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Crowding Peppers

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Hey, I think the Maui Purple Peppers I've kept going in a pot for about 12 years are looking a little peaked. What do you think I could do to fix 'em? lol

No, I've kept these going in the same soil for all that time, giving them a little MiracleGro about twice a year. Toward the end of the 2009 season they were looking kind of stunted and ratty, not at all like they used to be. I think salts or something from the fertilizer eventually builds up to toxic levels if the same soil is used too long. So, I didn't bring the pot in this winter - I just left it out on our patio (where it's now about 10 degrees).

I saved plenty of seeds, and I'll put new soil in that pot and re-plant in the spring.

The point I wanted to make is how pepper plants like to be crowded together, as we were discussing in another thread. Now that the leaves are mostly off, you can see there were at least a dozen plants in that pot - and they've thrived that way for years. They like it.

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Central, ME(Zone 5a)

That's a very interesting thing you've done.
I never would have guessed you could grow more than one plant to a pot. It would be a great solution for someone to have a few hot peppers and not use a lot of space. ( I guess I am assuming they are hot by the size of the ones remaining in your pic).
Have you tried any other varieties of peppers? Is the Maui an ornamental, or just a smaller pepper variety?

Moss Point, MS(Zone 8b)

I've grown several varieties in pots with several plants. My Largo Purple bears heavy crops of the 3/4" fruits with little fertilizer. The larger bells and some hybrids seem to need a lot more fert to make a good crop. I think this might have something to do with the small ones being closer to wild peppers. The small fruited ones seem to do with dry conditions better than the larger but they all love water.

Peppers make excellent container plants. I hear they can be pruned and shaped like you would a shrub but I always let mine do as they will.

I had six pots in the greenhouse that are frozen to the ground. I sure hope they come back out in the spring. If not, they'll be just like wintersown as Ozarks appear to be.

Helena, MT

This is an interesting thought...treating pepper plants as perenials. I've heard of bringing them indoors during the winter months, but never leaving them outside to freeze. Our winters here are pretty sever and typically reach the minus digits which is tough on a lot of perenials. I would like to try some of your methods for some potted hot peppers, which I could store inside a garage with winter time ambient temperatures of 40 to 50 degrees F. If dormancy is necessary for the plants to revive in the spring there might be other options. Any suggestions?

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

"I think this might have something to do with the small ones being closer to wild peppers."

I think that's exactly right - the Maui Purple Pepper is a wild plant, native to Maui. Here's a picture of that pot from a few years ago when it was indoors for the winter.

Maui Purple Pepper is a real pretty plant. The leaves are dark green with purple highlights, the blooms are light purple and they self-pollinate, and the peppers change from green to purple to red. The peppers are elongated, about 1 1/2" long, and yes, they're hotter than all get-out. Along with being hot they have a good flavor, and I use just nine of the little peppers to put the "heat" in 1/2 gallon of hot garden salsa.

In a warmer climate, I think this pepper must be a true perennial. It most always has blooms and peppers in all stages on it in all seasons, so that makes it real handy when we need hot peppers for cooking. I'm looking forward to getting it going again.

FREE SEED OFFER: I saved lots of seeds before I let these freeze, and I've got enough to share with about a half-dozen people. First come, first served, and I'll post here when I can't share any more seeds. If you want some, send a S.A.S.E. with "peppers" written on it to: Sam Wammack, P.O. Box 111, Ozark, MO 65721. I'll send you a couple of dried peppers, just break 'em open and the seeds are inside.

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Central, ME(Zone 5a)

Thanks for the offer, Sam.
This definitely looks like something I would like to try. I'll get an envelope out to you.
I am primarily a veggie grower so is there something you are looking for or like to grow that I can send you seeds for new variety to try?
BTW, I was born in Mo. so I have a soft spot for the place. LOL I hope the extreme cold does not linger too long for you.

