How Do Bell Peppers Grow?

Bell peppers grow naturally into a bush like plant with one main stem. Most bell peppers are grown in fields as annuals. A gardener can keep a bell pepper plant alive for 5+ years and it can form into a strong woody plant. Grown in greenhouses bell pepper plants are run up twine supports and look like vining plants.

bell pepper growing up twine
These bell pepper plants are being pruned and trained to climb the twine in a greenhouse. Grown like this a plant will have main stems that regularly grow to over 10′ tall.

Peppers grown in greenhouses total about 25% of pepper production in the US but that number is increasing every year, according to A.C. Nielsen data.

Bell peppers grown in green houses are pruned regularly, about every two weeks, to promote balanced growth, avoid disease, and ensure maximum yields. They are topped once and have two main branches per plant, known as the (“V” System), and those branches are trained up lengths of twine.

Most bell peppers are started indoors and then transplanted as seedlings into the field. Typically fields are lined with rows of black plastic that raise soil temperatures and prevent weeds form growing nearby. Pruning and staking increase labor costs and are not always done. The same with drip irrigation lines. Different farmers employ different methods.

Bell pepper fields are harvested by hand once a week for four to six weeks. Then they are packed in bins and shipped to a cool storage area before being graded and distributed. Peppers are graded by size, color, and visible defects.

Bob Muth is a pepper farmer in New Jersey that uses dump truck loads of leaf compost to fertilize his land. He uses stakes and twine to support the pepper plants.

Do Bell Peppers Grow on Vines or Trees?

Bell peppers grow naturally as bush like plants. In greenhouses employing the “V” system they definitely look like they are vine plants and are regularly trained up twine over 10 feet tall. This is the result of regular pruning to keep an orderly and productive greenhouse and is not the way a pepper plant normally grows.

Bell peppers do not grow on trees but are perennial plants that if grown in areas without frost or brought indoors to overwinter can live for 5+ years. In that time they definitely can become what looks like a small tree. Constant pruning to keep a certain height and width redirects growth back into the branches and stems and they continue to grow and thicken into a stout plant with more woody branches then herbaceous.

Bell Pepper Plant Life Cycle

Germination – Bell peppers are tropical plants that love heat. Seeds will germinate with soil temperatures above 60 degrees but do best with warm soil temperatures from 70-95 degrees. Bell pepper seeds germinate slowly around 7-10 days but can take up to 4 weeks. Like other seeds bell peppers will germinate faster with warmer soil temperatures and slower with cold.

Vegetative Growth – Because they are a warm weather plant starting bell peppers indoors is a good idea to get a head start on the season. Try and use compostable starter pots that can be planted directly into the ground to avoid shock during transplanting.

Keep the bell peppers indoors until night time temperatures remain above 55 degrees. If your pepper plant starts to produce flowers soon after transplanting pick the flowers off of the plant. The bell pepper plant will yield more at the end of the season if it has more vegetative growth during this period. After four weeks of being transplanted let flowers be.

Flowering & Pollination – Bell pepper plants are known as self-pollinating plants. They have “bisexual” or “perfect” flowers that have both male and female parts in the same flower. Even though they are self-pollinating they still cross pollinate as well. The wind or insects travelling from flower to flower will carry pollen from one plant to another.

If you’re growing hot and sweet peppers they can cross pollinate. Cross pollination between peppers will not affect the current years produce so it will not make your sweet peppers hot or vice versa.

The seeds of the cross pollinated pepper will have a blend of genetics from the two species of peppers. If you want the seeds from your bell peppers for next year the best way to prevent cross pollination is to put bags over the blooms of the earlier arriving species or to plant different varieties 300 or so yards away with physical barriers in between the two.

If you’re growing peppers where they are shielded from the wind the plants may need some help to pollinate successfully. Just shaking the branches of the pepper plants regularly while flowering should do the trick but to do a thorough job break out a paint brush and swirl it around each flower or use this thing.

Fruiting – Fruits start off small and green in most varieties. As fruits continue to mature they get bigger and most varieties as they mature will turn yellow, orange, or red. As they turn varieties can be two toned and partially mixed hues.

The pepper will continue to ripen and if unpicked the stem will weaken and the fruit will fall to the ground. Eventually the fruit will rot and the pepper seeds inside will find their way into the soil to become new pepper plants.

Plant Death – A pepper plant can live 2-5+ years if overwintered indoors and kept from the frost but sooner or later the party must end. If not overwintered in most US climates this warm weather plant will meet its demise with the first frost and the root system taken out with the first hard frost.

Where Do Bell Peppers Grow?

China is the #1 producer of green bell peppers followed by Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, and the United States. In the US, the top producers of bell peppers are California, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio, North Carolina, and Michigan.

Bell peppers are available all year round from greenhouse production but supply increases in the summer making the peppers cheaper during that time.

California’s bell pepper production runs from April to December, with peak volume from May to July. Florida’s bell pepper production goes from October through July, with peak volume between March and April.

How Deep Do Bell Pepper Roots Grow?

Bell pepper roots are shallow to medium depth growing about 8-18″ deep and about as wide. Bell peppers started indoors in pots will have about 4 inch deep roots when transplanted and will usually grow deeper than bell peppers started from seed. If you’re growing in a pot you want it to be at least 12 inches deep.

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Water bell peppers with 1″ of water a week during vegetative growth. Once flowering starts through the time bell peppers start to reach their full size water with 2″ of water a week.

Once fruits reach near their full size back off the water to 1″ a week again. You want to include rainfall in these measurements. Use a rain gauge to get an accurate idea of rainfall and if you use a sprinkler figure out how much water fills the gauge in 15 or 30 minutes.

Comment below with any thoughts or experiences with how bell peppers grow.

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