Ghost peppers are an extremely hot pepper variety that are great for people who love a thrill. They’re relatively easy to grow as long as they get plenty of sun and warm weather. You can encourage the production of good peppers in about 100-120 days by fertilizing the soil and watering the pepper plants frequently. Use gloves and goggles when harvesting them–these peppers are so spicy they can burn bare skin!
EditPreparing the Soil
- Choose well-draining soil. If you’re planting pepper plants in the ground, pick an area that is free of any muddy areas or pools of water. On the other hand, the soil should not be completely dry, either. If your soil does not drain well, the easiest option is to grow your ghost peppers in planters filled with potting soil. To test how well your soil drains:
- Take a coffee can and remove its top and bottom.
- Dig a hole deep into your soil.
- Set the coffee can in the hole. Fill in any extra space around it with soil.
- Pour water into the can until it fills up.
- Wait an hour, then come back and measure how far down the water has dropped in the can, using a ruler.
- If or more of water has drained out within the hour, then your soil drains well.
- Check your soil’s pH. Peppers thrive in slightly acidic to neutral soil that has a pH between 6.2 and 7.0. Buy a soil pH testing kit from any garden store. You can use either a digital probe or paper strips. Just follow the instructions included with your kit for proper use.
- You can add pulverized limestone to your soil if it is too acidic. Usually, you can apply per square. If you’re working with a small area, just lightly sprinkle a bit on your soil.
- If your soil is too alkaline (with a pH above 7.0), then you can add soil sulfur by lightly sprinkling some where you want to grow your peppers. Some gardeners will place 2-3 unlit matches in the soil per plant instead (match heads contain sulfur).
- Pulverized limestone and soil sulfur can be found at garden stores. Follow the package directions for exact instructions on how to mix them into your soil.
- Choose a location that gets at least 6 hours of sun per day. Peppers need lots of warmth and light to grow well. If you have plants in containers, you can move them around during the day to ensure they get as much sun as possible.
- If there is ever a danger of frost, you’ll need to cover the plants with a frost blanket.
- Add compost and bone and blood meal if you’re planting in the ground. Dump a layer of compost about thick on top of the soil where you want to plant your peppers. Use a spade to mix it into the first layer of soil. Add some bone and blood meal to the soil to make it even richer.
- Blood and bone meal are available at garden stores. Just follow the package directions for instructions on how much to use.
- If you are planting your peppers in containers, just use a good quality loamy soil mix.
EditGerminating Your Seeds
- Soak your pepper seeds in water for at least 8 hours. Place the seeds in a cup of water and place the cup in the fridge overnight. The wet and cold conditions will help jumpstart your seeds so they germinate faster.
- If any of the seeds float to the top of the water, throw them away. You only want to germinate seeds that sink in the container.
- You can also grow ghost peppers from seedlings, but these may be harder to find than seeds.
- Start your seeds in peat pods 6 to 10 weeks before the last frost. Plant them in small seedling containers or peat pods. Push the seeds down into the soil and cover them up.
- If you’re using peat pods, wet them until they swell up. Then push your seeds just below the surface.
- If you’re using seedling containers, fill them with soil and then cover the seeds.
- Place 2-3 seeds per pod or container. You can thin the seedlings later if all of them sprout.
- Water your seeds. Keep the seeds moist while waiting for them to germinate. If you planted them in peat pods, they’ll stay moist for a while. If you’re using seedling containers, lightly mist them with water until the soil is thoroughly wet.
- Lightly cover the pods or containers with plastic wrap to help the pots retain moisture.
- Water whenever necessary to keep the pods/soil moist.
- Keep the seeds warm. Look for a warm, bright spot to place your pods or containers in, such as on top of your fridge or in a sunny window. Keeping them there will encourage your seeds to germinate.
- Wait about a week and a half for your peppers to germinate. Look for tiny green sprouts to pop out of the soil or peat pod once the seeds have germinated. If conditions are right, this should only take about 11 days.
- Let the seedlings grow. Leave the seedlings in the pods until they are about tall. At this point, they’ll probably have 3 or more leaves.
- Continue to keep the soil/pod moist, but not soaked, while your seedlings grow.
EditPlanting the Seedlings
- Plant seedlings in the ground in areas that are warm most of the year. Ghost peppers thrive in a warm, humid environment where the temperature is or higher for at least 5 months out of the year. If you’re worried about colder temperatures, plant the seedlings in pots or raised soil beds so the soil they’re in stays warmer.
- Thin the seedlings by plucking the weak ones. If any of your plants are withered, diseased, or browned, pull them out of the soil. That way, there will be more room for healthy plants to grow.
- Move your seedlings to containers or into the ground. If you’re going to plant the seedlings outside, acclimate them over a 10 day period by moving them outside for a few hours a day. Leave them outside for one hour longer each day. To plant the seedlings, dig a small hole in the soil just larger than the seed pod. Place it in the hole and pack extra soil in the space around it. Water it well when you’re done.
- A pot will be fine for a pepper seedling at first. If you are putting your seedlings in the ground, just space them apart.
- You can move your plants into larger containers later on if the original container becomes too small.
- Water your plants frequently. Ghost peppers need soil that is always slightly damp, but not soaked through. Water as often as you need to keep it in this condition. The exact frequency will depend on your location and the weather conditions.
- For best results, water in early morning or after the sun starts to set.
- Add a layer of mulch around the plants to help the soil retain moisture.
- Add fish and kelp fertilizer to help the pepper plants to grow. You can find this at your local garden store. Mix the fertilizer according to the package instructions, then add it to the soil around your plants. Fish and kelp fertilizer is a great organic option for nurturing your pepper plants.
- Switch to phosphorus-potassium fertilizer to encourage pepper growth. When you start to see flowers (which will be small, light colored, and have pointed petals) on your plants, switch to a fertilizer with higher phosphorus and potassium content to help encourage pepper production.
- Look for a fertilizer that is labeled 20-20-20. These numbers refer to the proportions of the minerals nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
- Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers, since these will cause the flowers to fall off, and you plant will not produce peppers.
- You can find good options for organic fertilizers at most garden stores.
EditHarvesting Your Peppers
- Keep an eye out for pests or other problems. Ghost peppers are so spicy that few bugs pose a problem, but some slugs may bother your plants. If you see chewed on leaves, sprinkle diatomaceous earth (available at a garden store) around the base of your plants.
- Occasionally, aphids, pill bugs, or leafminers will bother ghost pepper plants, but this is very rare. If they do appear, ask your local garden supply store for a good quality organic insecticide.
- If you see spots on your plants’ leaves, this is probably a fungus that thrives in damp soil conditions. Back off on watering your plants to discourage the fungus.
- Watch for peppers to emerge. Ghost peppers will start out green, then become orange, finally a brilliant red. The exact amount of time it takes for peppers to appear on your plants will vary depending on how warm your area is.
- Let your peppers mature until they are about finger-sized. In most cases, expect it to take 100 to 120 days for ghost peppers to reach full size. The peppers will be to long when full grown. The peppers become hotter the longer they stay on the plant.
- Wear protective clothing when handling your peppers. Ghost peppers are extremely spicy and can burn bare skin. Wear gloves, long sleeves, and goggles when you are harvesting the peppers. Clip the stems carefully instead of yanking peppers from the plants. Don’t let cut peppers touch your bare skin. Keep children away from the peppers.
EditThings You’ll Need
- Ghost pepper seeds
- Peat pods
- A spade
- A small cup
- Plant containers (optional)
- Frost blanket (optional)
- Blood meal
- Bone meal
- Diatomaceous earth (optional)
- Organic insecticide (optional)