Moss Point, MS(Zone 8b)

I've got Purple Maui seeds to grow your grand plants. My trade partner said she got them from you. I'm really looking forward to them.

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Thanks everyone, but I've got all the seeds I need, and more.

Yeah, it's 2 degrees right now going down to 7 below tonight. The Mississippi River is frozen, for the first time in 30+ years, they say. I went out in the snow today and barbecued a whole bunch of hamburgers and brats to get us through the cold spell - I won't let a little weather bother me. lol

Virginia Beach, VA(Zone 7b)

In some of my 4 x 4 raised beds I would like to put 5 pepper plants.
4 in each corner and 1 in the middle. Do you think that's too many?

Virginia Beach, VA(Zone 7b)

oops, I meant 1 in each corner.

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

zinniared - I think that's fine, MORE than far enough apart actually. In a 4' x 4' bed you could probably plant 9 - one at each corner, one halfway along each side, and one square in the middle. That'd be exactly 2' between each plant and I've been planting big full-size peppers like Carmen and Gypsy 18" apart. You'll have more room to work with them if you only plant 5 in there, though.

Helena, MT

Sam, can we jack this up a bit. I'm still trying to get my head around that pic of yours here at the beginning of the thread. You are leaving potted pepper plants set outside throught the winter and they come back next spring??? I am still puzzled by that.

MIssion Valley, TX(Zone 9a)

I used to live in southern Missouri...I moved almost
exactly 1000 miles south. The other day I went
into my barn where I put my potted peppers during
"cold spells", and was about to empty an old six gallon
bucket that was full of rainwater from a roof leak I can't
get at.

And the bucket, inside the barn, was 1/3 solid ice. I
am 30 minutes from the Gulf. That same freeze
killed hardy peppers I have had alive in a sheilded area
outside for 5 years.

But you're right: I can't STOP my potted peppers from

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Sam, can we jack this up a bit. I'm still trying to get my head around that pic of yours here at the beginning of the thread. You are leaving potted pepper plants set outside throught the winter and they come back next spring??? I am still puzzled by that.

Ha. No, I probably didn't explain clearly enough. I was just fooling around, posting a picture of the frozen pepper plants.

I've kept the pot of Maui Purple Peppers going for 12 years or so by growing them on the patio during the warm months and bringing them inside for the winter - WELL before any frost.

This fall, when it was time to bring them in, I wasn't satisfied with the way they looked. They'd been stunted and peaked-looking all season, and I think it's because they've been in the same soil with fertilizer being added for so many years. A diet of nothing but MiracleGro probably built up salts in that soil, in time.

So I decided to pick a bunch of peppers for seeds and leave the pot out on the patio this winter. I let 'em freeze to death. In the spring I'll put new potting soil in the pot, and re-plant with the seeds I've saved.

Actually, with the way they constantly drop peppers onto the soil, I BET I could leave that pot alone and a bunch of new plants would come up from seed in the spring. But I'm going to change the soil and replant.

Hey, Morgan - thanks for the hot pepper seeds and fishing jigs. I mailed the envelope back to you yesterday, and I'm going to try and catch a walleye Sunday on those FINE-looking Morgan's Raiders.

Helena, MT

Welcome Sam...How about a hot tip for walleye fishing with these...Preperation H, I AM NOT KIDDING EITHER!!! Let me know what works for you Sam...many more where those came from.

Thanks for sending the seed and clearing up the potted pepper mystery. Have you tried using compost tea instead of MG on your plants? docgripe has got me thinking about this instead of jump starting with MG, which some people consider akin to using herbicides and pesticides on your garden plants. I have worked up my own version of a recipe which I think will be worth trying this spring.

Blanket, TX(Zone 7b)

this is an interesting thread. I am new to gardening (this is my second year) and I've had great success with sweet peppers. This year I tried an experiment, covering some plants with large trash cans before the first freeze to see if their roots will survive. Have any of you tried this? keeping them alive outdoors?

