I am interested in growing some habanero plants. Can can you tell me how to care for them? And do the plants grow all year? Thank you! Robert M.
Answer: First, let me answer the last question. Habanero peppers are a perennial plant in tropical zones, but if you’re not in the tropics, you should treat these plants like an annual (toss them when the growing season is over).
As for growing conditions, habaneros, like bell peppers, are a member of the nightshade genus and so prefer morning sun, hot weather and a soil with a pH between 5 and 6 (slightly acidic). They will do the best when night temps are in the 60s and daytime temps are ideal between 70 and 90.
They prefer a slightly drier soil than the regular bell peppers, so not more than one inch of water per week. Be sure to mulch around the plants with straw or dried grass clippings to help keep moisture in, the weeds out, and the soil cooler.
Once they are around a foot tall you can fertilize them with a water soluble fertilizer. The best ratio is 10-20-20, or similar. Just make sure you don’t use something high in nitrogen or you will only have lots of green leaves. A sprinkling of epsom salts is said to help them set fruit.
They can also be a little slower to set bloom and fruit than bell peppers, so be patient. Harvest the fruit as it reaches edible size. If you wait until it changes color, it could begin to lose some of its heat.
The only pest concern is aphids, so watch for distortion or speckling of leaves, as this is a sign they are present.
Otherwise, they are as easy to grow as your average bell pepper. Just be careful handling the mature fruit with your bare hands. While the concentration of capsicum is in the spines on the interior, all parts of the fruit contain the oil and it can be quite painful in open wounds or if you get it in your eyes.
Happy planting, and may your peppers be hot!