Get the low-down on how to pot your chiles—and watch them thrive.
THERE ARE MANY ADVANTAGES TO GROWING PEPPERS IN CONTAINERS. For starters, people who live in apartments and townhouses without gardens can grow peppers and other plants on their balconies, patios or even in a closet under lights. Not to mention that fresh pods from potted peppers are available all year long. Then there’s the fact that the peppers can be moved around easily, transforming the peppers from patio plants to ornamental house plants. They can be rescued from heavy downpours or hail, or moved to areas of varying light levels. Perhaps more importantly, peppers in pots are easier to isolate for plant breeding or to produce pure seed. Treasured varieties can be wintered over in a greenhouse or sunroom and returned to the garden the following year.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT CONTAINER
Anything that will hold soil can be used to grow peppers. If the reason for using containers is to expand the size of your garden rather than to bring the plants indoors eventually, then size and appearance is not a problem and you can use fairly large containers, such as plastic trash cans, wooden boxes or pots used by greenhouses for shrubs and trees. The ideal size for peppers is five gallons or larger for outdoor growing.
However, if you're growing in containers for other reasons—to winter them over, turn them into perennials or for breeding—then you can use smaller, more attractive containers. I’ve had peppers in containers ranging in size from a plastic pot with a four-inch diameter to a barrel with a 22-inch diameter. With a few exceptions, the larger the container, the larger the pepper plant will grow. Smaller containers restricts root growth which limits foilage and flower production. The only exception: They’re recommended for gardeners wishing to grow bonzai peppers. Remember that smaller containers will require more frequent watering, and keep the roots of the plant cooler.
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