I'm also interested in the yields and size you get from crowding bells and other sweet peppers. Sounds like they are just as productive as ever, just maybe need more food. Is that right?



Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

"I'm also interested in the yields and size you get from crowding bells and other sweet peppers."

I never have great yields from bell peppers, no matter what I do. I've been real successful, though, in planting non-bell hybrid sweet peppers (especially Gypsy, but 6 other varieties too) 18" apart.

It happened that in both years I've done this we had ridiculous amounts of rainfall - two and three times normal. The pepper row on the low end of my garden was standing in a puddle much of the season, and I got enormous yields of peppers.

I'm going to keep planting these peppers 18" apart and giving them lots and lots of water, even in drier years. If that's what they like, that's what they're gonna get.

Helena, MT

Got the pepper seeds...Thanks Sam. Lures too. Your crystal ball lures would make good spring time trout lures. I am going to start a few seeds here shortly and pot up to a 2.5 gallon pot for the deck when it warms up enough to place them outside, Something you might consider Tina. There is a DG memeber...twiggybuds (Dorthy) who does a variety of plants in pots. Her methods are somewhat unique since she gardens from a wheelchair. She is my idea of a real life Wonderwoman. I have had good success with a few hot peppers grown this way in the past. My only problem with indoor hot pepper plants are those nasty little green aphids. I have tried various means to defeat them, and have a few more ideas yet to try, but if they get a jump start on my pepper plants they will soon migrate to the wife's indoor plants. And you can guess what that leads to!


Blanket, TX(Zone 7b)

Thanks Ozark and Morgan for your help. After planting quite a few different varieties (all bought as plants), I've found that emerald giants just produce like crazy for me. This year, I bought seeds so that I could afford to try some additional ones to see if I can find other colors that will be worth their space. Since I am starting my own seeds, I might try some in a container, just to see how it goes.

I will add Gypsy to the list, I've seen ya'll talk about that one before. We also use a lot of Anaheims and they have done well here too.
We like Bells because we love stuffed peppers. The price of those, and of onions, are what finally got me to stop reading about gardening and start doing it. Of course, doing is vastly different and so I am getting a good education. :-)


Helena, MT

Tina, one dolla for one green bell pepper here. Would you beleive it! Tomatoes and onions are the same. Our produce this time of year comes from Southern California and Mexico. Even in the summer the grocery store produce tastes nothing like fresh garden grown.

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Here's the pot from the top of this thread, all replanted with Maui Purple Peppers now.

After a long cold winter, I emptied the pot, filled it with MiracleGro Potting Mix, brought it inside, and transplanted nine pepper plants into it - so they're crowded the way they like.

These were planted with my other pepper seedlings in egg cartons, and I only planted three cells with M.P.P.'s - three seeds in each. They all sprouted, and when I transplanted my other seedlings into 3" cells and kept them under lights, I just put the M.P.P.'s in the pot where they'll be growing. Being a wild perennial from Maui, they're real hardy and prolific - they're thriving. I'm real glad to have these going again, and it won't be long until they're adding the "heat" to my salsa, as that pot has done for about 12 years.

Again, I've got plenty of Maui Purple Pepper seeds, free, if anybody wants. Let me know.

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Raeford, NC

I have a pot just like that several in fact I plant in. Just can't imagine putting 9 pepper plants in it.Actually got the pots because I plant in my side yard and thought the neighbors might like the look better. Do the strawbales too. deanna

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

"Just can't imagine putting 9 pepper plants in it."

If it was a regular pepper variety, a bell, a Gypsy, or something - I wouldn't either. I'd put ONE such plant in a pot that size.

But the Maui Purple Pepper is a small, wild ornamental. I grew some of them in the garden years ago and at the end of the season I dug one plant up, put it in that pot, and brought it inside. After that it just reseeded itself from peppers dropped on the soil, by the dozens. Over the years I found they looked and did best when there were about 9-12 plants in the pot.

