Growing peppers indoors can allow you to expand your homegrown diet. If you have already grown some leafy greens like lettuce or spinach and want to try something just a little more challenging, but not too challenging, peppers could be a good choice.
To grow peppers successfully inside your home, not just early in the year but throughout the plant’s flowering and fruiting stages and right through to harvest, you need to consider:
- The best spot to place your pepper plant indoors.
- Which peppers you can grow indoors.
- How to grow peppers from seed.
- What care indoor pepper plants require.
- And how and when to harvest when indoor pepper growing.
Where to Grow Peppers Indoors
Peppers are a heat and light-loving plant that, like tomatoes, need as bright a location as possible to grow successfully indoors.
During the summer, in many locations, they will do fine on a south-facing windowsill (in the northern hemisphere).
In winter though, and in spring and fall, natural light levels indoors will generally be too low and so grow lights will usually be required to grow peppers successfully.
Those who grow peppers outside in their gardens will already know that peppers are typically best started indoors early in the year to obtain the best harvests.
Pepper plants to remain indoors throughout their lives will start in the same way, ideally under grow lights, though potentially moved to a sunny windowsill for summer.
When deciding where you grow peppers, you will of course not only have to think about the basic environmental conditions that these plants need. You also need to think about which container to choose.
Most of the time, peppers are grown in pots, or containers of some kind, in a potting mix. (A peat-free multipurpose compost or a homemade equivalent works fine.)
But they can also be grown in water within a hydroponic or aquaponic system to save water and grow in an even more sustainable way where water is in short supply.
Choosing Peppers to Grow Indoors
When choosing peppers to grow indoors it is a good idea to consider:
- Heritage varieties allow you to taste options that are difficult to find in stores.
- Smaller, compact varieties are well suited to small spaces and container growing.
- Varieties that are faster to mature since peppers will always take longer to ripen up fully indoors with lower light levels than they can do outside in the full sun.
Of course, one of the key decisions that you will have to make is whether you want to grow sweet peppers of some kind, chili peppers with some degree of fiery heat, or both.
Growing Chilli Peppers Indoors
Spicy peppers tend to be a little easier to grow inside than larger sweet peppers, often called bell peppers as they tend to have smaller fruits and be quicker to mature.
But remember that some chili peppers will take much longer to mature to the harvestable stage, and are not as well suited to container growing indoors.
The best chili peppers of all for indoor cultivation are those that are dwarf types, which grow only very small and which can fruit prolifically.
Make sure you look at the Scoville heat index rating for a particular pepper variety to find out how spicy it is going to be.
Growing Bell Peppers Indoors
If you do want to attempt to grow bell peppers or other larger sweet peppers inside then grow lights are likely to be a necessity to extend the growing season. You will need as long as possible to ripen the fruits. Remember, these will usually take longer to ripen inside.
If you do decide to attempt to grow bell peppers indoors then make sure that you select a variety that matures quickly, with a shorter time to harvest, to stand the best chances of success.
Sowing Pepper Seeds
Pepper seeds are typically sown indoors early in the year, between January and April. This remains the same whether they are grown outdoors later, or will remain inside your home.
To germinate successfully, pepper seeds should be sown onto the surface of a suitable seed-starting, peat-free potting mix, and covered over lightly with the same medium.
They should be provided with sufficient moisture, but not waterlogged conditions, and temperatures of at least 16 degrees Celsius, optimally 18-35 degrees Celsius, for germination to take place.
Pepper seeds once they sprout can be kept in a warm and bright location, and pricked out and potted on as required until you place them into their final container – the one in which they will remain until the harvest.
Caring for Indoors Pepper Plants
To get to the harvesting stage you need to provide pepper plants with the right care. The right care is especially important when growing pepper plants indoors.
Whether you are growing chillis or sweet peppers, it is important to make sure peppers get the water they need. Water peppers carefully, trying to direct the water where it is needed at the base of the plant. Try not to wet the foliage, flowers, or fruit.
When growing in containers, feeding will also be important. You should feed peppers with an organic tomato feed such as comfrey tea, which is high in potassium, every couple of weeks while the plant is in flower and as fruits are maturing.
Like tomatoes, peppers do well when planted alongside herbs like basil or oregano. These make good companion plants for each other inside as well as in the garden.
Harvesting Peppers from an Indoors Garden
Harvesting some peppers early while they are green will give you more fruits. But waiting until the fruits are red and fully ripened means they will tend to be much sweeter.
Of course, many peppers go from green to red, but this is not the only option. Some varieties mature through a wide range of different colors. So make sure you know what to expect from the pepper that you have chosen so you know when to harvest.
The more you harvest from a pepper plant, the more peppers you will get. And these peppers, whether hot or sweet, will be a wonderful addition to your homegrown diet.