plant Other Crops Next to Jalapeno Chili (companion planting)
Companion planting is a simple organic way of giving your plants a boost by growing other crops next to what you are growing. Several benefits come with companion planting including; attracting beneficial insects and getting rid of the harmful ones, improving flavor and, attracting natural predators among others.
So, consider planting crops such as marigolds and chamomile to improve the overall health of your jalapenos or, basil to improve the flavor of the peppers. You can also grow vegetables such as cucumbers, eggplant, carrots, and asparagus with jalapenos. Tomatoes are also good companion plants to jalapeno as they share similar growing conditions.
Additionally, some beneficial herbs go well with jalapeno peppers including; oregano, dill, parsley, garlic, chives and, cilantro.
However, there are crops that you should never plant next to jalapeno peppers. These include; beans, peas, and any crop in the brassica family e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kales, kohlrabi, and Brussel sprouts among others.
7. Protect your jalapeno pepper plants from pests and diseases
Aphids attack the jalapeno chili early in the season and they suck sap from the young tender shoots resulting in distorted leaves and shoots. Indoor-grown jalapenos are more susceptible to aphid attack.
To control aphids, either rub them with fingers (works when the pest population is low) or, spray the plants with an insecticide when the pest population is high. If the infestation is severe you should consider getting rid of the whole plant so that you don’t risk spreading aphid to other plants.
Alternatively, look for ways to get rid of aphids naturally as this is both effective and environmentally friendly.
Whiteflies are tiny insects with broad wings that fly when the plant is disturbed. These white bugs suck sap from the plant’s leaves, causing the leaves to wilt, turn yellow and drop. Whiteflies also secrete honeydew on the leaves resulting in black sooty mold.
Although it’s difficult to control whiteflies, spraying the plants with a vegetable insect spray coupled with good cultural practices such as pruning and weeding helps keep these white bugs off your plants.
This disease is caused by the fungus Leveillula taurica. Powdery mildew affects the leaves of a pepper plant during warm and wet conditions.
Although this disease commonly affects the older leaves (just before or at fruit set) it can also develop at any stage of crop development.
Symptoms of powdery mildew in jalapeno include white, patchy, powdery growth on the lower side of the leaves. Over time, the patch enlarges and covers the entire leaf surface. Eventually, the infected leaves drop, leaving the pods exposed to the sun.
To control powdery mildew, spray the plants with a Sulphur and potassium bicarbonate-based fungicide.
Damping-off in jalapenos is caused by several factors including; high salt concentrations, poor seed quality, severe nutrient deficiencies, improper planting depth, and soggy soils. Fungi such as Fusarium, Pythium, and Rhizoctonia also cause this problem.
Seedlings fail to emerge (pre-emergence damping-off), small seedlings collapse (post-emergence damping-off), or seedlings are stunted (root rot and collar rot).
Symptoms of this problem include; seedlings fail to emerge, the collapse of already emerged seedlings, and seedlings have stunted growth.
To control damping-off, plant vigorous transplants or high-quality seeds, and use well-drained soil. Also, ensure that there is good aeration to reduce the surface moisture. Or, spray the plants with a copper-based fungicide.
Harvest mature jalapeno peppers
When your jalapenos are deep green, firm to the touch, corky (small white lines on the pepper’s skin), and 3 to 5 inches long, they are ready for harvesting.
Picking your jalapeno when it’s deep green gives you crunchy and crispy peppers perfect for pickling. But, you can still harvest your peppers when they have ripened (red) especially for use in salsa as they are hotter and sweeter.
Harvesting jalapenos is easy. Once you have identified the ripe peppers as per your preference, hold the branch with one hand and using the other hand pull the peppers upwards. Alternatively, use a pruning shear or a sharp pair of scissors to avoid any tearing or twisting.
After harvesting your jalapenos, you can eat them fresh, pickle them, share with friends or store them in a frozen or dehydrated form.
Bonus Tip: Common Problems in Jalapeno Plant Care
Jalapenos not hot
There are several reasons why your jalapenos are not hot. These include; insufficient light, variety, improper soil/potting mix, poor cultivation practices like fertilizing with too much nitrogen and too much water.
Jalapeno flowers/blossoms falling off
Your jalapeno flowers could be falling off due to; A sudden shift from hot spell to cool temperatures, exposure to hot and dry wind, and too much or too little soil moisture.
Other reasons why the flowers are falling off include; too much or too little nitrogen in the soil, poor pollination, too little potassium, or phosphorus in the soil, bugs, and wilts.
Jalapeno pepper not blooming
Incorrect temperature (too hot or too cold) is the main cause of jalapeno pepper not blooming.
Other causes of your jalapeno not blooming are too much nitrogen, insufficient light, and calcium deficiency.
Yellow leaves on jalapeno pepper plant
Too little water and lack of soil nutrients are the main causes of yellow leaves on jalapeno chili plant. Diseases such as phytophthora blight, bacterial leaf spots, and wilt also result in this problem.
Moreover, pests such as aphids and mites feed on the sap from the plant’s leaves and the affected leaves start yellowing.
Wilting and dying jalapenos
Reasons for a wilting and dying jalapeno plant are several but the main ones are; lack of water, exposure to too hot sun, and fungal infections such as wilts.
As you have seen, jalapeno plant care is easy. You just need to ensure that you give your jalapenos the appropriate growing conditions.
For example, exposing your jalapeno seedlings to at least 12 hours of sunlight and maturing ones to at least 8 hours of sunlight a day, trimming, proper watering, feeding, and harvesting among others.
Also, you have seen the common problems in growing jalapenos like wilting jalapeno plants, yellowing leaves, and jalapeno blooms falling off among others, and how to correct them.
All the necessary information on growing and caring for the jalapeno pepper plant is therefore at your fingertips. It’s now your time to grow and enjoy healthy jalapenos.
Any thoughts? Let us know in the comments.