I think other pepper varieties prefer some crowding too, though. I space my other pepper plants 18" apart in a garden row with a soaker hose running the length of it. I get the best production that way, and they seem to like leaning on each other.

Mulberry, FL

I overwintered some peppers like that had peter and another hot mix had them growing in pots put them in green house for the winter. One of them had peppers on it when I took it out

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

An update. Here's the same pot of Maui Purple Peppers that I left outside to freeze last winter after saving seeds.

They really liked my dumping the old soil and replanting in MiracleGro Potting Mix. They've been thriving all summer, and of course I'll bring the pot inside before frost.

This particular small pepper, a wild plant from Maui, likes being crowded with nine plants in one pot. I like these because once they get going the plants always have peppers on in all stages - purple blooms, green peppers, purple peppers, and red peppers. They're super-hot but with a good flavor, and they're the only hot pepper I need to grow. A little goes a long ways, so anytime I need some "heat" in a dish they're always available year round.

They're real pretty too, huh?

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Virginia Beach, VA(Zone 7b)

Pretty plants Ozark.

Mulberry, FL

Very pretty! I have black pearl pepper growing this year they have the verigated looking leaves also hit me up late in the fall and we can swap pepper seeds

Virginia Beach, VA(Zone 7b)

I got some Maui Purple seeds in Heather's tomato & pepper exchange.
Going to plant them just like yours Ozark. 9 plants in a big pot. Hope
it comes out as nice.

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Here's that same pot with the same plants now. Instead of being out in the snow like last winter, now they're looking out at the snow through a window.

A few weeks ago I ordered some "Algoflash" liquid fertilizer from Park Seeds, and It's great stuff. I've been mixing a capful in each gallon of water for the indoor plants, and watering with that.

These Maui Purple Peppers are a foot taller than they've ever been, and they're blooming and setting on peppers like crazy.

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Cayos Cochinos, Honduras(Zone 11)

As far as crowding peppers goes, we have had Habaneros growing annually on a terraced plot for about 4 years now. Every year, the area has more new peppers sprouted and the old ones getting larger. We have peppers galore and make delicious hot sauce weekly. They are crowding themselves, but they seem happy. Should they at least be pruned?

This year I've started nearly 20 sweet green peppers. 6 of them have had their lives literally cut short by crabs. I have since learned my lesson and have their pots on a table. When I plant the rest (about 12) I'm curious as to whether or not they will enjoy crowding as well, and curious as to whether or not they will be perennials. I don't see why they'd die during the rainy season, if the habaneros do not.

Once I get a camera I'll snap some photos of the habanero jungle.

Virginia Beach, VA(Zone 7b)

My mother is from Honduras. She was raised on a farm in Puerto Cortez. I'll
be looking out for your pictures.

Helena, MT

I think Ozark posted the wrong picture back in February. That couldn't be a pepper plant...must be a tree or something!!! How big is that Maui pepper plant now Sam? There must be at least two or three plants in that pot...and how big is that pot? Just planted some of the seeds from the peppers you sent me last year and will be looking forward to potting them up. Plan to do several things with these plants this year including sneaking some of them in the wife’s flower beds. They will make nice companions to my wife's rose bushes as well. Wish I could grow them like the one in the pic. Will check out that liquid Agloflash.

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Nah, that's the same 9 seedlings from the March 28, 2010 picture, above. They're still looking great and are loaded with blooms and peppers. We don't use near that many hot peppers, so as the peppers finally turn red and dry up I drop them into the soil of that pot. There will be seedlings coming up eventually to replace the old plants when they finally die.

I've kept that pot going for years by putting it outside in warm weather and inside for the winter. I'm not sure how long the life of an individual pepper plant is in those conditions - I'd say they each last two or three years. When one finally dies, I carefully pull it up to keep the pot looking good and make room for the volunteer seedlings. That pot is only 4 gallons.

Good luck with the Maui Purple Peppers, Morgan. Remember, it's nine of those little peppers, chopped up fine, to put the "heat" in a half-gallon of fresh garden salsa. That's the sweaty forehead / runny nose / need a glass of ice water nearby / level. Just right!

Helena, MT

Yeah Sam its Fire-in-the-Hole for me when it somes to tomato juice and sauces of all types. I stil end up adding ground cayenne to suit my tastes. I can't get over nine plants in one 4 gallon pot. I have a second batch of Maui seeds started as of yesterday and I think I will try placing them in one large clay pot such as yours. Did you pinch the tops of these Sam when young to get them to branch out?

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

No, no pinching. I've never trimmed them or anything like that.

Not visible in the picture of that pot is a standard cheapie wire tomato cage that the plants are growing up through. I cut the top section off the tomato cage so it's only about 2 1/2 feet tall. As the pepper seedlings grew I made sure their main stems grew up inside the rings of the tomato cage. Without that support I think the plants would be all over the place and I wouldn't be able to move the pot around.

White bass are starting to run up the rivers here. You got those critters in MT?

Helena, MT

I had not thought of using those conical tomato cages as a support for pepper plants. Good idea Sam. I probably have a dozen or so of those in my shed as well as some small welded wire cages I used for peppers in the garden a few years ago. I plan to leave the peppers potted up this year so I can move them to the hoop house in the fall. I doubt that I will have room inside the house since I have been looking into winter indoor container gardening for other types of vegetables.

I envy you on the white bass Sam. The only place I have heard of white bass fishing is on the Missouri River as it enters N. Dakota which is some distance from here. I doubt that it would be anywhere near what I was use to in Kansas so I have never tried it. Trout is just about it for me here, but I do occasionally catch a walleye by accident.

West Palm Beach, FL(Zone 10b)

Okay, let me pose this to you. first off, Ozark, great photo of your peppers.

I have a large veggie garden that i've put everything I can think of in. The peppers for some reason (only put four plants in) are not taking off, but I have some seedlings that I cultivated from grocery store peppers' seeds. I'm thinking of putting them in a bigger pot, but wanted to know how many plants I can fit in say, a 20-gal pot. I have five bush beans in one with a marigold to keep out slugs, but they're not taking off yet, so dunno know if they're gonna be crowded.

Another question: I have red, yellow, and green pepper bells. Someone told me that if they're too close together, they'd cross contaminate. Is this true? How far apart do I need to have them, then?


Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

SoFla - Peppers like to be crowded, and I usually plant mine 18" apart in a row. I support every other plant with a small tomato cage and run string between the cages, so the pepper plants get to lean on each other.

The Maui Purple Peppers that I have nine of in one pot are a small variety. They're wild plants in Hawaii, and I understand that people often have hedges of them in their yards there. I think the MPP's especially like crowding, and I sure wouldn't put that many regular pepper plants in one pot. In a 20-gallon pot I think you might grow 2 or maybe 3 pepper plants.

Don't worry about pepper varieties crossing unless you're going to save seeds. Crossing varieties would only affect plants grown from seeds that developed from crossed blossoms, not the current year's peppers.

West Palm Beach, FL(Zone 10b)

I'm getting ready to make a raised bed out of concrete blocks so I have those extra space (the two holes in the blocks) to plant in. I'm putting some corn seedlings in the bed, but was wondering if a pepper plant would grow efficiently in those smaller spaces of the concrete blocks, or just go ahead with my plans for the 20-gallon pot.


Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

was wondering if a pepper plant would grow efficiently in those smaller spaces of the concrete blocks

If the hole goes all the way through the block and if you don't have plastic or something underneath, I think that would work. A pepper plant would have to grow roots into the ground under the block - just the small amount of soil in that hole wouldn't be enough. If the roots can grow on down into the ground, the blocks should work fine.

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